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:
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– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
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Review: The Empire of Gold

Review: The Empire of Gold

Rating: 4 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.*

Daevabad has fallen, and Nahri is miles away in Cairo. After fleeing her ancestral home, alongside Ali, she is haunted by the past which continues to follow her. Together, they are determined to return to their homeland, but not without facing the truth behind their own history. Back in Daevabad, Dara struggles to regain control alongside Manizheh in a city stripped of its magical core.

The Empire of Gold deserves a better review than I could ever write. This book wastes no time, kicking right back into action where Kingdom had ended. Nahri wakes up in an abandoned village with Ali, losing life every second. Thus, begins their journey back home, back to Daevabad, which entails a wild adventure that involves fighting sea creatures, evading pirates and rehashing old family feuds. Then you slip the script over to Dara, whose chapters are less adventurous and more dangerous as Dara finds himself pushed to the very end yet again, but now under the command of Manizheh. Empire is the series’s most cruellest novel, no matter who is your favourite, someone will get hurt. (And that was me in the form of Jamshid and Muntadhir.)

I was a little worried about Empire because it had a lot stacked up against it, especially being the finale to an expansive trilogy. The contrast between Nahri and Ali’s seemingly calm chapters in comparison to Dara’s dark and sinister moments where he is struggling to stay true to his beliefs and values felt quite strange at first. Depends on the reader, but you can either find the contrast quite comical or something of a relief, I place myself firmly in the middle.

From the very beginning of the series, where Nahri accidentally summons Dara, this series has always been character-driven, and Empire is no stranger to a vast cast of characters that pull at your heartstrings. Nahri learns more about her ancestry, which brings up even more questions than answer, Ali’s past truly comes to haunt him, and Dara is slowly falling apart while trying to follow the leader he thought he believed in. Nahri quite literally retraces her steps, and it was quite emotional seeing her back in her human home and the cost of having to leave it for the sake of her future. Dara is a fan favourite, and I understand why but, personally, for me, I wasn’t all that invested in him, though I did have a lot of empathy for him. His story is quite heartbreaking. But don’t get me wrong, I love how Chakraborty handled his character, it was quite possibly the only ending I ever expected for him, but if I had to rank the trio, he would undoubtedly come last.

I realised in my previous reviews I never mention Jamshid at all! And he’s one of my favourite characters in the series. He really grew on me because I didn’t pay much attention to him for a while and during my re-read of Brass, I really saw him in a whole new light! Jamshid has been Muntadhir’s bodyguard for over a decade, and his part in this story really comes to light in this book. While we reunite with some old faces, we also meet new ones, and they all really shine through. It’s a shame this is the finale because I so would’ve loved to have read more about them all. The thing I noted about the series and its expansive map was that we, as readers, never really get to experience much of it in the story. While Nahri and Ali aren’t gallivanting across the world, we do get to see some already mentioned places in this one, which was quite lovely.

Overall, Empire builds on the strengths of its previous novels, especially in its worldbuilding. The world of Daevabad is unreal, just when you thought you knew everything, new revelations are thrown back at you, and the whole world has you spinning again. The story of Nahri might end here, but the ending is genuinely the greatest one we would have possible be given. I don’t think I was truly ready to see the end of this world, but it is a satisfying ending and worth the read.


GOODREADS AMAZONAUTHOR


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/)
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Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Years after the aftermath of The City of Brass, Nahri continues her power struggle with the King of Daevabad as she forges her own path without the guidance of her closest friends. Slowly, she begins to embrace her lost heritage, but one misstep can doom her tribe forever. Meanwhile, Ali, far from home in exile, continues to live on, defying his father’s orders. Hunted by assassins, he is forced to rely on his own new abilities, but a long-kept secret of his family is causing devastating effects. As the djinns begin to celebrate the new century, a brand new force threatens to topple Daevaebad’s strong brass standing.

I stand by this statement now: the Kingdom of Copper is the best book of the trilogy. To say a lot happens is an understatement. Five years after Ali is exiled and Dara is presumed dead to all, Nahri is left mostly on her own, now married to Ali’s older brother, Muntadhir, and despite all her bargaining for her dowry, she is still trapped under the thumb of the Al-Qahtani family. My biggest fear for Kingdom was the possibility it could fall victim to becoming the bridge book. But building upon the already mindboggling web of events and rules of the Daevabad universe, Kingdom outshines its predecessor by a mile and a half.

The rich and intricate history that Chakraborty has created is SO mind-blowingly good. Each book is this story is quite a hefty read, but you feel the impact. The djinn have long existed before Nahri’s time, and it shows. Their power struggles, wrongdoings and mistakes, the history is felt through every page. I truly felt for Nahri, who was raised in the human realm, because I felt overwhelmed by the detail laid out on every page. The magic system, myths, history and culture, has evident importance to the story and nothing is mention for no reason, everything has a meaning and impact on every character’s life.

Now we go onto our cast of characters, where do you even begin? Nahri has grown up a lot since Brass. I felt like in the first book; she was a little too backed up into a corner, given little to no information about her past so her struggles can come across as quite frustrating to readers. But in Kingdom, she is in better control of her life, despite the restriction. My heart soared when she discovered the abandoned hospital and slowly watching her plan to rebuild and create a space where the djinn and shafit (half-human/djinn offsprings) alike can have access to medical care. But no one willing to help her achieve such plans. Then comes Ali, our castaway prince, who begrudgingly returns to his family. He thrives a lot out of the comfort of his royal court, and it’s a shame we didn’t see more of their world outside of Daevabad. I think Kingdom consolidated Ali as my favourite character of the series. His pious disregard to the dark side of the court business made him quite a different character to Nahri, who is continuously using her con-artist skills to her benefit. Kingdom also shines a stronger light on the Al-Qahtani siblings, especially Muntadhir, Ali’s hot-headed older brother who is now married to Nahri. The two have resigned themselves to a loveless marriage of convenience, but the pair have an excellent working relationship. While they don’t see each other as trustworthy partners, they aren’t enemies either. They realise they’re both in miserable circumstances and they have to work together in order to get through it all. I came to really love Muntadhir in this book. And finally, Dara. I wasn’t too sure on his character in the first book but, just like Muntadhir, I come to understand and appreciate him here. You feel for him as he tries to do what is best, but he has no choice but to make unethical choices, guided by another. Ghassan and Manizeh are given so much more depth than the predecessor book.

Overall, I absolutely recommend the Daevabad series. Chakraborty returns to her sweeping universe with an absolute bang, giving us a compelling sequel that takes you on a wild, magical journey. What I loved the most about Kingdom was the characterisation of everyone, hero and villain alike. With raised tensions and higher stakes, this fantasy series ranks very high on my list.


GOODREADS AMAZONAUTHOR


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/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

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Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

* I initially received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in 2018. This is an updated review. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Daevabad, a magical city that is split between six djinn tribes, is not the place Nahri expected herself to run to after accidentally summoning a daeva warrior. Suddenly her skill to magically heal and deduce other’s medical issues almost makes sense in these magical lands. Her only companion is the daeva warrior whose past is just as cloudy as her own. But when she meets Prince Ali, the youngest royal in the city of Daevabad, their battle for political power intertwines as they struggle to protect the ones they love. 

When I first read The City of Brass, I wasn’t too hot on it, originally. I had initially read this beast of a book during an awful reading slump which I genuinely believe impacted my opinion because I re-read this book back in March of 2020, and my mind was blown. I can’t believe how different my reading experience was this time. It was like I was reading a completely different book. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a rating so drastically before. (from 3 stars to 5 stars!)

I’m reading my old review of COB, and I want to LAUGH at past Zaheerah. Because everything I said in the original review, I am the complete opposite now. In the initial review, I’m very lukewarm towards our central trio (Nahri, Dara and Ali) but now? I freaking adore them. Nahri’s street smart wit, Dara’s mysterious presence and Ali’s infuriating yet endearing attitude. The familial relationship between Ali, his father and his two older siblings was of greatest interest to me. He is our insider to the Daevabad world and culture, so serious as he finds himself working with the very people his father despises in his fight against his world’s injustice. While Nahri navigates a world unknown, Ali is struggling to face his privilege while also balancing his love for his country and his family. But they both realise not everything is as black and white as they thought. 

The world-building was the best part of the novel. That opinion has not changed since 2018. It’s just so intricate and intensely detailed that it’s a wonder how the author managed to cram so much detail in every page without feeling overpowered as a reader. The cultural detail from the people to their clothes and customs. I imagined it all so well, the sprawling city of Daevabad. (This review was written before the announcement of the Netflix show so yes I am so excited to see the book come to life – Netflix, don’t mess this up.) The character-driven storytelling is so addictive; you genuinely don’t want to let this story go. 

Overall, re-reading The City of Brass was a brilliant decision. The City of Brass is full-on and a great foundational start to an excellent series. Most of this book is readers being introduced to the vast world and its people, and I can see most readers being put off by the sheer size. But Chakraborty is a brilliant action writer, her infusion of hard-hitting fight scenes with enchanting characters makes this a vibrant and thrilling fantasy world. I definitely recommend this story of a young healer, a djinn with a dark past, and a prince who wants to do his city justice.


GOODREADS | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY | AUTHOR


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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/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

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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. 


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/)
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[Blog Tour] The Wolf of Oren-Yaro #HailTheBitchQueen

[Blog Tour] The Wolf of Oren-Yaro #HailTheBitchQueen

Title: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro

Author: K.S. Villoso

Publisher: Orbit Books

Publication date: 18 February 2020

Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis:

A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.

“I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.”

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come.

But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she’s on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.


Hello, I previously announced that I’m on a semi-blogging hiatus, except for planned posts. Still on hiatus (I am SO ready to graduate!!) but please enjoy my review for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro! I don’t feel like it’s one of my best review but if I still feel terrible about it after graduation, I do intent to pick this book up again before the release of its sequel. (I read the book and wrote this review in 2019)

As always, thank you to Shealea for all your hard work at Caffeine Book Tours. Please check the link after the review to see what everyone else thought of the book!

Review

*I received a finished copy via Caffeine Book Tours in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro follows Talyien, the Dragonlord of Jin-Sayeng, five years after her husband left her to rule over their already divided people. Issues and disagreements have been piling up for years, and the generals surrounding her are watching her every move. To keep the peace, she agrees to leave her land to the foreign city of Anzhao for peace talks with her estranged husband. Already out of her depth, she finds herself on the run when the negotiations go awry. Alone, in a nation unfamiliar to her, Talyien must survive the unknown if she wishes to return home. 

I’ll admit it; I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I decided to apply to join this blog tour. But I’m delighted I did. Oren-Yaro is a staggering journey of survival. From story to characters, to overall setting, this book was a unique read. Villoso delivers on what she sets out to achieve, and while I found myself a little overwhelmed by the world, the focus of this story wasn’t something I could pinpoint in certain moments, but I liked it like that. Which sounds very weird since, as a reader, I like having some awareness of where the story could go as I’m reading, but honestly, I flew through this book so quickly, I didn’t even care. This book was a wild ride, so much was happening; it all didn’t settle in until I reached the very last page. 

Continue reading “[Blog Tour] The Wolf of Oren-Yaro #HailTheBitchQueen”