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: 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: The Descent of the Drowned

Review: The Descent of the Drowned

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.*

Raised as a vessel for the goddess Lamia, Roma finds herself questioning the path set out for her and must fight for survival without condemning her fellow sisters. Leviathan, the bastard son of an immortal tyrant, was raised to kill in his father’s name. But they both cannot run from their past forever as they find themselves inexplicably linked as the tyrant’s search for power threatens the world as they know it. 

When finishing The Descent of the Drowned, my first thought was the books’ blurb really does not do this book justice. The catalyst event that the blurb suggests (Roma’s brother being sold) does not occur until well over the story’s halfway mark, which may confuse some readers. The story does take some time to take off truly. That being said, I still really enjoyed this book. Lal Din paints a brutal world. This book is hefty in terms of the story, touching upon rape, suicide and human trafficking. (see Halla’s content warnings for more) The story highlights the caste system, abuse of the trans community, ethnic cleansing and colonisation. And Roma is just one of many women suffering under its harrowing grip. 

The Descent’s story is split between Roma and Leviathan (Levi) as their paths slowly converge together. Roma is counting down the days until she is given to another male patron. Her last time being a few years prior, which resulted in her harming herself. She finds herself questioning her position and whether her spot is truly divine given or not. But when everyone around her is adamant in their belief, she must be careful where she treads or risk endangering her temple sisters and brother’s lives. Levi was raised a killer but found himself struggling to forget his past when most of the blood he sheds are members of his mother’s clan. He tries his best to help, but the persecuted clan wants nothing to do with him. When a rescue plot turns awry, Levi finds himself chasing up on the elusive White Wolves, an opposition group working towards taking down Levi’s father.  

It takes some time for the two to meet. I found it fun reading their perspectives because it felt like reading two different stories, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. Roma’s story highlights the lives of the oppressed and casteless. At the same time, Levi’s strengthens the worldbuilding beyond what Roma is never allowed to see. I, personally, preferred Roma’s side of the story, partly because it had taken me some time to warm up to Levi. Roma grows more in the story in a consistent way, while Levi takes some time to appreciate. He’s not a bad character; he just makes some decision that I didn’t agree with that soured my opinion of him. 

What I loved the most about their story is each protagonist’s respective group. Levi has his own brothers-in-arm. As mentioned, Levi does not make good decisions, deeply affected by his past trauma, but his friends, Junho and Malev, will do anything to help reel him back in. Roma’s side consists mainly of her temple sisters. Despite her conflicting opinion, Roma truly cares for her sisters. Her actions are rooted in making sure they face the least amount of harm, but she can’t stay silent forever, and one wrong move puts her entire family at risk. I personally found the story very slow, but the characters make up for it in abundance. 

Inspired by Pre-Islamic Arabian mythology, The Descent of the Drowned is a thrilling yet terrifying read. Roma’s journey is powerful and heartbreaking. If anything, the story ends too soon, with its worldbuilding taking up most of the page. Regardless, I’ll anticipate its sequel because this story feels like the stepping stone to something extremely remarkable. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Jasmine Throne

Review: The Jasmine Throne

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.*

Princess Malini finds herself banished to the Hirana, a once-powerful temple, now a decaying ruin after refusing to bow down to her dictator brother. With each passing day, she grows sick, waiting for the opportunity to be free finally. When Priya agrees to be one of the very few who make the treacherous journey to and from the Hirana to attend to Malini, she doesn’t anticipate revealing the secret and power she holds to her own enemy. And the two must work together for any chance for freedom or lose everything that is dear to them. 

The Jasmine Throne blew my expectations out of the water. Such a powerful and sweeping read. While I had some difficulty settling into its fantasy world, it more than makes up for it with its thrilling plot and impeccable characters. Suri writes with a desirable writing style that makes every dialogue and emotion come off the page. 

The characters in this are incredible. I loved how truly complex they all are. Malini, a princess turned prisoner, is slowly being poisoned to fit her brother’s plan. But her influence still lingers, and she must escape before it’s too late. Priya wants nothing but to save her people from genocide, and when she returns to the Hirana, the temple where she was born and raised, she feels the magic within her awaken. But when her powers turn her into a target, Malini might be her only choice for survival. Anyone looking for a morally grey sapphic couple, you’ll find it with them. They stand on opposite ends, Malini’s people caused the downfall of Priya’s, and they should want nothing more but the other dead. Malini is pragmatic and willing to do and risk anything to fight her brother’s claim to the throne. But she is haunted by the past, and those ghosts continue to hover. Priya was the main highlight for me. Her resilience and her desire to reconnect with her people, even if it means betraying her own loved ones, were nothing short of inspiring to me. Her desire and motivation were realised and fascinating. I am excited to see what becomes of her in the series. 

Chapters are interspersed with others’ perspectives: Ashok, a key to Priya’s past, Bhumika, a fellow temple sister who had once saved Priya’s life. Rao, a follower of the Nameless God, an ally to Malini,  whose true name is concealed until the time is right. 

