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. 


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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!


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Review: Clap When You Land

Review: Clap When You Land

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Carmino Rios counts down the days until her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But when she arrived at the airport, she is faced with news of his death. In New York, Yahaira Rios is called out of class, where she is informed of her father, her once hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by their father’s secret, two girls, miles away from each other, must face a new reality together. 

The life of Camino and Yahaira is torn wide open when their father dies in a flight crash and, in preparation for his funeral, reveals sisters who hadn’t known the other had existed. Their father’s secret dangles over them as they’re left with the aftermath. Both desperate and confused about the man they called Dad, his secret burrows deep under and reveals more about themselves than they could ever imagine. Acevedo breathes life into these sisters so effortlessly. Carmino only ever sees her father for a few months of the year, living her life in the Dominican Republic with her tita, going to school and evading watchful eyes who are eager to get their hands on her now that her father is gone. Yahaira has been distant from her father for the past year. The man who taught her chess was not the man she thought he was. They loved him in their own way and in their grief; could they ever forgive him? 

Real events inspire Acevedo’s story: November 2001, a flight scheduled to leave for Santa Domingo crashed, taking 260 lives, a majority of the death being of Dominican descent. This story is about “forgotten” tragedies, out of sight and mind by the majority public but has a significant effect on communities it did affect. Acevedo brings the community and its culture to life and builds a community that was beautiful to read. I loved the contrast in how each communal side reacted in the wake of their father’s death. Acevedo navigates grief with ease in each girls’ perspective; you’ll feel for the struggle of Carmino and Yahaira. And you’ll root for the sisters as they realise what they’re missing, and while they can’t change their father’s past, they can work on their future together.

Alternating between the girls’ perspectives with such emotion and clarity,  Acevedo returns with a brilliant new story. Clap When You Land is a moving novel in verse that explores grief, family and forgiveness in such a concise way, making it a must-read.


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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: Counting Down with You

Review: Counting Down with You

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Karina Ahmed’s plan for success means keeping her head down and getting to medical school. So when her parents go abroad to Bangladesh, she is finally rewarded a month of peace, away from their watchful eyes. That is until her agreement to tutor Ace Clyde turns awry, and now she’s spending her twenty-eight days in a fake-relationship with him. As she counts down her days, Ace Clyde gives her all the reasons to stay and maybe this facade could have a happy ending. 

Karina is a high school junior, attending alongside her high-achieving younger brother whose interest in robotics has her parents singing praise while she’s barely keeping afloat. And when her English teacher asks her to tutor ever absent classmate Ace Clyde, she immediately assumes the worst. Aft. They start, and a missed lesson, Ace finally shows up, and he knows exactly how to push Karina’s buttons, tip-toeing over the lines she has made herself. Knowing exactly how her parents would react, she keeps Ace at an arm’s distance until she realises Ace has secrets of his own which is why she agrees to his plans. Keep up this act for three more weeks, and they part ways as unlikely friends. (and for Karina, a handful of books, courtesy of the Bank of Ace Clyde.) As the return of her parents looms overhead, Karina realises that these past days are the happiest she has ever been, and with the support of her grandmother, her best friends, and Ace, maybe she can gather the courage to face her family once and for all.

Counting Down with You is a refreshing and hilarious read. I’m not big on contemporary novels, but I found Bhuiyan’s voice to be outstanding. If anything, I am blown away at how much I could relate to Karina Ahmed. Like Karina, my family had also left Bangladesh in search of a different life. Her traditional parents’ ideals and expectations are all too familiar; their harsh words and criticism almost mirrored my own family, almost word-for-word. Karina’s humour to her anxiety felt all too surreal to read this book and realise the main character is an almost exact copy of yourself at sixteen.

The cast of Counting Down with You are some of the biggest sweethearts you’ll ever meet. Ace Clyde is one of the school’s notorious students, rumours upon rumours piles upon him. His character reminds me of Aiden Thomas’s Julian Diaz (Cemetery Boys). Very understanding and wholesome once you get to know him. Karina’s best friends, Cora and Nandini, are as thick as thieves and supportive as hell. They might not understand her refusal to stand up to her parents, but they’re there for her, no questions asked. It was quite refreshing to see them talk and act like teens; their text conversations were hilarious and realistic. While her parents are away, Karina’s grandmother takes care of her and her younger brother. Her grandmother is pretty much amazing and supportive. Her brother is the best example of a desi little brother who doesn’t realise how easy he has it compared to his sister. Whenever he said something wasn’t deep, I wanted to flick him like he was my own brother. Bhuiyan encapsulates the experience of growing up with traditional parents perfectly. Her parents’ aren’t physically present in most of the novel, but their presence is there in most of Karina’s thoughts, dragging her down both mentally and physically.

Counting Down with You was extremely sweet and immensely relatable. I’m not the type to throw around the phrase  “I wish this book existed when I was teen”, but I feel like if this book had existed when I was a teenager and struggling, I would have felt a lot better about myself at sixteen.


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Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown

Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After a close encounter with a speeding car, Chloe Brown decides she’s had enough. Re-assessing her life, she decides to move out of her family home and creates her Get A Life list. Her bucket list includes enjoying a drunken night out to travelling the world with nothing but hand luggage. But what she doesn’t expect is Redford Morgan, her exasperating superintendent, who might just help her tick a few boxes or shred this whole list up.

As a teenager, I had rashly given up on the contemporary genre, it just never worked out for me, and I had leaned towards the science fiction and fantasy genre instead. But a goal I had made to myself this year was to give it another chance and Get A Life, Chloe Brown was the perfect choice to convert me back to the genre. This book is so much fun. As a teen, I didn’t appreciate novels of everyday life, but now as a twenty-two-year-old adult, stories like Get A Life, Chloe Brown is perfect for people wanting some fun but without the full-on high stakes. What made this book fun was its characters, the way they interact with each other. Talia Hibbert writes in a way that felt like I was talking to a friend, it’s easy to read and enjoy. 

Chloe’s close brush with death causes her to rethink her life. She has fibromyalgia, and the constant pain and fatigue have led her to live a life quite isolated after her friends cruelly abandoned her. But her family is here to stay, including her parents, sisters and eccentric aunt. Her moving out is just one step towards her “getting a life.” In comes Redford (Red) Morgan. He’s dismissive, rude, and annoyingly handsome. But Chloe can’t help but be intrigued by the moody man who spends his free time painting as if his life depends on it. 

Enemies-to-lovers is a trope I see-saw a lot with. Some days I can dig it, some days, I’m just not in the mood. But Get a Life was hilarious in its use of the trope. Chloe thinks Red is just a rude superintendent while Red thinks she’s just a snooty rich girl. After a strange mishap that includes a tree and a cat, the two end up finding common ground. Red enlists Chloe’s skills to make a new website, and he agrees to help tick off her list. But as Chloe’s making her plans, Red is ignoring his past. As I was reading this, I was so surprised at myself. Am I gushing over romance scenes, like, what, who is this changed reader? Talia Hibbert deserves an award for being the author who made me a blushing mess over Chloe and Red.

Chloe and Red were both incredibly flawed in a good way because they get through it all and discuss what is wrong and how to fix it. I have to admit the final argument before the resolution was so unnecessary because the two have proven that miscommunication isn’t an issue, so the way it came about was… confusing. But the rest of the book was a damn delight. There are a lot of layers to the story I hadn’t expected. Chloe and her journey of putting her self out there, Red is suffering from a past abusive relationship, and the little drop-ins from Chloe’s sisters were such mood-boosters. They are hilarious and their stories we will see later in the series which makes me so excited to get started on the next book about Dani. To sum up, Get A Life, Chloe Brown was good fun. It had some great moments and characters who are hilarious. It’s a great pick-me-up, and I’ll recommend it to anyone who wants a quick romantic read, especially if you’re into steamier moments.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR