Author Archives: Tien

About Tien

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Review: The Buried Ark by James Bradley

The Buried Ark (The Change #2) by James Bradley

Callie risked everything to get her little sister Gracie to the safety of the Zone. But Matt, the boy she loves, has been killed by Quarantine and Gracie has been absorbed into the Change.

Now Callie must learn to survive in the alien landscape of the Zone, a place where the Change is everywhere, and nothing is what it seems. That is, until she stumbles on a secret from her past that may hold the key to defeating the Change.

Hunted and alone, she finds refuge in the most unexpected of places. Only to find she is in more danger than ever.

Published 29 May 2018 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$14.99

My Blurb (4 stars)

Please note this review is for the second book of the trilogy and may contain spoilers. Here is a link if you’d like to check out my review of the first book: The Silent Invasion

If you’ve read book 1, you know how it ended and I’m sure you were just as frustrated as I was that we had to wait a full year to know what happens next. Thankfully, this book picked up immediately after that ending and what a touching scene it was….

Of course, nothing is ever as it seems! Callie, heartbroken & missing Matt & Gracie, had to figure out how she was going to survive in a place where she stood out as foreign; she is the ‘alien’, the one who does not belong. Strangely, despite her frequent contact with the changes, she remains herself. Is there a way to save the world from being changed?

I must confess to being rather sad as I missed the dynamics of Callie, Matt, & Gracie. In this second instalment of the trilogy, Without giving away too much, I did like a few of secondary characters introduced as her ‘sidekicks’. They were an interesting bunch but I just didn’t feel as connected to them as I did with Matt & Gracie though this could be that these new characters were not there with Callie throughout the whole book like Matt & Gracie did in The Silent Invasion.

The Buried Ark did not disappoint. It is a thrilling read and each time you’d think things are just getting better, they fell apart even more disastrously. James Bradley had aimed for an even bigger explosion to end book 2 and my world, didn’t he just blow the world apart?!

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

James Bradley was born in 1967. He is the author of three novels, Wrack, The Deep Field and his most recent, The Resurrectionist; a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus; and the editor of Blur, a collection of stories by young Australian writers. He is a well-respected critic and regularly reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He lives in Sydney with his partner, novelist Mardi McConnochie.

Find James on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter

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#1KBE A Thousand Beginnings and Endings Reading Challenge -wrap up

Many thanks to Antee @ReatAtMidnight and @litcelebrasian, you two have definitely pushed me to be more purposely reading Asian authors 🙂

I did manage a Bingo! for the first row and am going to keep on reading for the 4th column just because I’ve started & want to finish regardless of the actual reading challenge period ending.

Here are books I’ve read and/or am currently reading

Cindy Pon: Serpentine

3.5 out of 5 stars

Well, I knew there’s some sort of serpent involved but I didn’t think exactly what or how it will be in the book so it kinda caught me by surprise which is a good thing. And the ending was even better than what I’d expect.

What I wasn’t sure about was the relationship between the MC, Skybright (a handmaiden), and her mistress, Zhen Ni. In fact, what I’m not sure about is mostly Zhen Ni… probably just because I don’t like her (maybe she seems a lot more like me?! lol). I’m not very keen on the love interest either; I just didn’t get the feels there…

I do love the setting of historical China, the familiar social structure (not that I’d want to live in those times! well, maybe except to dress up like them), and the Food! oh my, the food! Some red bean buns, please 🙂

Shveta Thakrar: Ghost Notes

5 out of 5 stars

Eeek! Who know such a short story can be so completely & fully creepy. It’s given me the shivers! It is beautifully written with its very atmosphere so eery… I can see & feel the slices of moonlight through the window, beautiful music playing, and that ending, Gasp! Do read it (follow above link); it’ll only take 5 minutes or so & so very worth it.

Melissa de la Cruz: The Isle of the Lost

4 out of 5 stars

One of those books I picked up for a challenge without really considering what I’m getting myself into. So, when I started reading and found that this book is about the descendants of those fairy tale’s villains… let me just say, there were some air-punching moments. I mean, why didn’t anyone write this sooner!? Although, really, who wanted to have kids with these villains, errrr… that’s besides the point…

It’s such a clever story with all villains exiled and their descendants mixing & learning villainy but are they the villains their parents wish them to be… that remains to be seen. There are 4 POVs in this novel: Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Jay (son of Jafar), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen), & Carlos (son of Cruela de Vil). They are all in the teens and as mischievous as you’d expect. Something happened which then requires them to go on a quest (hey, it’s a fairy tale!) in which they found… themselves.

