Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost

Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Despised by the people beyond the school walls and unable to harness the powers within him, Davian is counting down the days till he is stripped of his magical capabilities and discarded like many before him. But when he discovers his true abilities lie within the forbidden powers of the Augurs, he sets off in search of the truth, alongside his best friend, and together they must learn the truth before an ancient enemy awakens and threatens to destroy the boundary that protects them all. 

I’m so undecided on my thoughts on this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the concept, but on the other, the pacing is sluggish, and the writing is stilted, which made this six-hundred-page book feel even longer than it already was. 

The Shadow of What Was Lost begins with Davian, awoken in the night, called upon by his teachers to witness a fellow classmate become a Shadow, a punishment for escaping and using his abilities while not tethered to a shackle. This device prevents them from using Essence. As Davian watches his classmate wither away, he fears he could be next. For years, he has been unable to harness essence like his best friend, Wirr, and if he fails to pass the upcoming trials, then all hope is lost. But his lack of wielding isn’t his only issue. Davian can also tell when someone is lying; their breath releases dark smoke, which is also a surefire sign of being an Augur, people who held various powers of precognition and time manipulations. A generation later, Augurs are hunted down, and the Gifted, like Davian and Wirr, are bound to the Tenets, which keeps them under the control of non-Gifted users. 

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Review: Dial A For Aunties

Review: Dial A For Aunties

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When Meddelin Chan accidentally kills her blind date, she enlists the help of her mother and aunties to get rid of the body. Things become tricky when the body is accidentally shipped to the wedding destination that her family business is working on. The wedding that is supposed to skyrocket their reputation, and Meddelin must make sure that not even a dead body can get in the way of her aunts’ antics. They are almost out of the woods until Meddy’s college love re-enters her life. Can Meddy fix her relationship, pull off a wedding and get away with murder all in one day? 

This book is a weird one. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book this ridiculous. But I loved every moment of reading this. Meddelin Chan is a 26-year-old photographer working for her family’s wedding business run by her mother and aunts. Meddy believes in the Chan Family Curse, where all the men in their family end up leaving and is adamant not to abandon her family like her father, uncles and male cousins. Even if it meant giving up Nathan during university, but now her mother thinks she’s ready to get married and poses as Meddy on an online dating site, snagging a date with the local hotel owner, Jake. 

Meddy agrees to go on a date, and when Jake goes too far, Meddy tases him while driving, causing them to crash. Panicking, she tells her mum the truth, who brings in her aunts, and they begin to work on dealing with Jake. One mistake sends the body to the island resort, and not only does Meddy have to deal with the wedding and the blood on her hands, she learns that her ex-boyfriend Nathan is the owner of the hotel that is hosting the wedding, and he’s ready to try again. 

Dial A For Aunties is a mish-mash of things that usually wouldn’t work for me. But somehow, Sutanto makes it work, and it’s hilarious. When I reached that final page and read the author’s note, I’ve never been so excited to see that there’s already a film adaptation in the works. This book is pure chaos that I hope translates well into film. 

The comparison to Crazy Rich Asians is apt. Meddy can hardly believe they snagged the wedding of billionaires Tom Cruise Sutopo and Jacqueline Wijaya. A guest line goes into the thousands and gifts that could pay off Meddy’s college debt in a single swipe. Amid the chaotic storyline, the story’s heart lies in the sacrifices Meddy and her aunts make in the name of family. Sutanto delves into the familial relationships of the Chan family line and the difficulties most immigrant families face for the betterment of their loved ones. Meddy is constantly thinking about her family, even choosing to break up with Nathan despite her own wants. She undergoes some serious character development and begins to understand how to speak up for herself.  

Overall, Dial A for Aunties was hilarious and entertaining. The story is so strange that I found myself speechless at the absurdity of this entire plot. Despite the chaos, it is a story of family, sacrifice all wrapped up in an absurd murder mystery that will have you shaking your head at every turn of the page. I couldn’t even believe there is a sequel to this mayhem. I’ll be waiting for the return of the Chans.


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Review: The Mismatch

Review: The Mismatch

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

*note: this review is not spoiler-free*

Newly graduated Soraya struggles to balance her family’s expectations and her own, feeling unaccomplished in her young adult life. The idea that she hasn’t been kissed at twenty-one bothers her, so fixing that means everything else should work out. When she decides to make it a reality, Magnus Evans is the answer. Magnus is everything her Muslim parents would disapprove of in a man. Someone she could never see herself with, but this mismatch might be a perfect choice. The longer she gets to know Magnus, the less sure she becomes in her decision to pull away. 

The Mismatch was a tricky book for me. Personally, I resonated a lot with Soraya; her trauma and emotions when it came to handling her culture and family felt almost similar to mine. This story is less about the romance, as suggested by the synopsis, and more about her coming to face her Muslim guilt while juggling her culture’s sexist ideas. I won’t lie; I felt like I saw red for much of the scenes because it felt a bit too real. Soraya’s brother is allowed to do whatever without any consequences, while Soraya and her sister quite literally have to fear for their lives to do even do a slither of what he’s able to do. Soraya’s father is abusive and terrible, and the story does a great show of exploring the nuances and how the effects of it resonate throughout the family. 

Soraya’s story is not the only one told here. Chapters changed between Soraya and her mother, Neda, whose story pans from her university days in Tehran to her immigration journey to the UK. The real strength in this novel runs in the parallel between Soraya and Neda and their family. Neda is barely out of university, working towards her Masters when she decides to move to the UK with her husband, and they both struggle to adapt to their new life. Soraya’s guilt is rooted in the belief that she is disappointing her mother, who goes through absolute hell, from adapting to a new home to slowly losing her husband to drug addiction. 

For a contemporary romance novel, the romance novel was the least of my interest in this story, which is rather strange. Magnus Evans is rather frustrating to the point where I had lost interest in rooting for them to be together. The miscommunication which drives them apart was rather unforgivable, in my opinion. (Spoilers: Soraya discovers that Magnus’s friends began to hold a bet to see how long it would take for him to sleep with Soraya. While Magnus is against the bet, he doesn’t really do much to curry favour because he lets his friends be terrible behind her back. And then dares to compare the bet to Soraya’s plan to make him her first kiss when he is aware of the trauma surrounding why Soraya is scared to be intimate. And not to mention, HE read her journal and then told other people what was in it.) I just wanted to grab Soraya by the shoulders and tell her this white man was NOT worth it. 

In the end, The Mismatch wasn’t disappointing, and I enjoyed reading it a lot. However, I wasn’t exactly satisfied with some plot choices. Certain characters weren’t fleshed out enough, almost forgettable, and the romance is sorely disappointing. But the rest of the story that charts Soraya’s family and her desire for fulfilment was hopeful, and I can see this book resonating with other readers; it just missed the mark for me.

Review: The Silence of Bones

Review: The Silence of Bones

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sixteen-year-old Seol finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. Assigned to the police bureau, she assists the young investigators with the murder of a noblewoman. As their investigation takes a darker turn, Seol’s loyalty begins to be tester when the inspector she admired becomes the prime suspect, and Seol might be the only person able to find the truth. But when her role as a damo requires silence and obedience, Seol’s curiosity might just be dangerous.

The Silence of Bones has been on my radar for months, and I’m annoyed at myself for taking so long to read this! This book was a fast-paced thriller that packed an emotional punch. I hadn’t realised how attached I had become to Seol until I turned the very last page. Set in 1800 Joseon (now Korea), Seol is a damo, an indentured servant, working for the police force as a female attendant who partakes in places where men were otherwise not allowed. While keeping her head down, she quietly searched for the whereabouts of her older brother, who had left for the capital years prior. 

One day she called to handle the body of a noblewoman, Lady O, who was found dead with her nose sliced off. Questions begin to arise about Lady O’s status, later revealed to have been a Christian and soon she is linked to a police chase regarding the whereabouts of a priest. Seol’s position as a damo gives her a unique position, allowing her into spaces where her male counterparts would have been denied. Inspector Han might be the only person who sees something in her, promising her freedom if she takes the proper steps. 

I was surprised this book was in the first person as it felt like a story that could’ve been told through the third. But Hur writes with ease and tells a story with excitement and mystery. Seol is so young, and it comes across on page very well. She was never taught to read and often makes misjudgments due to her upbringing, which naturally creates misunderstandings. People don’t take her seriously because she is a damo, and she is adamant to prove them wrong. Her development is consistent, and the pay off in the story is both worthwhile and heartbreaking. Inspector Han proved to be quite the enigma, his behaviour both confuse and exasperate Seol and us readers alike. 

The story is fascinating. I had watched a k-drama back in 2019, called Rookie Historian Goo Haeryung. While the drama was more on the fantasy side, I really enjoyed the historical aspect, which is similar in this book as they both revolved around the start of Christianity in Korea. This isn’t taught in everyday History lessons, so I was intrigued by the characters that Seol meets that mirror real-life figures. Regent leaders are clamping down on the rise of Catholics in the country, families being ripped apart and executed, and how it has influenced Korea’s history and its current-day self. This book definitely sent me on a research haze from the moment I finished the story. In summary, The Silence of Bones illuminates Joseon Korea in this historical mystery tale. Seol’s journey takes on class, honour and loyalty to yourself and your family. I had an inkling of what the ending would be like, but Hur writes with such details and emotion that the journey towards it was well worth the time.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When her friends question her bisexuality, in a panicked state, Hani Khan tells them she is dating someone: overachiever Ishu Dey who is the complete opposite of Hani. But Ishu agrees to help on the condition that Hani would help her become Head Girl in hopes of convincing her parents she will not become like her sister. The guide made and rules set down; all they need to do is last a couple of weeks. As the weeks go on, Ishu can’t understand why Hani allows her friends to mistreat her. Hani can’t understand why Ishu won’t trust her older sister. But when they really start falling for each other, things get messy, and rules are broken. 

