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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Book Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko – An Illuminating and Riveting West African-Inspired Fantasy That Will Sweep You Off Your Feet, Blow Your Mind, and Leave You in Awe

review_raybearer

Blurb:

Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

CW’s Review:

I feel incredibly out of depth writing this book review. I mean, I spent a solid twenty minutes trying to come up with a book review title that would adequately and succinctly describe the beautiful mess of feelings that I have for Raybearer. There are many, many, many reasons why I think Raybearer is fantastic – and I’ll do my best to articulate them well, because, wow, I feel so much for this book. In the fewest words possible, I genuinely think that Raybearer may be my ‘the fantasy of the year’.

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Book Review: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert – A Warm Yet Sharp ‘All in One Day’ Love Story that Takes Place on Election Day

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. Tagline: Make it count.

Blurb:

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?

Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote.

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right.

And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.

CW’s Review:

I don’t know how Brandy Colbert does it. I don’t know she deftly balances a story that is both incredibly warm and soft but also incisive in its discourse in activism and privilege. After reading The Voting Booth, I came away with these warm and fuzzies because the love story is such a treasure and a delight but I also loved how it made me think, reflect, and feel deeply about the Black experiences portrayed in the story.

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Book Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – A Brutal Yet Tender Retelling of Romeo and Juliet Like You’ve Never Read Before

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.

Blurb:

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

CW’s Review:

I was given an ARC of this book by the author; this does not influence my opinions outlined in this book review.

How do you even begin to write a review for one of your most anticipated reads of 2020 that didn’t just exceed your expectations, but its story stabbed you in the heart, sucked the lifeforce and tears out of you, and made you ache and feel horror all at once – and by the end you wanted to thank Chloe for it?

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