The Isle of the Lost is a coming-of-age tale with a twist. Do who your parents are dictate you who are? Do your grooming and their expectations have any say in who you choose to be? And what about what your heart is telling you? I do love this tale of empowerment, being able to raise yourself beyond of what’s expected.

Renee Ahdieh: The Wrath & The Dawn

4 out of 5 stars

A beautiful retelling of 1001 Nights as I’ve always loved Shahrazad; being a brave and proactive heroine. However, this novel isn’t about the stories and Shahrazad only trying to live for another dawn. In this novel, she also wanted revenge. And to know why. Why is the Caliph murdering his brides come the dawn.

There are so many likeable characters in this book aside from Shahrazad including but not limited to the Caliph, Despina (Shahrazad’s handmaiden / Caliph’s spy), Tariq (Shahrazad’s chidhood love), etc. I’ve so many questions left though so I’m leaving my full impression after the finale to see whether they’re all brought altogether neatly or not. But I’ve definitely have loved spending some time in this part of the desert.

Julie Kagawa: The Iron Daughter – I didn’t get to this one but I will sometime in July, just to finish off this challenge to my own satisfaction 🙂

Aliette de Bodard: The House of Shattered Wings

I’m still reading…

I have to admit that I’m not a fan of angels in fictions. I guess I have my own views of what angels should be and have found none in fiction which I’m happy with. Yea, ok, I’m just a grump lol

Seriously, though, I loved the title so that’s why I’m attempting the read and 100 pages, I’m rather hooked with the setting… somewhat like a post-apocalyptic France with Notre Dame in ruins [insert cry face] and the mystery. I’d probably finish reading in the next couple of days.

Aisha Saeed: Written in the Stars

5 out of 5 stars

A few nights ago, I decided that I’m going to kick-start reading this book; a few chapters before writing a blog post but uh… that didn’t happen. Instead, I was completely taken by this story that I couldn’t stop reading. In fact, I stayed up late to finish this book.

Written in the Stars is actually heartbreaking story. What do you do when you straddle two cultures? When both of these cultures are actually pulling you apart? Which do you pick; the one to make your parents happy but you miserable or one that you’d be happy but your parents miserable? This. Never an easy choice.

Being an immigrant myself, I do sometimes feel trapped by my parents’ rather Asian expectations and yet, I do believe that I have expectations which my sons will feel they may be trapped by. For me, this book is really a lesson for the future where my sons may make their own choices & learn from their own mistakes.

Whilst the protagonist in this story rebelled against her parents’s wish for arranged marriage, the author herself actually agreed to & happy with her marriage (according to the author’s note at the end of this book). This is a very interesting contrast and yet, both appears to have hinged on the individual choice.

Blog Tour: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 1 July, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99

Charlie Grant tries to keep her life as normal as possible. Hanging out with her best friend, pining for Jesse Foster – who she’s loved since she was twelve – and generally flying under the radar as much as she can.

But sometimes normal is just another word for stuck, and this weekend that’s all going to change. Not only will everyone be back home for her sister’s wedding, but she’s also juggling:

– a rented dog that just won’t stop howling
– an unexpectedly hot wedding-coordinator’s nephew
– her favourite brother bringing home his HORRIBLE new girlfriend
– fear that her parents’ marriage is falling apart
– and the return to town of the boy she’s loved practically all her life…

Over the course of four days Charlie will learn there’s so much more to each member of her family than she imagined, even herself, and that maybe letting go of the things she’s been holding on tightest to can help her find what really keeps them together.

Purchase Links: booktopia boomerang  | dymocks  | iBooks  |  QBD  | google

My Blurb (4/5 stars)

Things are changing but Charlie Grant doesn’t want them to. Her parents are selling the house she’s always lived in. She’s about to head to college though she’s yet made her choice. And her sister is getting married. This Weekend! She is, however, looking forward to having all her family members together. She absolutely adores her family and always seek their company. This weekend is not about to go smoothly for her though despite her high hopes.

This novel is told purely from the perspective of Charlie Grant so we only find things out as she does and/or as she thought of them. She is definitely an identifiable protagonist; we all cling to things we love. And the Grant family sounds positively the place you’d want to be in. However, nothing is perfect. There were signs, right from the start, that things weren’t going quite the way Charlie thinks they are.

I love this story of the Grant family and the dynamics of Charlie’s relationships to the people around her. I adore the comic strips that began each part of the story. It is certainly no wonder why Charlie loves her family so much to the extent of neglecting her best friend. It’s a story of a wonderful family; being wonderful does not mean perfect.

Save the Date is a heart-warming coming-of-age story where the protagonist came to the realisation that whilst seasons change and some things ended, there are wonderfully new beginnings to start and things to explore. As she reaches adulthood, relationships may shift but her family will always be there for her. Save the Date is a light & easy read with a dash of humour and where love sparkles brightest of all.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for copy of book in exchange of honest review. And thanks, AusYABloggers for organising the tour.

Find all the other stops (there are chances to win copies at some stops) by following the Tour Schedule 

About the author

Morgan Matson is a New York Times bestselling author. She received her MFA in writing for children from the New School and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, won the California State Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  | instagram

#1KBE A Thousand Beginnings and Endings Reading Challenge

I meant to do my sign-up post last week but we ran out of bandwith and internet was sooo slow, I didn’t have the patience for it. I was going to write the post last night but instead I started reading Written in the Stars (I only meant to read a few chapters) and I could NOT stop! oh wow, wow, wow… I loved it so much! A heartbreaking but uplifting story.

Anywho, here’s the bingo grid and for full instruction, check out the master post, here

 

I keep changing my mind but I think I’m going to complete the first row and even though I’ve planned for fourth row too, I don’t think I have enough time to actually read them all. Well, maybe if I don’t sleep… who need sleep, right? :p

Here are the books on my plan:

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

Shveta Thakrar has only short fictions to date but they are listed here; thanks, Aentee, for linking me up 🙂

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that’s been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon’s eye: the key to true darkness and the villains’ only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it…who will it be?

Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.

Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent’s daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon’s eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.

Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen’s daughter, Evie, doesn’t know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she’s a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal’s little tricks.

Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he’s not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon’s eye.

Carlos: Cruella de Vil’s son may not be bravest, but he’s certainly clever. Carlos’s inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon’s eye and ending the banishment for good.

Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon’s eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the dragon’s eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan’s own fey powers have been cut off. She’s stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can’t help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

Bingo! ~ #AsianLitBingo 2018

Even though I signed up for this challenge last year, I failed to achieve bingo. That’s why I was very keen to get to Bingo! this year. I really didn’t think I’d make it as I didn’t see the announcement until the middle of May. But, good books really do help you wanting to read & finish reading! What I love especially is being able to connect personally in one way or another with all these books but most especially culturally (I mostly mean the food, of course, lol)

Here are some quick summaries of my reads & related bingo squares.

East Asian MC: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

An Indonesian-Singaporean author wrote this Japanese book (100% set in Japan & MC is Japanese). From what I’ve of Jap lit, this book seems to fit within the parameters but I’m not Japanese so I can’t tell you whether it sounds authentic. On another note, an enjoyable, mysterious, & quirky read (as you’d expect from Japanese fiction).

You can find my full review, here.

LGBTQIAP + Asian MC: The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1) by J.Y. Yang

A mind-breaking read; you can everything in this book: evil mother, twins, LGBTQIAP characterS, love (f/m, m/m, etc), betrayals, magic (interestingly called ‘Slackcraft’), explosions, poisons, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

You can find my full review, here.

#ownvoices noting author identifies as being queer & non-binary.

SFF with Asian MC: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

EVERYONE, READ THIS BOOK!!

A fantasy rooted in true historic events. Fantastic intricate world & brilliant characterisation, you will regret NOT reading it. A side note of warning: possible trigger due to violence & graphic description thereof.

You can find my full review, here.

Graphic Novel with Asian MC: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

3 disparate & alternating short stories which were then smoothly drawn together to form a punch in the gut resolution. Must read for all ABCs (teens & adults, all)

You can find my full review, here#ownvoices 

South East Asian MC: Ponti by Sharlene Teo

3 alternating perspectives in 3 different time settings and all spoke of the struggles of being a young female. Female relationships fraught with emotional upheavals (hormones!), unspoken thoughts, and hurtful glances.

Again, I must ask… Is ‘chendol espresso martini’ real? I cannot find an image of it on Google 😦

You can find my full review, here#ownvoices 

My deepest thanks to the team running this challenge! I must need be more purposeful in my Asian Lit reading.

Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Harper Voyager  |  23 April 2018  |  AUD$37.99

My Blurb (4.5 stars)

One of my most anticipated release this year and it did NOT disappoint. In fact, I’m rather speechless! Or more accurately, I have so many things to say, they’ve all jumbled up and I’ve no idea how to sort them out so that they’d make sense to everyone else ;p

That first line totally got me! I burst out laughing (thankfully, I was home and not on the train full of strangers) because it caught me completely off guard. Rin herself was astonishingly hard-headed and enterprising. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it. She’s definitely NOT getting married.

To start with, it was a such easy, fun, and un-put-down-able read. In fact, the first half reminds me so much of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The academy setting, MC’s poor background & her hot-headedness, the spoiled brat who almost ruined everything for the MC, the kooky master, etc were all too familiar to be ignored and yet, so differently brilliant. I’m dubbing this first half to be ‘The Name of the Wind with an Asian twist’.

The second half was hand-on-heart hard on my sensibilities. I was warned by a friend that chapter 21 could have some triggery effects on some people. I think with my wide scope of reading, I may have become desensitised to beheading, dismemberment, etc but woah, there was some pretty graphic descriptions here and especially with rape & babies involved, I was starting to feel nauseous, but thankfully, it ended before I actually had to (and this time, I was one of many sardines packed into the train carriage on the way to work). I understand this is based on true historical event and I do not doubt that this type of cruelty exists. This actually made me feel bad that I didn’t feel more about beheadings and such. You know, sometimes, you really have to face up to what people can do & have done.

War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.

And sometimes, the hard bits are what made the book. In the face of a senseless war, Rin and her friends faced impossible situations, inconceivable decisions, and incomparable consequences. Of course, Rin had to come on top but did she really?

Rin is an amazing protagonist. She’s fierce and fiercely independent. Rin’s world is an intricately layered complex of humanity, friendship, loyalty, and faith. Read the book! Laugh with Rin, weep with all humanity and rage against all brutality. But above all, do NOT ask me to lend you my copy of this book :p

Thanks to Harper Voyager for copy of book in exchange of honest review (& Annie @Read3rz_revu – sorry if I burst your eardrums from screaming when you handed me a copy of this book lol)

About the author

I immigrated to the US from Guangzhou, China in 2000. I currently study Chinese history at Georgetown, where my research focuses on Chinese military strategy, collective trauma, and war memorials. I’m a 2018 Marshall Scholar, and I’ll be heading to the University of Cambridge next fall to do my graduate studies.

Fiction-wise, I graduated from Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016 and attended the CSSF Novel Writing Workshop in 2017. My debut novel, The Poppy War, is the first installment in a trilogy that grapples with drugs, shamanism, and China’s bloody twentieth century.

Find Rebecca on:  website  |  goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter

Review: Ponti by Sharlene Teo

Ponti by Sharlene Teo

2003, Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing seances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, an unlikely encounter develops into an intense friendship and offers Szu a means of escape from her mother’s alarming solitariness.

Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience.

Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti is about friendship and memory, about the things we do when we’re on the cusp of adulthood that haunt us years later. Beautifully written by debut author Sharlene Teo, and enormously atmospheric, Ponti marks the launch of an exciting new literary voice in the vein of Zadie Smith.

Published 24 April 2018 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$29.9

My Blurb (3.5 stars)

I can’t say that the book cover and/or description was attractive to me but I try to support Asian authors to I really gave this book a fair go. I read it from beginning to end and whilst I find the plot to be haunting, it really was too sad for me. In addition, the alternate POVs in different time periods were slightly unhelpful to my focus.

I am sixteen and a half and beginning to realize that life sometimes happens like this: quickly, with no further allowances.

The story began with Szu’s POV in 2003, in her teens and struggling with her body image, her family, and suffering all the emotional upheavals puberty can give a girl. Her father disappeared a long time ago and she does not relate well to her mother. This brings us to the next POV, Amisa’s, Szu’s mother, beginning from her childhood in 1975 until the time of the main story (2003). Most of her story is about her young-adulthood in which she made her choices and hence, had to live with the consequences.

Then enters a third and outside POV, Circe’s, Szu’s only friend in high school. Circe’s POV is set in 2020, 17 years after the main story but events in her life brought her back her memories. She was 16 in 2003 and was also struggling with her own issues. Her friendship with Szu was full of sharp edges but they were friends.

Because it is comforting to know that there is someone similar to you in the world, it helps a person to feel less faulty and alone.

On the whole, I cannot say that I love this book. I wish I do but it’s just not for me. I found it a little difficult following the 3 strands of not-so-link-able stories though each came with their own wisodm. I like that there were moments this book just jabbed right at you and I can totally empathise with these teen girls but despite its hypnotic pull, I am also a tad repulsed (was I meant to be repulsed? I honestly don’t know…). My recommendation is please do read it and let me know your thoughts! This book could totally be for you.

And by the by, WTH is ‘chendol espresso martini’?! Is this thing for REAL? Where can I get some in Sydney?!?!

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Sharlene Teo (b. 1987) is a Singaporean writer based in the UK. She is the winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award for Ponti, her first novel, released by Picador and Simon & Schuster in 2018. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Esquire (Singapore), Magma Poetry, The Penny Dreadful, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, New Writing Net and Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two. In 2012, she was awarded the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship to undertake an MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia, where she is currently in her second year of a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. She is the recipient of the 2013 David TK Wong Creative Writing Fellowship and the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship.

Find Sharlene on:  goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  tumblr