The Greatest Thief You’ll Hear About: a Review of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief

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Genre:
Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: February 28th, 2017 (First published in 1996)
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 279

Series: The Queen’s Thief

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Blurb:

Eugenides, the queen’s thief, can steal anything—or so he says. When his boasting lands him in prison and the king’s magus invites him on a quest to steal a legendary object, he’s in no position to refuse. The magus thinks he has the right tool for the job, but Gen has plans of his own.

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The Thief is my book for #TheReadingQuest Challenge: First Book in a Series

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No doubt the Queen’s Thief series caught my eyes when the new covers started appearing out of nowhere in every major bookstore in Malaysia in early 2017. Ever since then I’ve been researching about the series and asking fellow bookworms just how great this series is.

And almost every response I got was claiming this is one heck of a series and I should definitely give it a try. And on a whim, I bought all 5 books at MPH in 2 weekends because I had a feeling I was going to love this series.

And boy was I right.

This book was simplistic in a way that there isn’t much plot to it, but rather the book highlights the captivating writing and eccentric characters in it. And I personally think this is such a wonderful way to start a series. With a slow incline before plunging for the drop, much like an anticipated roller coaster ride.

The story starts of with a thief named Gen, called upon the King of Sounis to steal a valuable item in a neighboring country miles away from Sounis. With Gen are the magus (whose name I still curious about), 2 of his apprentices, Ambiades and Sophos, and a companion guard, Pol. Half the book is about these 5 men trying to get along without cutting each other throats before they reach their destination.

Gen is such a wonderful character to read about. His monologues in The Thief are just amazing and often times I’ve found myself laughing out loud.

“No friend had I made there, but I wasn’t with this group to make friends, and besides, he sneered too much. I’ve found that people who sneer are almost always sneering at me.”  – Gen

You wouldn’t think that the point of view of a thief would amount to much, but you’ve never met Gen. He’s egocentric, confident with a healthy dose of cockiness, and smart beyond his wits. You’ll find yourself no doubt rooting for him throughout the book even as you’re figuring out his motives.

I found this to be the greatest element of the book. That we can read about such a confident character, whose past wasn’t talked about much, who carries himself so well despite being a thief.

“I didn’t really care much about anything, so I guess I felt fine.”  – Gen

Reading The Thief made me realise that adult fantasy are more of my genre. I love strong, bold characters and while YA Fantasy have an abundance of those, they’re more likely to link their past and insecurities (such as sexuality, the desire to fit in with society, etc) with their character development. And while I don’t deny YA Fantasy’s important range of characters to better suit their younger readers, being an adult myself, it’s nice to read fantasy with a more in depth content in terms of world building and characters who are more at ease with themselves.

Turner’s writing is so amazing in this one that I didn’t care that there isn’t much plot in the first half of the book. All they did was traverse the forest and dystopia to get to an ancient river. But not once did I feel bored or thought the story’s pace was slow. Because we got to see how each character is acted out and how they eventually play a role in the ending.

And that ending was spectacular, I kid you not. I had a sense there was something fishy going on 3 quarters into the book but when the ending came about, it made so much sense to see Gen in that light. That plot twist at the end blew me away and you know how great a book is when it’s unexpected ending surprises you.

And mind you, this book was publsihed in 1996. And I survived a good 21 years not being spoiled for that ending.

Now that’s something special.

Overall, I truly loved this book. It’s pretty short with less than 300 pages. But the stories build up as you progress in the series and I can’t wait to read Queen of Attolia next!

Have you read The Queen’s Thief series? What did you think about it?

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439 Years To Live a Life: A Review of Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time

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Genre:
Fantasy
Publisher: Canongate Books
Publication date: July 6th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 325

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Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia

Blurb:
I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret.

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

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“I have been in love only once in my life. I suppose that makes me a romantic, in a sense. The idea that you have one true love, that no one else will compare after they have gone. It’s a sweet idea, but the reality is terror itself. To be faced with all those lonely years after. To exist when the point of you has gone.” 

When I finished Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time, it took me a while to comprehend what I just read. This is my first Matt Haig novel and I was pretty blown away by how well he writes.

How to Stop Time may seem like a fantasy / sci-fi novel about a man living through the ages witnessing history as it unfolds (the book develops by going back and forth between the present and past), but it is so much more. Not only do we get to relive the past since the late 16th century all the way to the present time with such clarity and unique perspective from a person who’s been through it all, we also get to see how painful it was to live through all of that alone.

How to Stop Time doesn’t really have a plot. It’s not about a man who lives for hundreds of years and saves the world by being a spy or whatnot. It’s about a man who lives for hundreds of years but doesn’t seem to be actually living it.

It is about the human condition of living, connectivity, love and the ability to attain freedom to choose the life you wish to live. The albas, what Tom is known as in this book, live so many lives over the period of those centuries, in order to avoid suspicion and threats, that they lose sight of what it really means to live. Tom finds himself alone during these centuries of solitude and he feels dejected with all these different lives he’s had to play. You can’t help but to feel for Tom and wonder if this life of near-immortality is something really worth it?

The emotions coursing through me as I read this book was sad. Sad at how even with a very long life, Tom still feels unhappy and lonely as ever. As he spends his life trying to find his lost daughter, he goes through life as if he’s an insignificant bubble in the ocean.

“To grab them. Each little moment as it arrives. To be living in something other than the past or the future. To be actually here. Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live? ” 

It really makes you think. Of your life choices, and how you would want to live with the present by coming to terms with your past. How do you make your life worth it? How do you live so you won’t get bored of the work and people around you? How do you make time not look so tiresome and pointless?

“That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days – some years – some decades – are empty. There is nothing to them. It’s just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.”

In short this is a very beautiful and well written book. It is raw and honest, it makes you wonder if you’ve ever taken life for granted and what kind of life are you willing to actually live for?

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I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s in the mood for some life reflections. And I just found out the movie rights have been bought for this book and Benedict Cumberbatch is to star in it. Gosh imagine how amazing the movie will be.

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Where Monstrous Acts Make Monsters: A Review of V E Schwab’s Our Dark Duet

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication date: June 13th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 365
Series: Monsters of Verity #2

Read my review of the first book in the duology,
This Savage Song.

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Blurb:
THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

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It’s official. V E Schwab killed me, not for the last time I presume, with Our Dark Duet.

Our Dark Duet is the conclusion to the Monsters of Verity duology. It picks up six months after This Savage Song ends so if you haven’t read the first book yet, you’re in for some spoilers from the first book!

I reread This Savage Song just so I could familiarize myself again with Verity, or V-City as it’s known. I highly recommend you do this if it’s been a while since you’ve read the first book. Our Dark Duet doesn’t give much refreshers from its prequel so it could affect your reading experience if you’re struggling to remember the differences between a Corsai, Malchai and Sunai.

Schwab’s writing has a way of sucking me right into the story leaving me gasping for breath and wishing for more. Every word in this series is a reminder of the thing we fear: how our actions have consequences that we are afraid to face.

“Violence begets violence, and monstrous acts make monsters”

Our Dark Duet picks up in Prosperity, the city Kate Harker found refuge in for 6 months, hunting the monsters in this city. While August Flynn has become a FTF Leader using his music to reap sinned souls and helping to keep South City safe. We see such a huge transformation in August from the lost lonely high school boy to this lean confident soldier.

“I’m willing to walk in darkness if it keeps humans in the light.”

As the book progresses, it does get pretty gruesome and creepy in some scenes. The way the monsters are described created such vivid images in my mind that monsters ripping out the throats of humans was so easily imagined. I got scared in many instances of the book because it got a bit too tensed and I didn’t exactly know where the book was headed.

But overall, Our Dark Duet questions the possibility of fighting the monsters within us as well as fighting those surrounding us. And that is what made this book so freaking amazing. The monsters Schwab talked about are real, and always have been. They might not rip your throats out or drink your blood, but they exist in the violence and hatred we see every day in the world. And the monsters living inside us, whispering nothing but blackness sucking us in, are just as real.

“There were two kinds of monsters, the kind that hunted the streets and the kind that lived in your head. She could fight the first, but the second was more dangerous. It was always, always, always a step ahead.”

I fell even more in love with August and Kate in Our Dark Duet. There’s great character development in these two and I appreciate how much they’ve had to grow in order to survive in such terrible predicaments. This Savage Song had Kate being this tough girl putting on a front to create fear, while in Our Dark Duet she doesn’t need that front anymore. Because my home girl is all fierce and kicking monsters’ asses like nobody’s business.

I love how well written Kate’s struggles with her inner monster was in this book. We see a side of her that’s vulnerable but still cares so much for August. August has changed a lot in Our Dark Duet but Kate still sees his true self. She fights for him to see himself for who he is, and not for the person he’s forced himself to become in the past six months.

And that is why their friendship remains my favourite aspect of this book.

“I don’t know who I am, and who I’m not, I don’t know who I’m supposed to be, and I miss who I was; I miss it every day, Kate, but there’s no place for that August anymore. No place for the version of me who wanted to go to school, and have a life, and feel human, because this world doesn’t need that August. It needs someone else.” 

Although, you’re in for a bit of a surprise when it comes to how their friendship progressed, ahem.

But no worries, in true Schwab form, 99% of this book centers around killing monsters.

Speaking of murders, that ending killed me. I knew the book wasn’t going to end happy but I did not see that coming. My heart broke into a million pieces at that last chapter. So I would recommend you brace yourself.

However, I did think the ending was quite abruptly executed. Like there was this slow incline to get to the climax of the book, and then it crashes pretty quickly to the ground. I still got my heart ripped out, but I would have loved more action and details.

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Overall, this series have such a special place in my heart. Schwab has rekindled my love for fantasy through her Darker Shades of Magic series and I’m grateful to have read her Monsters of Verity series.

She has a way of writing characters that we could relate to so well. She writes of pain and death so brilliantly that you can’t help but to see the similarities between the world she’s created and the one we currently live in.

“I know it hurts,” she said.
“So make it worth the pain.” 

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for sending a copy in exchange for an honest review!
And thank you Sarah from Written Word Worlds for hosting a giveaway which won me my hardcover US edition of Our Dark Duet!

#TheReadingQuest Challenge!

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Hey guys! I’m glad to announce that I’ll be joining the Reading Quest Challenge hosted by Aentee at Read at Midnight. Basically, it’s a reading competition held from 13th August until 10th September to encourage participants to reduce their TBR using prompts!

The reason I joined this particular challenge is because of its unique premise of using character levels and prompts for us to gain points as we progress in the challenge. It’s a competition and there are so many ways to win the exciting prize! I thought it’d be super fun to try and participate.

You get to choose a character which in turn determines the type of books you have to read in order to satisfy the prompt! Normally previous challenges just give you a list of prompts and you try your best to accomplish them all. But having a character that affects the book you read makes everything so much more fun!

Anyway, I’m terrible at explaining in detail so you should definitely check out Aentee’s original post here to get the full info on the challenge! Take your time to digest everything and I hope you join the quest!

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The following art are designed by the superbly talented CW at Read, Think, Ponder!

Here are the four characters you get to choose from:

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How adorable are these characters! I’ll be going with Mage because I think I have a good choice of books to accomplish the prompts.

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And the reading bingo includes the following prompts:

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Because the Mage character gets the first down prompts, here are a list of books I plan to read to fulfill them!

  1. A Book with A One Word Title: Shtum by Jem Lester

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2. A Book that Contains Magic: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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3. A Book Based on Mythology: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (F C Yee)

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4. A Book Set in a Different World: The Queen of Attolia (Megan Whalen Turner)

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5. The First Book of a Series: The Thief (Megan Whalen Turner)

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You can also get additional points by attempting the inner cube prompts in the bingo. While this is getting super ambitious for me, I’m going to try some bonus prompts if the main ones are not what I’m up for at the time.

  1. Open World, Read Whatever You Want: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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2. Time Warp, A Book Set in the Past or Future: Anna and The Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

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So those are the books that I’ve selected for this challenge. Hopefully I can get through them all! I’m so excited. It’d be amazing to cut through my TBR because God knows it’s been piling lately.

Are you joining this quest? If you are, link your post down in the comments. I’d love to check out what books you’ll be reading! 🙂

Review: A Closed and Common Orbit (Becky Chambers)

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Genre:
Science Fiction
Publisher: Houder & Stoughton
Publication date: October 20th, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 365
Series: Wayfarer #2

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Blurb:
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for – and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.

A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers’ beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.

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Words cannot truly describe how much I love this beautiful, emotional, heart-gripping book. This piece of artwork with its collective words of poetry strung to make you weep and melt.

I honestly have no idea how to write this review to be honest.

It is that brilliant…

And if I could recommend one science fiction book to truly understand what science fiction is all about, this book would make it to the top of the list.

Scratch that. This book would be at the top of the list.

Now, while this book is the second installment of the Wayfarer series, it does not continue directly from the first book. As mentioned in the blurb, it’s more of a standalone novel. So like me, you can read this without having to read the first book.

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Before you go all excited thinking this is your typical science fiction with wars, action, intergalactic space adventures akin to Star Wars or Star Trek, let me hold your arm and stop you right here. A Closed and Common Orbit is not all of those things I mentioned.

It’s so much more.

It begins with Lovelace, renamed Sidra, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) who gets reinstalled in a human body kit after the ship she was in got badly damaged. And whilst the AI stories we’ve read so far tend to shine a negative light on them, A Closed and Common Orbit questions the humanity and emotional capacities of AIs. Is it possible for an AI to develop thoughts and ideas on their own? To have a conscious? To help humans beyond their intended programming?

That is how unbelievably magical A Closed and Common Orbit is. It is about the human condition, extended beyond intergalactic species and even technological advances set in space. This book reminds that even when we’re millenniums into the future, we will always feel the need to belong.

We are introduced with a wide range of species who live peacefully together. And whilst there is no space politics between them or the fight for the dominant species to rule, you’ll be surprised to find that the essence of science fiction that has been explored so well in this book is our need to have a purpose in life.

And that is what Chambers play around with Sidra as she navigates life in this new body kit, forming friendships with her caretakers and a random ink tattooist.

I love how the book jumps back and forth between past and present. The present is focused on Sidra, while the past is focused on Pepper, the engineer who saved Lovelace. Pepper was raised by an AI in an abandoned ship after she escaped a slave factory at the age of 10. Her upbringing will bring all sorts of emotions in you because it represents so well the need for human connection and the love and care we all craved. And funnily enough, those things were provided to Pepper for almost 10 years, by her AI guardian, Owl. Chambers set a wonderful setting for human-technology interaction that wasn’t creepy or disturbing, but rather portrayed warmth and full of love.

“She felt as though she could reach out to that little girl and pull her through the years. Look, she’d say. Look who you’re gonna be. Look where you’re gonna go. Jane” 

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The characters inside this book are so well written, I felt like I could take them out of the book and be friends with them! There are so many species or aliens as Pepper calls them, which are described in detail throughout the book. Granted we don’t see much of their history and how they came to live with other species. But overall they were still wonderfully written.

You will love the main characters that Chambers created to guide Sidra into accepting her purpose as an AI in human form. There’s Pepper with her methodological ways and superb fixing skills. There’s Blue, the artist with a stammer whose kindness allows Sidra to open up and explore more of her wants and needs. And finally there’s Tak, the bisexual Aeluoen ink tattooist (talk about diversity!), who encourages Sidra to discover art and read more about other cultures so she can better understand herself.

“I love learning. I love history. But there’s history in everything. Every building, everybody you talk to. It’s not limited to libraries and museums. I think people who spend their lives in school forget that sometimes. -Tak” 

Now that is one amazing crew of friends.

And then there’s Owl, Pepper’s AI guardian. Owl is just wonderful. You could never believe that science fiction could ever write about an AI so lifelike as if she’s human. But Becky Chambers is truly talented for being able to do so. I can’t describe how powerful Owl’s presence was in the book. You have to read it to understand why she’s so important in this book and how it’s led to the major events.

These characters are what made the book wonderful and each character development was a joy to read, especially Sidra’s.

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Overall, Becky Chambers have become one of my favourite sci-fi writers of all time, alongside Andy Weir and Ernest Cline. If you’re in the mood for some futuristic voyage of the human condition, A Common and Closed Orbit is the book to start with.

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“Life is terrifying. None of us have a rule book. None of us know what we’re doing here. So, the easiest way to stare reality in the face and not utterly lose your shit is to believe that you have control over it. If you believe you have control, then you believe you’re at the top. And if you’re at the top, then people who aren’t like you… well, they’ve got to be somewhere lower, right? Every species does this. Does it again and again and again. Doesn’t matter if they do it to themselves, or another species, or someone they created.” 

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

Review: Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty)

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Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: July 26th, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 460

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Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia

Blurb:
Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

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I was pretty excited when Truly Madly Guilty was published mid of last year. I’ve heard so many great things about Liane Moriarty. And when I read Big Little Lies, my review here, I got hooked on her writing! By the way, I’ve yet to watch the HBO series of Big Little Lies but I know it’s awesome so I can’t wait to watch it soon!

Liane Moriarty is one hell of a talented writer. She writes speculative fiction so well that I breezed through Big Little Lies because it was that good. So when I received Truly Madly Guilty for review, I couldn’t help but to be excited!

Unfortunately Truly Madly Guilty didn’t really meet my expectations and I was left a bit deflated when I finished the last page. But while it wasn’t as good as Big Little Lies, I still enjoyed Truly Madly Guilty and there were some elements of the book in which I enjoyed.

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The plot to this one wasn’t as dramatic or exciting as I was hoping. The plot jumps back and forth between present and the past. All of the scenes were told in various points of view (PoV) from the 6 adults and one of the three children involved at the barbecue. The story starts in the present where it’s 2 months post-barbecue and things have apparently gone bad. 70% of the book consists of writing leading up to the tragedy that occurred during the barbecue. As you’re reading it, you’re prompted by the sequence of events to try to guess what really went wrong.  And to be honest, I did figure out the tragedy, but boy I didn’t see the plot twist coming. So that kind of saved the entire book for me. Otherwise, it would have been a total bore for being so predictable.

You get a good mix of suburban drama and friendship problems between the 6 adults in consequence of the barbecue tragedy. Moriarty writes so well in a way that grips you into the story, and while I didn’t find this one as exciting as Big Little Lies, I was still breezing through the pages figuring out the ending. And lets face it, we all love privileged self-entitled white people getting into scandals creating a terrible mess of their lives. And Moriarty delivers a good amount of that in Truly Madly Guilty.

“There is no special protection when you cross that invisible line from your ordinary life to that parallel world where tragedies happen. It happens just like this. You don’t become someone else. You’re still exactly the same. Everything around you still smells and looks and feels exactly the same.” 

I especially liked the problems these adults faced. The 6 adults consists of 3 married couples, and each couple faces their own set of struggles and problems. Underneath the perfect image they built around their lives, we see trouble lurks and they’re one step away from losing control. Whilst it may not be the high-drama you expect, the problems faced by each of these couples are realistic and representative of the challenges marriages in general face. We see how parenthood isn’t as easy as one might think, and we also see the problematic friendship between Erika and Clementine that was cemented since an early age. Erika is also the child of a hoarder, and it was especially fascinating to see how that impacted her life choices and mental well-being.

Reading how the adults struggle to keep afloat and figure out the next step was interesting. Because it made me realise that even adults don’t have everything together. Even they screw up sometimes.

And I found this reassuring.

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I am in love with Erika and her husband Oliver! The two outcasts, geeks and introverts in this story with their love of spreadsheets. Gosh I just want to wrap them in warm, fuzzy blankets and keep them safe!

The two geeks who felt left out at a small barbecue party.

Man, can I relate to characters like these.

“Nobody felt embarrassed in front of nice geeky people. That’s why they were relaxing to be around.” 

My whole life was spent wondering what to say during social events and then being embarrassed for saying the something else. So Erika and Oliver have a special place in my heart. Reading about their relationship and the troubles they faced made me appreciate their characters even more.

On top of that, Erika and Clementine’s friendship are a huge element of Truly Madly Guilty where it questions how far a friendship goes before one begins to questions its intentions. Pushed to become best friends by Clementine’s mother from an early age, resentment and jealousy are much too familiar emotions wedged deep into the friendship.  Eventually we see how this problematic relationship contributed to the tragedy of the barbecue.

But because of the tragedy at the barbecue, we begin to see a character growth in Erika. From a timid girl keen on relying on her best friend without question, we slowly see how Erika deals with the tragedy in her own unique way. Seeing Erika accept herself as an entity without Clementine was such a wonderful thing to witness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel any deep connection with the other characters asides from Erika and Oliver. Because the chapters change so quickly over so many PoVs, there was a lack of understanding for the characters and their positions. I truly have no interest for the remaining 4 adults. They seemed aloof and without much depth into their characters.

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Overall, it’s a pleasant read but nothing special that I could hold on to. I’ve another title by Moriarty in my unread pile, so I hope that will be more enjoyable than this.

Let me know if you’ve read this before!

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: The Names They Gave Us (Emery Lord)

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Publication date: June 1st, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 380

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Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia

Blurb:
From acclaimed author Emery Lord comes a vibrant, compelling story of love, loss, faith, and friendship.


Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Emotionally-charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord’s storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life’s biggest challenges.

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The Names They Gave Us is my first Emery Lord book. I’ve heard great reviews for her previous books and thought it’s about time I try her writing. And I’m glad I did! Her writing is impeccable. I don’t read many YA Contemporaries, but Lord is fast becoming one of my favourite contemporary writers.

This book had the right amount of raw emotions, friendships, summer breezes and wonderful camp stories!

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The Names They Gave Us is about Lucy Hansson who happens to be a pastor’s daughter. Growing up surrounded by church and religion are what makes her Lucy. But the summer of her 17th year changes her perspective on what is to truly believe and have faith in God. With her mom’s cancer returning causing inevitable pain to her and her whole family, Lucy begins to lose faith in God and doesn’t really know where to grip in terms of being herself and a daughter.

This book had so many emotions that I cannot help but to shed some tears, multiple times, throughout the entire book. It dealt with some serious stuff when it came to mother-daughter relationships. I mean, I’m warning you. Prepare to shed some tears as you’re reading this. Because you will. Reading of Lucy’s fears in losing her mom will strike a deep chord within you. And it makes you think of the possibility and pain in losing a parent.

“You can be okay again. Just a different kind of okay than before.”

Even though cancer is a huge back story to The Names They Gave Us, I’m glad it didn’t dominate Lucy’s entire story. The best part remains the fact that she joins Daybreak, a healing camp for children with troubling pasts, and forges the most unforgettable friendships there. Not only with the little campers who have led such traumatic lives, but also with the camp counselors that eventually became her source of support. And they help her out to see life beyond her mother’s illness and live the life she’s happy with.

“And I want to be one of them. I want to be one of them so, so badly – to fit into this balance, their history, the wolf pack way of them. I see it now, why my mom wants that for me. I see how you can’t help but want it, if you get close enough to witness a group of friends knitted together like this.” 

This summer became the summer Lucy found new strength within her, to change and move on from something that was holding her, and to accept her mom’s condition with newfound believe. And I’ve always loved characters that have wonderful development throughout the book. Lucy’s character development is definitely one of my favourites to read.

“Whose empire did you just overthrow?”
“My own.” 

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The characters in this book were so much fun to read and they brought so much backstory that each person was relatable in a way. Lucy’s counselor friends at Daybreak are what made the whole book great to read. You’ve got a wonderful mix of funny, serious, sass and bravery in all 5 of them, including Lucy. And these are the friends who helps her out, the kind of friends you want by side when you’re going through the good and the bad times. I am endlessly amazed at how well Emery Lord writes about family and friendship dynamics. 

I love Lucy’s character development in this book. She starts out as this naive Christian girl who has only ever known the church as her way of life. Coming to Daybreak changed her perspective of the people surrounding her, and the lives they’re living. She grows so much in this book, from the way she accepts people, to the way she accepts herself and her fluctuating faith.

I guess that’s what I found most interesting about Lucy, her faith. It was realistic to see a seventeen-year-old struggling to believe in a God she once had no problem leaning on once her mom’s cancer returns. Even as a Muslim I struggle sometimes to keep my faith in check. Whilst I am spiritual, I don’t consider myself religious beyond the basics. And Lucy was a character I was fond of. Because we all slip and fall when it comes to our religious views.

And reading of her journey to change and grow as time passes was something so refreshing. Because I don’t know any teenager who was so sure of herself that she didn’t change as she was growing up. Who didn’t fail at relationships because they grew out of it and who didn’t lose touch with friends because life happens. A book so well written like this should be read by every teenager still trying to find the balance between entering adulthood and wanting to remain a child.

“Well, you change as you get older, especially at this time in your life. You become more yourself, hopefully. And sometimes that changes the dynamic, even with people you love. So it’s not that you were wrong. You were right for that time. But you grow up and you grow out of relationships. Even the ones you thought, at one point, might be forever.” 

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Overall, this has become one of my favourite YA contemporaries. And I’d recommend this to anyone who wants a serious yet heart-warming read of a teenager trying to find sense in a world that she once was so sure of.

Have you read this book? If you have do let me know in the comment section what you thought of it!

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for providing me a copy in exchange of an honest review!