Review: Stepsister (Jennifer Donnelly)

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher:
Hot Key Books
Publication Date:
May 14th 2019
Format:
Paperback
Source:
Pansing Books
Page Count:
469

Blurb from Goodreads:

‘In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters – a maiden, a mother, and a crone – are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life . . .’

Stepsister takes up where Cinderella’s tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella’s two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn’t matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . .

Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?


RATING

3.5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I have been looking forward to read this book since first time hearing about it. Especially stories with antagonists or villains as the main character since we don’t always get to read from their point of view.

However, I didn’t enjoy this book as much. Maybe because I wasn’t in the great mood to read, because I was totally into watching movies and TV shows that my reading progress was totally disturbed. The story was so long that at times I had to put it down as I was losing my interest to read about the characters. The pacing was slow and there were many filler chapters. Fortunately, after 200 pages in I started to like story because I had a better grasp of what the story wanted to tell.

I love Isabelle’s depiction in the book. She is firstly portrayed as an evil and grim character, who does all sorts of bad things just to impressed others. At some point I can relate to Isabelle, whenever she feels undervalued by people around her, just because she doesn’t have the standard looks. When things become hard, she takes the responsibility in becoming the breadwinner of the family, and she realizes that in order to be treated well by the society, she must treat others nicely. Great things will come to those who wait.

I also love the portrayal of Tavi, Isabelle’s sister in the book. She is such a nerd and a questioner. She loves learning and knowledge. She experiments about cheese just to try new things. Women during the old days didn’t get the chance to learn and go to college like men do, so it is refreshing to see the scenario in this book.

All in all, Stepsister is a unique story that is the complete opposite of pretty. “Ugly” and “Girls who don’t fit into the social norm” are the main theme of the story that compels me the most.

Thank you Pansing Books for providing me this review copy in exchange of an honest review!

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Sabrina

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ARC Review: All The Things We Never Said (Yasmin Rahman)

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher:
Hot Key Books
Publication Date: 
July 11th 2019
Format:
ARC Paperback
Source:
Pansing Books
Page Count:
448

Blurb from Goodreads:

16-year-old Mehreen Miah’s anxiety and depression, or ‘Chaos’, as she calls it, has taken over her life, to the point where she can’t bear it any more. So she joins MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death, ‘the pact’. Mehreen is paired with Cara Saunders and Olivia Castleton, two strangers dealing with their own serious issues.

As they secretly meet over the coming days, Mehreen develops a strong bond with Cara and Olivia, the only people who seem to understand what she’s going through. But ironically, the thing that brought them together to commit suicide has also created a mutually supportive friendship that makes them realise that, with the right help, life is worth living. It’s not long before all three want out of the pact. But in a terrifying twist of fate, the website won’t let them stop, and an increasingly sinister game begins, with MementoMori playing the girls off against each other.

A pact is a pact, after all.

In this powerful debut written in three points of view, Yasmin Rahman has created a moving, poignant novel celebrating life. ALL THE THINGS WE NEVER SAID is about friendship, strength and survival.


RATING

5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

Wow, this year is truly a good year for diverse and mental health young adult books! First, The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf is truly a masterpiece, and then comes All The Things We Never Said, this indeed blows my mind!

Why am I saying that this book is a masterpiece? This book revolves around three awesome and relatable characters who share their own journey on fighting their mental health issues until their destiny intertwines by a website, they finally meet with each other. We don’t always get to see mental health books with multiple POVs, and that makes the story even reachable and profound at the same time. This book is a page-turner, once I start, I cannot stop reading it. Their lives are so interesting, I love reading about how they interpret and discover their own self while facing their mental illnesses.

They have their own struggles that they face and when they become friends, they share their feelings and problems with people who are in their shoes, the ones who can truly understand themselves. Even though they come from various races, religion and sexual orientation, they are able to support each other very well.

This stunning UKYA debut is totally a book you don’t want to miss reading this year!

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

X

Sabrina

Review: Wildcard (Marie Lu)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

My review for Warcross.

I am happy to say that I truly enjoy reading this sequel to Warcross. Despite all of the mixed reviews on Goodreads regarding the story and characters, it does not stop me from enjoying it. It is way better than I anticipated!

