Review: Our Violent Ends

Review: Our Violent Ends

Rating: 2 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.*

One monster is dead, and another threatens to push Shanghai into ruins as it balances on a tightrope. Juliette must protect her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir, even if it means working again with Roma to end a new monster in the city. As the city reaches a boiling point, with civil war right on their doorsteps, Roma and Juliette must find a way to work together or face losing everything they’ve ever known.

Our Violent Ends was a disappointing experience. We return to 1920s Shanghai with a much larger focus on the communists and nationalists as the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers struggle to control the city. These Violent Ends revolves around the monster that lurks with the conflict between the Nationalists and Communists is brewing in the background. Our Violent Ends does a complete switch, now the civil war is the main focus with the threat of a new monster lurking in the background. Both novels follow young Juliette and Roma trying to find the truth and help their people before the war breaks them apart.

Sadly, there is just not enough substance to carry this story, clocking at almost 500 pages. Our Violent Ends was dragging itself for no good reason. The progression between the last book and this one should’ve been a sign for me to stop before it got even worse. These Violent Delights ends on a thrilling cliffhanger, the return of a beast, the death of a friend that should spur the characters to keep moving, but the sequel starts after some time has passed and Gong info-dumps everything and moves on. And what she moves onto felt like nothing to me. 

Our Violent Ends was everything and nothing at the same time. Juliette is still on edge about Tyler taking her spot as the heir. I enjoyed Tyler as a villain, but at one point, I was rooting for him just to do the damn thing and take her spot because despite Juliette believing she should be the heir, she does nothing even to showcase that she deserves it. We are told she is badass, smart and deserves to be the heir, but it comes up empty for me. I was hoping Roma’s perspective would at least be interesting. He is, rightfully, upset about Juliette, thinking she is responsible for Marshall’s death. And when they’re forced to work together again, of course, he’s conflicted. I honestly could not bring myself to care about these two as lovers or friends, or enemies. 

A big issue with this duology overall is that it relies on withholding information as plot twists. If Gong wanted to pack a punch, there should’ve been more consequences to the actions of these characters, which is why this entire duology was so underwhelming to read.  A few moments came across as shocking, but I found that I could not care at all after the initial shock, and I realise that it just came out of nowhere.

If there was anything positive about this duology, everything is so interesting except for Juliette and Roma. Whenever the story shifts to follow Tyler, Benedikt, Marshall or Kathleen, it feels like I’m reading a completely different story. I enjoyed myself but then when we returned to our main couple; I just wanted to move on from them. I could not bring myself to feel invested in Roma and Juliette at all. 

Our Violent Ends was disappointing, to say the least.  I truly wanted the best for this duology, but I found it to be incredibly repetitive. As friends, enemies or lovers, Roma and Juliette’s relationship was utterly unsatisfying.  It is frustrating to see an exciting concept squandered, which left me dissatisfied with my reading experience. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: You Truly Assumed

Review: You Truly Assumed

Rating: 2 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.*

After a terrorist attack near her home, Sabriya’s summer plans are thrown out the window. Instead, she turns to an online journal to express her feelings. You Truly Assumed (the blog)  becomes a hit as Muslim teens gather around the new community. Soon, Zakat and Farah join the team to help, but as their numbers rise, so makes the malicious comments. And the community they’ve worked so hard to build might just come tumbling down if they don’t speak up. 

You Truly Assumed is a story that had a lot of potential. And I feel like it almost hits the spot but fails to keep its momentum. Let’s start with the plot. Three girls, Bri, Zakat and Farah. Bri is a ballet dancer whose summer auditions are cut short after a terrorist attack makes her hometown standstill. Her sister encourages her to put her pen to a digital paper and sets up an online blog to discuss her thoughts privately, or so she thought. Instead of auditions, she’s helping the terror attack victims while YTA thrives.  She recruits Farah, who is currently spending the summer with her estranged father and joins the team to help run the tech side of the blog. Zakat’s artistic flair brings a new image to the blog; however, her family aren’t supportive of her future in art. When Bri notices an influx of hate comments, a physical threat almost tears them down, and they have to figure out how to control it or risk shutting the site down. 

You Truly Assumed thrives in concept. I adored the idea of three young women using the blog to tell their stories, creating a community where they can discuss what they want on their terms. It also highlights the voice and individual levels of three young Black Muslim girls. I really enjoyed seeing the diversity in their lives and how Sabreen explores the different ways a person can experience Islamaphobia and racism. 

My main issue with You Truly Assumed is that while the plot is engaging, the writing simply isn’t. It felt weird reading the story of Sabriya, Zakat and Farah because it reads like three stories forced into one book. It’s one big book telling the readers what happens and not an ounce of showing. We are told their blog is thriving, yet we only see three, maybe four, posts within the book. If I can recall correctly, only two of them were actually blogging content.  We are told these girls have become close friends, but their conversations are limiting and most of their development happen off-page. This entire book hinges on the emotional connection between these girls, but the emotion isn’t there, so readers are left just to watch it all happen. 

Overall, I wasn’t impressed. The heart of the story is so there and close within our reach. It feels like a story incomplete, and it was exhausting to read, mainly because I was imagining what the book could’ve been. 

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Review: The Infinity Courts

Review: The Infinity Courts

Rating: 2 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.*

Nami Miyamoto was ready to start the rest of her life until she is murdered. When she wakes up, she discovers she’s in the Infinity. In this place, human consciousness goes when the physical body dies. Everything seems perfect until she realises that Ophelia, the (Siri-like) virtual assistant used on Earth, has taken over, forcing humans to serve her the way she had served them on earth. And she is close to destroying all human consciousness permanently. Nami must work with a band of human rebels to stop it all before they lose everything.

A part of me is so disappointed that I have to write this review mainly because I was so excited about this book. From the outset, everything is right up my alley. When I finished this book, my first thoughts were, maybe I’m too harsh, but after sitting on my thoughts for some time, The Infinity Courts was disappointing. There are some moments where the book got my attention, but that was only towards the end. 

To start, the writing was not working for me at all. I have read Bowman’s previous works, her writing is brilliant and it’s a shame I couldn’t feel it here. In fact, I would implore you to check out her other books and don’t let this review put you off her work. The writing just didn’t feel right, the story drags itself, and Nami’s voice is so dull. 

What I liked most about the story was the concept. What makes this book different is how Bowman takes the idea of what lies beyond death, and it hooks you in straight away. Nami immediately discovers something is not right within the Infinity. I was definitely rooting for her from the start until her thinking just doesn’t add up. She shows a lot of sympathy to the enemy, who we are told are not good people. Hell, they’re not even real. I actually respected her position on finding a middle ground, especially since Ophelia is the real cause of damage between them. Her being upset that she is thrust into a chosen one position is understandable. But she just doesn’t seem to show any sympathy towards the human cause. Her attitude was rather frustrating and confusing, and it made me not want to be invested in her journey at all.

Continue reading “Review: The Infinity Courts”

Double Review: Wicked As You Wish & Wilder Girls

Double Review: Wicked As You Wish & Wilder Girls

Wicked As You Wish

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Prince Alexei has spent every waking moment since he was five years old on the run. When the Kingdom of Avalon was left frozen after the Snow Queen waged war on the magical country. The people who did survive are now stuck in places where magic is nothing and feared. Tala lives in a small Arizona town where magic doesn’t even work, and her home is now the prince’s newest hiding spot. But not for long. The legendary firebird appears for the first time in years, and Alex and Tala must find their way back to Avalon to reclaim Alex’s throne.

