Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

When aboard the ship and amongst the crew that saved her life, Flora becomes Florian, a former street urchin turned crew hand who is desperately trying to make a life for herself and her brother. But her voyage takes a turn when the captain decides to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery and assigns Flora as the guard to young Evelyn. Unaware of the captain’s plan, Evelyn believes she is en route to an arranged marriage and doesn’t anticipate the impact of meeting Florian. Together, they must work to fight for their own freedom without losing themselves to the depths of the sea.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was rather interesting. It was quite a punchy, fast-paced read of two young adults desperate to do the right thing. I did come into reading this with very high expectations, and while a lot of them were met, I wasn’t exactly all too blown away with this book. But I still enjoyed this story. I consider it a solid and entertaining debut.

What I loved most about this book was the world. I believe it’s the book’s strongest point. At the time of writing this review, the author has stated it is currently a stand-alone, but I would be interested in seeing what else the author has to offer from this world. Even if we don’t continue Flora and Evelyn’s story, the brickwork that the author has laid down here has SO much potential. I love how dark this book was, and I wasn’t expecting it, so it came as an exciting surprise. I truly loved how the author uses the Sea as this dark mother nature figure who is wholly vengeful and protective over its inhabitants. This comes in the form of a mermaid who Florian and Evelyn work to save as the crew members terrorise the mermaid for its mind-altering blood. Florian then encounters witches and finds themselves delving deep into witchcraft in order to protect themselves. There is an excellent commentary on the impact of colonialism and imperialism. Flora strives to be free from imperialist forces and wishes to live without fear of capture alongside her brother. We are also introduced to side-characters who bring much-needed depth to where I think Flora and Evelyn fail to give due to their limiting world-view, this includes a fellow crewmate, which I would love to read more about, what we’re given about him is so intriguing, even a short story to delve into his past would be enough.

The story is fun, and the characters were engaging to read about. And while I did speed through this book, the pacing in this book is a little off, as it is split into three sections. Some moments are rushed through while other areas are given time, which I don’t think it really needed. What didn’t work for me in this story was the relationship between Florian and Evelyn, more specifically, their romance. This book is dependent on them falling in love, but it falls rather flat, which is why I had decided to rate this book much lower than I wanted. The duo meet quite late in the book, and coupled with the weird pacing, the impact of their relationship didn’t feel right or even believable because it’s all based on a handful of short conversations between the two and the rest of the development occurred off-page and told to readers in between chapters. I really liked Flora, they were such an interesting character, and I was genuinely rooting for them and their dream for a better life. Their relationship with their brother was so good, and it’s such a shame, we don’t get to delve deeper into it. Because of the length of this book, it meant so much is introduced and then discarded so the story can continue, and I left sorely disappointed that the narrative just doesn’t return to something that is set up to be necessary. The lack of tension is what led the stakes and story feeling sorely under-developed and lacklustre.

Overall, The Mermaid, The Witch and The Sea was an interesting read. I feel like this story has a lot of potential in its world and characters. I still enjoyed it for what its worth but I really wished we had more time which would’ve made the story feel more fluid and move more realistically. As I mentioned before, the world-building is a shining point, which is why I would recommend and I would definitely pick up any future novels set in this universe because I don’t think it was fully utilised in this book.


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Series Review: Shatter Me (Updated!)

Series Review: Shatter Me (Updated!)

Much of this post is copied from my previous series review of Shatter Me from 2018, but before the release of Defy Me and Imagine Me, so I chucked in my thoughts on the final two at the end of the older series review. So, apologies if it all sounds a little familiar. 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 big post about the series. 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. This is less a review, but more of my own rambling of thoughts on each book. Will it make sense? Probably, not. Am I still writing this? Yes.

Shatter Me

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 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. It felt like the story forgets it’s in a dystopian setting where the world is falling apart and then picks itself up every now and then.

I had so many issues with Adam and Warner. I hate that we’re supposed to ship Juliette with both when I just didn’t like any of them. They both think they’re so entitled to Juliette and I was so almost just skipping the pages (and nearly the entire book) when they both spoke. As a villain, I liked Warner. He works as a creepy villain, he works as this incredibly evil guy, but the second he becomes the love interest, I was angry. As a villain, he is brilliant but whatever romantic connection he has with Juliette is just lost on me. I was actually very disappointed because I really wanted to see what everyone was swooning about but I didn’t see it.

I was really disappointed by the ending. Mainly because what’s set up there is what I was expecting to have happened much closer to the beginning of the novel. Here is where the plot picks up and dives itself into dystopia. I understand the addictiveness of Shatter Me, but this was so overrated. Not enough worldbuilding or introduction to the story makes this series worth the hype it’s given. Even the writing was too much. The strikes and messiness were fine but reading it also felt over the top.

