Review: This Is Not a Personal Statement

Review: This Is Not a Personal Statement

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

When Perla Perez fails to get into Delmont University, her carefully planned future slowly falls apart. In a moment of panic, she forges her acceptance letter and heads to Delmont for real, deciding to scope the campus and use her newfound knowledge to improve her application to reapply for the next semester. As she breaks into campus accommodations and lies to her classmates, Perla must decide if this dream is her choice. 

Perla Perez, you have stressed me out to the point where I feared I was going to lose my hair while reading about your scheme. Reading this was trying to juggle my entertainment while also preparing Perla’s grave for her at the same time. Never has a book made me so tempted to flip to the ending to lessen the heart attack this child was giving me. This Is Not A Personal Statement is so unserious that I ended up enjoying the anxiety-inducing journey. 

Perla, a child of immigrant parents with high hopes for their children, is picture-perfect. As the youngest graduating senior at her high school, Perla is so sure that all that stress will be worth it once she gets into the college of her dreams. Except she doesn’t, and she’s adamant about fixing that. So she convinces her parents that her entire first semester (including board and tuition) is free when she plans to use that semester to experience college life and improve her application for next semester. My favourite experience from reading this book was reaching the 3/4 mark and realising that Perla had committed at least five different crimes already. 

To be more serious in this review, Perla’s story (if you squint and ignore the madness) was quite thoughtful, as the main takeaway from this story is about young children and the pressure they face to exceed the academic expectations placed on them. Perla goes through some serious character development which is a surprise. I found her actions to be quite bratty and rude in some moments, swiftly corrected by background characters that deserved a lot more of the spotlight. The lack of character development in all the secondary characters is what I would consider the significant drawback of this book. 

Usually, I consider books like this a disappointment, primarily due to the lack of depth in the characters. Still, honestly, the chaotic nature of this entire plot made this hilarious to read. Suspend all your disbelief when reading this book because it makes it much more enjoyable.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: One Dark Window

Review: One Dark Window

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Elspeth Spindle lives with a monster in her head. She calls him the Nightmare, and in the mist-locked kingdom of Blunder — he is her saviour. When a mysterious figure attacks Elspeth, she finds herself joining a dangerous journey to protect the people of Blunder from losing any more people. Working alongside the people who should want her dead, she must gather the twelve Providence cards, each capable of dangerous magic, to stop the senseless killing of her people. But the Nightmare’s protection doesn’t come for free, and Elspeth might not be able to resist his control. 

One Dark Window was the exact book I needed amidst my reading slump. This review was written up a few months after reading it, and I still think about this book to this day. Rachel Gillig, you will need to start paying rent for how much space this book takes up in my mind. 

Mists have enshrouded the kingdom of Blunder for years as punishment for the Shepherd King, who bartered with the Spirit of the Wood for magic that formed into twelve different cards. Anyone who finds themselves lost in the mist is taken, and children can catch a deadly fever that, if they survive, will leave them with powers unique to them, even its aftereffects. Any child discovered with magic must be turned over to the King and put to death. 

Elspeth barely survived the fever as a child, everyone assumes that nothing happened to her, and she is happy to live a quiet life with her aunt and uncle, evading the watchful eyes of the Destriers, a particular unit formed to deal with those affected by the fever. The truth is that Elspeth hides a secret spirit within her, the one named the Nightmare, who lends his strength in her moments of weakness. When Elspeth turns twenty, she is expected to return to the socialite life of Blunder, which brings her to the attention of the new head of the Destriers, who enlists Elspeth to help him recover the providence cards — find the cards, release the mist, he says. And with the help of the Nightmare, Elspeth can see the providence cards even if they are hidden. But finding the remaining cards proves to be a much more complex task than anyone expects, and can Elspeth and her new friends fix the problem, or the price of magic be too high to pay? 

One Dark Window is an unbelievable story of secrets, magic and intrigue. From the first chapter, I was immediately hooked. Some readers might find the beginning relatively slow, especially until the highwaymen appear, where the story truly begins to flourish. But I loved it. I adored how Gillig took the concept of forbidden magic and made it her own. The use of a magic system inspired by tarot cards was unlike anything I’ve read. Elspeth is determined and strong; her relationship with the Nightmare was my favourite aspect. The yellow-eyed spirit who speaks only in rhyme does well to remind Elspeth that magic has a cost, and she would be wise to think before she accepts any offer from him. The found family aspect was a surprise to me but an excellent addition to the story. Even the romance, while predictable, grew naturally with each page. 

Overall, One Dark Window was an absolute joy of a read. Gillig has a promising series on her hands that is reminiscent of old fairytales with evocative prose and atmospheric settings. I’ll eagerly be counting down the days until its upcoming sequel. 


Below, I also drew some fanart for the book! I don’t usually do this, but after finishing the book, I really wanted to try my hand at making fanart!


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: How to Date a Superhero

Review: How to Date a Superhero

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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

Astrid has her plan for life all sorted out. Everything is planned to the T, each second allocated and never wasted, all for the end goal of getting into medical school. While endearing and loveable, her boyfriend Max manages to throw her entire life up in the air. He never keeps to her schedule and always disappears mid-date for unknown reasons. When a villain breaks into her room one night, the last thing she never expects is Max to be the one to save her as local superhero Kid Comet. With the truth now out, Astrid must come to terms with the fact that life might become much more demanding. And hopefully, her GPA doesn’t suffer.

What worked well for me with How to Date a Superhero was its concept. I enjoyed Fernandez’s debut and her take on the coming-of-age story within a college setting of a young girl learning her boyfriend is a superhero and has been for quite some time. We’ve always asked ourselves what happens to the regular person during the midst of a superhero takedown of a city. And for Astrid, it’s wondering if her classes will still be happening. It was funny and relatable as someone who also had a very stressed-out experience in university that began with a multitude of strikes and ended with the beginning of a global pandemic. There is minimal action as we follow mainly Astrid’s college life and her time in a programme designed for significant others of superheroes.

While Fernandez sets up a fascinating and unique story, I couldn’t help but feel like this entire story was lacking. In theory, the book is good, but its execution was rather lacklustre. It felt somewhat repetitive: Astrid goes to classes, something comes up (Max related or not), and she laments about the strain it will cause her plans. And this is repeated throughout the novel. There is a significant conflict within the story between Astrid and a classmate, but it wasn’t well incorporated into the story to the point when the climax happens; it feels deflated and unexciting because the build-up wasn’t there, except for a few throwaway lines that were painfully obvious it was meant to link back to the resolution. As part of Astrid’s nature to stick to her rules and timetable, her feelings for Max don’t come across well on the page. I’ll be honest; I felt more stressed on her behalf, wondering what the two saw in each other. There are sweet flashbacks, but again, it slows the story down because of their odd timing.

Astrid is the only character I liked because she was the only one who got any development. Her roommate is quirky but strategically gone for most of the novel, Max is sweet, but again, his thing is to be that goofy boyfriend hiding a lot from Astrid. There is minimal action as we follow mainly Astrid’s college life and her time in a programme designed for significant others of superheroes. Again, we are introduced to more characters who aren’t memorable at all.

Overall, another book where the execution doesn’t live up to the potential of its concept. A fun take on the life of a superhero from someone not so super. I did like that it was in a college setting (more books like this, please), but in the end, I wouldn’t recommend it.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Long Time, No See

Long Time, No See

Hi, hi! 

It has been some time since I’ve sat down and written something for my blog. Last summer, I was sure I had revived my joy for writing, and I was really excited to come back to reviewing and making content for my blog. I’ve mentioned a few times before that since I graduated in 2020, and I’ve been looking for a full-time job. Since I was 17, I have worked mainly as a waitress as I went to college/university while also running this blog as a way to keep myself creative. Lockdown had a massive effect on me and my mental health as it caused many job interviews and internships to cease as companies tried to figure out COVID. I don’t blame them; 2020 was a tough time to figure out how to keep going. 

I had thought that with all my free time while job searching, I was sure to keep my blog going, but instead, I faced a huge mental roadblock. I felt like I couldn’t write reviews because it took away from the time I could be job-searching. I even found myself reading less because I was consumed with the idea that I couldn’t allow myself the pleasure of reading if I still didn’t have a job. In all, I just felt defeated. I write this as I am 24, turning 25 this March and looking back at my early twenties feeling like I’ve done nothing remarkable. 

Sorry for the gloomy post so far. I’m hoping from now on; it will be much more positive. People always say we shouldn’t have to wait for the new year to make a change, but I find it comforting and a lot easier on my brain to use the new year as a refresher and figure out what comes next. 

