Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

The Girls is set in a world where there are three castes, Moon (reigning and demons), Paper (lower and human) and then Steel, a mix of the first two. Every year, eight girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. Lei is girl number nine. She’s forced back into the very place her mother was forced into years ago. Slowly, she learns the way of the palace, honing her skills to benefit the king’s comfort only. Until she falls in love.

Girls of Paper and Fire was surprising. I really enjoyed it a lot. Ngan’s storytelling skills are beyond amazing. It was so tense, and her writing is so elegant and smooth. The stakes are high in this, and I was quickly hooked from the first page. The vivid worldbuilding where Ngan creates this devastating but beautiful world and created characters that weave so well into it, and in all makes it an enchanting but compelling read.

I think the most powerful thing of this book is its message of self-empowerment and discovering one’s self while discussing classism and the objectification of women. Girls show the subtle way of how Ikhara, the fictional society, allows misogyny to flourish and aides its abuser by only viewing women as nothing but lesser beings. The Moon King is a disgusting man who uses his position of power to act out violence towards anyone around him. These girls groomed to believe they’re doing something good slowly come together and unravel the trauma they’re facing. Not everyone is exactly happy to be here. The strength of the friendship between all the Paper girls is beautiful – they grow into even stronger women and reclaim themselves and decide what they’re capable of.

Despite the moments of slowness, I would advise you to watch out for this new YA fantasy birthed from Asian mythology and Ngan’s own experiences from growing up in Malaysia. It’s a dazzling and immersive read with a pulse-racing conclusion that will leave you wanting more.


Goodreads | Amazon | Author

Content and warnings for rape, sexual assault, slavery, sex trafficking, loss of a loved one, murder, captivity, torture, branding, violence, physical abuse, graphic animal death, and war themes. (More to be added.)

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Review: Vicious (Villians #1)

Review: Vicious (Villians #1)

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Victor and Eli began as college roommates, almost friends, where curiosity leads to near-death experiences and development of supernatural powers. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison determined to exact revenge on his old friend. Both are armed with terrible controls, a product of their actions ten years prior, but who will survive? 

I think I’ve found a new favourite book. And I haven’t found one of them in a while. Vicious was a delightful surprise. I have never read a V.E (or Victoria) Schwab before, and Vicious sounded like the safest options out of all her books to try. And, is this what all her books are like? Because you can now count me in the Schwab hype train.

Vicious from the get-go was so different. A true twisted tale of a friendship gone wrong. Victor and Eli, former friends, now current foes, are reunited after Victor breaks out of prison for revenge. Both developed supernatural powers from experiencing near-death experiences. In their case, they forced it to happen to test a theory that Eli was developing. Eli believes his capability puts him above others and sees others like him as a rodent that must be exterminated. And Victor may be the only person that can stop him.

Victor and Eli both see themselves as the hero and the other the villain, but neither can be categorised as good or evil. And that’s what makes me them so appealing. Schwab really is a killer at this. The story unfolds in a way that would appear disorienting, but it’s deliberate, and it works well. The constant jumping back and forth between everything, it goes from their time at college, their time in prison before bouncing back to the present time.

Overall, I loved Vicious. It’s a grim tale that had me gripped from the beginning all the way to its sinister ending. A story of corruption with its evil moments and moments of sweetness that worked well. Extremely thrilling with a cast of complex characters, Vicious was a difficult book to put down and once finished, I never wanted it to end.


Goodreads | Amazon | Author

Content warning: self-harm, suicide, extreme violence, torture, murder.

Review: The Darkest Minds

Review: The Darkest Minds

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A sickness spreads across the United States, killing a majority of its children and leaving its survivors with something uncontrollable that has the government shaking in fear. Swiftly taken from their parents, children are quickly taken away and placed in rehabilitation camps. Ruby was ten when she learnt that suppressing her skill keeps her alive. Six years later, Ruby escapes and on the run to find others like her.

The Darkest Minds has such a captivating concept. It’s a shame that it is so painfully slow. I’ll give applause to Chubs and Suzume who technically saved this book for me. The two that stood out the most for me. Without them, I wouldn’t even question my decision to not finish this series.

There’s a lot of confusion, especially when it came to worldbuilding. They gain these powers and are then categorised according to how much of a threat they are. Maybe the reason why these powers happen are revealed later down the line in the series, but there’s not much to keep you hanging but just completely confused. How a world is seemingly wiped out but still existing in some places like normal despite having locked up a majority of its youth population.

What even was the point of the romance in this? Honestly, I give most romances the benefit of the doubt but like how did Ruby and Liam even happen. She spends most of her time ignoring him, which is fair enough, but then suddenly with no warning, they’re all over each other. I just don’t think enough space was given to develop these two the way they deserved.

The narrative is an actual snail pace after Ruby escapes the first camp. There are multiple flashbacks. And even when it’s at a point where it should speed up, it’s just chapter after chapter of them on the least exciting road trip in the world. There’s a couple of car chases scenes to give us the illusion that something is happening.

There is a lot of good to this book, it wasn’t exactly terrible, I think the pacing just dragged this book to hell for me. I don’t understand how a book with a lot of plot aspects that I usually enjoy disappoint me like this.

