ARC Review: The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried (Shaun David Hutchinson)

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: February 19th 2019
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 294

Blurb from Goodreads:

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.


RATING

3 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

This is my first time reading Shaun’s book and honestly I have high expectations since one of his books, We Are The Ants is a very well-loved books in the YA community.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried (yes, it is very mouthful!) is a story about friendship between long-lost ex-bestfriends who grew apart from each other. This story between Dino and July at first is very intriguing as I am very interested in reading male to female dynamic relationship that is not related to romance.

As the story proceeds, I cannot find any WOW factor, or any part of the book that is worth reading and impressive. The characters are very bland, they are extremely flawed and not interesting. I guess the author is trying to write characters with anti-hero qualities, the one who lacks the ‘conventional heroic attributes’ unlike what we see in movies or even books. Both of them also have opposite characteristics, one is passive and the other is hostile. The reason on why they grew apart is also so petty, that I think the relationship can be repaired by just only discussing the problems between them. The plot is also very forgettable and nothing special, at times I cannot even identify the conflict and storyline.

The one thing is really stood out to me is the theme of death. Someone’s death can truly change and effect our life as a whole. How the death can change their relationship. I guess that the author is trying to metaphorically explain the meaning and impact of someone’s death to people. However, it does not work for me.

I truly appreciate the LGBT references in the book as one of the main characters is gay and also about the support and understanding given by the people of him.

I am mildly disappointed by the book but it does not stop me to try and read Shaun’s other writings in the future.

Thank you Pansing Books for providing me a review copy of the book!

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Sabrina

 

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Review: Whichwood (Tahereh Mafi)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.

Our story begins on a frosty night…

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.


RATING

4.5 STARS!

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

After finishing Whichwood, I can truly say that Tahereh Mafi is a great writer! Her story, characters, words written are so perfect and beautiful. This companion to Futhermore is definitely worth the wait. In my experience, Whichwood’s story is better than Futhermore in terms of story line and writing per se. I was constantly amazed while reading because of her writing was so flowery, all descriptions were perfectly describe and well-detailed. I also loved the Persian fantasy elements in the novel. All of the depiction of the main character’s work as a mordeshoor, who washes dead bodies in preparation for the afterlife were very knowledgeable and appreciated. Alice and Oliver from Futhermore appearance’s made the story even more enjoyable and entertaining and that even made the story even more wonderful. The friendship between the young children stood out the most and that was definitely the best part of the book.

Several important messages were perceived in the book, thus it shows that middle grade books do offer critical significance for us adults to ponder upon, even though the story is whimsical and amusing. One of themes that was very prominent to me was child labour. See, the book is darker than you even expected! The story revolved around Laylee, who was an overworked child and often undervalued by the society. This was definitely an exploitive act done by irresponsible grown-ups in the story. This scenario is no stranger to the real world. Children are often exploited because they (employers) think that they can simply be ordered, hence they will be deprived from going to school and experience a normal childhood. God I love stories with immense lesson for us readers to reflect!

All in all, I love everything about this story and I do hope that there will be another companion to this whimsical middle grade story!

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Sabrina

Review: Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue – in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.

Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.


RATING

4.2 STARS!

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I think that this is the hardest book ever to review, because it carries such complex and important issues, that I am scared that my review will not serve enough justice. I try to collect my thoughts, mental note some powerful themes that are worth to be highlighted.

This is not only the story of Chinese-American family losing their teenage daughter, it is the story of racism, sexism and the consequences of family drama.

The Lee family comprises of James and Marilyn, with their children, Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. Lydia, being the middle and trophy child, faces the challenge which is to fulfill her parents’ expectations – her mother’s ambition to graduate from medical school and fight the norms of male domination in science field and her father’s which is to have the popularity that he never had as a teenager. James and Marilyn focus all their attention to Lydia, while totally ignoring Nathan and Hannah. They are complacent towards Nathan and Hannah’s childhood, ambitions and needs. It seems like they want to perfectly mould Lydia to become their living expectation, creating a heavy pressure towards her. Lydia, being a Chinese does not give her the speciality to stand out among her peers, involve in social activities etc.

