ARC Review: The Vanishing Trick (Jenni Spangler)

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Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Publication Date: April 30th 2020
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 294

Blurb from Goodreads:

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play…

Madame Augustina Pinchbeck, travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones… for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too – if you know where to look.

Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will.

When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…


RATING

3 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW

Middle grade books are always easy to read and comprehend! The Vanishing Trick is one of them.

Once I read the first sentence of the book, I could tell that the story was interesting. The three main characters, Leander, Charlotte and Felix were very distinct from one another as they both have different background.

I truly appreciate that there were three POV in the story as some books tend to have only one POV and that made the story to be two-dimensional. The children were tricked by Pinchbeck because they thought she was their savior and she would give them shelter and food in exchange of their behavior. It was sad that these kids were cheated by the villain because all children pretty much rely on adult for emotional connection to live.

The Vanishing Trick revolved around bravery and friendship. It was admirable that they risked their lives to protect one another in order to defeat Pinchbeck.

Thank you Pansing Books for sending me the ARC for The Vanishing Trick in exchange of an honest review.

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Sabrina

 

ARC Review: And The Stars Were Burning Brightly (Danielle Jawando)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary46222725._SY475_.jpg
Publisher:
 Simon and Schuster UK
Expected Publication Date: March 5th 2020
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 388

Blurb from Goodreads:

An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

*UPDATED on October 10th 2019 – here’s the cover reveal for And The Stars Were Burning Brightly! Isn’t gorgeous? ❤

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is a story about loss and grief. The moment I receive this book, I instantly feel that this is going to be a hard read. Stories like this are meant to be read in an uncomfortable way, because in no way that these subject are bearable for the readers to read. Raw stories makes us realize that we have to do so much in order to help those who are in need.

I’ve read many stories about loss and grief, and this book is definitely one of the most powerful and moving stories I’ve ever read. The author’s note is definitely shocking to me, because I don’t expect that I’m reading something that is so close to her life. We must applaud Danielle Jawando’s bravery and courage for crafting something from her life for readers to enjoy and ponder.

The main character, Nathan is definitely a moving voice of hope throughout the story. He’s fifteen years old, but he has endured a lot of obstacles in his life including having his father walked away from the family to losing his own brother, Al. He is truly determined to find out what actually had happened before his brother take away his own life, even though his brother has his plans all laid out for his future.

I truly appreciate the second perspective in the book by Megan. It shows that even after someone’s death, there is going to be a person who truly loves and supports you no matter what.

While reading this, I immensely feel why people have to be so cruel? Don’t they have hearts and mind to empathize and think rationally? It happens in real life and yet there are no real action taken to prosecute these bullies. In this book, none of the teachers are present to stop this cruelty from happening. It all starts with the teachers. If they are complacent to even care, then the students who witness the act must take immediate action. We have to stand up to bullies and tell them this is wrong. It is never right to insult someone based on their looks.

After checking on Goodreads, I notice that there will be a sequel and I am intrigued to know what’s next on Nathan and Megan’s story after this.

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly deserves to be on your TBR list next spring, so don’t forget to pre-order this book as soon as possible!

Thank you Pansing Book for providing me an ARC of And The Stars Were Burning Brightly! 

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Sabrina

 

ARC Review: Jackpot (Nic Stone)

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Publication Date: December 26th 2019
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 343

Blurb from Goodreads:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin –which Angie Thomas, the bestselling author of The Hate U Give,called “a must read”–comes a pitch-perfect romance that examines class, privilege, and how a stroke of good luck can change an entire life. 

Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?

Nic Stone, the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out, creates two unforgettable characters in one hard-hitting story about class, money–both too little and too much–and how you make your own luck in the world.


RATING

4.5 STARS

HERE’S MY THOUGHTS!

I am so happy to receive the ARC for Jackpot from Pansing because I am dying to read new content from Nic Stone. The moment I finished reading the last page of Dear Martin last year, I knew Nic Stone was going to be my favourite author!

Here’s my review for Dear Martin.

I love Nic Stone’s writing style and how she creates her own stories and touches the readers with her writing. I love how she always successfully writes readable stories about amazing and diverse characters with such important and raw issues.

In this book, we are told from the perspective of Rico, who is a seventeen-year-old who splits her time outside school juggling between working and looking after her younger brother, Jax. I am really touched by Rico’s life and how she struggles to meet ends meet everyday without complaining. It hit me so hard that a teenager is working day and night to make her family happy.

I really like Zan, the supporting character of this story. His addition to Jackpot is so heartwarming and sweet. I love how they are always there for each other, during good or bad times. I love watching Zan’s growth too, as he slowly understands the life of the average like Rico’s.

