Fiction Books, YA Books

Viper by Bex Hogan – ARC Review

I was sent an eARC of this books from Hachette Children’s Group and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw the beautiful cover of this book it instantly attracted me and when I saw it was a pirate book, I was sold! And this book did not disappoint! I loved it so much and I’m really looking forward to the next book.


Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Marianne has been training to be the Viper for her entire life – to serve and protect the King and the citizens of The Twelve Isles – but to become the Viper and protect the islands she loves she must find the strength to defeat her father.
He will make me a killer.
Or he will have me killed.
That is my destiny.
Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.
But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.
He’s the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne’s father.
She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves – and perhaps even her life?
A brave heroine. An impossible dilemma. An epic new fantasy trilogy set on the high seas.

This book is fast paced, action packed and very brutal and bloody and right from the beginning we see how brutal Marianne’s father is and the type of people she has grown up around. Yet, despite growing up like this, seeing all the violence, she still is unwilling to murder someone, which makes her a disappoint to her father. She defies her father in small ways despite knowing she will be punished, and I loved her from the first chapter.

When I started reading I quickly realised that not only is this a story of pirates but of pirate assassins! And I fell in love even more. I will warn you though, it is very violent and there is lots of suffering. It’s a lot darker than I thought it would be. Yet there is still hope in the characters despite everything they go through.

Marianne has to go through a lot to stand up to her father. She doesn’t know who she can trust or who will help her achieve her goal. I loved her determination and how kind she was. She wants to be a healer not a killer yet she is definitely capable of being a killer, she chooses not to. I loved her story as she discovered who she was and who she wanted to be and what she’s capable to being. She chooses her own destiny despite one being laid out in front of her.

One of the things I loved was how distinct each island was that Marianne visits. That we actually get to spend time on the island too and explore them with her. And just like the islands, the people who live there are equally as diverse. And the time spent on the waters was so interesting too, from seeing how powerful her father’s ship and crew is to learning about the sea creatures that are just as scary as the pirates themselves.

I don’t want to say too much about the characters as it will spoil some of the plot for you but I will say that there are several characters that help Marianne and I loved all of them! I hope we get to see more of their stories in the next book.

If you love pirates or assassins and action packed books, I highly recommend picking up Viper when it releases on April 18th.

Adult Books, Fiction Books

The Girl King by Mimi Yu – Book Review

Thank you to Orion Publishing Group for sending me this via netgalley. All opinions are my own.

I was so excited to read this book as I kept hearing about it on social media but I sort of felt underwhelmed. It had some really great parts but I just didn’t love it like I thought I would.


Rating: 3/5

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead – a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.
Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally – and an army – if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved . . .
Alone in the volatile court, Min’s hidden power awakens – a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign . . . or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

When I started reading the book I felt it was really slow and actually took me a while to get through the first half of the book but then it was a lot more fast paced near the end.
I think that my favourite part was the characters themselves, Lu and Min are sisters but are very different from each other. Lu is older brave, strong and smart. She is someone who holds onto her ideals no matter what life throws her way and knows that what her father did was unjust to Nok and his people. I also liked that she had to face her privilege as a princess and being sheltered from a lot of hardships that others her age have to go through.

Min on the other hand is quite naïve and coddled by her mother and I actually didn’t like her at all. She is spiteful, jealous and petty and has a weird skewed view on what a woman should be like. I was rolling my eyes at her all the time. Though as the story progresses she does go through some changes and discovers she has a magical power which made her more interesting and I do want to know more about what she will be capable of doing.

Lu and Nok travel together for majority of the book while Lu is in search of an army to take on Set and take back her throne and initially I really enjoyed their interactions and how they slowly developed a friendship despite having reasons to hate each other. The romance however felt underdeveloped and unnecessary. I felt they would have been better as friends and allies.

The main issue I had with the book was the plot, I felt that it dragged for majority of the book and I actually got bored. Only the ending felt more fast paced but then it felt rushed like everything happened at once.

Overall this book just wasn’t for me. I really wanted to love it especially as when I saw the title I fell in love but it just didn’t live up to expectations. But I do think that a lot of others will love this.