This is my first time reading a book by Suri, and I definitely know it won’t be the last. The Jasmine Throne is one book you will need to get your hands on. You are accompanied by unique perspectives, a charming yet complex cast, and an immersive writing style that hits all the right beats—a start to an epic fantasy trilogy that undoubtedly will be a staple in people’s bookshelves. Expected release for July 8th!


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Ace of Spades

Review: Ace of Spades

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.*

Niveus Private Academy is for the rich and powerful, where the students run their own, and anyone less than perfect is destined for nothingness. Head Girl Chiamaka is only a year away from graduating, on the path to the best future she could ever imagine. Devon is months away from making it to Julliard, hoping to support his family. Two different worlds collide when they both become victims to an anonymous texter named Aces, who slowly release their private information, and it becomes a race to discover their identity because they someone gets hurt. 

Oh, wow. Okay, Ace of Spades was something else. I had a lot of fun reading this. I laughed, sighed, and gasped at every twist and turn this story took. What I liked about the story is that it gets you feeling anxious. With every new week, something new is released about our main leads, and it haunts you. Suddenly, everyone they meet is a threat, and you quickly begin to question every sudden movement. Àbíké-Íyímídé is extremely good at making you second-guess your own guesses, writing in a way that wants you to keep reading whatever the conditions. I had stayed up until three am wanting to see the ending. 

Ace of Spades introduces you to Chiamaka and Devon, young teens nearing the end of their time at school. Both have different plans for their futures, barely knew the other existed until the targeted attacks. This book is a thriller, but it manages to tackle a lot more than you’d expect, without losing the momentum. We see Chiamaka and Devon having to tackle the Aces while also dealing with toxic environments, domestic issues and their own sexualities. They are both such sweet kids that were dealt the worst hand. Chiamaka is headstrong, but she’s still fighting tooth and nail to be given the same respect as her white counterparts. Devon is lowkey, working for a future that his mother works so hard to provide for him. And when the texts hit at them and their classmates, they’re the ones going down hard. Even amongst the dark and gritty scenes, there were light-hearted moments that were a joy to see. You want to keep them in those moments, but alas, Aces strike again. 

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in this dangerous debut that highlights everyday and institutional racism. It is intriguing and well written. It takes you on one hell of a ride as it challenges white supremacy embedded in academia. Ace of Spades is one book you’ll definitely want in your hands. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: She Who Became the Sun

Review: She Who Became the Sun

Rating: 5 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.*

In 1345, China was under Mongol rule. For the starving Zhu family where only three members remain, their eight-born son, Zhu Chongba, is destined for greatness, a feat only capable by the few. But nothing is said for their daughter. When a bandit attack results in Zhu Chongba’s death, his sister takes on her brother’s identity to enter a monastery. There, in this alternate-history, she takes her opportunity to achieve what her brother failed to do: survive, and take control of a fate that would see her be nothing. 

Judging from other early reviews, my expectations were through the roof. Pitched as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles and while that is a fair comparison, I just feel like there must be some other way to describe this. I’m quite literally speechless. I don’t think one book has ever shot up my all-time favourites list so quickly. Usually, I let a book marinate on my mind before casting a final judgment, but She Who Became the Sun didn’t need to wait. It was that good. 

This book stands out because its character, each crafted and built to perfection, while not being entirely perfect. Zhu’s determination to survive is intense. Her peers at the monastery are confused by her actions, but what they don’t know is that she also has the ability to see ghosts, which loom over her in silent judgement. There is a cost to pay in her decisions, and she takes them head-on regardless of the reaction she knows she’ll inevitably receive because in the end, she knows what she wants and that is to rule. She might have been fated to be nothing, but she determined to let nothing stop her from achieving the goal her brother should have done. She is this perfect balance of driven and powerful while also being rather cheeky and very sweet.  Zhu’s storyline introduces us to Xu Da, a fellow monk, who Zhu comes to see as her own family. Later, you’ll meet Ma, a young woman whose fierce compassion takes a toll within the backdrop of war and power-plays.

The story chronicles Zhu’s journey from monk to the leader of the rebellion against China’s Mongol rulers. But we also see the opposition in the form of eunuch Ouyang, a feared general who tore Zhu’s future apart and set him on a path that makes them intertwined. I was enthralled by his character the most. But the relationship between Ouyang and Esen, the prince of Henan, is so complex, considering the history behind them. Esen is much more optimistic than Ouyang, and can never seem to understand why his friend would keep his distance. The tension between them is just perfect. 

The writing is so atmospheric, you could feel the impact of the landscape resonate with each character. Especially with Zhu as you witness her climb from a nameless child close to death to a well-rounded leader with men of her own. A child with no hope to a monk that can rally the people of this war torn land to her words. Also, I loved the nuanced exploration of gender identity, and how Parker-Chan does not shy away from anything. For anyone wondering, this is from the author: [Zhu] is assigned female at birth (but doesn’t identify as female), and [Ouyang] is assigned male at birth and identifies as male (with a gender nonconforming appearance). [Goodreads] I used she/her pronouns for Zhu as reflected in the novel. 

Overall, She Who Became the Sun is one story you must watch out for. It’s bold, imaginative and highly thrilling. A fantastic reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty.