Short Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

Short Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

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.*

Inspired by the 2006 films, for those who haven’t watched it, Pan’s Labyrinth is set in WW2 Spain. Where a young girl named Ofelia discovers a dense forest and a labyrinth of secrets, which sets her off on a series of tasks to reclaim her place as the missing princess.

Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the first movies I can recall watching as a child. I knew I was too young because Pan and the Pale Man haunted my dreams for years to come after watching it. And this book really brought all that fear back into me. Funke and del Toro have come together and created this dark novel that follows the film while also developing the folklore of the world.

The book rarely strays from the movie, following Ofelia as she moves into a new home after her mother remarries. She’s enticed by the faun that makes everything seem like a page out of her stories. The faun reveals that Ofelia is their princess, reincarnated, who must complete three tasks before she can return home. With her mother barely surviving her pregnancy, and her step father’s cruelty turns darker and darker, Ofelia is swept into a dangerous world that exists within the labyrinth and the world outside her door.

To adapt such a movie into a written story is no ordinary feat and del Toro and Funke really work well together and recraft the narrative to recreate a dark and mesmerising tale. My favourite addition was the interspersed folklore tales that developed the underworld that Ophelia seeks. I was mainly worried about this book just merely rehashing the movie plot, but this story will definitely be a treat to fans and newcomers alike.


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Review: All the Things We Never Said

Review: All the Things We Never Said

Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5/5)

*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.*

This is not a spoiler-free review. Content warning: Suicide (suicidal thoughts, discussion of ways to die by suicide, including two on the page attempts), sexual assault (implied and attempted rape on the page). More to be added…

Three different teenage girls join a website (MementoMori.com) that matches people and allocates them a shared date where they must die by suicide together. As they prepare for their final days, they slowly realise they don’t want to go through with it anymore, but the website won’t let them.

All the Things We Never Said (ATTWNS) is hard. Honestly, I found this such a difficult book to read. This is definitely a book to check for trigger warnings before picking it up because while I don’t suffer any of the issues that the main characters suffer with, it was just so emotionally draining, which is why I rated it a three, but I do believe the overall content is worthier of four. (4/5)

As mentioned before, ATTWNS follows the lives of three completely different girls.

Mehreen, a Bangladeshi girl who suffers from anxiety and depression which manifests into something she calls The Chaos. She always feels like she doesn’t fit in with her Muslim family and community. Cara suffers from the guilt of surviving a car accident which resulted in her dad’s death and her being in a wheelchair. Olivia looks picture perfect but is hiding the fact her mother’s boyfriend is abusing her.

With nothing in common but the website, these three girls come together to plan their joint suicide together. Tasked with a to-do list from MementoMori, the girls must submit evidence to completion. But slowly, these girls become friends and see good help in each other. They grow to depend on each other positively, and they bond so well. Each chapter was very distinct and showcased their varied personalities. Mehreen is more collected, Cara is loud, and Olivia is quite challenging to pin down. But they all worked together, and they realise how they all bring the best of each other out of themselves. Sure, they mess up, and that’s chalked up to just being young and inexperienced and being afraid to ask for help.

Overall, ATTWNS is quite the page-turner. The way MementoMori terrorises them was horrifying. And it’s not something that’s completely detached from real life, the way people online use people’s insecurities to gain pleasure is terrifying. (see: Blue Whale or Momo Challenge – both hoaxes but still dangerous) I appreciated that this story highlights stuff like that while also treating it sensitively and realistically.  


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Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl

Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl

I apologise in advance. 😂 I took a semi-hiatus because of assignments and I ended up writing these during that hiatus so these reviews aren’t written up the standard I would usually prefer.

The Paper & Hearts Society

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

*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.*

A young teen moved to a new town and discovered a book club that pushes her out of her comfort zone.

Honestly, this was a little disappointing, considering how positive the reviews were for this book. I really wanted to love this book, but this book was just not for me. This is a story I would say good in concept, but the execution was so bland.

I have no issues with references to certain things, but this book really overdid it with the book mentions. Like I genuinely thought this book would’ve collapsed on itself if it didn’t mention another book. Yes, this is a book about a book club. But the way it was written was definitely meant to namedrop, which I don’t have an issue with, but it just wasn’t smooth.

A majority of the book is:
Tabby/ Anyone else: Oh, wow. I love [book title] by [author]! Spends a couple of lines on how great it is.