Adult Books, Books by Muslim Authors, Fiction Books, Muslim Shelf Space

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar Book Review

I read this book a month ago and I still think about it. It was such an amazing story of love and loss and how everything can change in the blink of an eye. I highly recommend reading this book!

map of salt and stars

Rating: 4.5/5

For anyone who hasn’t heard of the book here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

This rich, moving, and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart—a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and a medieval adventurer apprenticed to a legendary mapmaker—places today’s headlines in the sweep of history, where the pain of exile and the triumph of courage echo again and again.
It is the summer of 2011, and Nour has just lost her father to cancer. Her mother, a cartographer who creates unusual, hand-painted maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. But the country Nour’s mother once knew is changing, and it isn’t long before protests and shelling threaten their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety. As their journey becomes more and more challenging, Nour’s idea of home becomes a dream she struggles to remember and a hope she cannot live without.
More than eight hundred years earlier, Rawiya, sixteen and a widow’s daughter, knows she must do something to help her impoverished mother. Restless and longing to see the world, she leaves home to seek her fortune. Disguising herself as a boy named Rami, she becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, who has been commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the world. In his employ, Rawiya embarks on an epic journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where she encounters ferocious mythical beasts, epic battles, and real historical figures.
A deep immersion into the richly varied cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, The Map of Salt and Stars follows the journeys of Nour and Rawiya as they travel along identical paths across the region eight hundred years apart, braving the unknown beside their companions as they are pulled by the promise of reaching home at last.

This is a beautifully written, poignant story. And it is so relevant to what is happening with the refugee crisis around the world. I heard about this book a while ago and had eagerly been awaiting it’s release and it did not disappoint. I must warn you though, have tissues ready, I was teary eyed throughout the book.

“Things change too much. We’ve always got to fix the maps, repaint the borders of ourselves.”

The story begins with Nour just after her father’s funeral and then her family decide to move back to Syria where she struggles to adjust as she doesn’t understand Arabic as much as the rest of the family. This is where we first hear of Rawiya. It is the story her father told her of the young woman Rawiya who became an apprentice to the world’s greatest mapmaker.

From then there is two interwoven stories following the story of Nour and Rawiya. I loved both stories and seeing how Syria and the whole region once was through the story of Rawiya and then how unstable and dangerous it has become now through the eyes of Nour. The story of Rawiya also shows the bond between her and her father and her trying to remember him.

Nour has synaesthesia so the descriptions are so vivid and refreshing as she links what she sees and hears to colours. It’s the first time I have read a character with synaesthesia so I really loved seeing that. Each of Nour’s interactions and the people she meets along her journey as her and her family try to get to safety leave a lasting impression on her. Her story felt so real as if I was also travelling with her which made it even more heart wrenching. She goes through so many hardships but there is still hope among her family that they will make it to safety.

“Sometimes the smallest stars shine brightest, no?”

Rawiya’s story contrasted Nour’s in the sense that we see Syria when it was flourishing and when people lived in relative safety. Rawiya is smart and brave and kind and I really loved her and her story.

Another thing I loved was the way there was poetry included in the story. As Nour and Rawiya travelled from country to country the story is separated with a poem written in the shape of the country. The poems were not only beautiful and heartfelt but looked amazing too.

“People make such beautiful things, I think, even though they destroy so much.”

As I mentioned earlier this is the story of Nour essentially becoming a refugee and fleeing for her life. Her whole life is uprooted in one moment, their home destroyed and they literally leave with only what they can carry. This is the reality of many all over the world, who one day are living their normal lives and the next running for their life with only what they can carry.

I love that despite everything that happens to them they never give up even though they do sometimes doubt that they will make it to safety. Their strength is inspiring and it really made me feel for not only them but also for all the refugees across the world who are going through this.

“You choose what defines you. Being a refugee doesn’t have to.”

This is a book that I think everyone should read as it is a beautifully written, lyrical story and so, so relevant today. It kept me hooked throughout the book and it’s a book that will stay with you for a long time.