Book Review: The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf – An Unapologetically Malaysian, Spooky, and Emotional Story about Friendship, Loneliness, and Jealousy

Blurb:

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.

If anyone you know ever feels hesitant to read middle-grade books, then do them a favour: introduce them to The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf. From her young-adult debut, The Weight of Our Sky, about a Malay teen searching for her mother during the 1969 race riots that took place in Malaysia, Hanna’s middle-grade debut is, quite frankly, a book exceeds words. By that, I mean that when I finished this back in August, I was speechless. By that, I also mean that how I feel about this book, my utmost love and adoration and awe for it, cannot be expressed in mere words. But, for the sake of this review and because I want nothing more than for all of you to read it, I hope I can do the beauty of this book some justice.

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Book Review: Clues to the Universe by Christina Li – A Quiet Middle-Grade about Science, Grief, and Searching For Lost Fathers

Clues to the Universe byC
Blurb:

This #ownvoices debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.

Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?

As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

I was provided an eARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.

I’ve always loved ‘quiet YA’ – young adult stories that aren’t about saving the world but are about the mundane yet meaningful low stakes that focus on the growth and emotional journeys of its characters. Well, if you love quiet YA just as much as I do, may I propose ‘quiet MG’? Though a lot of contemporary MG feels like quiet MG – stories about a young person’s growth as they overcome an everyday conflict that leads them to learn something about themselves – there’s something about Clues to the Universe, the debut middle-grade book by Christina Li, that feels like your quintessential quiet MG. And friends, I adored Clues to the Universe, and I’m excited to tell you why.

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[Blog Tour] Five Reasons To Read: FORESHADOW, edited by Emily X.R. Pan & Nova Ren Suma – The Best YA Anthology of This Age

Summary:

Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers.

Featured in print for the first time, the thirteen stories anthologized here were originally released via the buzzed-about online platform Foreshadow. Ranging from contemporary romance to mind-bending fantasy, the Foreshadow stories showcase underrepresented voices and highlight the beauty and power of YA fiction. Each piece is selected and introduced by a YA luminary, among them Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, and Sabaa Tahir.

What makes these memorable stories tick? What sparked them? How do authors build a world or refine a voice or weave in that deliciously creepy atmosphere to bring their writing to the next level? Addressing these questions and many more are essays and discussions on craft and process by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X. R. Pan.

This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults.

Skye’s review:

FORESHADOW, when it was first announced, was a limited-run publishing project spearheaded by Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma. It featured short YA stories across a variety of genres, with monthly issues releasing throughout the entire year of 2019. Each issue had three stories—titled after a single phrase, “foreshadowing” the story that was to come—one of which would also be penned by a new writer, voices hand-selected by renowned authors such as Sabaa Tahir and Nicola Yoon.

Today, the thirteen handpicked stories are published in a wonderful anthology that I have the privilege of introducing here on the blog today after reading an early copy. And friends, friends, please trust me when I say this, and know that I do not mean it lightly: this anthology is everything I crave in a book, and it contains the best short YA fiction I have ever read in my entire life.

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[Blog Tour] Book Review: The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao – A Return to the Heaven Breaker Legend That Delves into Chinese Mythology and What It Truly Means To be a Hero

Foreword:

Just over a little more than a year ago, I had the delight of reading The Dragon Warrior. I have a very fond memory of sitting in bed in my hotel room during a work trip, feeling alone and only having the company of my ARC copy of The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao. And when I read Katie’s middle-grade debut, about a young Asian girl who was The Chosen One and wielded the power of dragons and went on this incredible adventure – I didn’t feel alone anymore; I felt excited, empowered, and like I had gone on an incredible journey.

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[Blog Tour] Book Review + Fanart: Iron Heart by Nina Varela – Everything I Hoped For in a Sequel

Summary:

An unstoppable love between two girls—one human, one Made—both set on destroying the Iron Heart.

For too long the cruel, beautiful Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing the humans who live there. But the human revolution is on the rise, and at its heart is Ayla. Once handmaiden, now fugitive, Ayla escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl Ayla had planned to kill… but instead fell in love with. Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, whom she believes can accomplish the ultimate goal of the human rebellion: destroy the Iron Heart. Without it, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction.

But playing at Ayla’s memory are the powerful feelings she developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among travelling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.

As their paths collide, neither are prepared for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart.

In this stunning sequel to acclaimed author Nina Varela’s Crier’s War, the love that launched a revolution must now pave the way for a whole new era… and the ultimate change of heart.

Skye’s review:

Oh this book wrecked me, friends.

Sequels are tricky to do right — I’ve read one too many disappointing follow-up books in my time — but I’m delighted to report that this book was everything I had hoped for in a sequel to one of my favorite books of 2019. Reading this book felt like diving headfirst into a half-forgotten world that grew ever-familiar by the page, felt like a rush of warmth. By the end of the book, I’d fallen fully in love with Nina’s writing once again, as well as the characters that struggled and fought and loved within the pages of the story. I’m very excited to share this review with you all today, as well as a short fanart comic I made of my absolute favorite quote from the book!

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