BOOK REVIEW: Emma Dreams of Stars

I think at some point in time, many of us might have considered food journalism. I, for one, have, and am very glad I didn’t. I don’t think I have the palate for it, or sufficient knowledge. All I have is the love for food, but being a patron is good enough.

Prior to focusing more on reviews, this blog used to document other things like my travels and events I’ve been to. I think that would be fun to do again, even with an international audience. I’d love to show you Malaysia.


Emma Dreams of Stars
by Emmanuelle Maisonneuve, Julia Pavlowitch and Kan Takahama (illustrator)

get it here
enjoy a preview of Chapter 1 here

BOOK SUMMARY

Based on a true story of a former Michelin Guide Inspector. Find out what the top-secret life of a professional foodie is like.

Emma, a food writer, can’t give up her childhood dream of becoming a Michelin Guide Inspector, and sends her resume to the Michelin headquarters. She is informed nine months later that there is an opening and goes to a mysterious interview…

BOOK REVIEW

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

*A review copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Warning: Do not start this book in the middle of the night, when you’re hungry and there’s nothing to eat.

Emma Dreams of Stars follows Emma, young, and the only woman in a male-dominated industry. This poses as a minor yet constant theme in this story, with the main being food and the insider details on what it means to be a Michelin Guide Inspector.

In between travelling, stuffing herself with dishes and inspecting each restaurant from its’ cuisine to the full dining experience, Emma’s personal life is bumpy. Though, it only plays a small part. As this book stops abruptly, I’m guessing that this is only Volume One, or so I hope. I am very invested in the storyline, especially when it comes to Chef Antoine, but this book alone leaves a few questions unanswered.

I enjoyed the food illustrations and the landscapes, especially being stuck in lockdown. It’s lovely to enjoy such scenery and food, the two things that I search for and value whenever we travel. The art is heavily focused on bringing the food to life, while the background reminds me of a painting. Personally, I think the art made the storyline shine.

I am very glad to have been given a review copy of this book. It combines a few of my favourite things – food and sharing opinions (hence this blog). I was also happy to read about Emma’s experience with cuisine in Japan, especially when she visited Nishiki market as it brought back many fond memories from years ago. It’s always very exciting when a book makes references to things that I know, and maybe, just maybe, I might be able to eat in a Michelin-star restaurant someday.

REVIEW: Above Suspicion and Unbothered

Ever since May 2020, I’ve had a large influx of poetry to review and have been struggling to space it out between my other books for variety. I used to review a poetry collection a month, but I might review it more often, just to get through the list quickly. My review pile is becoming rather concerning and it’s not something I want to bring into 2023.

With that being said, I think this was a great book to start the year. Other than it is poetry and fairly quick to read, it left a hopeful and positive note, which I’ll be elaborating more in the review.


BOOK SUMMARY

A collection of poetry, prose, and quotes based around past anger towards a toxic relationship, acceptance and clarity of moving forward, and finally a rejoice in happiness. Above Suspicion and Unbothered is a deeper look into the emotional recount the author had experienced her last five years and how much her life has changed since then. This book is meant to express the authors suppressed feelings and to help inspire others and to let it be known that after a toxic relationship, you too will be okay.

BOOK REVIEW

* An e-copy was given by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Above Suspicion and Unbothered is separated into 3 parts – Swirling Thoughts of Rage, Intermission of Clarity and Acceptance, and Life is Grand and I am Happy, and the titles suggest the theme of the poems.

It opens with a powerful line and reads like a journal. There’s a mix of longer poems and some short ones. I prefer longer poems, Catherine’s short lines are shockingly powerful. The way it is arranged only enhances the impact.

However, there were some lines in the second and third parts that didn’t give as much impact. It seemed like motivational quotes. Overall, the poems were very straightforward and placed an emphasis on rhymes.

The formatting was strange to me. I can’t see a clear pattern around it. Some poems were centre-aligned, some were left-aligned. I can’t tell why and if it was done to give a certain effect, it lacked in that area.

Despite that, the poems take you through a whole journey. One full of sadness, confusion, anger, pain, and slowly acceptance and happiness. By the end of it, I was happy for the poet.

REVIEW: Storms and Magic

How do you feel about reading reviews of similar genres one after another? I’ve been working on reducing my poetry pile, which may be equal to 2 years’ worth if I post it once a month, which is not ideal. I’m trying to find a good posting schedule for it, so let me know if you have suggestions!


