Review: The Red Palace

Review: The Red Palace

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.*

Through years of study, seventeen-year-old Hyeon has finally earned her place as a palace nurse, having worked through every obstacle an illegitimate daughter could face. But everything she’s worked for is threatened when four women are murdered in a single night, and the only suspect is Hyeon’s personal mentor. And Hyeon cannot do anything without jeopardising her position, and any mistake will have her father’s sight set squarely on her. Determined to prove her teacher’s innocence, Hyeon risks it all and in her hunt for the truth comes Eojin, a police inspector with his own hidden agenda. As their search begins to point the blame to the Crown Prince, the two find themselves uncovering the dark secrets behind all the bloodshed. 

In her newest release, June Hur returns to the Joseon era, now following the life of palace maid Hyeon. The Red Palace was gripping and mysterious as Hur paints a memorable image of Joseon Korean in another historical mystery. Hur has a knack for highlighting the lives of women in the Joseon era. I felt really immersed in the lives of these women who were considered lower class while playing a pivotal role in running the government. In a similar vein to The Silence of Bones, Hyeon must think on her feet to discover the truth. As an illegitimate daughter, her position is both a hindrance and an opportunity to find information that no one else can. While I found Silence of Bones to be more emotional, Red Palace was far better plotted and well-crafted. 

The plot was fascinating, and I loved how the mystery grew as Hyeon and Eojin involve themselves in dangerous business. Not everyone can be trusted, and even Eojin brings an air of danger around him, but Hyeon can’t help but be enticed by his mystery. The romance between them was unexpected but so sweet. 

If you’ve read any of Hur’s previous works, then you’ll already know that this one cannot be missed. Hur has improved in her craft, and it shows. The politics and intrigue keep you gripped for hours—a well-developed mystery within a vivid setting of 1700s Joseon Korea. 


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Review: Midnight in Everwood

Review: Midnight in Everwood

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.*

Marietta Stelle was born to dance, but she must put her dreams aside after Christmas as obligations must take precedence. Struggling to maintain a balance between her traditions and goals, the answer comes in the form of an eclectic toymaker who moved in next door. Dr Drosselmeier is charming and has her entire town wrapped around his finger. When Drosselmeier promises Marietta an elaborate set for her final performance, the last thing she ever expects is to be transported into a snowy forest and rescued by a guard who escorts her to a palace made from sugar and dreams. Marietta is enchanted, but the thrill doesn’t last long when she realises she is now held captive by King Gelum. And Marietta’s only choice is to dance or starve. Now confined to her sugar prison, Marietta must work with the King’s other captives if they want to escape alive. And in this sugar-coated world, Marietta can’t trust anyone. 

Oh dear, I had such high hopes for this one. Midnight in Everwood is sweet and dream-like, but I was not a fan of the overall story. Reading this was a rollercoaster of emotions of being set up to witness a thrilling tale, only to reach the end and find out it really wasn’t all that memorable. 

The story begins in Edwardian society, and it is evident how restricting the world is for Marietta. The Christmas performance is her last time before she must give up her pointe shoes. When she is transported to Everwood, the change is instant. The influence of the Nutcracker really shines through in worldbuilding. Whimsical barely scratches the surface of what Marietta witnesses in Everwood. I really loved the detail and information we see about Everwood and its surrounding areas. There is lore and knowledge that captivated me, and it’s such a shame that much of it isn’t particularly relevant to the story. 

I can see what Kuzniar was trying to do when she was building Marietta. A girl who is desperate to keep her passion alive in a very restrictive world. I wanted to feel proud and empowered by her decisions, but the execution falls flat. Her attitude is very inconsistent, and her judgement is all over the place. The plot is just repetitive: Marietta gets in trouble, someone else taking the fall for her actions while she moans about her position. The growth of her character feels like it was just dumped towards the end. The supporting characters almost seem to be propped up like cardboard, with no voice or life of their own except to deal with Marietta’s moaning. The villain had so much potential to be much more terrifying if the story even focused on him. The best way I could describe Marietta’s journey is incomplete. She doesn’t feel completely present in the story, which is such a shame because the level of detail we receive about the world doesn’t feel fully utilised in the story that is told here. 

Overall, Midnight in Everwood is a sweet reimagining, but I have to admit it was definitely not my style. But I can see this book finding a home in another reader, someone who is more passionate about winter fairytales and sugary whirlwind adventures. 


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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: 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.

[Blog Tour] Zara Hossain Is Here

[Blog Tour] Zara Hossain Is Here

Hi! And welcome to the Zara Hossain Is Here Blog Tour! I am extremely grateful for Hear Our Voices and their work for setting this tour up! I’m so excited to show off this new YA contemporary from Sabina Khan! I was huge fan of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali so I jumped at the opportunity to share with you her newest book, Zara Hossain is Here!


Zara’s family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

From the author of the “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.

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Review: The Chosen (Contender #1)

Review: The Chosen (Contender #1)

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.*

Throughout history, people have vanished with little to no explanation. And now Cade and his schoolmates are one of them. Six months into his new school, contemplating his new, drastic path, he is suddenly transported to another realm. A realm where prehistoric animals and ancient societies have seemingly made a home in this strange world. Cade and his friends have no time to relax when a mysterious being announces them as contenders in a game without rules but to survive. 

I’ll admit there was some confusion on my end because the cover and the original synopsis I had read lead me to believe this series was an extension of Matharu’s Summoner series which I mildly enjoyed. Once the talks of modern school and dinosaurs started popping up, I had a feeling we were not in the Hominum Empire anymore. I laugh at my mistake and then started the book over again. My first thoughts when I finished this book was mild confusion. Even with my initial mistake, I felt like I had been reading a different book than what I set out with initially. I wasn’t particularly blown away, it was good fun to read, but nothing was that special for me, personally. 

What made The Chosen unique was its take on using mystery disappearances. Cade soon learns that many people and creatures he sees before have been reported to have disappeared, never to be seen again. A lot of them have ended up here in this strange world. I was having some fun with this book initially. I initially felt some Lord of the Flies vibes. Matharu does an excellent job of setting the scene, bring together a group of boys as they try to figure out what’s happening to them. They discover buildings and materials from people before them and begin their journey to survival. It is from this moment onwards is where I think the story just loses itself. 

Cade is separated from his peers, and this is where the bulk of the story will continue. He meets more people, discovers bolder enemies and figures how most of his plan on his own. The writing is good, consistent and straight to the point. But I just felt like the story just didn’t know where it was going. Or maybe because it’s a trilogy, it felt stretched out far too much to make any real sense. The boys discover they are running on a countdown very early on in the book, and despite the reminder of the clock, it felt really underwhelming. Cade fights new enemies, creatures and humans alike, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Any semblances of an explanation are revealed only in the final chapter, and at the point, I was more confused than thoroughly informed. 

Overall, The Chosen had the potential to be a lot more eventful and exciting if the journey towards the ending wasn’t so underwhelming. Apart from Cade and another character introduced later on, the rest of the cast blur into each other. We are given signifiers and a somewhat decent backstory for them, but when they’re placed within this world, it becomes the Cade Show, where everyone loses relevance. The mystery does unfold quite interestingly, and I just some faith the sequel can do the series justice, but the introduction is not as exhilarating as it should have been.


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