After reading The Young Elites trilogy, I was kinda disappointed because there was no specialty about it whatsoever. However, this series blown me away! I have never enjoyed reading science fiction this much other than this series. Some sci-fi series are pretty much bland with no clear plot but this one is truly the best out there! I live for good sci-fi stories with elements of morality and Wildcard is one of them. It is not like other sci-fi stories that leave you completely confused with the story.

Even though I have read Warcross during January last year, I don’t have any difficulty in comprehending the story at all. The story is fantastic, honestly I don’t know what to expect from the story while reading since anything can happen to the characters. Marie Lu’s writing is always amazing and it never fails to make me captivated.

All of the explanation on artificial intelligence are very interesting to ponder and how scientists used to imagine stuffs about A.I. back then and turn them into reality is so surreal. Preserving human intelligence in A.I. is totally their goal that they want to achieve someday. However, abusing other people by implementing immoral human experimentation to achieve their goal does not abide to the Law of Nature. At the end of the day, people only care about your end result of the experiment, they don’t bother to know what is the true cost of it.

I totally recommend you guys to start reading this series because they are so well-done!

X

Sabrina

Review: Flame in the Mist (Renée Ahdieh)

 

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Blurb from Goodreads:

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.


RATING

3.5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I’ve read The Wrath and The Dawn series last two years and I totally love it. We all know that Renée Ahdieh’s writing is always flowery and magical, with her intricate and fascinating world that she introduces to the readers. It’s very easy to get lost in her world, not realising how many pages and chapters that you have gone through.

I start this not knowing anything, but I do know for a fact that this is a Mulan retelling, so I am intrigued. I love Mariko as a character, with her wit and courage to fight her inner self, to prove to her family that she is more than just a women. I find the main character to be similar in personality, like Shahrzad from The Wrath and The Dawn. They are both so good with words and have great courage.

The main theme about Flame in The Mist is the worth of women. During Feudal Japan, women were not respected and often undermined by the society. By the time they reach seventeen years old, they would be married off to their parents’ choice. What I love about Mariko is she wants to prove to everyone that she has something better to offer to the world. She can be a warrior and a protector, just like anybody else. Reading about Mariko’s story about her journey in finding her strengths truly inspires me.

However, while reading, I somehow come to a point where I don’t really retain any important information whilst reading the story, I am not sure it is because I read it too fast, maybe it is because of the foreign world that I have yet to accustom that makes me confused with the storyline.

I would totally recommend you guys to check out this book, since the writing is so fantastically done.

Looking forward to read Book 2 soon!

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

ARC Review: How to Make Friends with the Dark (Kathleen Glasgow)

40755416.jpgGenre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: 
Rock the Boat
Publication Date: 
April 11th 2019
Format:
ARC Paperback
Source: 
Times Reads
Page Count:
422

Blurb from Goodreads:

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.


RATING

4.8 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW

This is my first time reading Kathleen Glasgow’s book and I can truly say this book is stunningly written. The moment I receive it I know that this is going to be a rough and emotional read for me. I am actually surprised that this is YA contemporary, because the only thing in the book that is YA is the main character who is sixteen-year-old named Tiger while the topics covered are very heavy and so intense that trigger warnings should be clarified at the beginning.

This book teaches us about grief and loss of our loved ones and how to find ourselves back after facing such tremendous loss. Every time I start a new chapter in the book, my heart aches for Tiger so much because she has so many new and scary things to face yet she does not have her loved ones besides her. I love Kathleen’s writing, by the she uses figurative language to amplify about Tiger’s journey finding herself to make it more effective and impactful to the reader.

Kathleen writes a harsh yet realistic exploration of pain and sadness in a voice who tries to find her own connotation after losing a loved one. How to Make Friends with the Dark truly taught me how painful and excruciating it is to deal with the consequences and reality of having a dead parent, something that I would never comprehend. Kathleen knows how to touch our hearts with Tiger’s story so well. I find myself heartbroken while reading Tiger’s obstacles surviving her life, and laugh at jokes and moments that are hilarious in the book. There are many strong statements in the book that I find to be meaningful, it goes something like; “Sometimes you need to open yourself to the possibility of the miraculous, even though life is harsh to us.”

I am extremely moved by the Author’s Note section. Part of the story is based on the author’s mother and most of it is based on the status of children in America. Not all kids have safe home lives. There are kids who are in foster care, kids who are homeless and kids who have incarcerated parents. Therefore, it is important for us to engage with these children, emotionally and mentally. Open discussion about mental health and depression must be done to help our youngsters. I love it when the book acknowledges websites that can be helpful to those who are in need for instance Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Grief Resources for Teens and Child Welfare.

Thank you Times Reads for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

X

Sabrina

 

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

“You are sharing the Dark Lord’s thoughts and emotions. The Headmaster thinks it inadvisable for this to continue. He wishes me to teach you how to close your mind to the Dark Lord.”

Dark times have come to Hogwarts. After the Dementors’ attack on his cousin Dudley, Harry Potter knows that Voldemort will stop at nothing to find him. There are many who deny the Dark Lord’s return, but Harry is not alone: a secret order gathers at Grimmauld Place to fight against the Dark forces. Harry must allow Professor Snape to teach him how to protect himself from Voldemort’s savage assaults on his mind. But they are growing stronger by the day and Harry is running out of time…


RATING

5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

This is a my second reread, the last time I read the Order of the Phoenix was in 2016, it was a long time ago and I could not remember much about the book.

Honestly this book was the hardest for me to read. It’s not about the length, it’s about the content of the book. It is very dark and gloomy, different from the other books in the series. I personally think that even Half-Blood Prince is not so dark and heavy like this book, as it is known that this book shows that true state of Harry throughout the series, as he struggles to find his identity as a person, yet he feels so alone despite having many friends beside him.

I take many breaks from reading the book, because some parts are unbearable to even read and let alone imagine the things that Harry and friends face in Hogwarts. I contemplate to ditch the book for a while because I cannot stand the heat but I manage to finish it nonetheless.

It is emotionally uplifting to read that the Order of the Phoenix members work their way to defeat Voldemort and the Death Eaters. They risk their lives to save their loved ones and to bring justice for the vanquished. I love the scenes in the Grimmauld Place because I feel complete reading about them gathering together at one place. Even though it is not the wonderful and whimsical “The Burrow”, the people are the heart and soul, not the house.

The most outstanding part of the book is the theme. It is no longer the lovey dovey endings and stories like the previous books. There are many difficult lessons to be learned that even a child could not comprehend the meaning behind it. This book introduces us to the grey shade of life, where there is no white or black, true or false in life, as what Sirius Black had said,

“Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

God I love that quote.

This story also taught that adults are not always the perfect protectors for the younger ones. They think by not sharing any information to them will spare and protect their lives. At the end of the day, they just want the best for them.

I also would like to highlight Harry’s wellbeing in this story. He suffers from PTSD, as we can confer from his angst behaviour after his confrontation with Voldemort and Cedric’ death. It is never explicitly stated in the book about him having PTSD, but he definitely suffers from the trauma. I find the angst to be relatable with me being a growing teenager before.

Harry also shown to have imposter syndrome in the book when he doubts his accomplishments when retrieving the Philosopher’s stone, saving Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets, performing the Patronus Charm to the Dementors and his capability in doing the tasks in Triwizard Tournament. He thinks that he gets through all of that by sheer luck.

One of my most hated scenes is the Ministy’s reaction towards Voldemort’s return at the introduction of the book. They are totally in denial of that situation and they are against people who agree that Voldemort is back. The Ministry is definitely the one that is truly responsible  for Voldemort to return as they are being complacent for ONE YEAR and that is enough time for them to rise up again! I could never forgive Fudge and Umbridge for doing such, they have done so much damage that is unacceptable.

The book has so much meaning to the series as a whole, as the content of the prophecy is told by Dumbledore and yet it pains me to say that this is my least favourite of the series. I enjoy reading it thoroughly but I feel tremendously sad for Harry for what had happened in the book.

My review for:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I look forward to re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows after this!

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Sabrina