Review: Amina’s Song

Review: Amina’s Song

Rating: 5 out of 5.

*I received a copy via the publisher and 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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Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

No matter what Eve Brown does, it always ends up a mess. So, she gives up. But her parents won’t let her go down that easy. Eve has to grow up, even if she doesn’t know how. Jacob Wayne expects nothing but perfection so when Eve turns up out of the blue, his answer is a hard no. And she’s out of sight, out of mind, until she accidentally hits him with his car. With a broken arm and no chef, Eve is now making a home in his B&B, and Jacob should hate it. But her sunny disposition is infectious, and she’s breaking down walls he’s spent so long to keep up. 

I’ll admit, I had high hopes for the finale in the Brown sister’s hectic lives, but Eve was the sister I wasn’t too sure on, even two books later. I feel like in the previous novels, Eve was the sister I could never quite understand. But Act Your Age, Eve Brown was so much better than I ever I could’ve ever expected. I think it might be my favourite of the trilogy. (Sorry, Zaf.) She’s hilarious and her quips were charming, but she really makes her own here. I was surprised to find myself relating to Eve more than her sisters. Her feelings of feeling lost and helpless despite trying her best to only fail again resonated with me the most. 

You could describe Eve and Jacob as Sunshine meets Grumpy, which is a pairing I would die for. Jacob is also autistic, I can’t speak for the representation, but Talia writes him well. These two compliment each other so well. Eve is chaotic, a human whirlwind that has Jacob frustrated. But he soon realises her work ethic is exactly what he needs. And her cooking skills for the upcoming Pemberton Food Festival. Their transition from enemies to friends to lovers is very wholesome. Jacob and Eve don’t realise it, but they fall for each other and suddenly every quirk becomes endearing. It was quite cute reading the moments before they themselves realise it. Also, if you’re into steamy scenes, Hibbert most likely won’t disappoint any old or new fans. Personally, I’m not into reading them, but that doesn’t change the fact that Hibbert is a tremendous writer. 

All in all, this was a fantastic end to the Brown sisters and their hilarious romantic and personal journeys. What a delightful end! I am truly now, through and through, a Talia Hibbert fan.


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Review: Descendant of the Crane

Review: Descendant of the Crane

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Determined to find her father’s killer, Princess Hesina of Yan does the unthinkable. She seeks out the help of a soothsayer, treason under her own country’s law. Using the information provided by the sooth, Hesina frees a convicted criminal and names him her defender. The future of Yan now lies in Hesina’s action to make her stake and defend it well. As Hesina’s journey for justice grows darker, finding the truth maybe be complicated when everything she knows may well be all lies. 

My first thoughts when I finished this book was indescribable. I cannot get over how blown away I was with this book. This is a new forever favourite. We are barely a month into 2021, and I feel like I should already be making my Favourite Reads of 2021, with this book at the very top of the list: the story, the characters, the world, like damn. The way the author writes had me on my toes for quite a decent amount of the journey. The sheer twists and drama in this book had me incoherent and for once actually shocked. Joan He really said, I’m going to write a book that will put any book you will ever read to shame.

Hesina is soon to be named Queen of Yan, but the nagging feeling that her father’s death was not natural haunts her. Knowing her actions could get her killed, her attempts to bring her father to justice will also shine a light on her country’s own past. Centuries before, the relic emperors were overthrown by a group of outlaws called the Eleven. The emperors of the past used soothsayers for their biddings, but when the Eleven defeated them, their people were immediately expunged, now in hiding across the country. The Eleven gathered their philosophies into the Tenets which have continued to be followed centuries later. And for Hesina, any hope for a better world means bringing down everything before her. 

The story was just one big sucker-punch after the other. Only when you think you know what was going on, another twist, another secret comes crashing in, throwing Hesina off her trajectory. The court dramas, both law and royal, was fantastical. Everything was just unique and brilliant. I loved how determined Hesina is from the very start, and that headstrong attitude does not give up, even when the story takes a much dark turn. She is Yan’s queen, and she will defend it so. Even when she’s given the easy way out, she pushes through in pursuit of knowledge and truth. 

A Queen is not without her court, and I am in awe of her brilliant the rest of the characters were. Especially the dynamics between Hesina and her other siblings. She has her brother, Sanjing, their relationship tense due to her close companionship with her adopted siblings, Caiyan and Lillian. There is also her half-brother, Rou, who she has kept distant from because it reminds her of her parents’ distance. Akira is our convict turned ally who has more secrets than Hesina could count. No one knows what to expect, but I expected more from him. I loved his character and presence, but it felt a little out of place within the general story, mostly because he’s hidden from us for so long. The way they all interact and come together in the story was so captivating. 

If you take anything from this review, let it be putting this one on your TBR because it genuinely is worth the time. As of writing, there are no plans for the author to continue the story but what we have here is more than enough. Hesina’s journey for justice is hauntingly beautiful. The book pushes through its rocky start, and He’s creativity knows no limit as the story continues. Descendant of the Crane does not give up, and you’ll enjoy every moment of it.


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Review: The Chosen (Contender #1)

Review: The Chosen (Contender #1)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

Throughout history, people have vanished with little to no explanation. And now Cade and his schoolmates are one of them. Six months into his new school, contemplating his new, drastic path, he is suddenly transported to another realm. A realm where prehistoric animals and ancient societies have seemingly made a home in this strange world. Cade and his friends have no time to relax when a mysterious being announces them as contenders in a game without rules but to survive. 

I’ll admit there was some confusion on my end because the cover and the original synopsis I had read lead me to believe this series was an extension of Matharu’s Summoner series which I mildly enjoyed. Once the talks of modern school and dinosaurs started popping up, I had a feeling we were not in the Hominum Empire anymore. I laugh at my mistake and then started the book over again. My first thoughts when I finished this book was mild confusion. Even with my initial mistake, I felt like I had been reading a different book than what I set out with initially. I wasn’t particularly blown away, it was good fun to read, but nothing was that special for me, personally. 

What made The Chosen unique was its take on using mystery disappearances. Cade soon learns that many people and creatures he sees before have been reported to have disappeared, never to be seen again. A lot of them have ended up here in this strange world. I was having some fun with this book initially. I initially felt some Lord of the Flies vibes. Matharu does an excellent job of setting the scene, bring together a group of boys as they try to figure out what’s happening to them. They discover buildings and materials from people before them and begin their journey to survival. It is from this moment onwards is where I think the story just loses itself. 

Cade is separated from his peers, and this is where the bulk of the story will continue. He meets more people, discovers bolder enemies and figures how most of his plan on his own. The writing is good, consistent and straight to the point. But I just felt like the story just didn’t know where it was going. Or maybe because it’s a trilogy, it felt stretched out far too much to make any real sense. The boys discover they are running on a countdown very early on in the book, and despite the reminder of the clock, it felt really underwhelming. Cade fights new enemies, creatures and humans alike, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Any semblances of an explanation are revealed only in the final chapter, and at the point, I was more confused than thoroughly informed. 

Overall, The Chosen had the potential to be a lot more eventful and exciting if the journey towards the ending wasn’t so underwhelming. Apart from Cade and another character introduced later on, the rest of the cast blur into each other. We are given signifiers and a somewhat decent backstory for them, but when they’re placed within this world, it becomes the Cade Show, where everyone loses relevance. The mystery does unfold quite interestingly, and I just some faith the sequel can do the series justice, but the introduction is not as exhilarating as it should have been.


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Review: Loveboat, Taipei

Review: Loveboat, Taipei

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

In her parents’ last effort to prepare her for a future in medicine, they send Ever to an educational program in Taiwan, hoping it would distract her from spending her last summer dancing. But what her parents don’t know is that the program is also their worst nightmare. Here is where Ever discovers the educational program is also known for its love boat reputation, where summer-long flings are the norm, and the nightlife is second nature to its student. Ever is eager to rock the boat and make it her mission to have the best summer ever. 

Romantic contemporary is far from my usual genre to read, but Loveboat, Taipei really stood out to me. I went into this with low expectations but came out feeling a really strong connection to Ever and her journey. Her passion is to dance, but her parents hope for her to take a career in medicine. So when she is forced to decline her dream university spot and go to Taiwan to improve herself, she’s discouraged and upset. That is until she realises that without her parent’s supervision, and even when their influence lingers, she is free to make her own choices with little consequences. 

What made Loveboat, Taipei stand out for me personally was Ever. After being contained by her parents for so long, she struggles to find out who she is without them. Her time in Loveboat is her worst and best. She breaks all the rules her parents set out for her, reflects on them in a rather thoughtful and relatable way. The way Abigail Hing Wen writes makes you feel right at home. I felt for Ever, her thoughts reflected my own, and I was surprised by how much I saw myself in her.

I never talk to my parents about the books I read or the music I love or the dances in my head. I can’t trust them not to take what bit of soul I offer them and hurl it into a dumpster.”

The plot was quite enjoyable, to say the least. I won’t lie; I was lost at the start because I genuinely had no idea what was happening. And then it takes a drastic turn that was surprising, but the story comes into its own. Ever breaks many of her parent’s rules: no drinking, clubbing and getting close with boys. She takes a leap of faith and becomes embolden by her time in Taiwan. When Ever arrives in Taiwan, she immediately hits a block and finds herself feeling isolated within her peers, other teens from wealthier backgrounds. But she isn’t the only one hiding secrets. Rick Woo is the bane of Ever’s entire existence, having remembered him from a childhood memory that is burnt into her mind. Perfect boy with a perfect life, family and girlfriend included. But Rick is carrying an onerous burden. Sophie Ha is boy-obsessed and Ever’s right-hand man into Loveboat. Her want to find a relationship reveals a heavyhearted past. Xavier Yeh is loveboat’s honorary bad boy whose character surprised me the most. The Second Lead Syndrome was strong in this one. They all come together to make a summer of memories that will change them for the better. 

Overall, Loveboat, Taipei was a refreshing coming-of-age novel that was fun and fast-paced. The story delved into some themes such as mental health, abusive relationships and racism, which can feel heavy to process, but Abigail Hing Wen does it with justice and clarity. Ever’s story is about coming to herself, and I enjoyed every moment of it all.


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Review: Make Up Break Up

Review: Make Up Break Up

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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

Annika Dev has high hopes for her app, Make Up. Born out of her passion and personal history, Make Up will be a revolutionary tool to mend relationships. But as struggles to raise her app from the ground up, Break Up, helmed by Hudson Craft, is rising in downloads, breaking up relationships faster than ever before. Annika thought she could ignore her summer fling with Hudson, but when his business moves next door, the two find themselves pitted against each other in a meaningful investment contest. 

I know this will sound really mean, but I can’t believe I wasted my time reading this. Like, I am trying so hard to think of something to say that isn’t so harsh, but Make Up Break Up was not good. The book lacks tension, the writing dragged, and the characters were truly so miserable to read that I genuinely could not understand what they see in each other.

The story did not work for me at all. It begins with Hudson and Co. moving in next door to Annika’s office. They’re popping champagne while Make Up is struggling to stay afloat. Annika soon realises that Hudson aims to win the same investment competition she needs to keep the place afloat. And then it becomes a cat and mouse chase between Annika and Hudson on who can be the most annoying person ever. They act so pettily and messy between themselves; you would think they were some teenagers and not adults. Like hiring a mariachi band to disrupt the other’s party or taking the charger out of a laptop before a major presentation? The stakes were nothing to feel invested about. The plot pretty much drags itself through Annika and Hudson just being assholes to each other. They’re both very self-centered, but Annika takes the cake because at least Hudson tries to be more sociable. He’s still rude in my view, nothing he does redeems him, but his place as a love interest was so two dimensional. He’s pretty, and he’s got a good body. His personality was to be blatantly in love with Annika while she rants about him for a good chunk of the book. 

Much of Annika’s anger comes from believing that Hudson had stolen her idea and was now profiting off the anti-dating app. She spends much of this book with this high and mighty attitude that Hudson is a creep and that his app is terrible. And she’s not wrong. Break Up is essentially pay-to-break up service where people are hired to break up on behalf of a person. There’s an interactive element where random people just dump terrible new on another, and it’s passed off as quirky. That alone just put me off Hudson as a romantic lead because how uncomfortable that app made me. And, strangely, Annika is the only person to mention how terrible the concept is. But then she thinks she had this moral high ground because her app fixes relationships, but there’s a problem with her app: she never considers whether a relationship is worth pursuing. That not every relationship needs fixing. You would think that would be discussed within the development team. Her own reasoning didn’t do much either, and it felt more like pieces of a draft that hadn’t quite finished developing. This is where you could think they could work together to create an app that takes both concepts into account, but the book’s actual ending was just so much more disappointing. There was a demi-decent discussion about women in tech and the boundaries they faced, but it’s all weak. Annika is too inconsistent in what she wants to say, so Menon’s actual message falls through. 

To summarise, Make Up Break Up is not the romantic story it thinks it is. The plot was weak, the characters were unmemorable, and its whole execution was quite muddy. There were so many points where the book could’ve turned itself around, but it felt like it was doomed from the start.


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