Review: The Gauntlet

Review: The Gauntlet

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Barely adjusting to her new home in the Upper East Side, Bangladeshi-American kid Farah finds herself sucked into the game of The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand after her younger brother, Ahmad, vanishes into the game. Alongside her friends, she must complete three challenges and failure to win will trap them- and Ahmad- forever.

I’ve been anticipating this book since Salaam Reads was first announced. And I can definitely confirm that this book was so worth the wait.

I really, really enjoyed the world building and game design. The way the story is mapped out is really brilliant. I hope to, maybe, see a graphic novel of this series somewhere down the line because of the Middle Eastern and South Asian influences Raizi had made a very dazzling and creative world. The way the world moves in pieces like a game was so pretty to imagine.

Farah is pretty headstrong and a loveable lead who is very aware of her own weaknesses. She’s constantly struggled with her want to ditch the challenge in search of her brother versus her need to navigate her and her friends out of the game. And she works alongside her friends to complete each challenge. Their friendship is very cute and they work well together, recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They’re all very intuitive and logical in situations that would have me in tears. (ahah)

I think the only downside was the lack of characterisation for Essie and Alex. Farah’s character comes out really strongly and the other two do come across as being more archetypes rather than their own persons. Also, its cultural aspects were so adorable and great to read. While the world seems almost alien to her friends, Essie and Alex, Farah finds familiarity in it and so did I. I wished this book existed when I was a kid.

Overall, it’s a solid fantasy debut in an exciting game world. At its heart, a story of family and friendship, making it a great for any young readers.


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Review: Warcross

Review: Warcross

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Warcross has taken the world by storm. Millions log in every day, millions are made every day from it. And Emika Chen has hacked her way in. Now its creator, Hideo Tanaka, wants to hire her, a teenage hacker, to undercover its biggest security issue.

Warcross is seriously one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t believe how much I loved this book. It’s so thrilling and engaging that I was so shocked how well this book suited my reading taste. (Seriously, if anyone knows any other books like this, throw them my way.) I loved everything about this.

The world its set in is so annoying amazing that I’m mad we don’t, as humanity, have not reached the kind of technology there is in Warcross. Warcross is, in simple terms, a VR game where the player is literally immersed into their environment. The sky’s the limit basically in this game. And like we have Smash Bros tournaments, there are competitions where the best players are pitted against each other in the ultimate gaming tournament. It’s so brilliant to read how the game worked, which connected users worldwide and made VR practically actual reality. The workings of the game were so much fun!

I have to admit the plot twist in this book was very predictable. I picked it up quite early who it was that was hacking into the Warcross system, but I have to admit I was completely thrown off by the other half of the reveal as well. I’m just glad I read the book now when its sequel, Wildcard, is closer to being released.

Just from this one book alone, I now understand the hype around Marie Lu’s books. If my TBR list weren’t so jam-packed, I would’ve read everything else she has written in a heartbeat straight after reading Warcross. Her cast of characters here are so amazing and brilliant, and I quickly grew to love in like seconds. They’re all so different but work so well together. I can’t tell you how great they are. I think Hideo may be the only character that still hasn’t grown as me, especially as the love interest. His role out of that was so engrossing, and I absolutely loved him. I’m a picky romance reader even in a book I loved like this, it just didn’t get to me. Like the development between them was sweet but, again, not for me.

Overall, there were certain elements, such as game design, to its world that left questions and some moments of predictability but nonetheless, I enjoyed it a lot. Like damn, I’m more upset that this is the first Marie Lu book I’ve read. What have I been missing out?


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Series Review: Shatter Me

Series Review: Shatter Me

I was initially going to write separate reviews for each book in the Shatter Me series. But I decided that it was going to work much better as one post about the series. I should note that this is only a series review (so far) because I had this planned before Restore Me came but didn’t get time to read it until Restore Me came out. I should warn that this post is spoiler heavy and if you haven’t read it yet and want to read it without spoilers, ignore this.

Judging from the more popular reviews of this series, everyone hated the stylistic choice, but I think it was one of the better parts of the novel. Especially, since I read the series one after the other, it makes sense, and I enjoyed reading the development of Juliette’s journey through this.

Shatter Me

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Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Shatter Me, in my opinion, is the worst book of the series. If hadn’t borrowed the entire series from the library already, I would’ve dropped the set the second I finished the last page. But I follow Tahereh Mafi on social media, and I really enjoy her personality so I kind of held onto this series, hoping I would somewhat enjoy these books. This is very much a romance novel with a hint of dystopia. Like as if the story forgets it’s in a dystopian setting where the world is falling apart and picks itself up every now and then.

Continue reading “Series Review: Shatter Me”

Review: The Wrath & the Dawn

Review: The Wrath & the Dawn

Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5/5)

Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.

Every night the bride of the Caliph of Khorasan is killed. Until Shazi volunteers to outwit and kill the king in revenge for the death of her best friend. In the vein of the original 1001 nights, she holds off her death by telling a story every night the extends onto another.

