4 star, adult

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Image result for the witch elm

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.



4 Drink Me Potions


‘I’ve always considered myself to be, basically, a lucky person.’

Going into this book, I had expected some sort of existential, philosophical discovery kind of journey, but that is really not what I got. Instead, it was a murder mystery sort of novel (my favourite!) with a large twist. In The Witch Elm, Toby is a well-rounded, generally deemed good person, who suffers a life-changing event and is seemingly never the same after. Struggling with his head injury, Toby rapidly finds himself in a state of constant confusion, with muddled memories adding to his paranoia.

Having escaped to the Ivy House for refuge with his dying uncle, things quickly turn around when a skull is discovered inside a large elm tree in the garden. Again Toby’s life is plunged into mystery, with detectives and police at every corner. Who around him can he trust, when he can’t even trust his own memories and character?

The Witch Elm follows the main protagonist, Toby, who starts off high and mighty (though not too haughty) but quickly falls to rock bottom. Even we ourselves as readers are not sure if we can trust Toby with his disjointed memories. This made for a very interesting read as usually a whodunnit novel doesn’t involve yourself as a prime suspect. Everyone appears suspicious, but we also can’t rule out ourselves as a possible suspect either, making this story an exciting journey from the beginning all the way to the dramatic climax and denouement.

I really enjoyed that this book explored a lot of aspects of identity and self-awareness. How much does who you are as a character really play into your actions? Also, how strongly do people judge your actions by how closely it matches your perceived character? There is a very interesting exploration of this whole reality versus perception of character and actions that is a motif found throughout the whole book.

The beginning did start off a little bit slow for me, and the lucky nature of Toby was a little bit irritating. But as I got to about half-way through the book, I actually found myself really entranced in the whole scenario, not unlike how Toby must have been feeling in the book himself. Each persona in the book was well thought out and developed in such a way that even though everyone’s character was clear as day, it was difficult to pin down any incriminating evidence. Just when you think that things are about to be resolved, things take another tumble and whirl around until the very final resolution. It was definitely an exciting roller coaster of a journey that was gripping all the way to the very end.

Overall Recommendation:
A haunting story of rediscovering yourself on the backdrop of a murder mystery. Toby is a classically lucky guy up until he slides right to the very bottom. The story follows him as he struggles to remember what might or might not have been, and who he can trust when a human skull is found in his garden. The Witch Elm is a gripping tale that explores how the perceived reality versus the actual truth might differ. What we discover about our true selves might sometimes be better left unknown. If you enjoy a thrilling murder mystery where literally everyone is a suspect, you will probably enjoy this book. If you like that idea with the addition of a self-(re)discovery journey layered on top, then I would definitely recommend this book.

4.5 star, adult

Review: The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

Image result for the oyster thiefThe mermaid’s scales were bronze, and they shimmered like hundreds of pennies arranged close together. Her immense blue-green eyes gave a look of fragility to her face, yet he found her eyes unsettling. She was leaning against a thirty-foot-long shark, which emerged from behind her and opened its mouth to reveal a great big cavern lined with hundreds of teeth – a black tunnel ready to swallow him.

Coralline is a mermaid who is engaged to the merman of her dreams. But when an oil spill wreaks havoc on her idyllic village life, her little brother falls gravely ill. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir made of starlight.

Izar, a human man, is on the cusp of an invention that will enable him to mine the depths of the ocean. Her discovery will soon make him the richest man on earth – while threatening merpeople with extinction. But then, suddenly, Izar finds himself transformed into a merman and caught in a web of betrayal and intrigue. Meeting Coralline in the ocean, he decides to join her on her quest for the elixir, hoping it will turn him human again.

The quest pushes Coralline and Izar together, even though their worlds are at odds. Their pasts threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline leave her fiancé for a man who might betray her? And Izar has a dark secret of his own – one that could cause him to lose Coralline forever.

Magnificent and moving, set against a breathtaking ocean landscape, The Oyster Thief is a richly imagined odyssey destined to become a classic.


4.5 Drink Me Potions


Two world collide when a mermaid and human man meet, plunging readers into a vast underwater realm brimming with adventure and intrigue.

Coralline is a mermaid living in her hometown of Urchin Grove, working as an apothecary to heal others. Meanwhile, Izar on land is the adopted son of the CEO of the prosperous Ocean Dominion, a company which seeks is to destroy the ocean and mine the precious minerals on the ocean floor. Izar is a gifted inventor, and discovers how ot create underwater fire to raze the ocean floor. Their two worlds collide when Izar is left for dead but becomes a merman instead, meeting Coralline.

The story begins at Coralline’s engagement to a handsome rich merman, whose family’s wealth and status precedes him. Immediately you are reminded of The Little Mermaid, with the beautiful scenery and world created by Faruqi. Vibrant colours and animal familiars exist in this imaginary underwater world and it is as beautiful as any land could be. Faruqi draws many contrasting parallels between the underwater world and the world above and we quickly learn that each is bitterly aware of the other.

When Coralline’s brother falls sick, she embarks on a treacherous journey filled with lies and deceit to try and find a magical elixir to cure him. On her way she meets a half-dead Izar, whom she nurses back to full health. Together they travel a large expanse of the Atlantic looking for this mysterious magician who created this elixir of starlight said to save any life once in exchange for a curse (unicorn blood, anyone?).

