Warm Summer Nights on the Road: a Review of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

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Genre:
Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: April 15th, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 368

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Blurb:

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

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Warning: Minor spoilers included in this review

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Open Road Summer is a light fluffy read meant to be read literally during summer. Or taken with you on vacation. It’s a very short book that focuses on both friendship and romance, and leaning more towards romance by the end of the book.

I’ve loved EMERY LORD’s writing, and The Start of Me and You is one of my favourite YA contemporaries ever. But Open Road Summer fell pretty short for me. I’m glad Emery Lord has improved in terms of character development from her first YA novel because the MC in Open Road Summer is frustratingly annoying.

Reagan is the typical angsty seventeen-year-old that has had a very hard upbringing living with a single parent and now she’s joining her best friend’s concert tour to forget her rebellious past. Just from that sentence alone, you get an inkling of how cliche Reagen is as a YA MC and that her best friend sounds exactly like Hannah Montana, minus the double life.

Everything about Open Road Summer is pretty cliche. Summer starts out with two best friends making a pact to have the best summer ever, only for a cute guy to enter the scene and steal the show. You don’t need spoilers to know what happens at the end of Open Road Summer.

And I didn’t really enjoy reading the budding romance because it felt pretty unrealistic for a guy to go through so much length to be with a girl as bitchy and snappy as Reagan. But, I guess the heart wants what it wants.

But for what it’s worth, I did finish Open Road Summer and that says something unique about this book. I still loved Emery Lord’s writing in this: fast-paced and Open Road Summer makes for a quick entertaining vacay read. The best friend, Lilah is super likeable so that was a pleasure to read about her. Although it literally felt like a Disney plot, Open Road Summer does bring some plus points about friendship and new beginnings. I just wish those new beginning doesn’t necessarily require a cute guy with cheesy song lyrics in the picture.

Overall, I think Open Road Summer is still worth a read if you want something light and breezy, and if you don’t mind the slightly annoying MC! I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

“Laughter feels like our flotation device — it won’t pull us out of the storm, but it might carry us through, if we can just hang on.”

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

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Bringing the Hurricane Within: a Review of Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Genre:
General Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: June 7th, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 307

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Blurb:

Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one.

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I absolutely adored this book. It brought me to tears multiple times. And I’m such a sucker for novels with animals in them. Throw in an unbreakable bond between a human and his pet, and I’m sold.

“A heart is judged not by how much you loved, but by how much you are loved by others”

That is what Lily and the Octopus is about. The beautiful bond that a man can share with his dog. This amazing book reminded me of all the previous cats that I have loved growing up and how each cat I cared for impacted me in some small way.

Lily and the Octopus is the story of a 42-year-old guy named Ted and his beautiful relationship with his 12-year-old dachshund dog named Lily. As the story progresses, Ted realises something that’s affecting Lily’s health and and the way he copes with the possibility of losing Lily sets the foundation of this book. I can’t write more about it because it’ll be spoilery in a way. But there is something truly special about this book.

Lily and the Octopus is such a easy read. With short chapters and a simple plot, you’ll find yourself easily absorbed into the book. I loved the flashbacks laid out as you read the story, giving you glimpses of how Ted loved Lily with all his heart and how she made his life better. The lives they lived together is bound to break your heart, for there is no purer relationship than a man and his pet.

Lily and the Octopus is such an emotional book. I can’t really describe it any other way. With every page turned, we witness the love between Ted and Lily and can’t help but to root for their ending to be a happy one. We feel the pain Ted feels throughout the book, and we feel the joy of Lily that naturally comes with being a dog. Lily and the Octopus is bound to tug your heartstrings, and the more reasons to love this book.

“After a pause Lily looks up at me. “Sometimes I think of you as Dad.”
My heart rises in my throat. That’s the only term of endearment I need.”

I would definitely recommend Lily and the Octopus to anyone looking for a deep emotional read about the beautiful unbreakable bond a human has with his animal companion. Anyone who’s taken care of a pet knows the joys and sorrows that come with it. And no doubt Lily and the Octopus will remind you why we keep loving the ones who love us unconditionally in spite of all our imperfections.

“I think of how dogs are witnesses. How they are present for our most private moments, how they are there when we think of ourselves as alone. They witness our quarrels, our tears, our struggles, our fears, and all of our secret behaviors that we have to hide from our fellow humans. They witness without judgment.”

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Return to the Night Court on the Longest Night of the Year: a Review of The Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas

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Genre:
Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: May 1st, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 229

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.1

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Blurb:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

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“To the blessed darkness from which we are born, and to which we return.”

 

It’s always nice to return to the Night Court and revisit the Inner Circle and see how things have been while we wait for the fourth book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series. A Court of Frost and Starlight is a novella meant to complement the series and not really add anything to the existing series plot. A Court of Frost and Starlight simply allows us to glimpse into the everyday lives of our favourite characters and how they’ve been faring since the last book ended.

Everyone is healing in their own way, but we still catch a lot of humour and good natured jokes sprinkled within the book. A Court of Frost and Starlight focuses on the longest night of the year, Solstice, and the celebrations surrounding it. The customs Velaris hold as traditions among the rebuilding efforts post-war.

I loved returning back to Velaris and reading about the dynamics between the group. I’ve grown to love Elain and Azriel’s personalities, but wished we got to read more from their point of views. Feyre’s POV still remains as the main one in A Court of Frost and Starlight. There’s nothing truly spectacular that happened in A Court of Frost and Starlight except a few given Easter Eggs, but it does act as a sufficient filler book while we wait for the next book in the series. I’m pretty excited to see what happens next in the ACOTAR series.

That said, if you’d like to pick it up, do enjoy A Court of Frost and Starlight simply for the company and the immense love Feyre and Ryhsand has for each other and their family. That much is heart-warming in A Court of Frost and Starlight. Enjoy it for the sake of returning to the world we all have known to love and the amazing characters it behold.

And as it goes with all of SJM’s books, be prepared for the steamy sex scenes!

“And in the end, though, we’d saved each other. All of us had.”

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

DON’T PANIC: a Review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Genre:
Science Fiction
Publisher: (Multiple)
Publication date: October 12th, 1979
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 240

Series: #1 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Blurb:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

 

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“Don’t Panic”

I don’t think I could pass off as a respectable scifi fan until I read one of the greatest scifi books of all time. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is Douglas Adams’ most famous work of writing spanning over 5 books in the series.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is pretty short, and with just 240 pages, it’s perfect for a quick vacation/summer read. I enjoyed every page of the book. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is filled with cringe-worthy dry British humour and endless scifi tidbits about space travel, which adds to the appeal.

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

 

As you read more of Arthur Dent’s voyage through the galaxy with his non-human friend, Ford Prefect with the famous book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll find yourself laughing at their encounters with the terrible Vogans, the deceptive two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox, and mice in space.

The plot in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is very well-written. Right off the first page, Earth is on its way to being blown to bits and we find Arthur in the midst of a very important task of protecting his house from being demolished…which eventually becomes beside the point. You can literally expect something new happening with each turn of the page. And no doubt you will enjoy the amazing cast of characters sprinkled throughout the book. Every character with its eccentric personalities, even the pet mice, brings something distinguishable to the book.

I would highly recommend The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to anyone who wants to give scifi a try and wouldn’t know which book to start first. It’s short enough to give you a sense of feel of what great classic scifi is and its action packed enough to keep you entertained throughout the book.

And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a snippet of the book that will hopefully change your mind:

“A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Self Love is The Biggest Commitment You’ll Ever Make: a Review of Heart Talk by Cleo Wade

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Genre:
Self-Help, Poetry
Publisher: Atria
Publication date: March 6th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 224

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Blurb:

A beautifully illustrated book from Cleo Wade—the artist, poet, and speaker who has been called “the Millennial Oprah” by New York Magazine—that offers creative inspiration and life lessons through poetry, mantras, and affirmations, perfect for fans of the bestseller Milk & Honey.

True to her hugely popular Instagram account, Cleo Wade brings her moving life lessons to Heart Talk, an inspiring, accessible, and spiritual book of wisdom for the new generation. Featuring over one hundred and twenty of Cleo’s original poems, mantras, and affirmations, including fan favorites and never before seen ones, this book is a daily pep talk to keep you feeling empowered and motivated.

With relatable, practical, and digestible advice, including “Hearts break. That’s how the magic gets in,” and “Baby, you are the strongest flower that ever grew, remember that when the weather changes,” this is a portable, replenishing pause for your daily life.

Keep Heart Talk by your bedside table or in your bag for an empowering boost of spiritual adrenaline that can help you discover and unlock what is blocking you from thriving emotionally and spiritually.

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Here’s a confession: I don’t know how to review this insanely beautiful book.

I bought Heart Talk because I’ve heard of how uplifting and positively beautiful this book is.

AND I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE.

Never have I ever read a book so positively brilliant like Heart Talk that makes you love yourself more. CLEO WADE is a brilliant writer and everything she writes resonates within me. Reading Heart Talk was an ethereal reminder of all the things I’ve come to know and appreciate in relation to self-love.

And I love how reading this book was such a personally enlightening experience.

“The best thing about your life is that it is constantly in a state of design”

I found Heart Talk truly relatable as I’ve been on this journey of self-love and “self-repair” for the past three years. Not many people know this but I had a very rough start to my 20’s. College was a nerve-wrecking experience for an introverted, awkward people-pleaser like me who constantly experienced depression and social anxiety when thrown into large groups. I don’t think I can ever articulate well the pain of loneliness I went through in my early 20’s and the destructive consequences I had to bear because of it. When I had the courage to finally leave the negative environment/friendships and the relationships that were wrongly-suited for me, I found myself completely on my own for the first time in my 20’s with the exception of 1-2 friends that gratefully stayed around. Fresh out of college and with the excitement of starting a new career on the horizon, a figuratively blank canvas was spread out ahead of me to start life over.

And I had the chance to ask myself:

“What can I do now that I’m not pulled back by someone else or by a love that didn’t allow me to grow as a person? What can I do to be truly happy and a good human being now that I get a second chance to start over?”

3 years ago, I was intimidated and scared for the future, but I knew an opportunity when I saw one. When you decide that you’re gonna be okay on your own and that the stereotypical life script society desperately wants you to follow is not the story you want for yourself, you start being happy with your life and the choices you make. You stop defending yourself to other people when you do something out of the norm. You stop feeling resentful to yourself and other people when your life isn’t going the same way as others. You start questioning the type of life, partner and career you want. And you become wiser in choosing friendships that help you grow instead of break you down. You also stop looking for love in the wrong places, and focus on being a good human being in general. Because love will come when it’s ready to influence and grow us.

And in return to all the self-love you grant yourself, you develop this sense of courage and strength you never knew you had.

“The way you love yourself sets the example for how everyone else will love you”

Heart Talk is very real, in my opinion. I wouldn’t say it changed my life, but Heart Talk reaffirmed every single thing I’ve learned about self-care in the past 3 years. It is the book you want whenever you need a small reminder that you’re deserving of love. Heart Talk reminds you of all the reasons why you are amazing, worthwhile and validated for every emotion you have ever felt.

I highly recommend Heart Talk to anyone looking for motivation to love yourself and realise your full potential to be the happiest in life that you can be. It might sound cheesy, but you are the biggest commitment you will ever have in your life. Why not treat it with more respect?

Perfect for readers looking for endless inspiration to improve your outlook on loving yourself and being a better person in general, Heart Talk is full of wisdom and love for just that.

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A Tale of Growing Up and Remorse: a Review of Ponti by Sharlene Teo

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Genre:
General Fiction
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: April 19th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 304

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Blurb:

2003, Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing séances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, an unlikely encounter develops into an intense friendship and offers Szu a means of escape from her mother’s alarming solitariness.

Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience.

Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti is about friendship and memory, about the things we do when we’re on the cusp of adulthood that haunt us years later. Beautifully written by debut author Sharlene Teo, and enormously atmospheric, Ponti marks the launch of an exciting new literary voice in the vein of Zadie Smith.

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When I first heard of SHARLENE TEO, a Singaporean-born author, releasing her debut general fiction Ponti, I was very intrigued. It’s amazing how more South East Asian authors are given the attention to shine in the publishing industry today.

Right off the bat Ponti is very nostalgic for me, being of South East Asian descent as well. I love Sharlene’s writing from the very beginning. She writes in this very familiar manner and of the wonderful things about being a South East Asian that pulls you into the book.

Her descriptions of Singapore in the late 80’s all the way to 2020 are very apt and appealing. I was constantly reminded of how much I loathed my secondary school in that nostalgic way that was described from Szu’s point of view. Everything else mentioned in this book – from the multiracial food and diverse languages and accents used – are reasons why we need more diverse reads like this.

Ponti gives a colourful representation to how a Singaporean/Malaysian teenager feels on a daily basis. You feel the loneliness among the chaotic hustle of living in a busy city like Singapore. And on top of that, I love all the pontianak references and stories, which are very well-known among Malays. I got chills at some parts of the book where paranormal events were explained. But I wished Sharlene had written more on the paranormal aspects since I cannot think of any other internationally-published book who would tell the tales bomohs, pontianak, orang minyak and such!

What I enjoyed the most in Ponti is the different narrations given by the three main female characters. We get to see Amisa in her youthful glory in the late 70’s, Szu as an awkward and struggling teenager in the early naughties, and Circe a newly divorcee in 2020. Each narrative brought different flavours into the book, giving us slices into what happened to each women at the end and how their lives heavily intertwined with each other. There weren’t much character development for each character, but each of their life struggles are something to appreciate. The way each women shaped their life based on major disappointments they’ve experienced would definitely appeal to the reader. The pain each person went through is very deeply felt, and what makes Ponti a worthwhile read.

Ponti‘s plot might be the only thing to disappoint you. But nothing else! Its lack of plot contributed to the slow-moving pace of this book, but with only 300 pages, Ponti won’t necessarily be a drag when you read it. While the book’s ending was pretty mysterious, I think it suited the entire vibe Ponti gave. It’s a book that makes you wonder what’s the real deal behind all three women and how it affected their lives. Although, I wish there was more depth to the story in all its entirety. I would have loved to know more of Amisa’s past and how Szu turned out in the future.

But overall, Ponti is a breath of fresh air in the book industry! I genuinely enjoyed reading Ponti and appreciating the similarities and cultures of South East Asian countries that I grew up with being reflected in this book. And I hope you enjoy it too!

Perfect for readers looking for diverse reads by writers of colour (WoC), Ponti is a great introduction to the busy Singaporean life and how three women learned to live with the consequences of the actions made by the other.

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Green Gloobies and Wumpires: a Review of Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

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Genre:
Childrens, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: June 5th, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 160

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Blurb:

 You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.
Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

The award-laden, bestselling Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book and Coraline, brings his biggest ever publishing year to a spectacular conclusion with this gloriously entertaining novel about time-travel, dinosaurs, milk and dads.

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Fortunately, Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy worlds bound to blow us away! I picked Fortunately, The Milk on a whim at a bookstore that was having a sale. The last book I read by GAIMAN was Neverwhere, which I loved. And Fortunately, The Milk did not disappoint me one bit.

“You have your milk,” he said. “Where there is milk, there is hope.”

Fortunately, The Milk is a perfect book for children and adults who want to experience Gaiman’s whimsical world in which humans and the non-humans reside together. The father, who looks uncannily like Gaiman himself, finds himself in a bit of a mess one morning after he goes out to get milk for his children’s breakfast. It’s a whirlwind of an adventure from then on with a good dash of dinosaurs, aliens, female pirates and space police!

The characters in Fortunately, The Milk are all so brilliantly written and Chris Riddell’s illustrations are gorgeous as always. My copy of Neverwhere was also illustrated by Riddell with equally amazing illustrations. You know you’re in for a wonderful time when these two men get together and produce something great.

Fortunately, The Milk is very short with only 160 pages and I wish there was more to it. But having a good short fantasy read rekindled my love for the genre and Gaiman’s writing. You’ll be blown away by the simplicity of the story and reminded of your childhood years where you spent hours reading about aliens, space adventures and time traveling mishaps!

A highly recommended read from me, in which I know this book will have you in for a great time.

Fortunately, The Milk is perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and those interested to dive shortly into his whimsical world. You’ll resurface wishing to read more of his works.

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