Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

The Labyrinth has been humanity’s home for a long as Kai could remember. Despite the damp and discomfort, it is home. That is until her adopted brother, Reev, disappears and keeping her head down isn’t an option anymore. Kai must come to terms with her ability to manipulate time and unravel her past before she loses her future.  

I really enjoyed this a lot more than I expected! I had some initial shortcomings maybe because the title put me off a lot, but I genuinely had a good time reading this.

The fantasy world was substantial. I guess I would’ve liked more on the creation of gargoyles, but the world is rather exciting and inventive. Humanity lives inside this walled off city now named Ninurta, with fractions of communities of differing wealth. We slowly learn throughout the book about the use of magic, how it destroyed the world we once knew, and how it manifests in different beings.  It’s sort of post-apocalyptic with a magical twist. I really enjoyed that fact that it’s given to us in paces because the amount that is needed to create this world, it just wouldn’t have been right to info-dump it all.

I really enjoyed Kai as a protagonist. She’s very headstrong, and I liked that she was very sure about what she wanted from the get-go and was very adamant that nothing was going to get in her way. I really loved Avan as well. Maybe not as a love interest but as a friend to Kai, who you can clearly see these two cared for each other and were willing to anything to keep each other safe. Their friendship was delightful, and I was expecting it to be held more platonic, but the romance wasn’t as bad as it could’ve gone nor did it dominate and overtake the actual plot.

The twist that comes towards the end had me thoroughly shocked. I was initially confused because I genuinely was not expecting the way the plot just shifts so suddenly into something we weren’t necessarily informed about. The ending was a complete 360 from the original set up. But the twist did introduce some new characters that I am indeed very interested in and brought some of the secondary characters to the forefront again. I’m reading the sequel as I’m writing this and I enjoy how the story is progressing from here.  

I listened to the audiobook, though I did swap to the e-book on chapters where it wasn’t available, I think the audiobook made the reading experience more enjoyable. I really loved the voice actor for the book who did an outstanding job at not only bring Kai’s story to life but gave a real warmth to the secondary characters.

Overall, Gates of Thread and Stone was pretty solid and fun to read. It isn’t jumping to the top of my favourites list, but it is a contender. The world and story were amusing and exciting that I do have high hopes for how this series will play out in the end.


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Review: Internment

Review: Internment

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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

Set in a horrifying future, where the United States has forced all Muslim American citizens into an internment camp, seventeen-year-old Layla must find help inside and out to lead a revolution against the camp’s cruel director.

I engulfed this book. Really. I started reading at 11 pm and didn’t put my phone down until I checked the time when I was done, and it was 2 am. Internment is timely to our ongoing xenophobic climate where a Muslim ban like the one in this book isn’t as fictional as people would think. Muslims are rounded up, their books are burnt, and their bodies are coded. Layla and her family are swiftly rounded up in California, but she refuses to let herself be hidden away like this. She begins to lash out but quickly learns that resistance is death in the eyes of the camp director.

I loved Layla so much. Despite her fears, she carries on, even though she has no idea what she’s doing and everything she does know can come crashing down in seconds if the Director discovers her plans.

Internment focuses on the younger generation, and how they all band together to fight the injustice, they’re experiencing. Layla quickly makes friends, and they all work together to bring attention to their situation and put an end to the unfair treatment within the camps and bring an end to them. Their friendships are one of the book’s main strength. Even when they’re divided into the camp, with the Director doing the most to make them turn on each other, they rise together to uplift everyone’s voices.

The book shines the most when it brings awareness of how this has happened before, and how turning away from history can only bring devastating actions. Layla recalls her history lessons of WWII and Japanese internment and shows how easy oppressive entities can enact destructive acts on marginalised communities.

I’m not sure how to put this into words, but it felt somewhat incomplete? Like the world felt lacking. All we know is that a full-on Muslim ban has been enacted where they must be home by a particular time, they are unable to work, and even Layla’s father’s literature was being burned at book burnings. It was all too frightening to read knowing easily true this can come. The book is marketed as a “fifteen minutes into the future” so I assume our current knowledge is supposed to fill the gaps, but I wished there was more to it. I hoped there was more detail to certain things like the camp and motivation behind secondary characters. There are certain characters who I don’t think they get the right amount of time to understand them. And because of this, certain aspects do come across as comical.

Overall, despite my own personal shortcomings with this book, I still found it gripping and authentic. Can I say how much Ahmed has improved from her debut? She’s definitely an author to watch everyone! A gripping narrative about the internment of Muslims and Layla’s journey to understanding and combating xenophobia and racism. A brilliant book for younger readers and I definitely recommended reading this book.


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Mini-review: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

Mini-review: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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

A group of girls find themselves stranded on an island on a sleepaway camp. The Lost Girls recounts that fateful day that was supposed to be an adventure for all, soon turns dark and no way home. And no one else knows where they are.

Ah, this was very disappointing. It starts off very strong with all these girls who join this camp but then find themselves trapped on an island and must fight for their survival. The chapters interchange with a POV from one of the girls when they’re on the island and years after the incident occurs. Quickly, the book loses momentum and makes this interesting story about how trauma impacts an individual long after the initial event rather unsatisfying.

The After scenes were actually quite good and peaked my interested quite a lot. And so were the Before scenes but, together, it doesn’t read as cohesive as I would’ve preferred. The lack of connection we have to their past, I think, affects the entire novel. It’s a very disjointed read.

I know this review seems very negative, but I still found this book quite a standout. A lot didn’t work for me in this book but everything else was rather engrossing. Like I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the exploration of how past events emerge long after they’ve happened. Some of these girls seemingly recover, but not everyone does. I really appreciated the characters and their personalities. I did find some point of views more engaging than others. But all their voices shine through despite my predisposition with the novel. I’ll definitely want to read more from Kim Fu.


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Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

*Review includes major spoilers*

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything past a few hours and relies on the scribbles on her hand and the people around her. Until she kisses a boy, she shouldn’t and remembers it. But he’s gone now, and that’s all she can remember.

Oh, how do I feel about this? A large part of me was enjoying this book, to begin with despite the rather odd plot, but overall, I didn’t care for this. I kind of feel bad since it was pretty intriguing, but so much little things irked me that when stacked up, my reading experience wasn’t very good.

With a plot like this, it is no doubt very repetitive, and for some, it can be boring. I quite like it in a sense with the stop and start motions. It’s practically a collection of mini-stories where Flora has to repeat herself constantly. I think that part was done in a way that it didn’t feel completely lacking for me. On her hands are the words “Be brave,” and she is an impressive character to do what she does which such bravery.

I know suspension of disbelief is crucial to read this book, especially with this plot, but there’s a lot that I couldn’t just ignore. Like how Flora’s parents think it’s okay to leave their daughter with her best friend for a week. Sure, Paige knows what to do, but that’s a lot of responsibility to place on her. And I wasn’t even mad when Paige said her mum didn’t agree with it because it’s true, you don’t leave her amnesiac daughter with her only friend for a week. How social service did not catch wind of that is beyond me.

Paige isn’t off the hook either since Flora kisses Paige’s ex-boyfriend and, fair enough, she’s upset. It’s normal to be upset when your best friend kisses your boyfriend. But it’s even more reckless to not stay with Flora when she had already agreed with Flora’s parents. Like she just doesn’t even tell Flora’s parents that she’s not coming. Like, WHAT. Putting your friend’s life at risk was just SO BAD. In the end, Paige does what’s right, but it was still unsettling how she knowingly left her friend in danger for the sake of her own empowerment.

Also, Flora’s brother! He’s very much an enigma throughout the novel, whose real story doesn’t come to light until the very last chapters. And that was so disappointing. HE DESERVED BETTER.

Drake doesn’t deserve so much as a couple of lines. I don’t think it was appropriate to have a 19-year-old boy go after a 17-year-old girl who amnesia makes her still think she’s ten-years-old. Fuck that dude.

I’ll stand by this final point. The book should’ve ended where it began. It had Everything, everything vibes and where it ends is where the story becomes more interesting. We learn that Flora’s parents lied about the cause of her amnesia and they’re too scared to let her grow, so they give her drugs which make her more controllable. It ends with Flora learning that her amnesia could go away and leaving her parents to begin discovering herself. A story from there would’ve been more interesting. Or better, a better plot would’ve been replacing boyfriend with brother. Like, Flora remembers a memory of her brother and goes in search of him despite her parent’s disapproval. Honestly, anything apart from having to read about creepy Drake would’ve been worth my time.

Overall, this book followed the wrong parts, in my opinion. There’s so much to Flora that could’ve been uncovered more, but we got stuck with the love plot instead.


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Review: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Review: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Amal is sixteen when she decides to wear the hijab full time. But she soon faces trouble at her exclusive prep school. Suddenly, everyone seems to have an opinion on her. And as she begins navigating her last years of secondary school, she must find herself without losing her identity.

I think regarding the representation of a hijabi teen, it’s actually quite good. Amal reminds me of my cousin who is actually her age right now. The high school drama, the catty people, and the confusion that comes with growing up are portrayed quite realistically. When she comes to school wearing the hijab, everyone’s confused, and because they’re all children, it’s natural to ask questions. I only say this because a lot of reviews tend to call this part unrealistic. Amal is, at first, outcasted momentarily because they didn’t understand, and she then actually helps and informs her peers. Sure, there’s a lot of scenes that come across unrealistic, but her experiences are entirely valid, and loads of reviews haven’t really grasped that, once you consider the time it’s set in and location. Quite a lot of what Amal experiences were quite familiar to me.

Amal is very well-spoken, confident, and incredibly charming. I was rather proud at this young Muslim girl, who also wears the hijab, and was confident in her decision to do so. I don’t think I even had a shred of her self-confidence at this age.

I listened to the audiobook, so I don’t know what it’s like reading the book, but I felt like I had some issue differentiating some characters. She has like four friends, and along with huge dialogue dumps, it felt all the same. I’m not sure if that’s just the narrator’s voice. There’s also a reliance on a lot of typical stereotypes, and there’s a lot of phrases that are used that just didn’t sit with me. Also, sorry to Amal, I couldn’t see she liked Adam so much. But you do you, I guess. I actually preferred Amal and Adam as a friend. There was also a good potential for an arc with one of Amal’s friends who is often bullied for her weight. I was holding onto something more empowering, but I don’t think the book really hit the mark there. Amal and Leila’s polar opposite arcs can come across as being typical but do partially agree about having something more in the middle. Also, mean girl who is mean and nothing else was a bit boring.

Considering when this book first came out, I have to give Randa Abdel-Fattah a massive amount of respect. Don’t expect this book to teach you everything about Islam, it’s merely one girl’s story, one where’s she learning. It does come across preachy at some moments, but in the end, Amal realises her mistakes and begins to show that she’s learning and growing, which is what I really liked.

Overall, it’s a somewhat entertaining book, and very hilarious at many moments. Regarding recommending, I’m not too sure. If I had read this ten years ago, the list of Muslims in YA wouldn’t have reached half a page, then sure, but reading it in 2019 is a much different experience. But it’s a straightforward book to listen to. A light-hearted journey of identity and discovering one’s self.


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Review: Furthermore

Review: Furthermore

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

In Ferenwood, colour is everything, but Alice Queensmeadows is devoid of it all. And that makes her different, outcasted, even in her own family. Three years after her father’s disappearance, the only person who believed in her, Alice joins a journey into the perils of Furthermore to find him.

Alice hides in her colourful clothes and bangles. And with her upcoming Surrender, the ceremony in which the younger generation of Ferenwood are given a role based on their magical abilities. Alice’s Surrender goes wrong which leads her to join Oliver through the world of Furthermore.

Alice has no choice but to team up with a past friend, Oliver, who is given the job to find her father. And he needs her help. Oliver takes her to Furthermore, a rule changing world, where one mistake will have you lost forever. Oliver is a gifted and strict while Alex is reckless and free-spirited. They begin at odds, but their friendship is forged quite quickly as they face fast-paced adversity. The way they bounce off each other was rather exciting. Their friendship was adorable, and I really enjoyed their development.

This is a fantastic Middle-grade read! I wish something like this existed when I was ten and discovering fantasy. While I fumbled with the world-building at first, the visuals are rather captivating. This book deserves its own graphic novel. The current cover is enough to justify it. It’s very adventurous, with its twisted logic, and Alice’s inner journey of self-love and friendship is fantastic.

Like I said, the world building was a bit confusing, to begin with, it makes more sense in the end, but I would’ve appreciated more clarity in the beginning. But the setting is so unique and thrilling. The eccentricity of all it all was somewhat entertaining. Mixed with its oddity of background characters, there is a lot to love in this book. I’m slightly disappointed in myself that kept putting this book off because I was not a massive fan of Tahereh’s Shatter Me series. I had learnt that quite a lot of other people shared this sentiment which I can now say, give Furthermore a shot, even if you didn’t like Shatter Me.

Overall, Furthermore is impressive. A story of loss and recovery, one of Tahereh’s more unique novels which show Alice and Oliver negotiate the harsh landscape of Furthermore and discover more about themselves. It’s fun, vibrant and imaginative! A definitely recommended read, especially for younger readers.


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