Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim – A powerful and unforgettable story about daring to dream, bravery, and freedom

Summary:

Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’, and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields… When a group of city boys comes to the village as part of a Communist Party re-education program, Ming and his friends aren’t sure what to make of the new arrivals. They’re not used to hard labour and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn’t be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and shared dreams…But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom.

My review:

Note: review will discuss themes that may be distressing; tw’s for death and poverty

Before I delve into my high praises for this book, I want you to go into this book review knowing one thing: Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim was based on the author’s father’s life. I didn’t know this when I read Freedom Swimmer; I only knew when I read the very end. So, knowing this, let me tell you how much I love Freedom Swimmer, and why you and everyone should read one of my top reads of 2017.

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Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee – Trans superhero MC, teens fighting for what’s right, and… confessing to your crush? (Yes please!)

Summary:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review:

In case you didn’t know, Not Your Sidekick was my favourite book of 2017, and remains to be one of my favourite books of all time. So, you can imagine how excited and ecstatic I was I was given the privilege to read its sequel, Not Your Villain! I adored Not Your Villain, and I cannot wait to tell you why.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – The ending that fans of the series deserved

Summary:

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

My review:

I knew, the first time this book made me cry, that this would be best installment in the trilogy. By the end, I was dead-certain: Always and Forever, Lara Jean was my favourite and, I’d wager to argue, the best book in the trilogy. I loved it immensely.

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I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo – Cute, fluffy, and bloody outrageous

Summary:

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

My review:

This was one of my most anticipated books of 2017, and though I didn’t get what I was expecting, I Believe In A Thing Called Love was nonetheless full of pleasant and quirky surprises.

The first thing you should know going into I Believe In A Thing Called Love is that it is outrageously silly. Indeed, largely influenced and inspired by romantic Korean dramas, or K-dramas, this book has all the hilarious and heart-melting tropes common to K-drama: tragic family stories, near-miss life and death situations, love triangles(!), and melodramatic moments. If you love K-dramas, I Believe In A Thing Called Love will make you laugh and it will make you feel like rewatching all of your favourite K-drama scenes.

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The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork – Heartbreaking, hopeful, honest; a rare story about depression and grief

Summary:

Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.

That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.

Note: suicide will be discussed extensively in my review.

My review:

Often when we read books about mental illness, we follow the trajectory and development of an individual’s experience with mental illness. The Memory of Light offers something a little different; rather than looking at the events preceding a traumatic event or exploring the age-old question of ‘what drives a person to take their own life?’, The Memory of Light explores its aftermath.

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