Like the series name, magic has hundred of names, the meaning changed depending on the culture it is rooted in. Many memorable tales live on in different ways. From King Arthur to Robin Hood, magic is affected by fairytales. Tala is a descendant of Maria Makiling, a figure in Philippine mythology, a being associated with guardianship of Mount Makiling. Tala’s power negates magic which makes her presence the most important when it comes to protecting Alex, as the Snow Queen catches up to their team, sending hoards of her most lethal companions. I really loved the references to different fairy tales

The world-building is where the story lost me. I couldn’t keep up as the story developed because there wasn’t a strong foundational start, to begin with. As the group make their way to Avalon, we’re introduced to so much more, and it got very overwhelming. I read this book over a couple of months, restarting a few times, and I still couldn’t pay attention. There was also some banter between the group of character that just didn’t work out of me. The jokes weren’t funny, and they fell mostly flat in their execution. And they also didn’t blend together as a group very well. Alex is down right rude to a lot of them, and when we discover why, it just didn’t seem like a reasonable excuse for him to be so openly mean. Especially, since he doesn’t do anything remotely important during their entire journey and the rest of them do most of the heavy lifting.

Wicked As You Wish is good, but it was not the book for me. If some things were done differently, maybe I could overlook some of the difficulties I had with this book, but it wasn’t. And I don’t know if I’ll continue this series.

Wilder Girls

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Eighteen months since Raxter School was put under quarantine. An unknown illness has spread across the island, named by the girls as The Tox. The Tox has slowly been infecting the students, one by one, in unique ways. One girl can lose an arm while another gains one. Now, cut off from the world, the girls don’t attempt to leave their school grounds, as the tox has also infected the wildlife, making even the smallest of animals a deadlier prey. When Hetty discovers her best friend, Byatt, has gone missing, her actions to find her, including breaking quarantine, reveals an even sinister secret lurking beneath.

I won’t lie reading this while under an actual quarantine made this a lot spookier than I had originally expected it to be. Wilder Girls is beyond creepy and immensely gritty. Alternating between POV, we see the world through the eyes of Hetty and Byatt as they both realise what is happening to them. This story is very atmospheric, and I felt uncomfortable as we slowly discover how the tox infected the girls. And that discomfort is very great at compelling you to read on.

The premise is this book is so good, but I just lost interest very early on. Despite the entire story being contained within the halls of Raxter, the setting felt so empty. This book is more character-driven, but they don’t hold up very well, and with an empty world, it all falls flat in the end. The situation they were all in does not feel as gripping as it should’ve been because the characters fail to react and the narration becomes so fragmented, it just caused a lot of confusion. The ending didn’t help to offset any confusion either as the author opts to leave it open, when there’s a whole world of questions that remain unanswered. . Opening endings aren’t bad, but for a plot like this, some closure would’ve made it a lot of impactful and enjoyable for me. I have to add, calling this book a horror feels like too much of a stretch for me. What the tox does to the girls is extremely horrifying and very vivid, but the rest of the story pales in comparison.


Review: The Henna Wars

Review: The Henna Wars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Nishat becomes obsessed with winning her school’s business competition, but everything isn’t as smooth sailing as she thought it would be when her old school friend Flávia walks back into her life. Nishat is crushing hard but can’t get distracted. That is until Flávia also decides to do a henna business, and it comes to a heated discussion of cultural appropriation. After her parents disregard her coming out, this competition is everything to Nishat, and she can’t stand to lost anything now. 

This one’s a hard one to review because I’m struggling a little to put my thoughts into coherent words. It was a super adorable book to read. I truly wanted to love this. But The Henna War was not the book for me. I was not particularly blown away in my reading experience. My first thoughts when I finished this book was: is that it?

Nishat is our main protagonist, and I wish I could’ve loved her more. Nishat is one of a kind. I really loved her unapologetic attitude and how she is very adamant in being herself, loving herself, regardless of what anyone else says. She is very proud of her culture (hey, fellow Bengali) and in her situation, she is remarkably strong, standing up for herself when no one else will. Her younger sister is adorable, and I really enjoyed the great sibling bond between them. Nishat also has her school friends, who she ends up splitting with mid-novel due to clash of interest over their business ideas. Her parents are traditional, and it was heart-breaking to see them become so distant to their own child over their sexuality. With her conflict with the parents simmering in the background, it doesn’t help that Nishat also gets a crush on Flávia. That crush is almost squashed when Flávia decides to a henna business, and Nishat is devastated at her blatant disregard for her culture. And then on top of that, Flávia’s cousin is Chyna, one of the school’s biggest bullies who has been continuously dropping racist rumours about Nishat for years. 