I was not the biggest fan of Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars, so I went into Hani and Ishu’s story quite hesitant, but I can definitely say my expectations exceeded a lot. Jaigirdar has improved a lot, and it shows in Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating because this was such an adorable read! 

Hani and Ishu take the fake dating trope and gives it a fun, refreshing (and desi) twist. Despite being out to her parents, her friends give her trouble when Hani decides to finally come out as bisexual to them. She already struggles to explain her religious and cultural background to them, so they aren’t too supportive when it comes to her sexuality. There she decides to blurt out that Ishu Dey is her girlfriend. Coming from similar backgrounds (They are both desi, Hani is Bangladeshi, and Ishu is Indian), Hani soon convinces them it’s real; now she just needs Ishu to get on board. Ishu Dey is top in her classes, low on the social pecking order. When her sister returns home and shatters their parent’s expectations, she is desperate to not look like a failure under their eyes. And dating Hani gives her the attention she needs to boost her social standing. 

I loved how wholesome this story was. Hani and Ishu are trainwrecks in the best way possible. They appear incompatible, but Hani helps Ishu open up in ways that she never thought was possible after spending some time together. Even telling her why she feels like the need to compete with her older sister. Ishu opens Hani’s eyes to the way she’s been mistreated by her friends and begins to make her realise that she doesn’t need to hide parts of herself, her religion and culture because they chose to not listen. Her friends will frustrate, but it’s so natural for a lot of young Muslim teens.

Overall, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating was a fantastic read. So wholesome and highly entertaining! A story of two girls discovering themselves and becoming more comfortable in their own skin. A great quick read for young teen readers!


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Cinderella Is Dead

Review: Cinderella Is Dead

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Two hundred years after Cinderella met her prince, every young girl of Mersailles must appear at the Annual Ball, where the Kingdom’s men select their future wives. All the girls know that they risk disappearing, never to be heard from again if they’re not chosen. Sophia yearns to marry her childhood best friend, Erin, who fears the repercussions their union would bring. An incident at the ball sends Sophia on the run, the King’s men hot on her heels. When she finds safety in Cinderella’s abandoned mausoleum, she comes face to face with one of the last descendants of Cinderella’s family, Constance. The two girls must work together to defeat King Manford’s reign of terror or risk their story be rewritten. 

Cinderella Is Dead is perfect in its concept. A dark, imaginative reinterpretation of the well-loved fairy tale.  Prince Charming turns cruel, and his successors follow his actions two hundred years later, forcing girls to appear at an actual ball searching for their future spouse. Once married, they are nothing but property to their husbands. They all must abide by a curfew, and nothing they own is genuinely theirs. Sophia has despised this system for a while and finally has a chance to escape during the ball. But the execution of, quite frankly, everything in this novel left me disappointed and underwhelmed. 

To start, the story was doomed from the very beginning. It begins strong with Sophia begrudgingly preparing for the Ball; she makes a point whenever she can that is very much against the system, while her parents dissuade her from speaking too loudly in fear of being accused of treason. She plots her escape and takes a chance during the ball and meets Constance, who confirms that the Cinderella story that the Kingdom has passed down generations is false. From then on, the story takes on a very tepid journey of Sophia and Constance journeying through a forest and plotting to take down the King. No tension and sadly really dull. If anything, I enjoyed the smatterings of fights scenes and seeing Constance and Sophia work smart to evade capture. But the rest of the plot fails to capture any good attention. I felt like I was being dragged from one plot point to another and told to deal with it. 

The characters were highly disappointing. Sophia is a selfish character who continually acts first and thinks later, leading to other people getting harmed. She’s aware that her actions can get her in trouble, but plot armour saves the day for her while everyone gets hurt. We also know nothing about her. Her likes, dislikes, quirks, nothing makes her stand out aside from her decision to go up against the King. Erin is rarely on-page but was the most interesting for me. She wants to be with Sophia, but her fear of the society around her creates an internal struggle that I would have loved to develop. And then comes Constance, mysterious and funny, but the possibility of what could’ve been is squandered for insta-love and no development. 

I’ll end this review with a disappointing sigh. Never have I seen a book with such potential fail to follow through on its promises. It’s an easy read, albeit grim in some select scenes. Sophia’s journey barely goes beyond its surface level, and the characters are wasted and discarded just as they’re introduced. A promising premise that needed to go back to the drawing board. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR