Review: The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida (Clarissa Goenawan)

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Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: March 10th 2020
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 278

Blurb from Goodreads:

University sophomore Miwako Sumida has hanged herself, leaving those closest to her reeling. In the months before her suicide, she was hiding away in a remote mountainside village, but what, or whom, was she running from? To Ryusei, a fellow student at Waseda; Chie, Miwako’s best friend; and Fumi, Ryusei’s older sister, Miwako was more than the blunt, no-nonsense person she projected to the world. Heartbroken, Ryusei begs Chie to take him to the village where Miwako spent her final days. While he is away, Fumi receives an unexpected guest at their shared apartment in Tokyo, distracting her from her fear that Miwako’s death may ruin what is left of her brother’s life. Expanding on the beautifully crafted world of Rainbirds, Clarissa Goenawan gradually pierces through a young woman’s careful facade, unmasking her most painful secrets.


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

TW: Sexual assault.

Wow, what a ride.

I really thought this book was only about universities sophomores finding love in campus, but boy I was indeed wrong. It’s more than that. It’s actually about a young woman enduring such excruciating secrets about herself.

I was really hooked from page one, as we were firstly introduced to the male protagonist in the story, Ryusei. There were three point of views in the story, firstly from Ryusei, Chie and Fumi-nee. All of the views would eventually lead to how and why Miwako Sumida lived her life that way. It was so interesting to read how each of them revealed their feelings and perspectives towards Miwako Sumida page by page, from her careful facade to unraveling her deepest secrets. They also shared on how each of them tried to understand why Miwako did that and later dealt with the aftermath of Miwako’s passing. The chapters alternated with the past and present, so we received glimpses of Miwako’s past and present life. This story was actually so sad to read as Miwako faced so much pain in her life that she swallowed all of it until the end without sharing it to anyone.

The most fascinating part in the book was from Fumi-nee point of view. In Ryusei’s POV, she was written to be such a mysterious and secretive character. However, she has a story of her own as she endured so much pain and suffering from a young age. The revelation about Miwako at the end was totally unexpected that I had to reread the previous pages a few times to confirm.

The writing was perfect and easy to follow and the main characters were really fleshed out. This book is perfect for those who love psychological mystery.

In The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, the writer shows the exploration of grief and pain and how pain can truly cost lives. This is one of those books that will stick with you for some time. One of the best books I’ve read so far in 2020.

Thank you Pansing Books for sending me a copy of The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida in exchange of an honest review.

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Sabrina

ARC Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird (Josie Silver)

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Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 431

Blurb from Goodreads:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them.


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW

This book is just so complicated for me to review. It is not that I don’t enjoy the story, it is because of the heavy theme that makes my head and heart hurt while I read it.

Josie Silver takes us on an in-depth journey of grief and sadness experienced by our main protagonist, Lydia Bird when she loses her boyfriend, Freddie Hunter in a car accident. Lydia and Hunter have been soulmates since high school and both of them have a close relationship with their best friend, Jonah Jones. After the incident, the long-lasting friendship between Lydia and Jonah falls apart.

Lydia tries to adjust her life without Freddie and she uses sleeping pills to help her go to sleep every night. Surprisingly, she finds herself in another world where she can find Freddie in her sleep. She uses the pills as an escapism from the real world to spent more time with her boyfriend and tries to find answers on how to move forward. Understandingly, Lydia’s mother and sister finds the coping mechanism to be very problematic that Lydia finds solace in taking sleeping pills to a point where she becomes addicted to it.

The story highlights on Lydia’s struggles to continue living, for example coming to work, putting herself together and working out the ties with her family and friends. It certainly takes time for her to get over someone who used to be in her life, but eventually Lydia realizes that she needs to move on and evolve. I love it how Josie Silver takes the time to write on how grief can impact a person in both short and long term.

It is so admirable and inspiring that Lydia pulls herself from the sadness and moves on and tries out new things. She travels to Croatia, a place where she doesn’t know anything about and mingles around with strangers to get new experiences. The last 50 pages of the book is so heartbreaking to read because that is the point where Lydia is ready to let her past go and to never let it haunt her anymore.

The realizations about grief and loss that Lydia receives along the way are so moving that we as readers can always get something from. Grief and loss are subjective subjects that people will have ways to recover from. Reading about Lydia Bird’s recovery is unquestionably a rough journey but the ending sets a message that there is always a rainbow after the storm.

Many thanks to Times Reads for sending The Two Lives of Lydia Bird in exchange of an honest review.

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Sabrina

ARC Review: Keeper (Jessica Moor)

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Genre: Adult Thriller
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: March 19th 2020
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 322

Blurb from Goodreads:

He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, Keeper will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned.


RATING

3 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I started this book with such high expectations but at the end I felt underwhelmed with the story. The story was well paced but it was filled with many side characters that didn’t contribute that much to the plot.

To be honest I only cared for the main character, Katie and her life before her passing. Reading her story was essential in determining the perpetrator but I was hoping that there were more background stories about her life and crucial moments with her boyfriend. I certainly didn’t expect the plot twist at the last page of the book and I was kinda disappointed that the story left us hanging just like that. Open ended endings are not always my cup of tea.

Even though the story did not satisfy me, the whole message that the book wanted to convey was really critical. Domestic abuse and violence is not foreign topic, we often here about it through the news or it happens within our society. Women and children are the common victims of the abuse so they are many centers that provide shelter and care to them to start a new life away from their negative space.

One of the message that Jessica Moor wanted to tell to us is how control can be confused with protectiveness. The victims wouldn’t have expected the behavior in the first place, but after a few scenarios they would be totally suspicious with the abuser’s unusual actions.

Keeper is not entirely a bad book, but it’s definitely not for me.

Thank you Times Reads for sending Keeper for exchange of an honest review.

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Sabrina

 

ARC Review: Dear Edward (Ann Napolitano)

45294613Genre: Fiction
Publisher:
The Dial Press
Publication Date: January 6th 2020
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 336

Blurb from Goodreads:

Inspired by a true story of one child’s incredible survival–riveting, uplifting, unforgettable.

After losing everything, a young boy discovers there are still reasons for hope in this luminous, life-affirming novel, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett.

In the face of tragedy, what does it take to find joy?

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery–one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I am definitely drawn into this novel’s “sole survivor of a plane crash” plot line and I am even more interested to read it when it says the book is for fans of Celeste Ng.

Dear Edward starts with Edward and his family board a flight in Newark headed to Los Angeles. After that, the book continues with alternate chapters in the present and past during the duration of the flight. In the present chapters, we see how Edward and his close relatives handle the grief and situation while in the past chapters, stories are told from the perspective of the other 183 passengers in the flight.

It is somehow tough to both read and review this book, mainly because it’s a story where so much and so little happens at the same time. The book has a slow pace but the story is enough to make me interested to turn the pages.

What I love about the book is that Dear Edward is a realistically character-driven and emotion-led story. I truly appreciate the time that the author has taken to invest in Edward’s coming-of-age story from someone who has lost everything to a person who can let go of the past and move on. It’s not a walk in the park story as the book truly delves into the vastness of sadness and grief of losing your loved ones and how to continue living. Grief can hit the core of not only to the person who is deeply affected, but to the families as well. We see how it is not easy for Edward’s aunt and uncle to accept the fact that he is an orphan and won’t be able to see his parents again. However, they still put a brave face and try to be the best person that they could be for Edward.

As rare as Edward’s situation is, we can always find something to relate here. At some point of our lives, we all face grief and loss that changes on how we view life. When we face those issues, we always want to find answers that can solve the problems. However in reality, there are no easy answers on how we can decode them. That’s what Dear Edward tells. Edward also undergoes the journey of growth and recovery, something that is not easy as it sounds. He finds comfort in being with people who truly care for him like Shay and Principal Arundhi. It shows that people around him are also responsible for his recovery.

Overall, a wonderful story on the exploration and journey of grief and recovery.

When there’s life, there’s hope.

Special thanks to Times Reads for sending me an ARC of Dear Edward.

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Sabrina

ARC Review: Such a Fun Age (Kiley Reid)

43923951.jpgGenre: Fiction
Publisher:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: December 31st 2019
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 305

Blurb from Goodreads:

A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.


RATING

4.5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

When you take a look at the cover of Such a Fun Age, you may think that this is a light and fun read. Once you’ve read the book, you know it is far from light. Now you know that book covers can be very deceiving. This book blow my mind, in the best way.

This is one of those story which sucks you in because Kiley Reid writes it to become so compulsively readable. Such a Fun Age is an engaging contemporary full of nuances. It is also a modern coming of age story of Emira Tucker who is figuring out on what to do after graduating. She has no plans whatsoever but for the time being, she settles for babysitting for the Chamberlains.

I love the themes of the book which discusses on hard topics such as race, privilege, white savior complex, transactional relationships and fetishism. I appreciate it when the author explains the issues with a different approach from most books out there which tells about racism and bias. The story uses social commentary as a way to explore problems on race and class, which is surprisingly enjoyable and realistic at the same time. You will feel uncomfortable reading about those issues because it is meant to make you feel uncomfortable. It makes you feel and think like you’re in their shoes.

The characters are not just well-developed, but they are written to be three dimensional human beings with empathy and feelings. The book is written from two perspectives, Emira and Alix. We can see how the author takes the time to craft these two characters to be whole yet multifaceted that we can truly perceive their behavioral, emotional, thinking process and motivations.

I honestly expect that this book will take a darker turn since topics like this can be very terrifying to read. However, the author shows more subtle ways for readers to comprehend. By that, the message that the author wants to convey to readers can be more hard-hitting.

Not only does the book explores about race and privilege, it brings back the harsh reality that being in your 20s can be frustrating at some point. While reading, I really take the time to reassess my life, for what have I done to make sure I’m in the right path etc. That is why this book is close to my heart because I empathize on Emira’s situation so much.

The only reason why I don’t rate this book five stars is because of the anticlimactic ending. I hope for a clearer ending for Alix and her family because we don’t get much of them at the last part of the story.

I am glad that I choose this book as my Christmas read. I devour it in less than a day because it is THAT brilliant. I cannot wait for people to read this spectacular debut. Kiley Reid is a genius.

Special thanks to Times Reads for sending me an ARC of Such a Fun Age.

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Sabrina

Review: The Ruinous Sweep (Tim Wynne-Jones)

43679845.jpgGenre: Adult Mystery
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September 10th 2019
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 400

Blurb from Goodreads:

A rainy night. An empty highway. And no memory. From award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones comes a riveting murder mystery that will keep readers enthralled until the last page.

On the night Donovan Turner is thrown out of a car on a highway in the middle of nowhere, he can barely remember his own name, let alone the past twenty-four hours. Where is he? Where is his girlfriend, Bee? In an attempt to flag down the next passing car, he startles the driver, causing a fatal accident. With sirens in the distance and the lingering feeling that he’s running from something — or someone — Donovan grabs the dead driver’s briefcase and flees. Meanwhile, Bee is fighting for Dono’s life every bit as much as he is. But when the police show up and hint that he is the prime suspect in a murder, Bee is determined to put together the pieces of what happened and clear his name. With echoes of Dante’s Divine Comedy, this harrowing journey through hell and back is a page-turning tale of guilt, retribution, love, and redemption.


RATING

2 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

To be honest, I went through this book with such low expectations and sadly, this book didn’t even exceed the threshold of my expectation level.

Everything in this book was confusing. I really wanted to like it. I gave so many chances because I didn’t want to miss the chance to read a book written by Tim Wynne-Jones. I was near to ditching this book because I didn’t to make myself suffer. The first few pages were enough to make me hooked with the story but after reading 100 pages, I felt like the plot and writing to be so complex and messy that I failed to even get a grasp of what this book was all about. If you were to ask me to explain the general plot of this story, I surely wouldn’t be able to. There were so many characters mentioned that I lost interest to care for them.