However, when Lydia is found dead, all of parents’ dreams crumble. At that point of time, the family’s past and doings are disentangled. We get to observe each characters’ past and background that gives an insight on who they truly are as a person and what has changed them prior to Lydia’s death.

I appreciate how Celeste Ng crafts the story by the way of  “Show, don’t tell.” The readers have the chance to comprehend and understand the meaning of the ending abstractly. I love how Ng tackles the issue of womanhood, sexism and race in the book. Marilyn faces confusion to either chase her dreams to become a doctor or to leave her family behind. She wants to be extraordinary compared to everybody else but at the same time she also wants to be a wonderful wife and mother. She also faces prejudice from her male colleagues because they think Marilyn is not worthy for higher education. James on the other hand, fights his inner demons. He is deep down embarrassed that he is different from anybody else just because he has different skin colour and his parents are only “workers in the school”, instead of working in an elite class. He longs for friends, love and popularity.

This book is dark, emotional and heavy to read. I, myself find it difficult to read some parts of the book, mainly because they are very uncomfortable to read. I feel for Lydia so much, the similar feeling when we know that we let our parents down. Some people are not born with talents that their parents possess, that when we fail to exceed their expectations, the failure seems unacceptable for them. The last chapter infers that there is hope and better days to come after a storm.

This story teaches me that after an life-changing incident, we must collect our thoughts and move forward for the sake of our family members, instead of dwelling of the past and what is lost.

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Sabrina

 

Review: They Both Die At The End (Adam Silvera)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day. 


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

This is my first time reading Adam Silvera’s writing. His writing is so good and it keeps better throughout my journey reading till the end. His writing is simple yet so profound that it gives a powerful impact to me, the one which I like the most. I don’t feel weird and stressed out while reading because the story is so easy to delve into.

They Both Die At The End tells about two main characters, Puerto Rican Mateo and Cuban Rufus, who went through their End Day together. In the alternate world, a company called DeathCast, will call and deliver the message to the Deckers (people who will die soon) that they have 24 hours left to live. Both of them have their own kind of pasts and they met in this one App called Last Friend, where you can find friends who are in the same boat as theirs.

The story itself is engaging. The first part truly makes me want to read it fastly because I am so intrigued in knowing what they will do and who they will meet in the next 24 hours. The story reminds me of The Sun Is Also A Star, which includes some perspectives from all people who revolve around the main characters. We all get to know how can Death affects all the people that they truly love.

I have a lot of emotions and thinking while reading this. I truly empathise for the main characters, their family and friends so hard and I feel so sorry for what will happen to them. At the same time, I do think of myself, what if I was the one who was summoned by the Death Cast? What will I do for my last 24 hours living on Earth? These questions keep on mingling in my mind. Knowing that you are going to be dead soon is honestly horrifying, especially when leaving all your loved ones and not having to do stuffs you have not done yet.

These thoughts frankly scare me, but somehow I think that Mateo and Rufus are damn lucky. I tell you, they have all the time on Earth to be ready to face Death. They have the chance for farewells, meeting friends and family, spending every last of money in their bank account for something that they have not done before. In the real world, Death is mysterious. It comes when it comes. It does not have a warning.

I don’t feel satisfied with the ending, mainly because I hate that they both die (It is stated in the title of the book!) and I also loathe that there is no epilogue as a conclusion of the story. I would like to know if both of them truly meet in the afterlife, and if they meet their families. It breaks my heart seeing their deaths. 😦

Overall, it is good read.

X

Sabrina

Review: Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

RATING

5 GLITTERING STARS!  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I am truly speechless. After reading, I feel like, “WOW, what a moving and impactful read!”.

I think my words and review will never be suffice to prove this book is truly powerful and gives profound messages to the readers. I don’t want to give too much information to you guys, because I think it’s best to read this without knowing much. You will easily get into this book as the story flows smoothly and many POVs are given as background stories and elaboration of what had happened with each character.

This book makes me read it effortlessly, I don’t feel forced to read it, my body just hungers for the end of the story. There is a charm in Celeste Ng’s story that makes me want to finish it in one siting.

The central of the book is the narratives of two mothers who raise their children very differently from each other. One is raised in a perfectly manageable and ruled community and the other varies. Along the story, readers can think on which mother is the best in nurturing and giving support to their children.

Celeste Ng is my new favourite author! Her words are just so perfect and connected to each other. The story is so real and amazingly written and the characters are full of expressions and flawed (I truly appreciated that). This book shows that people are never good and bad. People will always have to fight with their inner demons.

I am very grateful to have read this masterpiece as it changes the way I think as a young adult. We, people tend to think that we have to follow rules in everything we do. However, we forget that rules can either be good or bad to us. The truth is to never generalise people. Some people will have their own ways of living and it is never our job to judge.

The book tells that there are always second chances in life in every mistake that you do. Life is a learning process, it is okay to fail one time and later rise up to become successful.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.” 

Little Fires Everywhere is definitely my favourite book of the year, so far. I am excited on Celeste Ng’s new move on her next books.

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Sabrina

 

Review: The Apple Tart of Hope (Sarah Moore Fitzgerald)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Oscar Dunleavy, who used to make the world’s most perfect apple tarts, is missing, presumed dead. No-one seems too surprised, except for Meg, his best friend, and his little brother Stevie. Surrounded by grief and confusion, Meg and Stevie are determined to find out what happened to Oscar, and together they learn about loyalty and friendship and the power of never giving up hope. The second sensational novel from Irish author, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, following her debut, BACK TO BLACKBRICK, perfect for fans of Annabel Pitcher and Siobhan Dowd.

RATING

4.25 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

This is my first time reading Sarah’s book and I am not disappointed with her second novel.

This is a really quick read for me as the story has something that pulls me into reading. This story holds a strong message of friendship and also delves into the challenges of being a teenager, in terms of bullying and suicide.

I somehow question myself about the genre of the book. One time it is like a children’s book and the other it feels like YA mainly because of the theme.

The characters are likeable to me, they bring the usual scenery of what a YA book feels like. There is one character in the book who I feel like strangling, because of how relatable her devil self to some people in the world.

Some points that I want to highlight is it is important for us to seek adultery advice and help when we truly need them. It is wrong to push them away and be selfish. We must know how to help ourselves first. You are the mastermind of your life, not your friends, not your bullies. I know it is easy for me to say like this, but trust me, it WILL get better. You WILL get better. Your life matters the most.

I love how uplifting this YA/children’s book can be. Beautiful, inspirational and moving.

P/S: While reading my mouth waters every damn time! A re-read should be fun with apple tarts by my side! ❤

X

Sabrina

Review: Matilda (Roald Dahl)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

RATING

5 SHINING STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

Even though it is a children’s book, I had so much joy reading it. I wish I had read it when I was a little kid, because I crave for the excitement of reading a totally unknown and amazing story to be heard.

Matilda is a very exceptional kid who has the mind of an adult. She is really selfless and determined, as she is willing to help her own teacher solving her childhood problems and get her away from an abusive aunt. I think there is nothing more heroic than that.

Miss Honey is the best teacher you could ask for. Her, being a teacher at such a young age really inspires me to do well in life and to give back to the society one day.

While reading, the actors from the movie are always in my mind. The movie fortunately has easily given me the opportunity to discover the scene, environment and characters of the story deeply.

Reading this book as an adult truly changes my perspective towards the theme of this story. 6-year-old me would have read this and conclude that the story shows a heroic kid who helps her own teacher and successfully runs herself away from her despicable and terrible parents and brother. However, as an adult, I observe the main problem is about parent’s negligence on educating the child. This point is not strange to the society and we often hear that most children are neglected by the parents because of work and their complacent behaviour. Parents thought that school education is enough to mould the child perfectly, whereas they forget that the first education children should receive is from home. In Matilda’s case, she takes charge of her own problems and strives for the best education for her own bright future. She tries to create something better for herself in order to avoid the toxic and discouraging environment she has been living in. She is the definition of hero.

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Looking forward for more Roald Dahl’s story.

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Sabrina