So, what is next? I don’t know, and I think I’m okay with that. I’ve slowly been returning to reading more and finally sorting through my neglected TBR and ARC list. I began reading webtoons during lockdown, which I have been a great way of easing me back into reading. I do have some old reviews just sitting around that I didn’t feel 100% on posting but looking back at them, the reviews were fine; I just wasn’t in the best head space to share them. I’m excited to feel happy again about making reviews and sharing them with the world, but that isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing. I shared a few pieces of artwork here last year, but I’ve recently returned to drawing, especially digital art, which has been a blessing in disguise. It has helped me a lot whenever I was stressed, giving me another way to have the creative output that blogging usually gave me. 

Continue reading “Long Time, No See”

Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died

Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Having risen to fame in the hit Nickelodeon show iCarly, Jennette McCurdy recounts her childhood and experience growing up with an abusive and narcissistic parent. All her mother wanted was for Jennette to be a star, and from a young age, Jennette knew she wanted to make her mother happy. McCurdy guides us through her life with great wit and insight, her story is much more than the rumours on the internet, and she has given us an empowering journey of self-recovery. I almost have so much to say about this book and also no words for it at all

McCurdy recounts moments like her mother threatening her dad with a knife in front of her, showering her until she was 16, which included invasive exams to check her body for cancer lumps and leading her daughter to develop an eating disorder in order to keep her body looking young. (Looking young had meant more acting roles) McCurdy retells her story in the present tense, keeping to her age when she is recounting, so without interruption, you witness her go from a naive and hopeful child to a bitter young adult. McCurdy’s voice is dry and sharp, and the moments she chooses to show us are disconcerting. McCurdy’s mother had done a lot of harm to Jennette in her lifetime, but the most significant blow is the damage to her daughter’s body image. She is only 11 when she takes on a restrictive diet; alongside her mother, they weigh themselves almost every day, and if anyone spoke up about it, her mother would simply lash out and leave the room. Rewards for good behaviour (weight loss) would often be zero-calorie ice lollies. Readers would do well to research content warnings before choosing to read this, as the details about weight loss and her recovery were painful to read.McCurdy does not sugarcoat her past, nor does she glamorise her recovery. Every word is raw and honest. The title might be an odd choice for anyone unaware, but after you close the final page, you begin to understand her a little more, even if you can never understand that feeling yourself.

As headlines amplify the dark side of Nickelodeon and McCurdy’s complicated relationship with Ariana Grande, this memoir is so much more than that. Jennette said it best herself, “this book can’t be reduced to any sort of headline,” I’m Glad My Mom Died is a visceral and emotional account of Jennette’s life from childhood to her mid-twenties. Having grown up watching Jennette on iCarly, reading her memoir has given me even more respect for her. Finishing this book and knowing she’s on the road to recovery makes me incredibly proud and happy. Her journey was hard and long, but reading her story of survival will have any reader encaptivated by her voice.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

Ky Trans returns to her hometown of Cabramatta in the wake of her younger brother’s death after he was brutally murdered inside a restaurant. Ky discovers that not only do the police have no idea what happened, but every witness in the building also claims they saw nothing. Determined to find out what had happened, Ky is forced to recount her childhood as her own investigation will have her return to the community of Cabramatta, a place so buried in her past that the truth might never be free. 

Ky’s story will resonate with many children of immigrants, families whose lives were uprooted and planted in a foreign nation and left to survive in a community that doesn’t want them. The real Cabramatta is home to many Vietnamese families, and Lien incorporates the history well into this tale of a young woman desperate to find the truth. Her parents can barely speak English, so navigating the system is already a hurdle that only she can help her family with. When she realises finding the truth will be hard as people begin to suspect her brother was involved with the local gangs. She is forced to investigate the roots of her communities and face the harsh realities that she left behind. Intergenerational trauma, racism, addiction and poverty are just some of the hardships that Cabramatta faces. And Ky has to return to the roots of her parents, her brother and her childhood friend, who she had lost connection with years ago. 

However, I did feel like there could’ve been a better distinction between the flashbacks of the past, as those scenes tend to blend into one. The mystery aspect of the story doesn’t hold up well, so in terms of suspense, I felt like it wasn’t strong enough to keep me on my toes. Nonetheless, Ky’s story is still heartbreaking and powerful. 

Overall, All That’s Left Unsaid is insightful and emotional. Lien has a strong writing style that compels me to look forward to future releases. A crafted story that brings forth a touching tale about community and survival while also a snapshot into the lives of the Vietnamese community in the 90s.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR