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.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: These Violent Delights

Review: These Violent Delights

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.*

Set in the year 1926, Shanghai is being hunted by a monster in the shadows. And in the heart of the city, it is being embroiled in a blood feud between the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers. Juliette has returned to the city, ready to be by her father’s side as the heir to the Scarlets. But the gangsters find themselves in trouble when a sickness forces the infected to claw out their throats. Before it destroys her people, Juliette must partner with the Flower’s heir, setting aside their personal grudges to save the city before the madness burns it all down.

The Violent Delights is one of my most anticipated reads of this year. The second I laid my eyes on that cover; I immediately ran to GoodReads to make sure I don’t forget this book exists. I won’t lie, but this book was both brilliant but still somewhat disappointing at the same time. The story follows the Juliette, recently returned from New York, and during a business meeting she is interrupted by rival heir Roma Montagov. Roma informs her of an incident where the casualties have appeared to die by their own hands. Both changed by an accident of their past, Juliette and Roma have to put aside their differences and feelings to discover the truth.

I liked the story for most parts, but the start of the novel is rather disappointing. It kicks off relatively strong, the death of gang members with no real cause, Roma making the brave move to enter the Scarlet territory to find Juliette and the both of them trying to figure out what’s happening. There are so many components to this story that appear so exciting and unique, but I found its execution rather clumsy, to say the least. The story hooks you in really well within this 1920s Shanghai as it faces trouble from its citizens and foreigners alike. The impact of colonialism takes centre stage in the setting, and Gong builds up a formidable background. The stakes are high as Juliette as to figure out what the monster is and how it’s linked to the death of her people. With foreigners like the British, French and Russians moving in the background, Juliette almost feels like a stranger in her own city, and you feel it too as a reader.

As you settle into the story, it quickly beings to falter and drag on its own feet. Juliette can’t seem to get her parent’s approval, while Roma’s father ignores most of his findings, which leads to them working together and then the story doesn’t know what to do. There’s a lot of starting and stopping, and it breaks the momentum and pacing a lot. There’s a specific moment when you realised the story gains its drive again, but before that happens, it feels like it’s just kicking rocks, waiting for that push to continue. Juliette and Roma had met years prior, but an accident separates them, leaving Roma in Shanghai and Juliette returning to New York. I just didn’t feel any chemistry whatsoever. All of their feelings are buried in the past, and for plot’s sake, it was all withheld so in the last second, it makes for a theatrical scene. It just didn’t work out as well because the everything before that scene was so lacklustre.

The characters that aren’t Juliette and Roma are the saving grace of this entire book for me, personally, and why I’ll patiently be counting down the days for its sequel. Roma’s side includes Benedikt, his cousin, and Marshall, who form his closest circle. He also has his sister, Alyssa. Juliette’s team includes her twin cousins, Kathleen and Rosalind, and another cousin, Tyler. The characterisation of these secondary characters was so much better than anything that happened between Juliette and Roma, and I feel bad for saying that I was more interested in their lives than what was happening between the leads. The moments when they appear, the story becomes alive and engaging, and when we return to the main story, it feels like a giant step back. Towards the end of the story, as I mentioned, it gains its momentum well. And while it took me days to get to the 50% mark, I found myself speed reading to reach the end, and it was so much more entertaining.

Overall, These Violent Delights wasn’t precisely what I had anticipated, but I’m very excited to see what happens in the sequel. Despite my dispositions, Gong does a great job here in her debut. I did love how she had taken the story of Romeo & Juliet and adapted it to her cultural background and history. While the story wasn’t for me at the start, the ending redeems itself 100% over. It’s a story of identity and family and with the fantastic imagery and political backdrop, I’m still very interested in seeing what happens next for the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers.


GOODREADS AMAZONAUTHOR

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.