Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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

After growing up under the watchful eye of her wealthy benefactor, Cornelius Locke, who employs her father to travel the world in search of unique oddities and treasures to add to his growing collection, January Scaller can’t help but feel part of the furniture: well kept but mostly ignored. However, when her father disappears, she discovers a book that sends her into the new worlds which lay behind secret doors. With an unlikely crew including the grocer’s son and a mysterious woman hired by her father, January begins her search which will ultimately question what she knows and the world around her.

It’s been a few days between finishing the book and writing the review you read now, and I’m kept thinking about it. So I’m not even sure how to explain what worked so well with this book. I didn’t even have any expectations for this book, and its cover mainly enticed me. However, when I finished reading, I was utterly enthralled. The open concept of the story seems so simple, but Harrow does such a great job at making it so unique, spinning a tale of love and loss and finding yourself after a long time. The characters stood so well on their own, but when they come together, they are a team to adore. This book is what I’d call a quiet read: nothing loud nor brutal. Harrow creates such an atmospheric tone that shone through this book entirely. As a child, a common daydream of mine was finding doors to new worlds, so January’s journey truly felt like a love letter to my own childhood dream. 

January is a young girl who feels lost until she accidentally discovers a book that opens her world beyond the Locke estate. Set in the early 1900s, January is aware of her privilege and her ability to live a life of wealth that most mixed-race girls would never have been granted. I also appreciated that the book didn’t shy away from racism, classism and sexism, especially for the period its set in. She discovers the existence of Doors that open into new worlds and learns about the true circumstance of her family history. Reading this book felt quite dreamlike, the writing so lyrical and immersive, a calling to those who wish to wander to lands beyond our wildest dreams. 

January as our protagonist is incredible, a fish out of water and must survive on her own for the first time in her life. I felt for her need to leave and discover life on her own terms. Jane, hired by January’s father, is equally compelling. Samuel, the grocer’s son, is lacking in characterisation but can’t really give it much fault as he isn’t as crucial to the story as the two leading ladies. The book also follows two others: Adelaide and Yule Ian, two people who cross many worlds to find each other, their story the most heartbreaking in my opinion. The villains are corrupted, faceless men who move in the shadows they have created, and are hellbent on making sure January doesn’t bring a flame to their power. 

Overall, I adored the Ten Thousand Doors of January. A charming and magical adventure about a girl who persevers in the face of resistance. A story I didn’t know I needed, but I will appreciate for a long time. 


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#YARC2019 – Progress update!

#YARC2019 – Progress update!

Hello and welcome to my update on my progress of the Year of the Asian 2019 (#YARC2019) reading challenge. If you’re new and don’t know what that is, I’ll link to my sign up post with all the important details. But the basics of this challenge is to simply read books by Asian authors. What I love about this challenge is that it’s not much of a challenge for me. My main reading goals, in general, is to read diversely and what I appreciate about #YARC2019 is its simplicity. I’m already reading books by Asian authors and this just challenge allows me to monitor those numbers closely. 

Green and blue award badge with a Malaya Tapir in the center, and with three gold stars above the award.
credit: thequietpond

My biggest update is that I finally reached my 30th book, meaning I’ve completed my intended reading tier which was the Malayan Tapir (21-30 books). You can check out my progress tracker here, which includes all the books I’ve read and links to ones that have reviews!

My favourite reads of this challenge so far have been:

Anyway, sorry for the short post, but I just wanted to make a quick update! I start my final year of university soon so I’m glad I managed to hit my tier before the madness of third-year truly kicks in! Thanks for reading and good luck to anyone else partaking! 


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Review: Kick The Moon

Review: Kick The Moon

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

After being told that brown kids can’t be superheroes, Ilyas creates his own one. PakCore is made from his own blood, sweat, and tears who continued to grow beside him. Now fifteen, Ilyas is under pressure. GCSE exams looming, his dad wants him to take over the family business and his friends don’t care because their crew, DedManz, is for life. Until he’s serving detention and meets Kelly, who is just as fed up as he is, however, the protection that their detention provides won’t last forever and Ilyas must face the consequences or risk losing the only person who gets him. But standing up isn’t as easy as the comic books say. 

Kick The Moon was promising, and like Khan’s debut, falls flat before the book could even kick-off. This story had so much potential and that I’m disappointed in myself for not enjoying it. The narratives explore a lot of important themes like racism, sexism, toxic masculinity, peer pressure through the life of a 15-year-old Pakistani Muslim boy. That information alone made me disregard my dislike for Khan’s debut and give this one a shot, but I honestly couldn’t get to grips with this one. The story just didn’t work for me. Despite being quite eventful, I just couldn’t engage with the text. A lot of it was underwhelming and tried too hard to fit so much into not much space. I couldn’t feel invested in the story, regardless.

Stereotyping and dialogue was the main issue for me in his debut and that really continues into Kick The Moon. The entire cast of characters was just awful and continues to play into stereotypes without a slight bit of originality. Illyas’s father is overbearing and is textbook toxic masculinity, his older sister seems way too immature for her age, and everyone else was literally plucked straight from hell. (Okay, maybe the teachers were more realistic because I’ve had horrid teachers my entire life.) Perhaps it was a writing choice, but considering the context of the book, it needed to be better. Imran is our villain for the novel, and he was the only one that made sense to be terrible the way he is. Using the idea that he’s a successful sports player, therefore do no wrong is such a common thing that happens in school. It may seem unbelievable but it’s actually quite common for boys like him to have much power in his circle and no one believes anything terrible about him. There was an opportunity to have a discussion about toxic masculinity, especially within the SEA Muslim communities, but it’s a shame it wasn’t introduced despite the groundworks that were laid. 

Overall, Kick The Moon was way too exaggerated and stereotypical to be remotely enjoyable. I commend any form of representation but I hated putting myself through this book. Many for a younger reader, this would be more up their alley and could gain more from this, but I won’t be rushing to recommend this book to anyone. Moreover, after another disappointing read, I don’t think I’ll be reading anything else from Khan in the foreseeable future. 


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Review: This Time Will Be Different

Review: This Time Will Be Different

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

When her mother decides to sell their family flower shop, a rift forms in the Katsuyama household. CJ’s mother wants to forgive and forget, but her free-spirited aunt is adamant that the store will pull through, and selling it to the family who swindled their grandparents during the Japanese internment is unthinkable. Unable to live up to her mother’s high expectations, CJ has always gone with the flow, found peace in arranging flowers, but now she has something she wants to fight for. 

This Time Will Be Different‘s primary focus is whether should history just stay in the past. CJ and her friends certainly don’t think so and try their hardest to get people to be held accountable. The current McAllister may not have been the ones to have personally stolen, but they reap the benefit of their generational wealth to this present day, while those who lose out are faded to a distant memory. It’s why her aunt refuses to let the McAllister buy their store who would just use the space for their benefit, again. 
CJ’s family unit is quite complicated. She’s stuck between her mother’s fierce ambition and her aunt’s chill behaviour, which places her in a middle ground where she must choose whether to focus on the future or trust with her heart. I really appreciated the ways Sugiura brought the Katsuyama household to life. CJ feels like she can never catch her to what her mother expects, and that’s such a universal feel, and I really enjoyed how Sugiura portrayed those moments of vulnerability within CJ. 

CJ is unique, to say the least. She lacks confidence through much of the novel and grows into her self-realisation as she begins to address her own trauma and prejudices. She’s not great at communicating, which leads to her bottling everything up until they come out too extreme. She isn’t driven the way her mother would prefer and uses her feeling of failure to protect herself, which I found quite relatable. However, I have to say; I didn’t really like her attitude for much of the novel. Her pettiness ruins many things for herself and others around her. 

I think the most disappointing aspect of this book was how it was all over the place, and the focus isn’t really there. One moment, it’s about the flower shop, the next, it’s about them discovering the land their highschool resides on is also a property that was defrauded the same way CJ’s grandparents were. Moreover, then that takes over the entire novel as the students’ rally to change the name of their school, the flower shop is placed on the back burner until it’s needed again. That being said, there’s a lot of discussion within this novel, which I appreciated: racism, sexism, model minority myth, and white saviour complex. And with an open ending and little closure, I was hoping everything to be reined in more and have a stronger focus. 

Overall, This Time Will Be Different is a compelling read, shining a light on a history that shouldn’t be forgotten. Despite my own thoughts, this book is well deserved and succeeds in multiple ways. A novel of memories and history and whether we can genuinely learn from our mistakes, or are we doomed to repeat them all with little reflection. I would recommend this to most contemporary lovers that enjoy stories about social justice and how to make a difference on a small scale. 


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Review: Verify

Review: Verify

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (1/5)

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

Meri Beckley is forced on the run when she discovers the world she lives in isn’t as truthful as she was thought it was. Months after the death of her artist mother, Meri tries to understand her mother’s thoughts in her unfinished pieces. Then one day, someone thrusts a piece of paper in her hands with one world: verify. There she discovers questions no one is willing to answer and learns a history that she didn’t know existed. However, the government is close on her tail, and she has no choice but to fight back. 

This book is a mess. I’m actually surprised that this book is being published in the state that it is in. If this was 2013, Verify could have stood a chance in the dystopian young adult market, but right now, it’s nothing new and falls exceptionally flat. I really wish I could say this book just wasn’t for me, another reader might like it, but I honestly can’t in good faith recommend this book to anyone. 

Meri Beckley discovers the government is censoring anything that doesn’t align with their views. She learns of a secret organisation whose primary role is to remind the world of the history they have forgotten, but their work is continuously halted by secret government agents which snatch members off the street, never to be seen again. Meri meets Atlas, whose father ran [org name] but went missing, and takes the risk of reaching out to Meri in hopes that her mother might’ve passed some information before her death. 

The plot’s conflict was all over the place, and it doesn’t really settle on anything. It felt somewhat stretched out to become a duology because there is no shred of resolution that felt like the first novel was finished. This world is ridiculously dull, and the lack of stakes just made me laugh. Nothing really keeps you rooting for Meri, and we’re told how to feel, rather than seeing. The book’s climax where Meri and the others spread their message all over the city felt uninspiring. Meri is hopeless, she learns of a secret organisation where certain words can trigger the police to come after you, but she continues to act reckless, and we’re supposed to believe in the space of like a week, she is suddenly a key player in this “revolution” when she’s done nothing but cause trouble.

She’s a paper lead, with no personality, no reason or spark to root for her. The secondary characters were so forgettable, existing for scenes where they’re needed and quickly discarded. A love interest that I just felt terrible for, honestly, and there was zero connection between them. I had to laugh when they kiss in the middle of their vital life or death mission. Honestly, this entire book was so underwhelming that nothing could really save it. 

Verify is set far enough in the future that the government can easily remove everyday words from our vocabulary to the point where no one knows how to pronounce them. Paper usage is frowned upon and illegal to own. In this universe, much of the world’s darkest history is erased. But the only thing parts of history the book relies on is the Underground Railroad and WW2. I would’ve loved to see Meri reflect on the history and what happened during those times. But it’s very vague and doesn’t even talk about them at all. If you’re going to use specific elements from history, the least you could do is acknowledge them in your books, rather than being vague.

Overall, I can see what this book is trying to do, in a digital era, information is distorted and unverified information has the potential to do great ruin in our lives. But this entire book was unclear and not at all enjoyable to read, which is such a shame because its premise is so important. I don’t think this book is worth reading. 

If you want to read a YA book about the power of information and censorship, I’d suggest The Great Library series by Rachel Caine. (It’s not at the forefront like Verify, and it’s more fantasy aligned)


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Double Review: Shadow of the Fox and Soul of the Sword

Double Review: Shadow of the Fox and Soul of the Sword

Double rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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

Shadow of the Fox follows young Yumeko who is forced on the run when her temple is destroyed by demons in search of a piece of an ancient text which summons one wish once every thousand years. With nothing but her kitsune powers, she teams up with a samurai who wields a demon-possessed sword and is unaware the very thing he’s searching for is hidden within the folds of Yumeko’s clothes.

This book was quite fascinating. Inspired by feudal Japan, I found Shadow of the Fox quite refreshing in the first chapters. It’s a great mix of samurai fighting, demon magic and folklore. Every thousand years, a dragon returns to grant one wish to the bearer of its scroll. Fearful of its power, the scroll ripped and scatted across the lands. Yumeko is a kitsune who was taught to hide from her abilities, making her quite a naive little child in the beginning chapters. But once evil descends on her temple, she is thrown right out of her comfort zone and into the real world where foes are at her every step, and every village seems to be hiding a secret that can kill. Tatsumi is our brooding love interest, who fears that he’s unable to carry the sword he wields.

The rest of the group that ends up in Yumeko’s journey are the highlight of this series. Despite the dark theme, they’re quite cheeky and unique that provides a strange presence of entertainment that I hadn’t expected from the book.

Despite enjoying their group dynamic, their mini-adventure detracts from the main plot for a vast majority of this book that felt quite formulaic. Yumeko and Tatsumi are clearly on opposite ends of each other, and their journey was just one long love angst that I didn’t really have much interest in. While I really enjoyed Yumeko’s growth and it felt like it kept digressing a lot. There’s a lot of switching up: one minute she’s naïve, and the next page she’s cunning before returning to appearing like a common fool for the sake of the comedic moment. The inner struggle between Tatsumi and the sword deserved more than what we’re given.

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