I think The Wrath and the Dawn started off really well for me. It’s plot really grabbed from the very beginning, and it did exceed my expectations. Ahdieh has a gorgeous writing style that suits this novel’s intriguing plot. There’s a lot of quote-worthy lines that I really liked, but it was a shame I didn’t really feel the connection between them for it to really hit deep. There’s a magic system that I enjoyed but isn’t really introduced fully yet which I hope gets developed in the sequel.

Shahrzad is a great female lead. Her charismatic behaviour and sharp wit was amusing and her bravery had me rooting for her from the very beginning. But that very much drops very soon once you realise she has no idea what she’s going despite the story setting her up as this character that knows what she’s doing. How she managed to fall in love with him was questionable considering her aims. Khalid wasn’t even that great anyway. His mysterious persona wasn’t that interesting enough to want to care for him, I just wanted to know why he killed those girls, not really caring for his character. The background characters were actually my favourites of the plot I feel like we should’ve gotten a bit more background information and set up at the beginning of the novel before we get pushed straight into the story. I find it strange that enjoyed the plot of this book but didn’t enjoy its characters.

The Wrath and the Dawn have its obvious appeal to romance and retelling lovers. Despite its flaws, I did actually quite enjoy reading this book. It’s vibrant setting, and secondary characters are its most significant highlights. With a cliff-hanger like that, I do intend to read the sequel.


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Review: Want

Review: Want

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

In a world divided by the rich you and the poor mei, advanced tech is needed to survive the polluted air that covers the city of Taipei. Angry at his city’s corruption which allows the rich to survive while the poorest are left at nature’s mercy, Jason Zhou along with his friends infiltrate the lives of the wealthy yous in order to destroy Jin Corp which manufactures the suits to survive.

Within the very first chapter, I was hooked. Pon has created a story that is fantastic. We’re introduced to the overcrowded smoggy city of Taipei and you’re in with Pon’s vivid imagery and writing. The wealth disparity isn’t so different from real life and this story tackles so many important topics. It is such a compelling read that will satisfy anyone looking for a thrilling and fast-paced read. And it’s cast of characters are so memorable and amazing. I don’t know how many times I can say how spectacular this was to read and experience.

I was so drawn to Zhou as the novel’s lead and his band of friends as they attempt to complete this ambitious mission. Each and every character is vital and the chemistry between them all is so good. They are such a diverse bunch of people and can’t wait to read more about them. The scenes of them just living their lives were really sweet and some of the best scenes in the book.

I did have an issue with the pacing, there were moments where it goes way too fast and then suddenly goes at a snail pace, especially in the middle of the book. And the romance between Jason and Daiyu deserved more time to develop. They’re very quickly pushed together that just needed more time to work better.

Overall, Want reads like a movie we all deserve to see on the big screen. And I loved it. A story about a group of friends infiltrating a corporation with hidden identities, spy actions and damn amazing group dynamics. A futuristic heist story that everyone needs to read.


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Book Review: The Poppy War

Book Review: The Poppy War

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

Rin is only sixteen when she passes the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the best and brightest, and enters the Academy to escape an arranged marriage and finally prove herself worthy. However, passing the test and training at the academy, Rin learns, are two opposite things. Once she is there, she instantly targeted for her skin, her poverty and her gender. A war orphan from the Rooster Province should not last a day in the Academy. While a war grows between the Empire and the Federation of Mugen, Rin’s powers may be the only thing that can save her people. Until she learns that she holds a skill that could cost her the price of her humanity.

I do not doubt that this book will top most end of year lists. Believe the hype. It is truly worth it.

Check the content warnings at the end because The Poppy War is not a dull read. It is fast-paced, bloody and detailed with its scenes of violence. Fang ‘Rin’ Runin is an ambitious war orphan who blackmails her way into the Keju examination and is forced to contend with students whose privilege put their experience years before her own. Her drive to do better and take a reign in her life is compelling and fantastic to read.

The cast of characters we interact with are extraordinarily diverse and intricately detailed with complex and unique characterisations. You hate them on one page but slowly sympathise with the next. Their choices are dangerous but realistic. The story is uncomfortable but so real to read.

Many scenes are, I warn, very, very dark. Horrifically violent that felt physically ill to read at multiple points. If you have looked into the book world, The Poppy War is everywhere. Moreover, rightfully so. However, take note before you jump into this book.

The scale and depth of The Poppy War make this book nothing short of a masterpiece. The strong world-building with its detailed and crafted characters as they try to survive this brutal and devastating world.

I’m excited to see where it will go from here and what we will expect to see in future novels. Watch out for this series. It’s here to stay.


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Trigger/Content Warnings: self-harm, suicide, rape, sexual assault, murder, genocide, massacres, torture, mutilation, drug abuse, ableism, physical and emotional abuse.