I’m sort of in the middle of this series right now. TDM didn’t really do much for to compel me to want to continue its series. The ending was a bit of disappointment considering it chucks Ruby straight back to where she was 15% of the novel. But there’s a lot to like, a bit and pieces of it was really intriguing to me. The variety of powers and the shocking treatment these children receive. The found family aspect was a sweet shining moment in the rest of the dullness. I’ll sit on it, for now, maybe I’ll be interested later down the line to finish the series.


GOODREADS | AMAZON AUTHOR

Content warning: Violence, sexual assault, murder, gun violence, physical violence, PTSD, unchallenged ableist language.

 

Review: The Book of M

Review: The Book of M

Rating: ★★★☆☆

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

A future where a global epidemic is spreading and causing the world’s population to lose their shadows and later their memories. Husband and wife duo Ory and Max have managed to hide from the brunt of the disasters. That is until Max loses her shadow. Armed with just a tape recorder to document her memories, Max leaves their abandoned hotel. And Ory sets out on a dangerous journey to reunite with his wife. The chapters alternate between the two and two others, another survivor and another person known as “The One Who Gathers.”

The Book of M is a messy read, and I mean that in a good way. A story where each chapter ends with another hundred questions to ask. We follow Ory and Max survive in different circumstances. Max is running anywhere Ory can’t find her and then goes in search with a group of people for a cure for her memory loss. Ory, in search of Max, ends up in various dangerous circumstances where he finally interacts with the world that he, up until now, had ignored under the safety of his area. He meets the good, the bad, makes new friends and finds old ones.

The Book of M was a strangely riveting read. The writing is vivid which compliments and adds the foreboding world building. The story starts with the world in an unknown position, and as the book switches between the four different perspectives, the world comes back to together, providing different views on a world almost forgotten. It read like a puzzle, one that slowly meshed together and once it did, it was an absolutely fantastic book to finish.

Overall, while I did have some issues with the pacing, especially towards the middle of the book, The Book of M was still an engaging and imaginative read.


GOODREADS | AMAZON BOOK DEPOSITORY

Content warning: blood, death, violence, the use of the “bury your gays” trope. I know I’m missing quite a bit but if you’ve read the book, please tell me if I’ve missed something out.

Review: Honor Among Thieves

Review: Honor Among Thieves

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

After getting into trouble, Zara Cole is surprising recruited into the Honors, a space program in which humans are carefully selected by a mysterious alien race who are formed like ships to explore the universe above and beyond humanity has ever gone. Zara takes the only chance that could save her life, but questions soon arise out of her presence on the elite program. And she quickly learns that space holds darker secrets than the ones back on earth.

I feel like this story grew on me. It took a while but certainly towards the end, it was much more enjoyable and exciting. There’s quite a lot of action as we watch Zara adapt to life in space and experience working with others. She’s used to watching her every step, not trusting the few she knows, now she’s trapped in space, relying on the help of her alien companion, Nadim, and human partner, Bea. I won’t say much about the central relation…ship. I’m not sure what is the best way to describe it, but it is very intense. These three has such a fantastic dynamic and were really engaging to watch them get to know each other. Bea is such an interesting secondary lead that I absolutely loved.

The cover and book description appeared to be a little different than what I actually read. It came across as having a Hunger Games vibe, especially in the beginnings, with how Zara is plucked from the ragtag areas of her city and propelled to Honor stardom felt like Katniss entering the Capitol.

Despite the slow start, there’s a lot of action in this series, and for the first in the series, I would say I’m interested in seeing how it will all play through. The world (or space) the authors have built is quite intriguing and appealing to read about. There’s a lot of questions I have to ask, but the ending definitely had me hooked. I think 3 stars suits the best for how  I feel about the book at the moment but I do believe this series has the potential to thrive in future books.


GOODREADS |BOOK DEPOSITORY | AUTHOR SITE

Content warning: child abuse, violence, mass murder. (If you’ve read the series and felt like I’ve missed something out, please tell me!)

Review: The Gauntlet

Review: The Gauntlet

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Barely adjusting to her new home in the Upper East Side, Bangladeshi-American kid Farah finds herself sucked into the game of The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand after her younger brother, Ahmad, vanishes into the game. Alongside her friends, she must complete three challenges and failure to win will trap them- and Ahmad- forever.

I’ve been anticipating this book since Salaam Reads was first announced. And I can definitely confirm that this book was so worth the wait.

I really, really enjoyed the world building and game design. The way the story is mapped out is really brilliant. I hope to, maybe, see a graphic novel of this series somewhere down the line because of the Middle Eastern and South Asian influences Raizi had made a very dazzling and creative world. The way the world moves in pieces like a game was so pretty to imagine.

Farah is pretty headstrong and a loveable lead who is very aware of her own weaknesses. She’s constantly struggled with her want to ditch the challenge in search of her brother versus her need to navigate her and her friends out of the game. And she works alongside her friends to complete each challenge. Their friendship is very cute and they work well together, recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They’re all very intuitive and logical in situations that would have me in tears. (ahah)

I think the only downside was the lack of characterisation for Essie and Alex. Farah’s character comes out really strongly and the other two do come across as being more archetypes rather than their own persons. Also, its cultural aspects were so adorable and great to read. While the world seems almost alien to her friends, Essie and Alex, Farah finds familiarity in it and so did I. I wished this book existed when I was a kid.

Overall, it’s a solid fantasy debut in an exciting game world. At its heart, a story of family and friendship, making it a great for any young readers.


GOODREADS |BOOK DEPOSITORY | AUTHOR SITE