There are many issues discussed in the book that really caught my interest while reading. Jackpot discusses about race, socioeconomic status, health care in America and also about parental pressure. There are stories about the complexities about lottery and what happens if you mismanage your savings and it truly gives me an insight on how the world of lottery works. Poverty is also a main issue. We get to see the harsh truth of being poor in America looks like. No one should ever live like Rico did. If a basic thing like healthcare has become a business, then we really should check ourselves.

One of the unique things in Jackpot are the alternate chapters narrated by inanimate and random things like Lego blocks, lottery ticket etc. This is such an interesting way to provide an outside perspective towards Rico’s life.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading Jackpot. Nic Stone has done it again! I will be the first in line when Nic Stone drops her new book.

Special thanks to Pansing for providing me this ARC.

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Sabrina

ARC Review: Scars Like Wings (Erin Stewart)

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 3rd 2019
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 376

Blurb from Goodreads:

Relatable, heartbreaking, and real, this is a story of resilience–the perfect novel for readers of powerful contemporary fiction like Girl in Pieces and Every Last Word.

Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.

Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

“A heartfelt and unflinching look at the reality of being a burn survivor and at the scars we all carry. This book is for everyone, burned or not, who has ever searched for a light in the darkness.” –Stephanie Nielson, New York Times bestselling author of Heaven Is Here and a burn survivor.


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY THOUGHTS!

I always find it interesting to read books regarding life, love, loss and moving on. Reading about survivors is truly inspiring, at one point they just know how to pick themselves up after the life-changing accident. Survivors have gone through such an ordeal with life, but then they still have to face rubbish from people around them, mainly those who fail to empathize with their situation. That is why support group exists for a reason. To support the survivors. To share their thoughts on life. On the other hand, we should never discriminate survivors because our support can mean everything to them.

Erin Stewart’s Scars Like Wings is about Ava, who lost her parents and cousin in a house fire, trying to start a new life after the accident. Scars Like Wings offers hope and light even in the darkest of scenarios. Ava is lucky to have guardians who care and love her as they way she is. I love that the author writes brilliant parental figure in this story to show how important their role is in a teenager’s well being. Her perspective on life changes after she enters high school and meets her best friends.

Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see.

You can see the reflection of the society towards burn survivors. You observe the harsh reality Ava faces every single day that it is truly not her fault to be discouraged by it. That is the moment when she needs someone who can understand her emotionally. From the first page till the end, Ava’s voice is so engaging that you understand her pain and insecurities very well.

~MINOR SPOILER SECTION! BE WARNED!~

I do have a problem with the story, which is the supporting cast. To me, her friend just seems to be a manipulative and controlling character to Ava. I also feel bad because this unhealthy aspect in their friendship is never addressed in this story. If a person is struggling with mental health issues, never take advantage of them.

~SPOILER SECTION ENDED~

I would definitely recommend you guys to read this stunning debut by Erin Stewart!

Special thanks to Pansing Books for providing me this awesome ARC!

X

Sabrina

ARC Review: The Words That Fly Between Us (Sarah Carroll)

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Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

Publication Date: 
May 2nd 2019
Format:
ARC 
Paperback
Source: 
Pansing Books
Page Count:
256

Blurb from Goodreads:

Lucy’s father is a successful lawyer making a killing on the property market. She and her mother want for nothing. Nothing, that is, that can be bought.
But money cannot buy Lucy the words she needs. The words to stand up to her bully of a father. The words to inspire her mother to do something about the family life that is suffocating them both. The words to become the person she wants to be.

Then Lucy finds something else: An escape route…
Soon she discovers that every building on her row is connected, through the attic, to the next. As she explores the inner lives of those who live on her street, Lucy realises that she is not the only one to suffer in silence. She also sees ways she can help some, and ways to punish those that deserve it.

But as the mighty fall, Lucy is forced to realise that while she can affect the lives of others from the safety of the attic, she will need to climb down to face her own fears.


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I think this is the most heavy middle grade book that I have ever read. The reason I say this book is particularly heavy is because the main character has gone through such an ordeal, that she has done something that truly changes her life as a whole. Her realisation towards on what is right and what is wrong in investment is truly daunting to me that she believes that whoever who is guilty in money laundering must be punished.

Lucy is such a brave and mature main character and I am truly impressed on her mental growth and development throughout the book. She has observed such abusive relationship between her parents and she has learned that it is truly despicable to wrongly treat someone like that. I feel for her, when she feels so unhelpful and scared of her abusive parental figure. This emotional pain has made her to become someone who can stand up for her mother and doing the right thing to correct them.

I can see through the perspective of Lucy on how stressful it is to be involved in the property investment because there are many ups and downs that you have to face and not everyone can be trusted when it comes to money. Lucy is also an artist, she loves to draw and I love it when she follows her heart to do something that she dears the most.

Many thanks to Pansing Books for allowing me to review this book for them!

X

Sabrina

Review: The Weight of Our Sky (Hanna Alkaf)

43121540.jpgGenre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: 
Salaam Reads
Publication Date: 
February 5th 2019
Format:
Paperback
Source: 
Pansing Books
Page Count:
288

Blurb from Goodreads:

A music loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent race riots between the Chinese and the Malay. When gangsters come into the theater and hold movie-goers hostage, Mel, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman, but has to leave her best friend behind to die.

On their journey through town, Mel sees for herself the devastation caused by the riots. In her village, a neighbor tells her that her mother, a nurse, was called in to help with the many bodies piling up at the hospital. Mel must survive on her own, with the help of a few kind strangers, until she finds her mother. But the djinn in her mind threatens her ability to cope.


RATING

5 STARS!

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

Reading The Weight of Our Sky is just like returning home, to my roots. I have spent my entire life reading books which are foreign to me, delving into other people’s story that sometimes I find comfort and warmth in it.

I am very grateful that I am given a chance to read this homegrown masterpiece, a masterpiece that I can totally connect with. A gripping narrative that we, Malaysians are always reminded of, that I am ashamed of myself for not knowing about the significant and true history behind the  May 13 1969 tragedy.

The dark chapter of Malaysian history is told by a sixteen year old girl named Melati who finds joy in listening to Paul McCartney’s The Beatles. When she faces such life or death situation, she is forced to fight her inner demons that pushes her to the core.

The book is brutally honest and undeniably heavy to read, with such taboo issues discussed such as racism that leads to the tragedy. This book is so unapologetically Malaysian—I love all of the references that Hanna introduces to the readers, from the diverse people who consists of Malay, Chinese, Indians and Sikhs, the speeches and dialects, food that never fails to make me drool to the superstitious believes that people back then used to and still believed in.

“Allahu akbar!” they yell. “Allahu akbar!” And for a moment I am struck by how strange it is to proclaim the greatness of God, a phrase we say over and over again in prayer five time a day, while doing their best to destroy His creations.

What I love about this book that it does not only set during the riots, it is also a book about anxiety and OCD. The constant tapping rituals that the main character does continuously to please the djinn inside her is something very different from I have read before about OCD and at the same time, very sad. Due to the alternatives provided and stigmatization of mental health issues during that time, people diagnosed with mental illness are often forced to consult witch doctors to spiritually heal themselves. To see that Hanna writes this mental illness subject with such attention through Melati’s point of view touches my heart the most.

“Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung. It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up—together.”

The Weight of Our Sky reminds us about a piece of the past that we should never forget and also a random act of kindness can result in great things.

Thank you Hanna for writing this masterpiece that we can call it home! 

Special thanks to Pansing Books for providing me this review copy in exchange of an honest review! 

X

Sabrina

Review: Save the Date (Morgan Matson)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.


RATING

4.5 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

This is my most anticipated 2018 book release! I have said this thousands of times already, but Morgan Matson is my favourite contemporary author ever. She has a knack and speciality in capturing young adult audiences in writing important themes such as family, friends and life. I truly love all of her works (except for Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, I haven’t read it yet). It is painful and depressing that I have finished reading this book because most probably I will have to wait for another more or less 2 years for her new release 😦

It has been a while since I read a fluffy yet amazing contemporary read like this and I forget that how fast I can finish these kinds of reads and later I will be so frustrated that the book has ended 😦 It is so amazing when a book can totally mesmerize you.

Morgan Matson has changed her style of writing, where she acknowledges and writes POC and LGBT characters in her books. She has improved a lot as a writer and that shows people evolve in their writing processes.

For each book she writes, she comes up with additional elements such as paragraphs of fictional stories created by the characters in her book, song playlists by the characters etc. In Save the Date, she comes up with a brilliant idea which is Grant Central Station, which is a comic strip created by the main character’s mom. The strip is basically a real life story based on the Grants’ family and friends. It is truly refreshing on how the comic strip depicts the life of the Grants.

The plot is totally fun and fast paced. I truly enjoy all of the chapters, because all of the dialogues and monologues are enjoyable and funny. I am amazed by the Grants perseverance in preparing for the wedding as they are so many things go wrong at the very last-minute and they handle that perfectly well.

Another part that I truly enjoy is that Morgan Matson writes characters who exist in the same universe, so often in her books we see cameos from her another books are making appearances. It is heartwarming to see Andie Walker and her writer-boyfriend, as well as Governor Walker in Save the Date. Amy from Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour also makes an appearance in the book, if I am not mistaken. I also love the Avengers references in the book as we just pass the phase of post-Avengers fever which is the Infinity War movie.

I love all of characters in Save the Date, however, I wish that there is a perfect closure for Charlie’s romance with her love interest. For the few last chapters are very emotional and heartbreaking, Morgan Matson ends the book with a perfect note. From what I could say is that the book will totally make a great movie!

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Sabrina