The only part that I enjoyed reading was Bee’s adventure in identifying the mystery behind her boyfriend’s death. However, I found the ending to be very perplexing. To make myself clear with the ending, I read reviews on the internet. It turned out that this book contained supernatural elements which was not surprising since the ending was rather peculiar. This was something that I would not have expected before picking up the book.

Based on people’s review, this book seemed like a hit or miss story. Some will love this but some will hate this. Sadly, it wasn’t a story for me.

Thank you Pansing Books for sending me a copy of The Ruinous Sweep.

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Sabrina

ARC Review: The Giver of Stars (Jojo Moyes)

44169269._SY475_.jpgGenre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publication Date: October 3rd 2019
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 435

Blurb from Goodreads:

Inspired by a remarkable true story, the unforgettable journey of five extraordinary women living in extraordinary and perilous times.

Alice Wright has traveled halfway across the world to escape her stifling life in England. Handsome American businessman Bennett Van Cleve represents a fresh start. But she soon realizes that swapping the twitching curtains of suburbia for newlywed life in the wild mountains of Kentucky isn’t the answer to her prayers. But maybe meeting Margery O’Hara is. The heart and backbone of the small community of Salt Lick, a woman who isn’t afraid of anything or anyone, Margery is on a mission.

Enlisting Alice, along with three other women, all from very different backgrounds, to join her, the band of unlikely sisters battle the elements and unforgiving terrain – as well as brave all manner of dangers and social disapproval – to ride hundreds of miles a week to deliver books to isolated families. Transforming the lives of so many is all the impetus they need to take such risks.

And for Alice, her new job and blossoming friendships become an unexpected lifeline, providing her with the courage she needs to make some tough decisions about her marriage. Then a body is found in the mountains, rocking the close-knit community and tearing the women apart as one of them becomes the prime suspect. Can they pull together to overcome their greatest challenge yet?


RATING

5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

Jojo Moyes has done it again! I am so glad that I get to receive an early copy of The Giver of Stars because I am a huge fan of Moyes’ writing and storytelling. Skimming the synopsis of the story is enough to make me electrified to read it!

The Giver of Stars is different from her other contemporary fiction books like the Me Before You series. It is a historical fiction set in 1930’s in Baileyville, Kentucky and it is based on true events of The Horseback Librarians of Kentucky which was established by the Former First Lady of the United States of America, Eleanor Roosevelt. The librarians consisted of diverse strong women from various backgrounds who have the same interest, which were loving books and wanting to share the joy of reading to the public. The purpose of this program was to bring books and help educate people who lived in the hills in the Appalachian countryside of Kentucky.

What made me love about The Giver of Stars is for the fact Moyes focused on how important books could be in shaping and nurturing the world, in context of this moving story of the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky. The story delved into the hardship that these librarians faced, when just a fraction of the town wanted to learn while the rest were just being disrespectful to knowledge by being ignorant. We are also told on how women were treated back then in the 30’s where men often see women as not worthy enough to learn because they were afraid if women were able to question or beat the status quo. Increasing literacy by learning and reading books inevitably breeds consequences, for example making people question what is true or false and rising debates. It is not a easy change, as it often increases resistance from the people who are scared of change. For instance, there was a point in the book where people were very suspicious of any reading material other than the Bible because they were afraid that the material would spread bad influence to people.

It also touches on various issues like racism, class and also poverty in this period of US history. It is so disappointing to see how people fail to realize that we need to treat everyone nicely regardless of what gender and skin color. The Giver of Stars also shows how people from the higher status exploits poor people by giving them low wages and destroy the environment just to make money.

I love all the strong women in The Giver of Stars especially Alice and Margery. While reading I learn a lot on their struggle through womanhood and how they overcome their conflicts. This is such a powerful story of women facing hardship and how they all collect the courage to right the wrongs, that you feel their pain like it’s yours and you feel the joy with them as well.

10/10 will recommend this powerful read.

Thank you Times Reads for providing me an ARC of The Giver of Stars in exchange of honest review.

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Sabrina