A lot of the books mentioned were prevalent Young Adult/ Contemporary novels. I understood wanting to celebrate UKYA, but I found myself rolling my eyes a lot of it because it was so just so cringey.

I also found the characters to be quite snobby at some points. And a lot of them act as if reading is such a weird thing that makes them different. Like, you know when people say “Am I the only one who does [something that everyone does]?” Tabby and some of the others all tends to give off that similar vibe, and it was just a little frustrating.

Continue reading “Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl”

Review: Summer Bird Blue

Review: Summer Bird Blue

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 her younger sister, Lea, dies in a car accident, Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Wracked with survivor’s guilt, Rumi doesn’t know how to begin coping. Far from home and without her sister, Rumi is angry. But with the help of her new neighbours, Rumi finds her way back to reconnect with music and her sister.

This story was just absolutely incredible. It’s intense and emotional. I was genuinely captivated by Rumi’s journey as we follow her from a very vulnerable place and watch grow in her healing journey. She begins the story in a very angry place, her mother had abandoned her, and now she’s in an unknown place. Memories are scattered in scenes which reveal her past and demonstrate how everything led to Hawaii. While they read a little abruptly at some moments, I loved what they showed. They really built into Rumi’s past with her family and allow Lea to fully flourish into her own despite never actually appearing in the current time.

What captured me the most about this book is how Rumi uses music to deal with her grief. At first, she’s very reluctant to keep music at bay but returns to it to fulfil her final promise to her sister. Music has so much power in this novel, and that was one aspect that I really appreciated. 

I feel like Rumi will anger a lot of readers. There’s a certain expectation of how grief should be portrayed, usually a constant state of sadness. And Rumi isn’t like that all the time, she’s angry, rightfully so, and she’s hugely expressive and says everything unabashedly. I just hope no one interprets her grief as her being a “Bad” character. Also, the parent-child relationship here is rather interesting, and I enjoyed the different take on the usual “strong parent who is there for their child” type I’m so used to reading about.

Amid everything, one subplot follows Rumi as she questions her own sexuality, and she later identifies as asexual which is pretty amazing to read considering how ace characters in YA are severely underrepresented.

I love books that have large friendship groups where everyone truly cares for each other, and Summer Bird Blue gave us just that. Rumi meets Kai, her neighbour, and later meets Hannah, Gareth and a whole bunch of others who genuinely care for each other. I would have loved to have seen more of them. There’s also her elderly neighbour, George Watanabe, and I had such sheer joy while reading about them doing such simple things. His own story is heart-breaking.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was just so heartfelt and emotional, especially the last quarter had me in tears. A story about a girl exploring her grief, but also a story about family and friendship. A brilliant character-driven novel that really hit all the right notes .


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Review: The Year After You

Review: The Year After You

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.*

Almost a year after a car accident that derailed Cara’s life, her mother enrolls her into Hope Hall, for her final year. Miles away from anyone who knows her, on a secluded boarding school in the Alps, Cara intends to keep her past a secret. But the one thing she didn’t account for was the students of Hope Hall.

When I think random boarding school in the Alps, there’s a very stereotypical expectation I had constructed around this setting, but The Year After You utilizes the setting very well which very much complimented the story. The way everything is trapped in this one mountain made the story more intense.
Cara, our main lead, was brilliantly frustrating. I personally didn’t like her, but when we got to the end, I did feel for her. Her pain and confusion as she blames herself for the death of her friend while trying to keep her new friends at an arm’s length were honestly heart-breaking.

The side characters were extremely brilliant. Without them, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book very much. Ren is everything you want in a friend; caring, supportive and patient. Hector is a hero with a chip on his shoulder and story of his own. He’s rather mysterious with an extremely interesting backstory. Fred, I have to admit, took a while to understand. He immediately sees Cara as a threat to his friendship group and I didn’t particularly enjoy seeing him gang up on her. Everyone in this school reminds me of my own secondary school days, we’re all on edge and even stuff that seems irrelevant now, really crumbled your world back then, so I get the fear of losing everything that you’ve known.

Overall, The Year After You is a moving debut about a girl sent to boarding school after her best friend in a car accident. Personally, this book wasn’t for me. It starts off rather slow, but towards the end, it really packs a punch


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Review: Internment

Review: Internment

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.*

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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