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. 


GOODREADS AMAZONAUTHOR


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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A Very Late #RamadanReadathon 2020 Wrap Up

A Very Late #RamadanReadathon 2020 Wrap Up

I cannot believe how quickly Ramadan had started and ended this year! Part of me believed that the month was going to drag because I had all my university assignment due during this month. I’m so close to finishing university, but it doesn’t feel real yet because of quarantine. Luckily, past Zaheerah was smart and thought ahead when it came to planning my TBR for this readathon and my five choices fit perfectly within my schedule for this month. (To be fair, reading TWO S.A Chakraborty books in a month felt like reading four and I certainly was not expecting to be blindsided by those books) I plan on writing full reviews for all these books (except for The Light at the Bottom of the World and Once Upon an Eid) so this wrap up will be pretty short. Overall, I really enjoyed my selection for this readathon, they were all quite different which made this a fun reading experience. Some were more enjoyable than others but I consider this readathon a success! 

EDIT: Also, sorry for the late as heck wrap up post. Finishing university in the middle of a global pandemic does not do well for the mind.

1. The Kingdom of Copper
Usually, the middle book of a trilogy is often the one that lacks the most in my experience. I find myself struggling to keep myself interesting during a second book because it of its unfortunate positioning as the buffer book. But, not with TKOC, I stand by this statement now: it is the best book of the trilogy. Set five years after the events of COB, and I’m glad to say the time jump is done remarkably well. Our cast have aged and it shows. Nahri, our humble thief, more guarded than ever before is still a thorn in the King’s side and she doesn’t intend to let go. Ali, my favourite, has grown from his black/white view of the world and has truly aged to understand the impact of his actions. He’s still causing trouble, and we love that for him. His casting in the Netflix series is probably the one I’m anticipating the most. I need my fool to be perfectly cast. Also, I’m so glad that my everyday life (ahem, uni) made me read this so late because if I had read this and witnessed THAT ending, and not have the finale in my hands straight away (thanks Netgalley!), I don’t think I would have survived. Expect a full review soon!

2. The Empire of Gold
Reading Empire of Gold straight after The Kingdom of Copper is the reading version of being sucker-punched. And before the readathon, I was already re-reading City of Brass in anticipation of this readathon so I was basically punched three times. The series is that good. I was not expecting anything that happened in this book. Writing this post, it has been a couple of days since the news that Netflix is adapting this trilogy dropped, and when I heard the news, I just prayed that they’ll reach the events of Empir in the series. I know Netflix has a 3 season track record unless the series is mega-popular (see stranger things). I really hope they are as faithful as they can be to the source material. Nahri’s story ends perfectly, not exactly complete, but just enough to be satisfied with the ending and know there is more for her in the future. Don’t ruin this one for us, Netflix. The Daevabad trilogy is a series worthy of its hype. 

3. The Henna Wars
This will sound weird, but is it possible to say you loved a book but still felt like it wasn’t for you? I adored The Henna Wars, it’s super adorable and sincere with a cast of characters that I adored. Nishat is one of a kind, an unapologetic lead whose headstrong attitude was a complete joy to read, a definite protagonist who can get on your nerves but still understand her actions. I feel like the writing style was not to my liking. I wasn’t quite into it and it definitely affected my enjoyment of the book in certain moments. But I do believe in this story and it’s just another one of those cases where I know it’s to do with my own preference as a reader and not a fault of the author or the book itself. That being said, this book is so adorable and I’ll give Adiba credit for writing a story that I haven’t read anywhere else. Expected a full review soon but I swear it’s more positive than this tidbit here!

4. Once Upon an Eid
It felt bittersweet reading this collection of short stories that showcase different Eid experiences that revolve around being with your loved one. In a better time, we would have been celebrating this release quite differently. This anthology is so wholesome. I truly can’t recommend this enough to younger readers. This collection is what we mean when we say diversity! I loved the different representation and experiences to how one can celebrate Eid, especially for someone who has celebrated it pretty much the same way every year ever since I could remember. I love hearing how different Eid celebrations can vary. A highlight of this collection, for me, is the pages of illustrations for each chapter. I misread and thought it was the one chapter that was illustrated but alas, each story got their own art by some amazing artists! I mentioned I wasn’t going to write a review for this one, mainly because I was unsure of how to write it without it becoming longwinded but I think I will sit on the idea for the now and come back to it a couple of weeks time. 

