Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

*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

Review: The King is Dead

Review: The King is Dead

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.*

When his father unexpectedly dies, James is suddenly thrown into the spotlight, days away from being the first Black heir to the throne. And the world is suddenly very keen on the eldest son as the papers begin to lash out at his ascension. As a prince, he has had his fair share of terrible tabloids, but when his secret boyfriend disappears, and suddenly everything he thought was private is splashed out on the front pages, can James find out who is betraying him, or will the weight of the crown be too heavy for him to bear?

The King is Dead is meant to be a mystery thriller, and I can’t help but feel disappointed at the lack of energy throughout the book. Although the opening scenes gripped my attention, beginning with the king’s death as James and his family come to terms with what it means for them. The instant action grips you immediately, but after that, it feels lacklustre. 

There are plenty of plot twists and turning points; although only one shocked me, the rest feels uneventful and almost predictable. I never see an issue with guessing the ending; the thrill of reading it is how the story gets there, and The King is Dead just takes you on an underwhelming ride of telling the reader everything that happens instead of showing it. A lot is going on in this as James is trying to find out who is leaking information; he is also dealing with the press, his boyfriend who has disappeared, and his rocky relationship with his twin brother. There is so much going on, but it felt like reading separate stories that haven’t fully been incorporated well into one account. The stakes were undoubtedly high, but the tension was not there, and all the plot points lacked development.

Although I have to say, I mainly did enjoy how Dean used his experience as a celebrity reporter as his portrayal of the British media was quite spot on. You can see the influence of the current Royal family on James and his own family as they face the brunt of the tabloid’s anti-Blackness while his (white) family members remain unscathed. The strength of this book came through in these moments as James came to terms with the relationship between public figures and the media. They claw at any information, even going as far as outing a seventeen-year-old child and attacking his mother, their queen, by the racist comparisons between her and the King’s former wife. It echoes the experience that Meghan Markle faced during her time in the Royal Family. Dean’s writing shines through in these moments, which is why I felt so disappointed at finding the rest of the story somewhat lacking in comparison. 

Overall, The King is Dead wasn’t necessarily a bad book. There is mystery and drama that will satisfy most readers. Dean had some great ideas for this story; with some expansion and rework, I could have seen myself enjoying this a lot more. Nonetheless, it’s still a quick, fun novel, but it wasn’t for me.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One

Review: Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One

Rating: 4 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.*

Hazel Hill keeps her head down and her eyes on the ball. This year’s goal? Win this year’s speech contest, and nothing can bring her down, not even last year’s mistake where she accidentally mispronounced hyperbole. And not even Tyler Harris, who made it his life’s mission to talk Hazel’s ear off about every crush he’s ever had, can distract her. Until he says, Ella Quinn has a crush on her. And suddenly, she’s all that she can focus on, and Hazel discovers that the girls in her school are being harassed, and she finds herself amid a plan to take the harasser down. 

This was a surprisingly fun read. I never thought to pick up Middle-Grade books nowadays. Still, after being enticed by the adorable cover, I did not expect to find myself reading a powerful story about three girls standing up against sexual harassment. There is so much to say about this story that it is hard to put my thoughts into words. After reading this, I felt a sense of happiness, knowing that a book like this will be going into the hands of young kids. When the New York Magazine can publish an article defending a seventeen-year-old boy who was ostracised for showing nudes of his girlfriend at a party as a childish mistake, stories like Hazel Hill will be crucial for the younger audience. Inspired by the author’s own experience as a child, she has perfectly captured the spirit of a young girl navigating school life alone who suddenly finds herself defenceless when her classmate Tyler Harris is revealed to be terrorising most of the girls in the school. All the adults she was told to trust brush off his remarks and begin to pin the blame on the girls for acting in such a way. Hazel Hill discusses sexual harassment in a way that I can see be a great tool for younger audiences to understand the topic without going into too much detail. 

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One is a story of empowerment and standing proud. An incredible tale with great bouts of humour that was a pleasure to read. Tackling an experience most girls will sadly face in their lives, this book will, in no doubt, foster discussion in a healthy way.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: You Will Get Through This Night

Review: You Will Get Through This Night

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Written by Daniel Howell, in conjunction with psychologist Dr. Heather Bolton, comes a guide to understanding the human mind’s mess. Split into three chapters, You Will Get Through This Night takes you from preparing for your most challenging moments to figuring out the small steps and helping you thrive for the days after. 

I will start by saying that I was a massive fan of Daniel Howell growing up. From the ages of 13 to 17, I had a Tumblr blog that initially began as a fan blog for many up-and-coming British Youtubers at the time. (danisnotonfire, amazingphil, charlieissocoollike…. you get the gist.) Does this mean anything for this review? Probably not, except for reminding myself of my cringest teenage moments. 

You Will Get Through This Night tackles several topics, such as dealing with anxiety in different situations or finding motivation in places that once sparked joy. For me, everything Dan had mentioned was, quite frankly, nothing new. Written collaboratively with Dr Bolton, this book leans into the bare building blocks when discussing mental health, which made me realise this book is targeted towards his younger teen audience or people who haven’t thought about their own mental health before. And that felt rather odd, but then again, that might be my fault for expecting more of Dan’s own experiences in this book. It also made me aware of how different I am now than I was over ten years ago when I started watching Dan’s content. For example, his self-deprecating humour is definitely something that past me would’ve enjoyed. Still, now in my mid-twenties, this book feels somewhat outdated, and his humour that works well in a video format doesn’t translate amazingly in a written form. However, I appreciate his decision to work with a psychologist on this, as he can bring forward and discuss ways of dealing with mental health using research that might not otherwise be accessible to everyday people. Most of the advice he gave didn’t apply to me, but that is just the mess that is mental health. But for an audience that might not have thought about it before, this guide might be a perfect gateway for further research. 

I don’t want to be too critical in a way that sounds rude because I still hold him dearly as someone who impacted my early teen years. Knowing his reality during the times when he was quite literally helping my mental health, I still finished this book with the same respect I’ll always have. It’s hard not to be happy for him and how far he’s come from those little youtube videos in his room.  

It is clear how Dan wanted to help his viewers and others, and maybe ten years ago, this would’ve helped me then. But the outdated attempts of relatability with early 2010s humour are not my cup of tea anymore. But I do hope this book finds itself in the hands of someone who needs it. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Life Ceremony

Review: Life Ceremony

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.*

In her first collection of short stories, Sayaka Murata explores society and identity in uncanny yet creative ways. Life Ceremony is a bundle of tales, some humorous, most horror which take on norms and values of society and reinvent them in a peculiar way. Most take in modern-day Japan or an alternate future reality which is up to the reader’s imagination. 

Life Ceremony – the titular story of a woman who witnesses her friend’s life ceremony – a process in which in place of a funeral, the deceased is used to make a meal which is shared amongst the funeral-goers who then go on to partake in procreation as a way to create life out of death. A First-Rate Material – an engaged couple who stand on opposite ends of using deceased bodies in everyday materials such as clothing or furniture. This one was rather fascinating to read in a way I couldn’t really describe. Poochie – Two middle school girls take turns feeding their… strange pet. This one just threw me off completely. One of the shortest ones but definitely gets your attention. 

A strange but wonderful collection of stories. I am very glad I went through this with no expectations as a first-time reader of Murata. I particularly enjoyed her nonconformist way of exploring societal norms. Some stories I prefered over the others but overall, a strong collection, nonetheless.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Name She Gave Me

Review: The Name She Gave Me

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When Rynn was born, she was named Scheherazade and that is the only thing she knows about her past. Growing up on a farm in Maine, her relationship with her adoptive family is somewhat fine, her father is kind, but her mother is cold. Now, at age sixteen, she finds out that she has a younger sister and the fracture line that she has grown up on threatens to break when she wants to reunite with her. 

I went into this book with zero expectations. I had requested it from the publisher’s list based on the fact that it was a novel in verse, a story format that I’ve recently wanted to delve into more. And I was floored away about The Name She Gave Me. It was a compassionate tale about a young girl desperate to find some semblance of answers about her past using only her birth name. 

Drawing from her own experience as an adoptee, Culley writes with nuance about family, both born and made. A cast of characters that are equally fleshed out within the format with a straightforward way of writing that really packs a punch. Rynn’s verses highlight an emotional journey from finding her biological half-sister to becoming distant from her adoptive family in her search for finding herself. A few chapters slip into the perspective of her sister, highlighting her own life, separate from her older sister. It was unexpected but I particularly enjoyed seeing how different their line of thought compares especially with their different upbringings. 

A compelling and fascinating tale in verse which delves into the intricate and often heartbreaking truths of what becomes of family and how it can make or break everything. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR