ARC Review: Check Mates (Stewart Foster)


Genre: Middle Grade
Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

Publication Date: 
June 27th 2019
Pansing Books
Page Count:

Blurb from Goodreads:

A funny, moving and utterly original story about one boy’s struggle with dyslexia from Stewart Foster, award-winning author of THE BUBBLE BOY

My name is Felix Schopp and I am 11 years old. Some people think that I’m a problem child, that I’m lazy and never pay attention in lessons and will do anything to get out of them. And it’s true. I will. I’d rather climb a tree than do English, do the washing up instead of homework and I’ll walk anywhere than have to study a map or the bus timetable. But that’s not so bad is it? You see the thing is, I’m not a problem child at all. I’m just a child with a problem.




It has been a while since I read Middle Grade books. One of my little joys is reading them because I truly love reading about children and exploring their thinking process.

Felix, an 11-year-old boy, is an ADHD sufferer. He finds it very hard to focus in class and doing his school work. His granddad comes out with a very good plan on how to keep Felix out of trouble, and the plan is to teach him play chess. As someone who is not able to concentrate well, he hates playing it. Until one moment when he truly sits down in front of his granddad to play chess, he realises that there are many things that can be learned from chess.

I am not an avid fan or player of chess, but I do play chess with my little brother to kill some time. It is so interesting and impressive to read about the history behind chess and the strategies that we can learn to beat our opponent.

Throughout the book, I truly love the connection between Felix and his granddad that they have developed. I love how his granddad is persistent to help Felix to change. I am also impressed by Granddad’s backstory, how Cold War happened and the division of East and West Germany with the Berlin Wall.

Thank you Pansing Books for providing me this ARC!



Review: City of Ghosts (Victoria Schwab)


Blurb from Goodreads:

Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspecters, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspecters head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.




I love reading Middle Grade books. Middle Grade books bring joy to me, even though they are mainly focused on children. Their perspective to the world and towards their own lives as a whole mesmerize me the most. Their capacity to enjoy and explore the world with their own developed minds makes me feel like a kid again.

I have only read Victoria Schwab’s The Savage Song, unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of it. I could not understand the story at all, the characters were so one-dimensional and uninteresting. So, when City of Ghosts comes out and I find out that it is indeed a middle grade book, I have a feeling that I must try to at least read this masterpiece.

City of Ghosts is whimsical and quirky adventure of Cass and Jacob, following their journey to Edinburgh, Scotland to hunt for ghosts. I truly love reading about how passionate Cass’ parents are in documenting their findings on their new show on paranormal matters. I also love the dynamics between Cass and Jacob, even though they are different. they are still there for one another.

To be honest, the story is kind of easy and simple to read, since it is targeted to young audiences. However, I don’t have any problems reading it and it does not stop from enjoying it. I appreciate the fact that the author puts many Harry Potter references in the book, like Hogwarts house names and the origin of Harry Potter, which is Edinburgh itself.

I am interested to read the next book!



Review: Whichwood (Tahereh Mafi)


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.


4.5 STARS!


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!



Review: Flipped (Wendelin Van Draanen)


Blurb from Goodreads:

Flipped is a romance told in two voices. The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. That’s pretty much the pattern for these two neighbors until the eighth grade, when, just as Juli is realizing Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she thought, Bryce is starting to see that Juli is pretty amazing. How these two teens manage to see beyond the surface of things and come together makes for a comic and poignant romance.




Flipped is a bittersweet story between two kids named Bryce Loski and Julianna Baker, who are neighbours. Their families are so different in many ways. One of it is their upbringings. Both of them have their own distinctive characteristics that charm the readers.

Their families play an important role in nurturing and moulding them. We can see how both of their parents instill good (and bad) moral values to the child hence we can observe how the child act based on their learnings from their parents.

I love both Julianna and Bryce. Julianna is a selfless and determined little child, who willingly helps her family. She knows that her life isn’t that easy, as a result she makes life better by helping in fixing the yard of her house and producing eggs to support her own expenditure. I think nothing is more heroic than that. She is beautiful because of her strong spirit and motivation. Her parents are the loveliest people. They are very supportive of her doings and work really hard to support the family.

Bryce on the other hand, is quite the opposite of Julianna. It really is not a bad thing, but it is really not entirely his fault. His father, Mr. Loski portrays such toxic behaviour and sayings towards him hence he thinks that it is alright for him to treat people badly, in this case, Julianna. He initially treat Julianna mediocrely because he thinks that they are bad people.

As the story progresses, the kids has aged maturely, they realise many things. They understand the real meaning of friendship, familial ties and life. They see things from different kind of perspectives. They appreciate people who are always with them during good and bad times and they avoid people who negative in their lives.

And that is my friends, makes the story even beautiful ❤



Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)


Blurb from Goodreads:

Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last!

But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!




“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books.” 

This is one of my most favourite children’s reads. It is honestly heartwarming to reminisce the memories of reading this when I was a little kid. Now that I am an adult, I truly love every bits of the book. I remember how excited I was reading about Charlie and other kids visiting Willy Wonka’s factory. I love the movie even more, it feels like my imagination of the book truly comes into reality.

However, once you get older, you become more mature and understand more complicated issues. I tell you, this book is far darker that I expect. I go through the pages and chapters and I realise that this book exhibits very serious points that we have to ponder upon.

I warn you, if you haven’t read this book or watched the movies, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU!

Okay the first issue is, Charlie and his family are totally in the midst of HARDSHIP. His father, Mr, Bucket, is the only working person in the family. He owns little and he has to make food on the table for other six people. The house is dilapidated and worn out, thus it is very not suitable for all of them to stay in one. They starve during winter when it is the time when the body needs nourishment, to help them go through extreme weather change.

Is there any kind of department or welfare that can help these kind of people who are unable to find jobs? It hurts my heart seeing them like this. I feel sorry for Charlie to face such difficulties at a very young age.

Of course, as young kid reading this, you’ll sympathise on the characters so much.

Second, the Chocolate Factory is always closed to public and there are no government bodies that monitor the factory. Everyone buys Willy Wonka’s chocolate, the money goes inside the factory but it does not come out. Hence, the local economy worsen. People like Mr. Bucket is worst affected. The public does not receive the taxes paid by entrepreneur who earns billions of dollars. This setting is no stranger to the world. They are people who run away from paying taxes. Selfish people like this should rot in hell.

I know it is just a story, but these stuffs happen in the real world. Is the author trying to imply that it is okay to do it? I guess you have to answer it your own.

As a kid, I find it silly and fun reading about other kids’ tantrums and problems throughout their visit. I guess the main concern here is to always control your excitement and always oblige to orders. When something bad happens, there is no turning back anymore.

I love the scene when Charlie is offered to have the factory by Willy Wonka after the visit. It shows that Willy Wonka truly wants someone who can take care of his workers and factory. He knows that someone good and honest like Charlie is capable of doing that. Willy Wonka also accepts Charlie’s family warmheartedly. The story proves that hardships will end sometime, someday. People who earn and are deserving will be paid eventually.



Review: Matilda (Roald Dahl)


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.


5 SHINING STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


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.


Looking forward for more Roald Dahl’s story.



Adventure is Inevitable: A review for Furthermore (Tahereh Mafi)


Blurb from Goodreads:

Colour and magic combine in this enchanting new middle grade fantasy from the bestselling author of the Shatter Me series.

Born as blank as canvas in a world brimming with colour and magic, Alice’s pale skin and milk-white hair mark her as an outcast. Because, for the people of Ferenwood, colour and magic are one and the same. And since the disappearance of her beloved father, Alice is more determined than ever to prove herself and her own magical abilities.

To do so she’ll have to travel into the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, with the help of a fiercely annoying boy named Oliver. But nothing in Furthermore is as it seems, and it will take all of Alice’s wits to find her father and return him safely home.


4 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


I won this book from an Instagram giveaway last week and I was honestly very looking forward into reading this masterpiece.

Furthermore follows the story of a young girl named Alice, who is born colourless and possesses no magic. Her family lives in the magical world named Ferenwood, and very much everyone in the world has a magical power which can awe people.

Alice’s father has gone missing and leaves his wife and four children behind. Everyone wonders where his father is up to. Being the eldest of the family, Alice mostly spends her time alone in the forest because she feels disconnected from her own family. She feels she doesn’t have a place at home after Father left. Her mother treats her badly because Mother thinks she is the reason why Father is missing.

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

Alice then meets Oliver, a boy who is first known to be such a pain in the ass towards Alice. He would tease upon her condition and makes Alice feels very intimidated and less confident. However, one day, Oliver comes to Alice and delivers a news saying that he is able to safe Father. Alice accepts the offer to search Father with Oliver.

They explore the land of Furthermore, which is full of magic and whimsical traps to outsiders who break the law. The system at Furthermore is very particular and systematic as well. Alice and Oliver meet their inevitable adventure in order to save Father.

I find the story to be confusing at times when the narrator tries to talk about how the world and system work as a whole because some things are not well elaborated. Alice is a highly likeable character to me as I could really understand and get into her feelings easily. I love reading the adventure that the book offers and what makes me glad is Tahereh Mafi’s writing. I wish I can write like her. Her sentences’ structure are short yet so perfect to read. She wins my heart by her writing. (This is my first time encountering her book)

I also love the messages that the book tries to offer. Love, friendship and sacrifice are among the main themes discussed in the book. Although this is a middle grade book, I can say that this book is very engaging and fun to read. I also love reading books with less number of pages in a chapter, because it makes the reading progress more smoothly.

However, I feel like the ending is a bit too rushed. I don’t see the plot twist coming at the end of the book. I love the end of the story where Alice gets her own happy ending.

Overall, this is a good story. Looking forward for more Tahereh Mafi’s writing in the future.