I thought this book had all the elements of a classic fairytale that one might want: a loveable and relatable protagonist, Prince Charming, betrayal and plot twists, and a very clever villain, all tied together with the classic true love romance. There’s also a lot that wasn’t expected, and that’s what really drew me into this book. The story really explored different aspects of real life like environmental issues, doing what is right versus what you want, morality and propriety. In addition, koodos to the author for doing her research: as a science major, it really pains me to have to read through very faulty scientific logic in a book. Not in this one! The scenery, ideas and theoretical science that are proposed are all very believable and logical, giving these two contrasting worlds a very realistic feel.

They weren’t kidding when they said that this book is filled with betrayal and intrigue. It almost feels like a whodunnit novel, with lies and misperceptions around every corner, waiting to strain relationships, whether they be familial or romantic. I think this book will resonate with many people with all the different issues that are explored, and I would definitely recommend this exciting adventure to anyone.

“Fire vaporizes water, and water vanquishes fire. The two can never truly meet.”

One of the most exciting and thought provoking lines in the book, it is quickly a theme that emerges tying the balance of the whole book together. Can the underwater world and the land of fire above truly ever be at peace? Or are they just too different?

Overall Recommendation:

A beautiful underwater world not unlike our own that really pulls you into the ocean with the characters themselves. Although most of the story takes place underwater, all of the issues that are brought up are all relevant to our lives. Even as a reader, it is hard to trust anyone in the book, and you are also forced to take a side as you follow Coralline on her journey for the magic elixir. A constant rollercoaster of emotion and suspense, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys observing these parallel worlds where it is easier to more candidly address some real world issues. If you loved The Little Mermaid as much as I did, this grown up version will definitely be the twist you’ve been waiting for.

4 star, adult

She Felt Like Feeling Nothing by R.H. Sin

This is not a traditional review either. It seems that only poetry books can draw this out of me as I’m normally not a poetry reader.

she felt like feeling nothing -rh sin

I came across this wonderful book by random, flipping through these pages. And in an instant, my heart was hooked. Painfully. For there on the first page were words that wholly described me. Even after 5 years.

Have you ever been in a relationship where the one you loved just never seemed to love you back? No matter how hard you tried, no matter how much you gave of yourself, it was like you were never enough.

This is exactly what she felt like feeling nothing was. And the sad thing is? Having these words still resonate so deeply within me suggested that maybe I hadn’t let go of all that I thought was in my past.

As we move through the stanzas that I’ve selectively chosen from this short but encouraging book, I’m leaving behind on this page a bit of honesty of who I was and where I hope to be one day. To all you women out there who understand this as well, know that you’re not alone. To all of you who may not fully understand it, I’m happy that you didn’t need to go through such an ordeal and I hope you’ll hold onto those who unfortunately have.

what happened to your soul

i see the bruises and the scars

he never deserved to touch your canvas

how’d you forget that you are art

i know it fucking hurts

but i’ll just say this because it’s true

any man who hurts your heart

is incapable of falling for you

This was the first poem in the book that drew me in. A part of me still wonders after all these years if those bruises and scars on my heart have fully healed or if I just cauterized them and pretended that it was good enough. And if only the younger, more naive version of me could’ve understood that someone who made me cry for 3 years would never be able to say yes in the end.

i think there are times

where you miss the version of yourself

who never knew

what it meant to feel betrayed

Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily undo the pain I’ve been in. It’s changed me into who I am today. But there are times when I find myself wondering who I could’ve been without this hanging over my past. Would I have made better choices later? Would I have been a better person?

a man who is unsure about

the way he feels for you

is unworthy of a space

in your heart

If only the 17 year old in me would’ve believed such words. If only I could’ve learned to let go in my heart.

you are something

that someone

has been waiting

their entire life for

And yet, maybe I have never believed that since. Is there a way back to such a belief?

you’ve hidden so much

of what you’ve felt

in the corners of your heart

refusing to open up

out of fear of being hurt again

To risk one’s heart for something that could be great, but could also bring a world of pain? To feel worthy to be loved? Am I still capable of that? If he was staring right in front of my face, would I be brave enough to reach out and open up my heart?

to love and not be loved in return

is the most destructive kind of love

that type of love is a love

that causes us to lose love for ourselves

In other words, unrequited love. If you thought that sounded romantic, it falls very far from that…

i think you’re just

this beautiful misfit

nothing wrong with being different

in search of something real

in search of someone who will listen

someone who will care

someone who will stay

a love that brings you closer

a love that never strays

I was once a romantic, but now I’m not sure what that even sounds like. Yet I see the stars and the flowers in the spring and find myself wishing the grand stories of love could be true for a mere misfit like me.

it’s hard to forget someone

who used to make your soul smile

but it’s even harder to remember

everything they used to be

Reading this whole book has dredged up a lot of memories for me. Maybe they’re things I should’ve dealt with a long time ago. Maybe it’s a good thing to finally air it out, no matter how hard it is to remember how it once was. The way he made me smile. The way it felt as easy as breathing once upon a time. Until it didn’t.

If it’s anything, taking this trip down memory lane has opened up the floodgates for me. And I’m not saying this book may be for everyone, but it surely was for this still-healing girl here.

Maybe it’ll bring healing. Maybe it’ll hurt worse before it gets better. As I look at who I am now, yes, I’ve made mistakes and I took down with me people who didn’t deserve that. But I’ve grown stronger and I’ve gained perspective and I’m no longer that 17 year old girl.

Maybe someday soon, I will learn to love myself more. And believe that I am worth loving by someone I took a risk for.

But that day just isn’t today.