This book introduces a lot of things: Nishat’s decision to come out to her parents, meeting Flávia, discovering Flávia is also new to her school, Flavia using henna as a business idea. Flávia is also dealing with a lot of tension from her cousin’s family. On top of that, all is the central theme of cultural appropriation, which made this a book a great space to discuss such a topic. But I feel like it was all too much and nothing was given the space actually to be discussed. To call it rivals to lovers is a reach, Nishat’s friends were practically sidelined and then reintroduced at the end for the pivotal moment. Nishat has a terrible attitude where she expects everyone else to feel bad for her, but she refuses to extend the same opportunity to everyone else. There was a perfect moment where her sister calls her out on her petty behaviour, but I feel like it was all for nought as everything is brushed away in favour of a happy ever after ending. Nishat’s anger and disappointment in most moments were justified, but she never really seems to learn from any of the bad stuff she does. 

Overall, this review sounds weird because I was genuinely enjoying this book for the most part, and I will offer this book to another reader because I can see it’s value. It’s super adorable for the most parts with an exciting cast of characters. The writing style was not to my liking. I just couldn’t get to grip with it, and it definitely affected my enjoyment of the books. As I said, I believe in this story, and I’ll give Adiba Jaigirdar credit for writing a story that I haven’t read anywhere else. But it wasn’t the book for me. 


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Resources on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what you can do to support basic human rights:
https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

Resources for UK citizens:
https://blm.crd.co/ (Specifically aimed towards UK & Ireland citizens)
– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
– Runnymede (https://www.runnymedetrust.org/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

Double Review: That Can Be Arranged and The Black Hawks

Double Review: That Can Be Arranged and The Black Hawks

*I received a copy of both these books via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

That Can Be Arranged

In her second comic, Huda Fahmy recounts the story of how she met her husband, Gehad. Marriage is always tricky, and especially for Huda as she faces gossiping aunties and overbearing parents who want the best for her. That Can Be Arranged is hilarious, quirky and quite refreshing. A simple story which also discusses misconceptions about the autonomy of Muslim women, and offers another way to understand what life is like for a Muslim woman in a modern age.

Fahmy’s sense of humour is strange, but I surprisingly enjoyed it. I see a lot of her art on Instagram so I knew I had to read this one. The story is practical, nothing too extreme, and I really enjoyed how open she was about her spirituality in her story. I also appreciated how she’s so unabashed when it comes to expressing all her struggles.

I’ll admit the art style isn’t my taste, but her wit and humour really makes up for it. Fahmy’s story is quick and simple, yet makes its mark about her longing to find someone, the struggles it entails and making sure she gets married for the right reason and with the right person.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

The Black Hawks

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

Bound to a dead-end job in the service of his uncle, life isn’t all that for Vedren Chel. That is until the kingdom is thrown into chaos, and Vedren finds an out: escorting the stranded prince who promises his oath would be dissolved. But dragging a prince while being hunted by enemies on all sides isn’t easy and when they find themselves in the company of the Black Hawks, Vedren’s dream to return home drifts further away from him.

It hurt a lot to not like this one. I was really excited to read The Black Hawks, but nothing was really impressive about this book at all. The pacing was all off, the fight scenes were exhilarating but they were immediately followed by extreme moments of utter nothingness.

Chel was both annoying and amusing at the same time. He doesn’t seem to do much apart from getting beat up violently and somehow surviving. The prince in question is quite immature, but we get no clarity in his age, or I either missed it. The Black Hawk Company had the makings to be so good. But their humour fell flat for me. I wasn’t sure if Chel was supposed to grow to enjoy their company or be terrified of them because, in the end, Chel comes to like them, but I don’t think that development really came through in the story.

The last quarter of the book did really interest me. But the overall story just didn’t entice me enough to care about continuing this series in the future. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Or maybe, it just wasn’t the right time and I’ll have to check out reviews of the next book in the future to decide if this one deserves a second chance.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR