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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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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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!

Review: The Frangipani Tree Mystery (Ovidia Yu)

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Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Constable
Publication date: June 1st, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 320

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Blurb:
First in a delightfully charming crime series set in 1930s Singapore, introducing amateur sleuth SuLin, a local girl stepping in as governess for the Acting Governor of Singapore.

1936 in the Crown Colony of Singapore, and the British abdication crisis and rising Japanese threat seem very far away. When the Irish nanny looking after Acting Governor Palin’s daughter dies suddenly – and in mysterious circumstances – mission school-educated local girl SuLin – an aspiring journalist trying to escape an arranged marriage – is invited to take her place.

But then another murder at the residence occurs and it seems very likely that a killer is stalking the corridors of Government House. It now takes all SuLin’s traditional skills and intelligence to help British-born Chief Inspector Thomas LeFroy solve the murders – and escape with her own life.

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I was pretty excited when I received The Frangipani Tree Mystery for review. I’m always on the lookout for diverse reads by diverse authors, and a crime-cum-historical fiction written by a Singaporean Chinese sounds amazing.

Throw in the fact that this was set in 1930’s Malaya/Singapore before the Japanese occupation in 1940’s, and I was hooked. The premise for this book is so interesting and unique that after reading this book, I feel like every South East Asian should read this book. Because finally we have a book that we can relate with in a historical sense!

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The Frangipani Tree Mystery is about SuLin, a Chinese Singaporean who took on the role as a nanny for the British acting governor’s daughter after the previous nanny died from a balcony fall. This book is a crime fiction as we see SuLin try to solve the murder of the nanny, alongside an additional murder that occurs afterwards.

Not only do we have a diverse main character in this book, we also have a main character that is disabled. SuLin suffers from polio and limps while she walks. But this adversity doesn’t hinder her from solving the murders at Frangipani Hill as she’s very smart and quick on her tongue. From simple beginnings as the granddaughter of a famous along to carving her own path away from traditional cultures, SuLin is a wonderful character to witness her development in this book. Her wit and resilience was wonderful to read, and I just love strong female characters.

She also takes care of Dee Dee, a 17-year-old girl who suffered irreversible brain injury. As a result, Dee Dee acts like a 7-year-old, the age she suffered the injuries, with no indication of growing in mental maturity. The struggles to care for a special-needs kid are highlighted in this book, and it was done so well in my opinion.

I honestly wished we had books like this during my primary and secondary school years. It would have been so much fun to learn about Malaya this way, because all the characters written in this book are exactly how we were taught back in school. You have the 2 main races of Malaya: Malay, Chinese and Indian. All three living harmoniously until the British came to colonize us. There was this one particular scene where a British male character was seen asking SuLin whether she trusted the Malay gardener and Indian cook. And SuLin replied that only the ang mohs (white people) wanted the locals to believe that each race was dishonest and non-trustworthy.

Let me tell you something, seeing the terrible racist things that are happening now, SuLin’s words ring truer than ever.

The accuracy in which the characters are written during that period is impeccable. I felt so much nostalgia for each South East Asian character that probably were reflective of every person my grandparents knew when they were living in Singapore in that period. You have each character that brought about a sense of belonging to how life was back then. It was representative of how simple things were back then. From the way they cooked their food, to the way they talked, and to the traditions of the Chinese and Malays highlighted in this book. Everything about The Frangipani Tree Mystery is authentic.

I must bring into light the wonder of this book for using Hokkien and Malay languages! I was so shocked to find a Malay poem inserted within the first few chapters that I squealed in delight. Small details like the type of language used and anecdotes infused in the book are what gives the book an authentic vibe.

You have SuLin preparing nasi lemak and fish curry in the book. You have an Indian cook preparing crispy , fried ikan bilis. You have the superstitions surrounding frangipani trees, or kemboja in Malay, and how they’re bad luck because they’re technically “grave flowers”.

You even have the legendary Biskut Ais Jems making an appearance in the book!

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I mean, if you never ever had these as a kid, growing up in Malaysia or Singapore, what kind of childhood did you even have???

The endless Malaya traditions included in this book are what I enjoyed the most. I’ve never read a novel that could portray and embody so well all the traditions and cultures I’ve experienced growing up.

Asides from these brilliant flashbacks, I found the plot to be alright. Nothing special that gripped my attention hard, but the adventures of SuLin and Dee Dee were enough to keep me reading until the end. The plot was a bit slow somewhere in the middle before picking up and ending a bit abruptly. But otherwise, it was a pleasure to travel to 1930’s Singapore and get inside the head of a local nanny.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this wonderful gem of a book. It is unique and needs to get out in the book industry more. The diversity and rich history portrayed in the book are what make The Frangipani Tree Mystery a brilliant read. The fact that it’s a fusion of crime and historical fiction adds brownie points to the package!

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

Review: Truth or Dare (Non Pratt)

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Genre:
Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication date: June 1st, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 383

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Blurb:
A powerful and moving novel about bravery from the Guardian’s “writer to watch” Non Pratt, perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green and Holly Bourne. How far is too far when it comes to the people you love? Claire Casey hates being the centre of attention. But if it means getting Sef Malik to notice her, it’s a risk she’s happy to take. Sef is prepared to do anything to help his recently disabled brother. But this means putting Claire’s love – and life – on the line. Because when you’re willing to risk everything, what is there left to lose?

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Mild spoilers of the book contained in this review.

This was my first Non Pratt book, and most probably my last. I was a little hesitant to start this because I’ve heard mixed reviews of her books. It’s always a hit or miss. And I guess for me this book was a miss.

I had quite a number of issues with this book but glad I finished it. I’m definitely in the minority of people that didn’t quite enjoy this book. Granted, there were some great points to Truth or Dare but overall I felt it could have gone in a different direction with its PoC narratives and relationships highlighted in the book.

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The writing was pretty great in this one, it sucks your right in and the concept of telling two sides of a story, with a third combining both views is pretty unique. You get Claire’s side of the story first where we see her fall in love with Sef Malik and does anything to help him and his brother, Kam, who needs extra cash for intensive brain injury treatment. Together, they teamed up to create a Youtube channel to do a series of dares in hopes of gaining donations for Kam’s treatments.

It’s always nice to see more books using social media as a basis in their stories. Social media is such a huge part of our lives that everything written about it in Truth or Dare was pretty relatable. The obsessions with likes and views, the problem with cyber shaming and sexual harassment, and the trouble with people pretending on the internet for their own gains. I applaud Non Pratt for weaving all these problematic issues so well into the book. Though to be honest, I wish she had tackled the issue of Claire being sexually harassed by a fellow student following a viral video shaming her body more clearly. I felt that part of the book was left abruptly and we could have had a better discussion how to deal with situations like these in life.

The characters are quite complicated in this one which made the book a good read, generally. We have Sef, the cool guy that gets all the hot girls and Claire can’t help but to fall for him. But eventually we see a side of Sef that’s hidden from everyone post-Kam’s accident. A side which he hid from his parents and best friends. It was interesting to read how his life falls to pieces after his brother’s injury, in which he blamed himself. How poorly he dealt with it had severe consequences on his relationships with everyone, especially Claire.

But there’s something about these characters, that because of their flaws and brokenness, made the book an interesting read. It made them relatable and raw. It made them these messed up individuals who were trying to do a good thing, but somehow screwed up. And isn’t adolescence all about doing stupid things and learning from them, no matter the major consequences?

I think the ending was tied off in a good way. There was a twist that I did not expect at the end, but didn’t really change my overall perception of this book.

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I had major issues with Claire and Sef’s relationship in Truth or Dare. It was troubling how the ending somehow made it acceptable for what Sef did to Claire. If you all know me on my social media, you know how against I am of male characters with anger management problems, prone to violence (he throws a lot of stuff in this book) and mental health issues that are disguised as hot, sexy, mysterious boys. I appreciate the forthright boy with these issues who don’t pretend desperately to be someone else in public. But not the playboys who get the girls and have no consideration for the hearts they’re inevitably breaking.

So you can imagine my horror when Sef’s side of the story was revealed and I saw him as this problematic male who can’t help but to drag Claire into all of his mess. And somehow Claire accepts all this because she loves him and wants to be a good friend. And despite Sef turning around at the end of the book, I still loathed him for what he did to Claire, and Laila, and basically everyone else in this book. And while I was rooting for Claire when she came to her senses, all rooting was abruptly halted when she found herself missing Sef and finding him afterwards to make up with him.

To be frank, I don’t have an issue with Sef and Claire as characters, because they portray complexity relatable to all teens. But boy do I have an issue with their relationship.

I am not in favour of books promoting the idea that these kind of relationships are okay. Because they are not. No amount of love is worth the disrespect you get from a guy who can’t figure out how to deal with his emotions.

On top of that, I’ve had issues with the diversity plot of this book. Despite Sef’s family all having Arabic names and they’re British-Pakistanis, there is no mention, at all, about their race, background or religion. Instead Sef is portrayed as this common Brit teen who has sex, drinks and visit pubs. So if you switched Sef Malik for Seth Matthewson, it wouldn’t have made a difference to the book.

And because of that, I felt that an opportunity was lost in making this a great PoC book. Because the names like Laila Jalil, Zahid, Kamran, Amir, Farah etc were all just names and nothing more. As a Muslim reader, I would have wanted to see some backstory to his family and how their faith were impacted by such a tragedy.

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Overall, I felt like this book could have been a little bit more. But it’s still worth a try to read and see if you like it.

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

Review: Out of Heart (Irfan Master)

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Genre:
Young Adult
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: April 20th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 272

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Blurb:
Donating your heart is the most precious gift of all.

Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and younger sister. His dad has left them although lives close by. His sister no longer speaks. His mum works two jobs. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift – his heart.

William is the recipient of Adam’s grandfather’s heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam’s family. William has received much, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too.

A powerful tale of love and strength in adversity.

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When I got this book for review, I immediately thought of how amazing that cover is. With gold ink embossed on a black background, you can’t help but to feel excited about this one. I’ve never heard of this book until I got it in my hands. The premise seemed simple enough, a boy who lost his grandfather discovered he donated his heart to some random guy, who by the way, ends up visiting his family after the transplant.

It may seem like a cliche family-centered story, but there’s something different about this one…

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If you’re looking for a book with intense plot and twists and turns, this book is not for you. Sorry to burst your bubble. I realised that reviewers on Goodreads didn’t enjoy this book as much because of the lack of plot. But I found the book wonderful to read because of its simple and effective plot. Which is probably why this book was originally categorized as Middle Grade. But I decided to put this one in YA since Adam is 15 and the book handles more serious views than an MG might.

I liked the main characters in this one. We have Adam, the troubled yet talented artist teenager who feels burdened by his grandfather’s death now that he’s “head of the family” with the absence of his abusive father. Then there’s Farah, his younger sister who signs because she refuses to speak after an accident that happened when she was a toddler. And we have William, the man who came to the family after receiving Adam’s grandfather’s heart.

The unlikely family bond that forms between Adam and William was beautiful to witness in this book. A man and a boy with all the love in their hearts, finding the right place and people to give it to. A man who needed to heal from the loneliness he felt all his life eventually provided the solace needed by this quirky family so desperately in need of healing and care. And in return we see how Adam and his family provided the love and space for William to fit into their life. Because we all want to belong somewhere.

The book is interspersed with Adam’s writings and drawings, though not much, which made the book quite interesting to read. This added to the appeal of the characters and how well they were tied together in the book.

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Truthfully, this book didn’t really have that much depth. Like I mentioned before, the plot is pretty simple. The bond that forms between William and Adam’s family is the only focus of this story. It would have been nice to see Adam’s friendships with the rest of the teens and even with his younger sister. An opportunity was missed to highlight the lifestyles of a caring for a disable kid. While we did see a backstory of how Farah came to lose her voice, I felt it was too brief.

Other than that, I’m not entirely sure how to feel of the ethnicity of Adam’s family and its impacts to the book. I’m always on the lookout for diverse books with PoC characters. Adam’s family is Pakistani British and assuming that the main religion is Islam for a majority of them, we don’t see much of their culture or religion a discussion in this book.

So I was a bit disappointed at the missed opportunity that this book could have been a great PoC book, but the racial and religion backgrounds were pretty much thrown out the window. In recent times surrounding so many terrorist attacks, that undoubtedly have been related to Islam, it would have been a great book that could educate readers on what it’s like being a British Muslim.

This book could have gotten a white male MC and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story. That’s how ineffective having Adam as the MC is in terms of his ethnic background.

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Overall, I did enjoy this book despite some major flaws in the book. It was mellow, easy to follow and a great read to further appreciate family relationships and human connectivity in the absence of blood relations.

Let me know if you’ve read this. Would love to know what you think!

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I would like to thank Pansing Malaysia for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: All The Words I Should Have Said (Rania Naim)

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Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Thought Catalog
Publication date: December 1st, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Thought Catalog
Page Count: 166

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Blurb:

Rania Naim’s ‘All The Words I Should Have Said’ is a beautiful, limited edition paperback book that poetically explores the thrills of love, the highs and lows of life, and the challenges of new beginnings.

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I was pretty excited to receive this beautiful poetry book by Thought Catalog as a gift. I’ve always loved poetry books. Being a romantic at heart, reading about love always bring this warm, fuzzy feeling in my chest. Despite being super realistic about life and my relationship expectations, I do believe love brings out the best and worst in us, which may or may not be during our best of times.

I included Rania Naim’s All The Words I Should Have Said in my Ramadan TBR since she’s a Muslim Egyptian. It’s always so exciting to find a female poet, and one whose Muslim! So I was looking forward to this. Finished it in 2 train rides, so it’s pretty short.

Her words are quite beautiful in this book. She talks mostly of broken hearts, loneliness and sorrow. It tends to get a bit depressing from all the emotions that’re being poured into the book. And at times I felt I wasn’t really connecting to the poems. But there were some really nice pieces about self-resilience and being strong for no one else but you.

That said, I felt a little on the fence with this one. Some of the poems felt a little cliche when it came to heartbreak. They’re relatable to anyone who has gone through a heartbreak or ever been in love. But overall, nothing special comes to mind when I read this book. It didn’t grip me as much as I wanted to and I wasn’t reminded of the beauty of love, or even heartbreak, whilst reading this. Though there were some nice pieces about knowing what you deserve in love, I felt a little bland towards the other pieces.

That said, I still think it’s worth a try if you like love poems. And I do hope you enjoy more than I did!

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Review: The Forty Rules of Love (Elif Shafak)

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Genre:
General Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: April 2nd, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 358

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Blurb:

Discover the forty rules of love…

Ella Rubinstein has a husband, three teenage children, and a pleasant home. Everything that should make her confident and fulfilled. Yet there is an emptiness at the heart of Ella’s life – an emptiness once filled by love.

So when Ella reads a manuscript about the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, and his forty rules of life and love, her world is turned upside down. She embarks on a journey to meet the mysterious author of this work.

It is a quest infused with Sufi mysticism and verse, taking Ella and us into an exotic world where faith and love are heartbreakingly explored.

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Talk about a book that changes your perspective on everything.

The Forty Rules of Love has been on my wishlist for so long ever since a blogger friend recommended it to me when I wanted to learn more about Rumi. I thought she was going to recommend a poetry book by Rumi but she said I’d appreciate Rumi better after reading this book.

And she was right.

Rarely do books touch me in the way The Forty Rules of Love did. This book focuses on not only on the budding love between Ella and Aziz, but more importantly on the spiritual friendship between Rumi and Shams. This book is a cross between general fiction and historical fiction since the events that occurred between Rumi and Shams in the book are based on true events.

Sufism is huge theme in this book, and this was what made it special. Reading The Forty Rules of Love during Ramadan was the cherry on top. Sufism is a teaching derived from the main teachings of Islam where it focuses on spiritual oneness with God and His creations.

“Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.” 

We see the budding love between Ella and Aziz after Ella reads Aziz’s manuscript of the famous friendship in 13th Century Konya, Turkey. While Ella goes through a very difficult and unhappy marriage, the forty rules written in Aziz’s book are what changes her life leading her to start all over again. The story runs paraller with the spiritual friendship between Rumi and Shams that brought about a new perspective towards Sufism and how love is encompassed in Islam. How Islam is both religious and spiritual and having the right balance in these two can bring the ultimate happiness and tranquility into our lives. I became more aware of our capacity for love amidst terrible political and social situations that we face now. Sufism was described in high detail and it was really easy to relate since Malaysia does incorporate Sufism into its Islamic teachings. So not only did I learn more about Rumi and the Persian culture, learning more about my own religion in a way I could implement to my life made reading this even more precious.

“Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful!”

Shams was this wonderful character that brought about many priceless messages about love, being grateful and optimistic in life. I love his interactions with the commoners of the town in Konya: the harlot, drunk and begger. He made them feel special again and inspired them to be kind despite what life has thrown into their faces. Because giving up and blaming God seems like the easiest thing to do, but still believing in His grace and love is what brings us out of despair.

His “lessons” with Rumi throughout the book was a life-changing experience. To see him detach Rumi from his social status and wealth to see everyone the same in the eyes of God. To make Rumi understand that being kind and loving everyone the same with no judgement is the biggest struggle as a human being. And using religion as an excuse to divide society brings out terrible consequences.

I remember Shams describing himself as a more spiritual man than a religious one, and I felt the ring of truth within these words. Personally as a Muslim, I struggle to be religious in a way that other people so effortlessly do. But I’ve always been a spiritual person and it was nice to know someone else feels this way too.

Each of the forty rules described in this book was so beautifully written and described by Shams that even if you’re a non-Muslim, you’ll feel the truth behind the words. And the most wonderful thing about these rules? They promote love and understanding, and anyone will be able to relate to these rules…

“Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.”

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Overall this book was a great reminder of what it means to be a human being connecting with others through kindness, gratitude, understanding and most importantly: love. This book changed my views (for the better) on Islam and how there are so many things left to discover of the beautiful religion. You get so many negative press about Muslims that reading something as beautiful as The Forty Rules of Love is a much-needed change.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it?

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