Unravel Me

It should have taken Juliette a single touch to kill Warner. But his mysterious immunity to her deadly power has left her shaken, wondering why her ultimate defense mechanism failed against the person she most needs protection from. She and Adam were able to escape Warner’s clutches and join up with a group of rebels, many of whom have powers of their own. Juliette will finally be able to actively fight against The Reestablishment and try to fix her broken world. And perhaps these new allies can help her shed light on the secret behind Adam’s—and Warner’s—immunity to her killer skin.

The only thing I got from Unravel Me was that I actually can’t stand the romance between Juliette and Warner/Adam. We’re introduced to some serious shit in this series but the narrative doesn’t move on from Juliette feeling sorry for herself because she can’t have the guy she wants. The contrast is so jarring. Tahereh Mafi is such a great writer and I can see it come though in this series, it’s the reason why I’m still reading because she writes in a way that is so damn addicting. But the plot is just… everywhere. Whatever appealing qualities that Adam had in book one literally gets stripped away and pushed onto Warner. Still, Team Neither because Juliette is literally better off without a romantic partner. Kenji, you absolute series saver. Even when I didn’t like him, his logic and him being the only one who had any sense and helped Juliette more than the other two did. Juliette really only grows as a character when the other boys aren’t even near her. Regarding plot, not much happens, there’s like 4/5 crucial moments, but even then a lot of this book is stretched way too much. Again, 97% romance and then the 3%,: the series remembers that something is supposed to happen.

Ignite Me

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

Ignite Me was my favourite book out of the original trilogy. Here Juliette really grows and shines on her own. Still Warner and Adam really get on my nerve. They’re all in the middle of a crisis like their feelings can take a step back for now when their lives are still at stake. I really enjoyed the lead up to them raising their army to fight back at the Reestablishment. I just wished that took a more significant chunk of the book rather than Juliette and the boys. Not a huge fan of how obviously Tahereh Mafi changed everything evil Warner did previously to now fit his new angel-like image. Still a prick in my mind. Adam is an even bigger fool in this series. It’s like Tahereh Mafi literally did everything she could to get you to despise Adam, and it worked. Juliette grows up a lot in this book, but Adam is actual trash. Like if I were forced to choose, I would be Team Warner, and that’s because I had no other choice. But I didn’t like that Juliette thought it was okay for her to tell Warner that he’s related to Adam. She tries to force Adam, and while Warner had a right know, Juliette had no right to decide when that happened and push it. That ending was good but way too fast. Like all that prep and then everything is quickly wrapped with no reflection as to what comes next? It just felt cheap, and if Restore Me wasn’t announced, this series would’ve been so disappointing.

Restore Me

Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

I thank whatever chain of events that led to Tahereh Mafi deciding to continue the series with three more books because Restore Me, for me, saved the entire series. I’m not even joking, if she had left the series after Ignite Me, review as this whole would’ve been so cynical that I wouldn’t also be sure if I should post it. Like this is what I expected from reading all those reviews from Book One. All that hype and this what I expected the outcome to be.

The world building for once is remembered and actually talked about. The world makes a bit more sense, and we can finally see the world we’re introduced to three books ago. Adam/ Warner/ James finally realising they’re family now and actually beginning to form a relationship was great to read. Restore Me was very much character driven and a much better improvement to the other three books. The last quarter was actually decent, and while the reveal was sort of obvious, there was still the shock. Here I was thinking Adam couldn’t get worse but he has become the biggest “guy who think’s he’s great, gets rejected and now he hates everything.” Like the whole fierce, protective Adam who would anything to save his brother from Shatter Me is slowly fading and it’s a shame. This book was such a great improvement.

Juliette here really gets on my nerve. She’s Supreme Commander but lacks the skills actually to deserve that title. And whenever someone points out that maybe Warner, whose father was the past Supreme Commander, has experience in the role, and has better connections with the other sectors, should help her, she immediately becomes so damn bitter and bratty and complaining that the Supreme Commander role is HER job. And everyone’s like ‘yeah we know, but Warner can help!’ and she refuses to see past that. Like she knows she lacks the experience after being locked away but still does nothing that has any value. After three books, you would expect this behaviour in Shatter Me, not here, in book four.

I still have some hope for this series. I felt like I’ve invested too much time NOT to see it through to the end. I just really hope whatever excitement I had for Restore Me continues onto the remaining series. Please don’t let this be a fluke.

To end: Nazeera Ibrahim, I love you.

That’s all.

Defy Me

Juliette’s short tenure as the supreme commander of North America has been an utter disaster. When the children of the other world leaders show up on her doorstep, she wants nothing more than to turn to Warner for support and guidance. But he shatters her heart when he reveals that he’s been keeping secrets about her family and her identity from her—secrets that change everything. Juliette is devastated, and the darkness that’s always dwelled within her threatens to consume her. An explosive encounter with unexpected visitors might be enough to push her over the edge.

I completely forgot I actually gave Defy Me a full review so here’s a snippet from there:

A lot of people love this, and a lot of people hate this. As a reader who despised the original trilogy, my expectations for these new books were extremely low, but I was fairly impressed by Restore Me and I could say the same things for Defy Me: entertaining yet at the same time, so, so disappointed. In term of story, there’s not much to unpack. Juliette discovers the truth behind her family, her parents and sister, and it is heartbreaking. Hearing about her sister and the truth behind her past was a standout moment, especially in a powerful scene between the sisters at the end. On the other end, we follow Warner and Kenji as they scramble to pick the movement back up after Juliette’s sudden disappearance. Memories of certain characters are restored and suddenly, they all don’t know what’s happening. I really enjoyed Restore Me, but Defy Me felt like it’s filler counterpart.

Imagine Me

Now that Ella knows who Juliette is and what she was created for, things have only become more complicated. As she struggles to understand the past that haunts her and looks to a future more uncertain than ever, the lines between right and wrong—between Ella and Juliette—blur. And with old enemies looming, her destiny may not be her own to control. The day of reckoning for the Reestablishment is coming. But she may not get to choose what side she fights on.

I know I’ve shown that I don’t have much love for this series. But it was quite a strong ending. I found it quite thrilling and a somewhat decent ending for the series. Did I understand what was happening? No. Did I enjoy? Strangely, yes. I can’t even describe how odd this finale was, but my reaction was much better than Ignite Me. I feel like Shatter Me is a cult favourite amongst the YA community and I’m glad I gave this series a chance and I didn’t just let this book fall off my radar. Judging from the more popular reviews of this series, everyone hated the stylistic choice and story narrative, but I think it was one of the better parts of the novel. Especially, since I read the series one after the other, and didn’t have that huge gap to wait like everyone else did. I enjoyed reading the development of Juliette’s journey through this series. I might be in the lesser side where I enjoyed the newer trilogy much better than the original trilogy.

Content warnings for the entire series, most apply to all four books: PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide mentions, ableism, mention of past abuse, alcohol and medical abuse, racism, gun violence and unchallenged transphobia (restore me) 


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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:
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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/)
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Review: All-American Muslim Girl

Review: All-American Muslim Girl

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After diffusing what could have been an unfortunate situation on the plane with her father, Allie Abraham begins to question her own position as a Muslim girl. With her Circassian features and non-practising parents, Allie has grown up keeping her Islamic heritage to herself. But she’s done hiding and wants to embrace her faith, but with the growing Islamophobia in her small town, and hiding her interest in Islam away from her father, Allie is caught between two worlds and must figure her place within it.

I came across this book quite a while ago, and I’ve been sitting on this review for quite sometime. And that was due to the fact that I was analysing this book as part of my third-year dissertation in university. Now that dissertation is done and completed, I finally feel confident to write this review. This book has popped up quite a lot within the online communities I am in and the reaction is quite polarising. Some absolutely love this book, while the other despise it and to weigh in my own perspective, I found myself quite in the middle in terms of reaction. I did have high expectations since a lot of reviewers whose content I enjoy spoke very positively about this book, but the book didn’t exactly exceed or fail to meet them.

To start off positive, I really enjoyed the perspective we got from Allie, which is rooted in the author’s own experience. Her “reddish-blond hair, pale skin, hazel eyes” makes Allie feel like a “traitor dripping in white privilege.” No one thinks she’s Muslim because she doesn’t fit the popular stereotype. And she’s very much aware of the privilege while the rest of her family faces overt Islamophobia. But then again, to Allie, she’s “barely Muslim”. Upon arrival of her new school, her new friendship group has her questioning and speaking up a lot. She decides she wants to learn more about her faith and culture that has often left her disconnected from her family. Allie expresses her disappointment that she is unable to speak Arabic to her grandmother because her father refuses to teach her. So she reaches out to the other Muslims in her school community and finds herself joining a Qur’an class with other Muslim girls. Here is where I enjoy the novel the most, I really appreciated the way Allie and the other Muslim girls communicated with each other. It wasn’t always nice but it was refreshing to see different perspectives and to see an active discussion between these girls and their interpretation of faith. “Everyone’s on their own journey, at their own pace.” The final moments of the book were so heart-warming and truly my favourite part of the novel. I just felt a little underwhelmed by most of what came before it all.

One thing I found rather odd was that the story uses the discovery of Jack’s father as a sort of plot twist but within all the summaries online, it is told told outright to the readers who his father is which sort of defeat the purpose of setting it up as a shocking point in the story. No hate to the story, just an odd choice for whoever wrote the book’s blurb. Jack Henderson is our love interest. I didn’t find him particularly interesting as first, but I felt really bad for him because Allie talks about his father, an alt-right leader, a lot and makes him feel bad for having a pretty shitty dad. He’s very much aware of it, and it causes him quite a lot of distress, to the point where he has a full on panic attack after they have dinner. He does eventually stand up to his father, but the way Allie is so harsh on him felt a little unfair. Allie is right to argue that not speaking up is equal to upholding terrible values, and in most situations, she had a legitimate point, but she came across as being way too unfair to Wells. Especially since she discusses a lot about nobody realising she’s a Muslim and how she benefits from white privilege which makes her “safe for bigots”. Maybe it was my fault for assuming she would extend the same branch to Wells too. Considering their relationship is a major aspect in the novel, I didn’t feel for them, nor rooted for them to stay together. There was just a lack of communication that had me wanting to ask Allie why would she even continue dating Wells after learning his father’s identity. Also, this book also brings up many complex issues in terms of religion and I don’t think it really offered great advice. While I loved the introduction of Allie and her Qur’an circle, I feel like this book begins a discussion that it doesn’t want to continue. Like mentioning different things without pondering on it for a moment more.

Overall, All-American Muslim was okay, but I felt like it could’ve been more. I’m not writing off this story completely because it is based off the author’s own experiences and I am in no way invalidating that. I felt quite emotional involved and it’s a great perspective to share. There were parts that really resonated with me but so much of the book was very unfavourable that I couldn’t find myself fully invested in this story. 


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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…)

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Review: Crier’s War

Review: Crier’s War

Years ago, the Kingdom of Rabu came under the control of the Automae after the war almost decimated the land. Now, humanity lives under their controlling and violent thumb. Ayla, a human servant, finds herself unexpectedly rising in her rank where she plots to kill the sovereign king’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier is Made to be perfect, without a single flaw, ready to carry her father’s legacy. However, her recent betrothal sees her spot slipping right from under her, and meeting Ayla creates tension that can start a war, but can they rise above it and stop before it goes too far?

A couple of months ago, I saw the prettiest book cover reveal I had ever seen and, with no shame, decided that I had to read this book. When I took a look at the description and saw it was an F/F sci-fi/fantasy novel about automation? A double whammy. I had brought myself up to hype Crier’s War and counted down the says to its release. There’s a lot to love about Ayla and Crier’s story, much of it I loved, but I did find it a quite directionless a lot of time, which was disappointing, to say the least.

This isn’t an original set up but what made this story stand out was how Varela utilises the concept of automation ruling over humanity. Set in an alternate future where alchemy has crafted the Automae who now rule the land. Humanity created them when their Queen was unable to have children, but they quickly rose up against their creators. The core of this book is mainly about what it means to be human, is it free will or the fact we have blood running through us that makes us so? I found it interested how the author uses this story to discuss oppression, privilege and appropriation. Was I expecting it? No. Did I like it? Very much so.

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Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

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

After failing to kill the Demon King, Lei and Wren barely escaped with their lives. But this isn’t the end of their journey, unaware their plot failed, the duo must travel the kingdom to gain support from clans from all corners of the world. But a heavy bounty on Lei’s head makes this even more difficult and when tensions begin to make Lei doubt what she knows, can she succeed in her quest or will the dark magic finish the war before its even begun?

After finishing Girls of Paper and Fire, I eagerly anticipated the release of Storm and Shadow. And I can say that I’m not disappointed, although I was a little underwhelmed. But I still found it a solid read.

I won’t lie, Lei, despite being our main protagonist, was not the star of the show for me. Lei and Wren are joined by others, some familiar, some new. Despite how fractured it all becomes at the end, I truly loved the moments of everyone banding together in their journey. I thought the brashness of Bo and Nitta would be off-putting, but their sibling banter was hilarious and I had come to love their sibling relationship a lot. Merrin got my attention the most, his anger and frustration with everything going on around them was admirable. My heart broke a lot during a pivotal moment in this book. Lei and Wren go through a lot in this. Wren, in particular, shocked me quite a bit. I won’t say too much, but I’m glad Ngan utilised Wren’s past a lot more in this book, a shocking revelation made a lot of sense and really amped up my excitement for whatever comes next in the finale.

Continue reading “Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow”