Monthly Rewind: February 2021

Monthly Rewind: February 2021

B O O K S

During February, I managed to read 5 books! This month has basically been revolved around looking for a new job, which has damped my reading mood. My current TBR is mainly fantasy books which has sort of pushed me into a reading slump right now because I feel like I’m not in the mindset to properly appreciate the details in them. Plus, I’ve slowly fallen into the JJK (jujutsu kaisen) fandom so that’s my current brain rot right now. And SK8 the Infinity.

  • Jujutsu Kaisen (volume 0 -> current chapter) by Gege Akutami – I started watching the anime earlier this year because of a Tik Tok, and when I tell you, I’ve never been so obsessed with something so quickly. Even my cousin was shocked to see that I had read all the chapter so quickly. I absolutely adored this manga, from the art to the fight scenes, and the story is just so well-done!
  • Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan – Look out for this one when it’s released! I’m trying to get myself back into reading contemporary novels and CDWY was a great one. So, so sweet!
  • Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé – From my upcoming review: “Gossip Girl meets Get Out in this dangerous debut that highlights everyday and institutional racism. It is intriguing and well written. It takes you on one hell of a ride as it challenges white supremacy embedded in academia.”
  • She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan – A standout debut! Quite possibly the best book I will read this year! A fantastic reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo – As I mentioned, my onslaught of fantasy books I’m reading right now ended up causing me to feel really overwhelmed. So I randomly went through my contemporary TBR and picked this one out at random! I absolutely loved The Poet X, so it was no surprised that I enjoyed Clap When You Land as well!

M U S I C

Love Story | Flying on Faith | Remember that night? | Good days | Heat waves

P O S T S

A feature section to highlight my favourite posts from my fellow bloggers that were posted this month. 

  • Let’s Discuss; Does Re-Reading Books Destroy The Magic?
    • Check out Saniya’s first discussion post about re-reading books! Personally, I would love to re-read some of my favourite books but time is never on my side. Plus, like Saniya, part of me fears that the magic from the first read just isn’t there anymore.

That’s it for this month! Tell me what went on in YOUR life this month! What sort of things was important for you this month? New obsessions? New TV shows? Or book? Any new song recs (I’m always open to new music!)? Best books you read this month?

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Review: She Who Became the Sun

Review: She Who Became the Sun

Rating: 5 out of 5.

*I received a copy via the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

In 1345, China was under Mongol rule. For the starving Zhu family where only three members remain, their eight-born son, Zhu Chongba, is destined for greatness, a feat only capable by the few. But nothing is said for their daughter. When a bandit attack results in Zhu Chongba’s death, his sister takes on her brother’s identity to enter a monastery. There, in this alternate-history, she takes her opportunity to achieve what her brother failed to do: survive, and take control of a fate that would see her be nothing. 

Judging from other early reviews, my expectations were through the roof. Pitched as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles and while that is a fair comparison, I just feel like there must be some other way to describe this. I’m quite literally speechless. I don’t think one book has ever shot up my all-time favourites list so quickly. Usually, I let a book marinate on my mind before casting a final judgment, but She Who Became the Sun didn’t need to wait. It was that good. 

This book stands out because its character, each crafted and built to perfection, while not being entirely perfect. Zhu’s determination to survive is intense. Her peers at the monastery are confused by her actions, but what they don’t know is that she also has the ability to see ghosts, which loom over her in silent judgement. There is a cost to pay in her decisions, and she takes them head-on regardless of the reaction she knows she’ll inevitably receive because in the end, she knows what she wants and that is to rule. She might have been fated to be nothing, but she determined to let nothing stop her from achieving the goal her brother should have done. She is this perfect balance of driven and powerful while also being rather cheeky and very sweet.  Zhu’s storyline introduces us to Xu Da, a fellow monk, who Zhu comes to see as her own family. Later, you’ll meet Ma, a young woman whose fierce compassion takes a toll within the backdrop of war and power-plays.

The story chronicles Zhu’s journey from monk to the leader of the rebellion against China’s Mongol rulers. But we also see the opposition in the form of eunuch Ouyang, a feared general who tore Zhu’s future apart and set him on a path that makes them intertwined. I was enthralled by his character the most. But the relationship between Ouyang and Esen, the prince of Henan, is so complex, considering the history behind them. Esen is much more optimistic than Ouyang, and can never seem to understand why his friend would keep his distance. The tension between them is just perfect. 

The writing is so atmospheric, you could feel the impact of the landscape resonate with each character. Especially with Zhu as you witness her climb from a nameless child close to death to a well-rounded leader with men of her own. A child with no hope to a monk that can rally the people of this war torn land to her words. Also, I loved the nuanced exploration of gender identity, and how Parker-Chan does not shy away from anything. For anyone wondering, this is from the author: [Zhu] is assigned female at birth (but doesn’t identify as female), and [Ouyang] is assigned male at birth and identifies as male (with a gender nonconforming appearance). [Goodreads] I used she/her pronouns for Zhu as reflected in the novel. 

Overall, She Who Became the Sun is one story you must watch out for. It’s bold, imaginative and highly thrilling. A fantastic reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty.


Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author

Review: Counting Down with You

Review: Counting Down with You

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy via the publisher and Edelweiss in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Karina Ahmed’s plan for success means keeping her head down and getting to medical school. So when her parents go abroad to Bangladesh, she is finally rewarded a month of peace, away from their watchful eyes. That is until her agreement to tutor Ace Clyde turns awry, and now she’s spending her twenty-eight days in a fake-relationship with him. As she counts down her days, Ace Clyde gives her all the reasons to stay and maybe this facade could have a happy ending. 

Karina is a high school junior, attending alongside her high-achieving younger brother whose interest in robotics has her parents singing praise while she’s barely keeping afloat. And when her English teacher asks her to tutor ever absent classmate Ace Clyde, she immediately assumes the worst. Aft. They start, and a missed lesson, Ace finally shows up, and he knows exactly how to push Karina’s buttons, tip-toeing over the lines she has made herself. Knowing exactly how her parents would react, she keeps Ace at an arm’s distance until she realises Ace has secrets of his own which is why she agrees to his plans. Keep up this act for three more weeks, and they part ways as unlikely friends. (and for Karina, a handful of books, courtesy of the Bank of Ace Clyde.) As the return of her parents looms overhead, Karina realises that these past days are the happiest she has ever been, and with the support of her grandmother, her best friends, and Ace, maybe she can gather the courage to face her family once and for all.

Counting Down with You is a refreshing and hilarious read. I’m not big on contemporary novels, but I found Bhuiyan’s voice to be outstanding. If anything, I am blown away at how much I could relate to Karina Ahmed. Like Karina, my family had also left Bangladesh in search of a different life. Her traditional parents’ ideals and expectations are all too familiar; their harsh words and criticism almost mirrored my own family, almost word-for-word. Karina’s humour to her anxiety felt all too surreal to read this book and realise the main character is an almost exact copy of yourself at sixteen.

The cast of Counting Down with You are some of the biggest sweethearts you’ll ever meet. Ace Clyde is one of the school’s notorious students, rumours upon rumours piles upon him. His character reminds me of Aiden Thomas’s Julian Diaz (Cemetery Boys). Very understanding and wholesome once you get to know him. Karina’s best friends, Cora and Nandini, are as thick as thieves and supportive as hell. They might not understand her refusal to stand up to her parents, but they’re there for her, no questions asked. It was quite refreshing to see them talk and act like teens; their text conversations were hilarious and realistic. While her parents are away, Karina’s grandmother takes care of her and her younger brother. Her grandmother is pretty much amazing and supportive. Her brother is the best example of a desi little brother who doesn’t realise how easy he has it compared to his sister. Whenever he said something wasn’t deep, I wanted to flick him like he was my own brother. Bhuiyan encapsulates the experience of growing up with traditional parents perfectly. Her parents’ aren’t physically present in most of the novel, but their presence is there in most of Karina’s thoughts, dragging her down both mentally and physically.

Counting Down with You was extremely sweet and immensely relatable. I’m not the type to throw around the phrase  “I wish this book existed when I was teen”, but I feel like if this book had existed when I was a teenager and struggling, I would have felt a lot better about myself at sixteen.


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Game Review: Hades (2020)

Game Review: Hades (2020)

Defy Hades, the god of the Underworld, as you hack and slash your way out of his domain in order to reach the surface. Aided by the Gods on Olympus and other denizens of the underworld, Zagreus is hellbent on making it out of his father’s domain. 

Listen carefully, says the narrator, as the player, young Zagreus, gracefully lands outside the House of Hades, sending his last goodbye to his father. With only a sword, you venture into the depth of Tartarus, the first biome. There you must defeat a variety of enemies: wretched thugs swing their clubs, the witches cast a damaging projectile and brimstone’s energy beam can stack up damage fast. Each completion of a chamber rewards you a variety of goods and, more importantly, access to the aid of multiple Greek gods, Zagreus’s uncles and cousins. They root for you as make your escape. Each failed attempt sends you straight back home via the Styx.

Oh, how a random fanart that ended up on my timeline led to me discovering one of my favourite games ever. Here I was thinking nothing could top the sheer joy I felt playing Breath of the Wild, but Hades comes quite close. Hades is one of the best games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. From music to gameplay, Hades is a visual and audio treat. 

“Beyond the present chamber lies the outermost perimeter of Tartarus, promising terrifying dangers far beyond the Underworld Prince’s reckoning.”

The Narrator

As Zagreus, I play it simple, my trusty Stygius is my weapon of choice for the first ten or so runs. That is until I received enough keys to unlock the rest of Zagreus’s armoury, which range from a bow, shield, spear and my favourite, the Twin Fist of Malphon, a pair of armoured gloves that have carried me through over ten successfully attempts in the underworld. Hades is made with replay value in mind. Each run is almost unique and dependent on the player’s choice. Completing a run was never really on my mind as the journey making it there brings just as much joy. Unique chambers on each biome reveal a shade to befriend and a cause to help, further along, you receive the aid of an old friend who isn’t all too happy to see you leave. (Thanatos, I would die for you.)

There are no difficulty settings in Hades, which had me, an easy mode player, sweating a bit. But God mode was extremely helpful to combatting any problems I had. You are not invulnerable, but it does reduce the damage you take from enemies, each death will increase your resistance by 2%. The music of Hades is amazing. I found myself way too focused on my runs to really appreciate it until I made it to Asphodel, the second biome of the Underworld, where you have the chance to meet Eurydice who gifts you treats that can boost the Boons you have acquired. When you enter the chamber, it is silent and then comes the gorgeous voice of Ashley Barrett. A song dedicated to her carefree life in the afterlife, now unbothered by her worries of mortal life. There I was compelled to listen to the soundtrack on its own and genuinely felt its effect. 

The art style truly had me scrolling through Twitter to find any and all fan art I could find. I had initially seen pictures from the game in development where most of the major characters were given placeholder images. In its official release, you see the gods, Chthonic and Olympian, in all their glory. Hades towers over you in his seat as he scoffs at your return. Nyx, the personification of Night, is your adopted mother who guides you in your journey, offering wisdom and advice. One of her sons, Hypnos, watches over you and greets you in your return. His hilarious quips and unhelpful advice (“Maybe try killing [the enemies] beforehand, I don’t know!”) makes each failure almost worth it. You also meet Zagreus’s mentor, famed Achilles, who taught him everything he knows, who stands strong within the halls of the house of Hades, far away from the man he once knew.

Image: Supergiant Games. From left to right: Zagreus, Meg, Hypnos (in red), Thanatos, Achilles and Zeus

Hades is ridiculously addicting. A completed run would take me around thirty minutes at most, I’ve slowly shaved off time in each run, but it appears to be my average time. Loss is nothing in this game because each failure brings a new path. The heart of the game resides in Zagerus and his interaction with the various mythic figures. Each reinterpretation stole my heart and broke it at the same time. By the time the final credits roll, the game is not done, new storylines and challenges appear that will have you returning to the House of Hades in no time. As the game eerily proclaims with each death, there is no escape.


DEVELOPER | BUY ON: STEAM | SWITCH

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Review: Version Zero

Review: Version Zero

Rating: 2 out of 5.

*I received a copy via the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

After questioning his employers, data technician Max finds himself fired and blackballed across the industry. Taking his insider knowledge, he gathers his friends in a daring plan to rip the curtains off the stage and make a stand. When they receive a mysterious invitation from a reclusive tech legend and access to his technology, their plans go further than they could ever expect. But what is the cost and is it worth the risk for Max?

I’ll apologise for this review in advance because like my reading experience, it was a jumbled up mess. There were so many moments that were quite thrilling, but in the end, Version Zero was not the one for me. 

Where do I begin? I guess the setting and plot. Version Zero takes place in reality similar to our, same significant events. There are five major media companies; names are familiar enough that it doesn’t take much to know who represents which major corporation. I have to admit I didn’t understand what was going on in the beginning. Yoon introduces a pecking order that doesn’t seem to have any relevance to the book, a tidbit to make it seem more science fiction when the story could have quickly done without such information. The story didn’t work for me. Despite what appears to be an eventful plot from the synopsis, the story was messy and underwhelming.  Reboot the present. Save the future. Version Zero tried very hard to be a book about human life online, and how we’ve given up privacy in the age of digital information. I was invested in the anger Max felt about these top percenter who hide from accountability on their platform, the hate that is a constant cycle that moves from site to site, taking innocent lives. I feel like it wasn’t as nuanced as it could have been and fell victim to the simple “internet bad, the time before good,” debate. 

I could have forgiven this book for its flaws if the characters were remotely interesting. I wasn’t sure if the characters themselves knew what they were doing. Max, our protagonist, is our down and out, data technician who is fired when he mentions how uncomfortable he is with Wren (think Facebook) and their plans to gain more of their user’s information. There was a part of Max that I liked, the man who wanted to do good by his family, make something of himself. Every time he spoke, I could not feel any passion for the other stuff he says. The best way I could describe his voice is empty. He recruits his best friends, Akiko, and her boyfriend, Shane, in his plans to reboot the internet. It goes well, gaining the attention of Pilot Markham, a key figure in internet history, who disappeared off the face of the earth and wants to help in their fight. He’s joined alongside teen Brayden and together forms their group. I wish I knew what the hell was happening in this strange dynamic. Max harboured a crush on Akiko, partakes in emotional cheating and Shane is just there to be pure muscle and be weird. Pilot Markham was fascinating; to say the least, he’s responsible for most of the book’s thriller parts. I don’t understand how Max was willing to accept him into his plan, considering what you learn about his background. It just screamed red flags, and you would have thought Max would have picked up on it. Brayden, this poor child, why was he even there? Nothing meshed well, and everyone just contradicted each other in the worst way. 

Overall, I wish I could saying something more positive that you could take away from this review. I tried to give it a chance. Max and his friends might have changed the world, but this project failed to spark any real interest in me. 


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Review: Amina’s Song

Review: Amina’s Song

Rating: 5 out of 5.

*I received a copy via the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When Amina returns home from her vacation in Pakistan, she is brimming with pride for her country and wants everyone else to know it. When she’s assigned homework where you have to choose an important figure, she chooses to represent Malala Yousafzai, but everyone can only focus on the horror that occurred. Once again, Amina must speak up to use her voice speak up, and hopefully, no one will drown her out. 

I found Amina’s Song really endearing. Hena Khan wonderfully captures the beautiful connection between the home of her parent’s, Pakistan, and the home where she lives, the US. Amina really works hard to send a message to her classmates about unifying different parts of ourselves. The way its written evokes a lot of heart and emotion that will make this book a perfect series to buy for middle-grade readers. 

Amina is a wonderful character, with so much compassion and love for the people around her, in both her communities and the story’s main conflict is her wanting to share her Pakistani side with her American side, but it doesn’t go the way she planned. This story is also a wake-up call, not only for Amina but her peers around her as she aims to help them question their understanding of the world beyond their borders. Amina, herself, admits she had second-guessed Pakistan herself before visiting but returns with a new-found appreciation. She’s determined to let her peers see the cultural value of Pakistan that wasn’t sourced from negative media. Amina isn’t Amina without music, so as a side plot, she ends up befriending new boy Nico and they come together to work on music production. Everyone around her immediately assumes it’s a romance and she’s clearly frustrated because all she wants is a friend. 

In this follow-up to Amina’s Voice, Amina yearns to showcase her love for Pakistan with her American community. Using her passion for music, she makes it her mission to change everyone’s tune. A delightful companion novel that I would highly recommend to younger readers!


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