Review: XOXO

Review: XOXO

Rating: 3 out of 5.

**I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review**

When Jenny meets mysterious Jaewoo in her Uncle’s karaoke bar, she should have turned him away, but instead, they have a spontaneous night to remember in downtown LA. Numbers are exchanged, and Jaewoo disappears. Months later, Jenny and her mother move to South Korea to care for her ill grandmother, only to discover that Jaewoo wasn’t just a nobody but a member of one of the most prominent rising K-pop boy groups in South Korea.

Jenny is an aspiring cellist, hoping to follow her deceased father’s passion, to become a musician to make her family proud. After some harsh feedback, she feels deflated, which urges her to spend the night travelling LA with Jaewoo despite barely knowing him. When she comes to South Korea and discovers Jaewoo is no ordinary person, her life trajectory is suddenly off-balance. XOXO was fun to read; in a sense, it was like I was watching a K-drama unfold within the pages. If I were younger, I definitely would’ve enjoyed this more.  

The story is cute, and there were some adorable moments between Jenny and Jaewoo. Still, in the end, it lacked depth and any attempts to highlight the “darker side of k-pop” such as bullying and the strenuous training process fell flat and wasn’t as impactful as Oh might have intended. It’s also made me realise that these K-pop centred stories are just formulaic without any outstanding features. XOXO might be the only one that hadn’t made me feel second-hand embarrassment throughout the entire story. It suffers greatly from all tell and no show, clearly marketed towards K-pop/K-drama fans who won’t need any introduction to anything here. Jenny and Jaewoon have some highlights, but the repetitive back and forth made it a chore to read. The side characters are no better; interchangeable in my mind.  Having enjoy Oh’s other works, I was surprised to find myself so disappointed with this.

Overall. XOXO is a sweet but predictable read. That’s all I can really say, there was nothing special about it that jumped out and make it memorable. Though, through no fault of its own, has made me realise that K-pop centred stories are not for me.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Jay’s Gay Agenda

Review: Jay’s Gay Agenda

Rating: 3 out of 5.

**I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review**

Moving from his rural hometown to busy Seattle, Jay Collier hopes to finally find a place where he belongs after spending most of his teens as the only openly gay person in his town. While his hometown peers have already moved past first, second and third bases, Jay creates his romantic agenda in hopes that Seattle can cross them all off. As he slowly begins to check his list, life has a habit of throwing us all off track as Jay begins to realise life can’t be boxed into a neat list and if he wants to stay true to himself, he may need to go off plan. 

Jay’s Gay Agenda is surprisingly sweet and very messy. Jay is a bright young boy who wishes to have the same romantic endeavours as his peers. But being the only boy who is gay and out to his community, his chances for romance is slim to none. But when his mum is promoted at her job, and with that comes a new home in Seattle, Jay finally feels like he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He creates his Gay Agenda to help him figure out his wants and needs and everything is going well when he meets Albert on his first day of school. I actually really enjoyed his journey of being this small-town boy finally getting the chance to explore his sexuality.  I actually adore many of the characters in the story. I could definitely see this as a live-action in a similar vein to Simon Vs. or Heartstopper

If you’ve already seen reviews for this, then you’ll already know that the reception for this is rather mixed since Jay cheats and lies to his friends and love interest. I personally did not enjoy the cheating plotline. It really depends on how you read the story as I understand people might not see it as cheating. For me, it definitely crossed into cheating once Jay and Albert had a discussion about their first time and he promises to wait for Albert, despite having slept with someone the chapter before. 

My main issue with this book was the writing style itself. It felt off, and not a realistic voice of a teenager in current times. Jay’s voice felt rather exaggerated and more so like someone was trying to write was a teenager sounds like rather than sounding natural. It felt like a  teen movie script which was rather disappointing. I wouldn’t cross this off as a do not recommend. While it wasn’t for me, it depends on who you’re recommending this for because Jay’s voice and humour won’t be for everyone. 

Overall, Jay’s Gay Agenda is about finding yourself in a way that works best for you. Navigating life isn’t perfect and Jay, despite his refreshing optimistic attitude, doesn’t always get it first try, which is why, despite my prior thoughts, thought it was still a great exploration of sexuality from the perspective of a teen youth.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Blood Scion

Review: Blood Scion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

**I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review**

As a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods, being a Scion is a death sentence under Lucis’ violent rule. When she is conscripted into the Lucis army, Sloane uses it to get the revenge she has always strived for. But as she rises through the ranks, learning to fight the enemy, she risks losing herself as her ability to suppress her powers weakens and threatens to harm all those around her. 

Blood Scion is remarkable. As someone who has been losing interest in YA fantasy, I found myself thoroughly surprised by Bloodscion, which is a shocking and action-packed debut that has the potential to be a hit for older timers and new fans alike. 

Fifteen-year-old Sloane has constantly searched for her mother’s body, hoping to clear the rumours of her disappearance and death. During her nightly trawls, she is ambushed by a Lucis soldier and uses her powers to kill her intruder. Scions are descendants of the Yoruba people who were gifted with magical abilities from the Orisha. A dwindling population that the Lucis are currently hunting. Even being wrongfully accused of being a Scion is a death warrant. When Sloane is conscripted to join the Lucis army, despite every bone in her body telling her to run, it is the only chance she has to find the truth of her mother’s death. Thus begins her journey toward revenge and seeking justice for others of her kind. 

Blood Scion looks straightforward from the outside—a typical young girl infiltrating an enemy base. You would probably think you’ve read this before.  But what makes this stand out is the story. It is complex and well built, solidified with characters that stand on their own and together. Sloane goes to Avalon and joins a squad of other children who have their secrets about joining the army. The story moves fast and keeps you informed without getting confused. The world Solane presides in is dangerous and brutal. The Lucis are colonisers, and there is no beating around the bush about the genocide they have committed and continue to engage in the story as Sloane and her peers are trained to become the next crop of soldiers. 

Falaye is a remarkable writer, and I’ll definitely be watching out for future releases from her that are not in the Blood Scion series. She writes with great detail that informs the reader and brings to life the world around Solane despite the story taking place mainly within Avalon, their training ground. Solane is a complex protagonist whose character is pulled apart and rebuilt together by the very people who would want her dead if they knew the truth. A child soldier who fights so hard for the truth, it is heartbreaking to see her go through so much pain. 

As mentioned, the Lucis are colonisers. And Blood Scion does not shy away from the atrocities they commit to Scion and their own soldiers alike. Falaye balances the storytelling well while also discussing war and oppression. Sloane must navigate a world where the Lucis and their propaganda are rampant. The intensity of violence was surprising to see in a YA as the experience of children soldiers will never be easy to witness. Falaye does not water down anything and brings to light every harsh detail Solane faces. While a fantasy world, it is still the reality for many children worldwide. 

Overall, a gritty and dark debut about a young girl’s journey for survival and revenge. Based on Yoruba mythology, Blood Scion is intense, further elevated by Falaye’s imagination. With excellent characters and an intriguing fantasy world, Blood Scion is the start of a story that promises to be exceptional.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Monthly Rewind: April 2022

Monthly Rewind: April 2022

It feels so nice to be writing a Monthly Rewind post and actually having stuff to talk about. So hey, a little life update, I finally left my current job after almost six years of waitressing. While my new job is temporary, I’m enjoying it a lot. I’ll be honest, it feels great to not be a waitress anymore. My co-workers were great, but it was a very demanding role where I felt I was going nowhere in my life being there. I initially got this job during my gap year and only planned to stay for as long as my degree but 2020 obviously said otherwise. I ended up being stuck there for much longer and my job search was… very frustrating to say the least. My temp job is less demanding and I’ve really settled in well after only two weeks! At least I have a break from job-searching after two years though I am not looking forward to doing it all over again in August. OTL

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Continue reading “Monthly Rewind: April 2022”

Review: Girl on Fire

Review: Girl on Fire

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

When a police officer aims a gun at her brother, Lolo Wright discovers powers she never knew she had. And alongside tackling family drama and school life, she juggles the telekinetic abilities that she can’t seem to hide. When a neighbourhood dealer catches wind of her skill, it’s not long before he starts calling for her to join his gang. With her brother’s safety and father’s business on the line, Lolo learns that she must learn how to fight back before it’s too late. 

This was a surprisingly fun read! Key and Weiner do an excellent job setting the story up swiftly. The Wright dynamic is relatable and heart-warming. Despite all odds, they stuck together and became very relatable characters. Lolo is a great protagonist. She’s sweet, hardworking, and definitely a great fictional role model for younger kids. 

The story dynamic is natural and feels like a breeze to read. Secondary characters such as her brother, Michael, her father, James, while powerless, grow with their own strengths. Keys and Weiner brings together a colourful cast of characters that matter. In such a short time, young readers can be quickly immersed in this dynamic world. 

In all, Girl on Fire is bursting with energy. Keys and Weiner tackle teenagehood and heroic beginnings in this fantasy debut which is further elevated with art created by Brittney Williams.  It is an empowering start for any younger reader looking to get their hands on a newer hero. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Four Aunties and a Wedding

Review: Four Aunties and a Wedding

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.*

Never the bride, always the photographer. Meddy Chan never imagined she would wed her college sweetheart. Instead, she hires another family-fun business, appearing like a dream. Everything is going fine until Meddy overhears them taking out a target at her wedding, and suddenly, she is forced to make sure another wedding doesn’t become a crime scene. Can the Chans save the day, or will this become a wedding no one will want to remember?

I was super excited to see what the Chans will get up to in this sequel; having enjoyed the first, deciding to speak so lowly of this was disappointing. 

The best part about Dial A for Aunties is getting to lean into the absurdity of it all. It’s so ridiculous, which is what made it so great to read. The Chan are endearing and fun. Four Aunties and a Wedding felt a lot more absurd, and while this isn’t a series where you should be caring about realism., the misadventures in here aren’t as marvellous as it was before. The humour is still the same, but the plot is just too similar, and none of the characters has grown since the events of Dial A. This is more of a personal ick, but the aunts doing strange British accents weren’t funny at all.  What made it less enjoyable was the fact it all takes place during the wedding, and no one seems to bat an eye that Meddy, the bride, is barely present. Nate really should’ve kicked up a bigger fuss. I think this would’ve been a lot more fun if the events occurred in the days going up to the wedding because having to witness what should be one of the best days in Meddy’s life go horrifically wrong did not feel fun at all. I’m surprised Sutanto managed to tie everything up in the end because it just sounds miserable. 

Overall, Four Aunties was fun, but it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the first. The plot is predictable without any redeeming elements and lacklustre development. If anything, this series is truly a test for anyone who wants to practise suspension of disbelief. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR