How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao: Book Review

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao is a freshly released young adult, mystery thriller. Set at prestigious, Sinclair Prep, Nancy’s best friend, Jamie is missing and later, found dead. Things turn for the worse when Nancy and her friends are incriminated in Jamie’s murder by a social media presence called ‘The Proctor’. Someone out there knows all of their deepest, darkest secrets and if the world finds out, they’ll lose everything they’ve worked for.

If you read my August TBR post, you’ll know that I was hyped for this. Think Pretty Little Liars meets One of Us Is Lying but make it Asian American. What’s not to like? Turns out, a fair bit. Let’s start with what I did like.

I really enjoyed how we focused on the academic pressure in Asian societies. It felt very realistic and believable. The stress of having to be the best, the expectations of your parents and not wanting to waste their hardships of migrating to a Western country. I felt all of that.

This was a quick and fast read. It wasn’t something I read in one sitting, but even with the little bursts, I finished this quickly. The book is only around 300 pages, so it’s something you can get through easily. The writing also contributes to the ‘easy read’. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think younger ‘young adults’ will enjoy the writing.

The characters all felt like they had potential. Their morals and decision making were questionable at times making them very complex characters. However, we didn’t explore that very much. It was barely touched upon. Even Nancy, who we see the entire book from, didn’t feel that developed. I couldn’t tell you much about her except that she really wanted to excel.

The mystery aspect of this book wasn’t very mysterious. I predicted it from the start and I think it had been made too obvious. There weren’t any other suspects introduced that it could’ve been. There were no red herrings or twist and turns. The only thing that caught me off guard was the ‘how’. I may have to re-read to confirm this, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I couldn’t think of any hints or clues that were dropped to allude to the ‘how’.

I didn’t find the book to be very ‘thrilling’. The only part that had my heart even slightly racing was near the end, with the shorter chapters and countdown.

The whole idea of wanting to stop ‘The Proctor’ is to keep their secrets a secret because they’re so bad. The stakes were high and I was so here for it. However, every time a secret was dropped, there were no consequences. Like, everyone just moved on. After the first time that happened, I found myself less interested in what happened to the characters.

There were a few things that I didn’t find very realistic or believable in the story. First thing, what is it with these mass texts? Never, in my entire high school career have I received a mass text. Is this an American thing? The next thing was the police involvement – or lack there of. I kept waiting for police officers to step in or even do an interview with the ‘suspects aka the main characters’, but it never happened. Another thing that made it hard to believe this story. Last thing was the ending. I don’t even know what to say about that.

The story ends on a cliffhanger and I’m curious to see what happens in the next book. Hopefully, it improves. Currently undecided if I’ll be picking up the next book.

Overall, it wasn’t something I disliked. I was disappointed by it, but expectations aside, it was a decent read. I think those that enjoyed Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars will enjoy this. Ideal for younger readers or those new to reading mystery.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Meet Me At the Summit: ARC Review

I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

Meet Me At The Summit by Mandi Lynn follows Marly as she embarks on a hiking trip around the country after her parents death. As Marly sinks deeper into her grief, her family forces her to borrow a revamped VW bus and explore the country with her camera as her companion. On her journey, Marly meets new people, including Dylan, who forces Marly to lower her defenses. It is a young adult, coming-of-age story releasing on August 31st 2021.

My favourite aspect of this book was the descriptions of nature. Wherever Marly went, I felt like I was right there with her. I could picture every little feeling, from what it looked like to how the wind felt. Mandi Lynn put a lot of effort into researching these places and it really shows. I enjoyed the sense of adventure and considering I’m in lockdown, it really eased my cabin fever.

Marly’s grief in this story was handled really well. You could really see the impact of losing her parents and also how she learned to cope. From the panic attacks to defensive mechanisms, it was really well-executed. It didn’t feel forced or fake, and I really felt for Marly.

Beyond Marly’s grief, I couldn’t tell you much about her (exception: photography). Marly, like the other characters in this book, felt very two-dimensional. There weren’t any layers and they felt flat. I couldn’t relate to them and I didn’t feel attached. Dylan, the love interest, is very sweet and caring. He was really supportive of Marly and I appreciated that. It was enjoyable to read. But beyond that, he once again felt flat. The supporting characters also felt like they were only there to serve as Marly’s support system and didn’t have lives of their own.

The romance between Marly and Dylan was very quick to develop and ‘insta-lovey’. The extent Dylan goes for her, and how Marly responds to him, made no sense to me. It was really hard to believe their love story due to the quick development. There were definitely aspects that had potential. I’m a sucker for growing and healing with the support of another person, but this didn’t hit in the right spot.

I found the pacing to be quite slow as well. It took a long time for everything to happen. Though I loved Mandi Lynn’s description of hiking, I don’t think everything needed to be detailed. We spend a lot of time with Marly’s internal monologues. Like a lot. The massive paragraphs of monologue were really intimidating for me.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. If you’re looking for an adventurous books in the outdoors to compensate for your quarantining, this is for you. Ideal for those that enjoy slower books.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Raven and the Dove by Kaitlyn Davis: A Book Review

The Raven and the Dove is a young adult, fantasy retelling of Tristan and Isolde. It’s been pitched as the perfect novel for the fans of Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir. As a big fan of all three, I whole-heartedly agree.

As the avian kingdoms in the sky (what a concept) prepare for the courtship trials, Princess Lyana Aethionus is ready for her last adventure. She doesn’t expect to save a raven prince from a dragon. Rafe, is the bastard son of the late Raven King, and he would do anything for his half-brother/prince. Including, posing as him in the courtship trials. Unknown to the world above, a war brews in the sea below, ready to threaten everything Lyana and Rafe know and love.

I have to say, I only picked this up because of how gorgeous the cover is. It gave me major Rhysand and Feyre vibes from A Court of Mist and Fury. I had no idea I would end up enjoying this as much as I did.

Princess Lyana was a great protagonist – she was fierce, determined and mischievous. She was so much fun to read about as she flew away on her adventures – albeit some reckless. At times she was a little immature, but that’s where the young adult bit really shines through. On the other hand, Rafe is the epitome of brooding and angst. He felt everything so intensely, that my heart ached for him. All the characters were so well developed, including Cassi and Xander. The story is told from multi point of views and surprisingly, I enjoyed reading this book from all of their perspectives. There was never a chapter that I wanted to skip.

I loved the pacing of this book, it was filled with action but it wasn’t too fast to cause whiplash and neither was it slow enough to bore me. I was super happy with when everything happened. Hence, why I flew through this book and stayed up to finish it. The sleep loss was totally worth it.

The world was really interesting, and not something I’ve seen in young adult before. Kingdoms in the sky were such a lovely idea and it was executed really well. I’m really excited to explore more of this world. Hopefully we get to see more of the other kingdoms in the upcoming books.

I loved the angst and pining between Rafe and Lyana, it was exactly what I wanted to read. The only downside for me, was how quick it was. It felt very insta-lovely and slightly rushed. I would’ve enjoyed the pining and angst a little bit more, if it made sense to why it meant so much to them.

Overall, such a great read and I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about this book. You need to add it to your TBR asap!

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim: A Book Review

In Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim we join Shiori, the princess of Kiata. In this YA fantasy, Shiori’s biggest problem seems to be avoiding her betrothed, until her step-mother curses her and turns her brother into cranes. Without money and her voice, Shiori has to not only survive without the perks of her title but also find a way to save her brothers and free them from the curse.

The fairy retelling was an excellent concept that was executed really well. I fell in love with the culture, the tales and the song. Lim had created a wonderful world that I was able to be dive into.

The characters were so interesting, especially Shiori, Seryu, Raikama and Takkan. Speaking of Takkan, he is such a cutie! I loved these characters and felt like there were so many dimensions and layers to them. My only issue with the characters were probably her brothers, I couldn’t tell them apart except maybe two? They all seemed the same and I hope we get to know them a bit more in the upcoming books.

I loved the romance in the book, it wasn’t overwhelming or in your face. Subtle, and slowly burning in the background.

There were some bits I found to be a little predictable and other bits that caught me off guard. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but I love the direction this book went in.

I haven’t quite made up my mind on the pacing of this book. It was fast paced and kept me hooked but there were some bits that gave me whiplash and felt rushed. This felt jarring and would bring me out of the book, and it would take another few chapters to get back into it.

I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I stayed up to read more of it. And I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next book in the series.

I highly recommend this for anyone that loves an action-packed book.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

The Knockout by Sajni Patel: A Book Review

The Knockout by Sajni Patel/ S. A. Patel is a young adult standalone following Kareena Thakkar, a high school student and Muay Thai fighter. When Kareena gets a chance to enter the competition of her life, she’s more than excited. But reality is quick to check in with a really unwell father and even more severe financial debt. Kareena struggles with the challenges of being a female athlete in a time and cultural society that judges and ostracizes her for it. Through it, her saving grace comes in the form of Amit: a genius who strangely needs tutoring from her.

Female athletes are a power move and this book really showed that. I loved entering the world of Muay Thai, learning about it and reading about Kareena’s fight scenes. They were absolutely badass. Sajni Patel’s writing was vivid and easy to imagine. My heart raced through it all. One of my favourite aspects of this book was watching Kareena’s confidence with her body grow.

Kareena is easy to love and relate to. At times, she’s frustrating but even then it’s consistent with her background and history. I loved seeing Kareena grow and become the best version of herself despite her struggles.

Kareena’s relationship with her family is goals! Their dynamic was sweet and refreshing to read. Young adult books tend to skip over familial aspects but Sajni Patel dove right in. Amit, the love interest, has to be one of my favourite love interests from a contemporary novel. He was so supportive, sweet and perfect for Kareena. Amit had his own life and problems, making him feel quite real. I wish Kareena’s best friend, Lily had been developed a little more like Amit was.

Kareena’s story resonated with me more than I had expected. The Indian rep and culture was executed so well, I couldn’t have asked for more.

When we join Kareena, she has a very complicated relationship with Indian culture and society. She has a more ‘Western’ approach to things and I expect other readers who are more religious or involved in society may feel attacked by some of Kareena’s early thoughts and approaches. Personally, this made it more satisfying to see her grow into accepting her culture. I do wish that we got to see her become more accepting of the people around her as well.

The only thing that would take this book up a notch for me were that some of the high school drama felt a bit juvenile to me. But in saying that, I probably would’ve enjoyed it if I were younger.

This book frustrated me, made me cry, laugh and smile in all the best ways. I felt so much reading it. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for more South-Asian and/or female athlete representation in books. If you’re a sucker for underdogs, this one’s for you!