Down the Infinite Spiral: a Review of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: October 10th, 2017
Format: Hardback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 286

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Blurb:
It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.

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“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.” 

Turtles All The Way Down was one of my anticipated reads for fall. I was super stoked when I heard John Green was going to publish a new book, 7 years after The Fault in Our Stars was published. I know John Green can be a hit or miss when it comes to his books. My favourites from him were The Fault in Our Stars, Will Grayson Will Grayson, and An Abundance of Katherines while the rest of his books were lukewarm for me. So naturally I felt a bit apprehensive for Turtles All The Way Down.

I think it’s safe to say how much I enjoyed Turtles All The Way Down! That said, I think this book may have been better suited to be categorized in General Fiction rather than Young Adult just for the sake of gaining more audience to such an important topic. The vibe I felt while finishing this book was so deep and meaningful that I think adults would have enjoyed it just as much as young adults. But I totally understand why this book was solely for young adults. Mental health is such a big issue that’s slowly gaining more awareness through important books such as Turtles All The Way Down. And getting more young adults to read books like these and know they’re not alone is very important.

Ultimately Turtles All The Way Down is about a 16-year-old girl, Aza, who has anxiety and OCD. She experiences psychic pains in her thoughts where she feels she can’t escape them, thus resulting in obsessive behaviour such as cleaning a wound on her finger and reapplying Band-Aid several times a day in an attempt to control these possessive thoughts she has.

Turtles All The Way Down doesn’t really have a plot and that whole “chasing a billionaire fugitive” is just a backstory for Aza and her mental health condition. We get into Aza’s head a lot so don’t expect any phenomenal character development or even a great cast of characters because that’s not what Turtles All The Way Down is about.

“The worst part of being truly alone is you think about all the times you wished that everyone would just leave you be. Then they do, and you are left being, and you turn out to be terrible company.” 

This book is hands down disturbing. But it is necessarily so. Not many people can understand the anxiety of psychic pains in which we have no control over. I have had experiences with anxiety back in college, but I choose not to disclose it here. All I want to say is, it is difficult to explain to people how lonely it gets when your thoughts take control of your self of being to the point you have no idea what to do next. And reading about Aza and her possessive thoughts help us a little in understanding what a difficult experience that is.

“One of the challenges with pain–physical or psychic–is that we can really only approach it through metaphor. It can’t be represented the way table or a body can. In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.”

Having said that, I found it so easy to read Turtles All The Way Down because I could relate to Aza so much. And why it’s so important to understand that sometimes your thoughts are not entirely your own. How do you be yourself when it’s a person you don’t like being and have no control over?

Turtles All The Way Down faces the underlying issue of how anxiety can be so easily concealed in the public eye. We see Aza’s friends knowing little of her condition but not understanding it entirely. They don’t ask what it’s like for her and how does it hurt. They assume she’s selfish and overreacting when they don’t know what it’s really like inside her head and how terrifying those thought processes are.

“True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice on the matter.” 

Nothing is really straight forward in Turtles All The Way Down and I like how this is so representative of living with mental health conditions. The friendship between Aza and Davis feels so incomplete and lacking. But I think from the beginning it was made obvious that this novel isn’t really about love. Or even about friends and family. It’s about Aza and her own self. So kudos to John Green for not romanticizing mental health!

Turtles All The Way Down is not your typical YA book, and I love it the more so because of it. It’s raw and honest, and being an #OwnVoices book in which John Green opens up about his experience with anxiety gives Turtles All The Way Down an added reason to be read. This book can be heavy and a bit slow in some parts, but I have enjoyed every page that comes with it.

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Overall, this book has made it to one of my favourite John Green’s writings. And naturally, you are going to come across reviews on how cliche his philosophical proses are (much so like The Fault in Our Stars) and how cheesy his characters seem to be, but do at least consider reading Turtles All The Way Down if you want something different from the YA Contemporary shelf. And be prepared to enter Aza’s head….

“The problem with happy endings is that they’re either not really happy, or not really endings, you know? In real life, some things get better and some things get worse. And then eventually you die.” 

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A Story That Tugs You Northward: a Review of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Knope
Publication date: 1995
Format: Paperback
Source: Penguin Random House Malaysia
Page Count: 399

Series: His Dark Materials #1

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Blurb:
What Lyra likes best is “clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war.”

But Lyra’s carefree existence changes forever when she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust.

Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey daemon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from “gyptians“ to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.

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“We are all subject to the fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.” 

The Golden Compass is definitely a unique and interesting first installment to the highly-acclaimed His Dark Materials Trilogy. I’ve heard of this series for a while now and with the excitement surrounding The Book of Dust coming out on 19th October, there’s a lot of hype surrounding the original series. The Book of Dust is set in the world of His Dark Materials, so I’m pretty excited to start this series.

Right off the bat I have to say this fantasy series crosses between both young adult and adult fantasy genres. The way the story skips from childish language to subliminal messages buried within the plot was nothing short of amazing. While this may throw off some people as the writing style switches every so often, I personally found that this trait adds to the book’s appeal. Sure it was frustrating at times to read about an extensive description of a scene, but to have a precocious child like Lyra Balacqua simplify everything afterward helped a lot. So a fair warning to future readers: the writing can get long-winded and very descriptive (just like adult fantasy reads tend to do), but if you can get used to that sort of writing, then you’ll enjoy the plot and group of characters in The Golden Compass.

Speaking of characters, there was nothing short in the supply of characters written in this book. From armored bears, fierce and loyal Gyptians, to endearing daemons who are the reflections to a human soul, you’ll find something to love in each character. The only problem I had was the lack of depth the characters seem to have, asides from Lyra of course. While it was enjoyable to follow her plight to the North, I wish the other characters were written with more depth. I would have loved to know more background on Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel, and also more on Farder Coram and John Faa. I would have appreciated to have known where they originated and their intentions by the end of the book. Sure a couple of the characters’ persona were greatly revealed at the end of the book, but some were left hanging and I’m hoping they get more attention in the sequels.

On the other hand, the plot was very well written in my opinion. There have been countless discussions surrounding His Dark Materials and its subliminal messages about anti-Christianity or anti-organized religion for that matter. But you can definitely enjoy this book despite whatever faith you hold. The plot did get draggy in the first 200 pages but it picked up pretty quickly afterwards. We got to see Lyra quick and brilliant mind in saving the children from the North. We also got to see who (or what) these daemons really are and what they represent by the end of the book. There were a lot of unexpected twists and turns that gripped my attention. And while some scenes were very short-lived, I believe there is much potential in this series for the sequel to make up for.

On a side note, the fact that this book has been reviewed many times for its religious (or anti-religious) themes have been fascinating. I’ve become a bit obsessed in reading reviews about the book and the movie adaptation from other readers, Christians and non-Christians alike. Though no Biblical scenes were explicitly written about in this book, a certain religious conversation at the end of the book will leave you thinking what the author is trying to present through his characters.

I was a bit surprised to discover that this book was written for children when it would have suited more matured readers with its deep embedded messages. But I assure you as children with much simpler minds, they will still be able to enjoy this book for its great cast of characters and the amazing plot. Asides from that, I leave it up to you to read more on the religious themes set within the book yourself.

But let me just say, when I figured out the roles of daemons, Dust and Lord Asriel in their connection to the entire plot, things got a whole lot more impressive.

“Human beings can’t see anything without wanting to destroy it. That’s original sin. And I’m going to destroy it. Death is going to die.” 

Overall, I enjoyed The Golden Compass. Though a lot of descriptions and draggy plots were involved, I believe it was necessary to build the world of parallels for the sequels to take place in.

Have you read this trilogy and what did you think about it?

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Thank you Penguin Random House Malaysia for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review!

A Love so Sharp and Cutting: a Review of Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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Genre:
Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: September 5th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 384

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Blurb:
Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

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I was very excited upon receiving an ARC of Girls Made of Snow and Glass. I didn’t know much about it and there hasn’t been much reviews up when I got the book. But I have seen some excitement surrounding it and decided to go in blindly. I was aware that Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a Snow White retelling and while Snow White is my least favourite Disney princess, I was still excited to read this.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass brings us on a journey of two brilliant and strong female characters: Mina, the Whitespring Queen who happens to be Lynet’s stepmother. You’ll find similarities in Girls Made of Snow and Glass to Snow White. For example, references to mirrors and apples are frequently made. And the Hunstman that freed Snow White when he was supposed to kill her also makes and appearance. But unlike the originial story, he plays a much bigger role in this book.

“You’ll find something that’s yours alone. And when you do, don’t let anyone take it from you…”

I love how much depth Girls Made of Snow and Glass contained. I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings, because it allows us to think back on the definition of ‘evil’ and ‘wickedness’. The battle between good and bad has always been crystal clear in myths and fairy tales. But with retellings, you just never know who’s the real villain in the story.

And that is what’s so great about Girls Made of Snow and Glass. We get to see more of the evil stepmother and her roots before becoming Queen. What really happened to her that turned her into the heartless figure we’ve all known from Snow White? And is she really as evil as she’s made out to be?

All these questions gets answered in Girls Made of Snow and Glass on top of us getting more action from Lynet. She’s definitely the opposite of Snow White. She started out delicate, fragile and soft in the beginning, but her development throughout the book is just plain awesome.

I have so much love for these 2 characters. While most fantasy books have two women in power fighting each other, Girls Made of Snow and Glass shows us just how possible it is for 2 strong women to support and love one another. And their journey in achieving that trust and support was truly well written. This is one of the most feministic fantasy books I have ever read, and I admit we need more of this character positivity in the world. We need women everywhere to know that we should stand by each other, not tear one another apart for power.

On top of that, the ideology of true love and what it means gets addressed so well in this book. Mina who’s been chasing after love for so long will soon realise where true love resides and how Lynet plays a part in in it. Too often many of us believe that love only resides in relationships and Prince Charming. But Girls Made of Snow and Glass shows us that love can easily be found, if we see the beauty in each person instead of the bad.

“Weak or strong – she didn’t know what they meant anymore. Maybe they didn’t mean the same thing for everyone…”

Overall, a brilliant fairy tale retelling that will make you see the original story in a whole new light. With a brilliant new cast of characters and more magical scenes, Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a read not to be missed!

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

Modern Hijabis and Chickadees: a Review of Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

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Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication date: June 13th, 2017
Format: Hardback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 325

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Blurb:
Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

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This book is such a wonderful gem! I finished this almost 2 weeks ago, but work commitments have been crazy lately, so I apologize for this delayed review. I’m trying my best to get on top of my reviews from now on!

Saints and Misfits is just like any contemporary Young Adult novel: 16-year-old girl charting the waves of social expectations while trying to figure what she wants for herself. Additional bonus would be the fact that this is diverse read with a Muslim hijabi girl! Janna Yusof is such a beautiful soul, I wish I could pull her out of the pages and have long, inspiring talks deep into the night.

The plot was a bit slow in the beginning but it picked up pretty well by the middle of the book. We get to see how Janna’s mind and being matures as she faces her greatest fear. I love how well written Janna is in facing her insecurities and the ‘monster’. Everything felt so relatable. From the hypocritical religious characters to the wonderful family and friends that surround her, you will find something familiar in each character brought to you in Saints and Misfits.

It was so refreshing to see Janna being surrounded by such strong characters, such as her mom and older brother, and her best friends. Even her dad, who’s divorced from her mom, is so supportive of Janna! Teenage life can be so frustrating and every other YA book out there always comes with a troubled family or a depressing setting. While these conditions are important to be addressed in books, it was very nice to read Saints and Misfits which had such a positive environment. We definitely need more positive books like this!

Also, I love how Janna is friends with so  many non-Muslims that accept her for who she is and sees her beyond her hijab. Too often social media has made Islamophobia drive us into a sheltered shell where we assume every Westerner is out to get us, when that isn’t the case at all.

Being a Muslim myself, this book was super easy to relate with. Islamic fundamentals were introduced and briefly explained in the book. While Malaysia isn’t that strict about dating among Muslims, the conservative nature Janna’s religious society is still easily understandable and brings an air of familiarity.

Lastly, I have to give a special shout out to a few wonderful characters from the book. Sausan is this sassy niqabi whose personality defies the cloth surrounding her head and face. I love her badass nature and how she’s influenced Janna at the end of the book. Sarah is also a favourite of mine. I started out disliking her goody two shoes nature, but as the book progresses, we see a different side to her which makes us appreciate her a little more. And don’t get me started on Nuah! I have a new fictional crush and this guy hits all the right spots!

Overall, a wonderful light read about facing your unconventional fears, believing in your strength and the ability to make good decisions in life. It deals with hijab shaming and racism in small details, but overall, the book is about friendship and love. I implore you to pick this up as soon as you can because more people need to read this amazing book!

“In closing, I want to add clothing is cultural and Muslims belong to ALL cultures of the world…”

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

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An Epic Chinese Folklore Retelling: a Review of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F C Yee

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Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: August 8th, 2017
Format: Kindle eBook
Source: Personal
Page Count: 320

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Blurb:

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s bodacious transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn.

This epic YA debut draws from Chinese folklore, features a larger-than-life heroine, and perfectly balances the realities of Genie’s grounded high school life with the absurd supernatural world she finds herself commanding.

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is my book for #TheReadingQuest Challenge: A Book Based on a Myth

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The premise for this book drew me to reading it. That and the fact that I won a book in a giveaway and needed something based on a myth for #TheReadinQuest. Nevertheless, I have heard so many great things about this book.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is loosely based on the Chinese myth and folklore talkes of Sun Wukong the Monkey King and his journey with a group of magical beings in Journey to the West. I went into this book blind and found it a bit difficult to digest the stories since I’ve never been an audience to Chinese legend, nor have I watched cartoons based on them while growing up.

After a work colleague gave me a crash course on Sun Wukong and his magical staff, I found it a lot easier to understand the plot in this book. So a good tip would be to Google Sun Wukong and read a bit of description on what he’s about before reading this book. It’ll definitely help you appreciate the book more!

I love the main characters in this one; Genie and Quentin are the adorable duo set to fight off all the demons, or yaoguai as they’re known, recently released from Hell. And while Genie is preoccupied with her studies and getting into the Ivy Leagues, even though she’s only a sophomore damn her Asian-ness, she’s hardly in a position to say no when it comes to the safety of her family. She’s your typical Asian student with the slight oddity of being super tall. She has her flaws and insecurities, but they’re pretty minor in the book and I love her determination and hardheadedness for throwing a punch at anyone that pisses her off. I love me some badass female characters.

Quentin is this lovable geeky character who’s the total opposite of Genie. And of all the cliches in the world, they fall for each other. No surprise there. But his strong persona and by-the-book character makes him an interesting addition to the story. In this book, he is Sun Wukong himself who came back to Earth to find Genie and they plan to fight off the hundreds of demons. It was great to see how Quentin was reimagined in our society as Quentin Sun, despite having the few oddities of being a great mythical character.

The one of the two downsides of this book for me was its lack of details in the plot and supporting characters. I understand the fantastic duo have to fight around 108 demons and while they obviously didn’t do that in the length of a book, there was a lack of description surrounding their fights and battles with said demons.

Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for details. Not in excessive amounts, but just the right amount to allow me to appreciate the characters and their ordeals in dealing with challenges. How I felt while reading The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is that when a fighting scene comes up, it’s over in a page and a half. And I’m left wondering “What just happened? How did that end so fast??”. I understand how powerful these two characters are, but since I’m not familiar with the Chinese folklore tales, I’d have appreciated more descriptions of the demons’ features and powers. They all seemed generic to me: feast on human souls and tend to have ugly faces.

I would have loved a bit more backstory to Guanying and more scenes with Genie’s mom, Yunie and also Androu. I felt like they were sprinkled into the book to make it seem like Genie had a social life.

Asides from that, the Asian cliches had me cringing till no end! I understand the book is about bringing diversity to the YA reading pool, and while I’m glad YA is seeing more diverse characters, having a Chinese character who’s super smart, gets perfect grades and have parents who pressure her into getting the best university is a little bit too cliche for me. I’m Asian and I can’t really relate to Genie. Sure I studied hard and got good grades throughout school and college, but I know not all Asians are like this. And somehow in this book Genie gave off the vibe that every Asian in her school is just like her.

“So it’s true what they say huh?” asked Androu.
“What?” replied Genie.
“That Asian families aren’t affectionate?”

So here’s a shocking disclaimer for readers about to read this book: while the Chinese are Asians, not all Asians are Chinese!

Asides from these two shortcomings, I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more by the author. Who knows, with that ending in this book, there might even be a sequel? It’s definitely worth checking out The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. I truly enjoyed reading more about the Chinese folklores and mythical legends. They have such a variety of characters. And it’s a wonderful way to expose more diversity in the YA world!

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Welcome back to the Dreggs: a Review of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication date: September 26th, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 546

Series: Six of Crows #2

Read my review of Six of Crows here.

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Blurb:

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

After pulling off a seemingly impossible heist in the notorious Ice Court, criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker feels unstoppable. But life is about to take a dangerous turn—and with friends who are among the deadliest outcasts in Ketterdam city, Kaz is going to need more than luck to survive in this unforgiving underworld.

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Crooked Kingdom is my book for #TheReadingQuest Challenge: A Book With Magic in It

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“Has anyone noticed this whole city is looking for us, mad at us, or wants to kill us?”
“So?” said Kaz.
“Well, usually it’s just half the city.” 

Crooked Kingdom is the much anticipated sequel to Six of Crows, the infamous series of six delinquents from the Barrels’ toughest gang, the Dreggs. To be honest I couldn’t help but feel excited when I had the book in my hands, but waited 8 months before I actually read it. Runs away in shame.

After attempting the world’s riskiest heist and in possession of the most valuable prize, Kaz Brekker and his gang are faced with more trouble and danger as they try to win the game against Ketterdam’s most powerful and famous merchant.

While I mildly enjoyed Six of Crows, I’m glad Crooked Kingdom is a whole lot better than it’s predecessor and with good reasons.

We see more character developments with more emotional background in each character. We see more scheming and plotting on Kaz’s behalf. Many of which caught me by surprise. We get to see a budding relationship form between Matthias and Nina, which I loved. In contrast, the friendship between Inej and Kaz left me feeling…bland. I have little care for their feelings for each other in this whole series, and I’m aware of how unpopular this opinion is.

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.” 

Asides from that, the plot build up was really good. There’s a whole lot going on in this book and you better pay attention because what happens throughout the book will take you off guard. I have no idea how can so many things can occur in the span of 500 pages but that’s the thing about YA. Every form of disaster and tragedy is possible. Just when I thought one plan was going well, things got flipped over. It was frustrating at the worst of times, but impressive otherwise.

One of the most interesting aspects of this series is its lack of positive or heroic characters. Typical YA Fantasy series often times see good versus evil situations, but this series has so many terribly shades of grey in its characters. It repeatedly plays around with the cards of morality and survival.

“I don’t hold a grudge. I cradle it. I coddle it. I feed it fine cuts of meat and send it to the best schools. I nurture my grudges, Rollins.” 

I generally enjoyed this book, but was a little underwhelmed. I tried my best to refresh my mind from Six of Crows since I last read it over a year ago, but occasionally forgot some references made in Crooked Kingdom. And to be honest, the hype surrounding this book didn’t help. I had some high expectations starting the book, especially after reading The Thief, but glad I got to enjoy the book in its entirety.

 

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Overall, I’d recommend this series if you love action-packed novels with complicated and a diverse group of characters. You’ll definitely be sucked into the Grisha world and all of its glory.

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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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Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia, MPHOnline

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!