5. The Light at the Bottom of the World
I said I wasn’t going to write a review for this book but part of me is still considering it. Set in a world submerged in water, Shah’s debut follows teen Leyla who, after winning the coveted London Marathon, goes in search of her missing father who was wrongfully arrested. I found myself frustrated reading this because the concept and premise is SO good, but the entire book is let down by the writing. I truly believe I would have loved this book if it wasn’t written this way. The way these characters speak to each other just sound so fake and unrealistic. Even Leyla’s internal voice found so forced and weak. I just found myself so irritated through my entire reading experience. Even just thinking about it now while I type this makes me not want to write the full review because I don’t think it’s worth my time.

Final Thoughts
So, I would say this readathon was a success! The Daevabad books were definitely the highlight of the month! I’m very excited to be wrapped up with university and having more freedom to write again! I feel like living through a pandemic has mushed my mind a bit and my thoughts aren’t coming across as coherent as I’d like them too. So I’ll wrap up here and say thanks for reading this far. Hopefully, my next post won’t be so


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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#RamadanReadathon 2020 TBR!

#RamadanReadathon 2020 TBR!

Salaam, everyone! I am (almost) back from blogging hiatus to announce my TBR for this year’s #RamadanReadathon! The purpose of this readathon is to celebrate and support Muslim authors during the blessed month of Ramadan. This year, the readathon will take place between April 23 – May 23 2020. With all of us spending Ramadan, and most likely Eid, in quarantine, I hope this year’s readathon will brings us together just that little bit more.

This year’s readathon will revolve around the upcoming release, Once Upon an Eid, which is an anthology of short stories from some of our current Muslim writers! What I love about this year’s readathon format is that the element is unrestricted, which can be a blessing and a curse for a hazard reader like myself. During Ramadan, I will also be submitting my dissertation and my final assignments of my degree, so the freestyle of this readathon makes it a lot easier to partake! No prompt or restriction except for the books must be by Muslim authors and thankfully my TBR is packed with them!

Below are the books I hope to read during this month!

The Kingdom of Copper

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

I recently re-read The City of Brass last month and I was so shocked at how much I enjoyed it on my second read-through. I had initially read COB as an arc and rated it 3 out of 5 and now, looking back at the rating and review, I can really see how much stress can impact my reviews. I had first read COB in a very stressful period in my life and since the book was so heavy, I didn’t appreciate it the first time around. Granted, I was still stressed reading it my second time around, but I really paced myself this time and I can’t believe how different I feel about it now! Now I’m super excited to dig into The Kingdom of Copper and this readathon came at a perform time! Expect a full trilogy review once I’m done!


The Empire of Gold

I have purposely not included the description for The Empire of Gold because I am plan on reading this and The Kingdom of Copper for this readathon and I don’t want to spoil myself for this series! I’m usually don’t care that much about spoilers but I am adamant to not have this series ruined or me! A copy of The Empire of Gold was given to me via Netgalley.  


 

The Henna Wars

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

I’ve been follow Adiba on twitter for a while now and it’s so much fun watching someone you follow go through the process of publishing their own book! Also have to support my fellow Bangladeshi as well!!


 

Once Upon an Eid

Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.

Of course, I couldn’t not add our honorary book! I’m so excited to see what stories are included. I’m super excited to read the graphic novel chapter!


The Light of the Bottom of the World

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

This one has been on my TBR for too long! And I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it! It’s sci-fi and dystopia so it’s right up my alley!


Okay, so that is my extremely short TBR but hopefully keeping it this short will make it more realistic to complete. Also, cnsidering that S.A. Chakraborty’s books are long as hell, one book could qualify as two. Check out Nadia’s introductory post where she includes other book options if you’re thinking of joining! I’m late as hell (as usual) to announce my TBR but I’m so excited to see what else Nadia has in store for this month. Be sure to follow her on all her social and the readathon’s account to keep up to date with the possible upcoming author interviews, twitter chats and giveaway! Not everything is confirmed yet, but do check it out if you have the time!

And that’s all from me, hopefully, I’ll be posting more frequently as I wrap my degree (very scary) and I hope everyone is keeping safe in the middle of this epidemic. Keep practising good social distancing and take care of yourself! I’ll see you all soon!

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