Storms and Magic
by Enitan Ige

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

Enitan’s poetry collection, “storms and magic”, is set to start a fire in you.

Touching topics like love and heartbreak and self-love and feminism and being beautiful in your own skin. This book is for everyone who loves a good read and loves to feel in the process. Enitan will leave you picking up pieces of her heart as you close the last page of this book.

BOOK REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*A review copy was given by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t understand how can someone’s feelings – turned writings – can be so beautiful. While the choices of words are not illustrative, it stirs emotions. The poems weren’t intense, but warm and burning, a rather cosy read that you can enjoy in under two days.

Storms and Magic is Enitan Ige’s debut collection. There were poems about feminism, life, friends, love, self-love and acceptance, failed relationships and reflections on society. I believe some of them are reflections on the poet’s childhood, letters she wished to write to her younger self, but I also think it could be relatable for everyone.

Still, there were a few minor parts that threw me off. The double-spacing, strange underscores, random capitalisations, spelling errors – I wished the poet could’ve fixed it or at least have another set of eyes before the final book. The poems were so heartfelt, but these minor things snapped me back into reality.

Overall, this was a great read. The poet’s choice of descriptors and the way she conveys her message is nothing I can ever do justice for. It’s something you have to experience yourself.

“Is this schedule working?” and 2022 reading goals

In July, this blog went through a whole 180-degree change. I’ve rebranded, worked on reading and churning out reviews every week, and posted an occasional blog post here and there. It was ambitious, especially after my on-and-off hiatus for the past two years.

Now 2022 has come, and after 6 months, it is time to reassess.


First and foremost, is this schedule working?

Not at all.

As much as I try to post reviews every week, I’m not doing a good job in writing them, and let’s not talk about how awful I am about sharing it on social media. I realised that I don’t enjoy maintaining my social media presence either, which I might need to do something about that, but it’s a problem for the future.

I read whenever I can. Sometimes, that will be a few books a month, sometimes none at all. It is beneficial when I have classes and cannot find the time to read, but there will be weeks where I don’t post because I’ve not written reviews in a while.

Perhaps weekly reviews and a blog post every 3 weeks was a little unrealistic for someone who frequently went on unannounced hiatuses for the past 2 years. I’ve tried to commit to that in the earlier months but when my classes started, the blog post was the first to leave.

So are there changes?

Slightly! I’ll be posting weekly reviews as per usual, but I’ll only write a blog post when the time seems right. That could be frequent, that could be maybe once every 3 months. You won’t know when, and I won’t either.

Now for the exciting part – 2022 reading goals!

I’ve been on the fence for a while now. While I enjoy posting about the books I’m excited to read, most of the time, I don’t read them. Instead, it sits on my blog as a reminder of not meeting my own expectations.

Recently, I read Lindsey’s 2022 bookish resolutions and agreed that despite setting very low reading expectations, I still stress myself out. So my goals for 2022 will be (hopefully) very simple:

  1. Read 35 books.
    I read over 40 books in 2021. That’s almost twice my goal of 2 books a month and I’m still riding off the high of it. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve already finished 3 books, and working on the 4th.

    I’m feeling very good about this one (famous last words).
  2. Reduce current reads pile.
    You know when you read a book, maybe a non-fiction, maybe a reference book, maybe a book you lost interest in and you leave it because you’re tired of it? Yeah, that’s me, with 26 books, it’s…quite a problem (it used to be 30 so I AM working on it).

    Some of these are related to my studies, some are on architecture and cities, knowledge books that is quite difficult to read without alternating. Some of the books I’ve started from 2019, and I haven’t finished it yet. My goal is to finish at least 8 of them this year. It’s quite a large number, but I’ll definitely feel better if my “currently-reading” number is lower.
  3. Clear my review pile.
    Now this one might be closer to impossible than I wish. When I started book reviewing in 2018, I never thought that I’d have so many books sent for a review. I am absolutely grateful, but some of the books which I’ve accepted are no longer topics within my interest. My interests are changing, and I need to get to those books quickly.

    I’ve had backlogs of books from 2019 that are still sitting on my to-be-reviewed pile. It’s absolutely nagging at the back of my brain every time I see a book I want to read. 33 books and counting, it’s been stewing for far too long and I don’t want to bring it into 2023.

What are your reading resolutions/goals?

While I work on mine, I’d love to hear about yours! How’s your TBR stacking? What’s your “current reads” score? Let me know!

Year in review: Top 4 books of 2021

We’ve finally come to an end to 2021, a year full of great books, book-to-movie adaptations, and a sudden surge of reading habits thanks to booktok. I’ve seen many books circulating that channel, and although most of the books are not on my list, I am glad that many are enjoying their newfound hobby.

As the other aspects are less than satisfying to discuss, let’s wrap up the year with a short reflection: What are the top 4 books that you have read this year?

Since my (self-proclaimed) big rebrand in July, I’ve spent more time reading and writing reviews. In the past 6 months, I’ve managed to bump my goal of 24 books to 40 books, found a few favourites and am juggling…5 books? Oops! That’s not a habit I can curb anytime soon, but I’ll find a way to manage. In the meantime, I’ll reflect on my favourite reads of this year.

Top 4 books of 2021

Malice by Keigo Higashino

Mystery, Thriller, Asian [Full Review]

I finished this book in less than 24 hours back in May, and it’s the best book I’ve read this year. If you like mysteries, prepare to be whisked away to Japan and join both Kyoichiro Kaga and Osamu Nonoguchi in their investigation into bestselling author Kunihiko Hidaka’s death. Expect unexpected twists, buried secrets, blackmail and being a part of the investigation.

Solo by Palle Schmidt

Self-Help, Business, Non-fiction [Full Review]

This is a book I will hold dearly. I’ve always been interested in the idea of going freelance but lived in fear. This book came my way years ago, and I could never finish it though I’ve tried 3 times. It made me wish I was doing more with my life, taking Schmidt’s advice, writing notes…and then in the middle of the year, just after I finished reading this book, everything else fell into place. All aspects of my life lined up, and I went into freelancing.

For those who are considering it, this book gives solid advice, mostly from Schmidt’s decades of freelance experience.

In by Will McPhail

Graphic Novel, General Fiction, Humour [Full Review]

If you ever thought that graphic novels are only for children, Will McPhail urges you to consider that again.

I greatly admire McPhail’s art style and humour. The colours in this book were strategically used and never failed to take my breath away. This book was such a big hug, yet a big wake up call to introspect.

Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card

Juvenile Fiction, Mystery, Magic Realism [Full Review]

This book is entirely wholesome. Found-family, underdogs saving the day, a mystery featuring two unexpected acquaintances-to-potential-lovers, this puts a big smile on my face.

Although the topic at hand was rather…dark, I did enjoy it and believe that it’s an important topic to not shy away from, and what better way than to begin awareness in a story aimed at a younger audience.

And that’s a wrap!

What are some of your favourites that you’ve enjoyed last year? Let me know, I’d love to hear it!

REVIEW: GO: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design

I think art & design books will be a common genre on this website. It’s a personal interest, as well as a professional one. If I were to niche myself, that’s exactly where I would be.

Today’s review is one that I read a while ago, and it will likely be my last review of the year. Despite having a long list, I haven’t been in much of a mood to read anything except non-fiction art & design books.


GO: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design
by Chip Kidd

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

Kids love to express themselves, and are designers by nature whether making posters for school, deciding what to hang in their rooms, or creating personalized notebook covers. Go, is an introduction to the ways in which a designer communicates his or her ideas to the world. It’s written and designed just for those curious kids, not to mention their savvy parents, who want to learn the secret of how to make things dynamic and interesting.

BOOK REVIEW

*A copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

When they say “don’t judge a book by its cover, they mean this one, especially this one.

‘Go’ is an easy-to-understand introduction to graphic design written for younger audiences or for readers who are interested in dabbling into graphic design. It explains common terminology, colour theory, typography and other elements, but it also highlights the rationale of design, which I admire greatly.

Aside from that, I appreciate how Kidd gave a list of design projects at the end to put what you’ve learnt to practice. It is a fun activity that you can do without the need of Canva or Adobe, but just with paper, colours, magazines – any material you can get your hands on. It’s a great way to unleash your creativity and explore what type of design style you enjoy.

I love the author’s humour and way of storytelling and it was such a joy to read. Even if it’s targeted towards children, it’s such a delight for adults too. I was also very happily surprised to discover he had designed many book covers, of which many I recognise and love. However, I might have a personal beef with him for the Kafka on the Shore cover that continues to give me nightmares.

REVIEW: 1984 (The Graphic Novel)

Earlier in May, I caught the Orwell bug and read Animal Farm in three days. It was enjoyable, but also confusing since I don’t know the history it was hinting at. 1984 seemed to be more palatable and was often referenced during my time in my degree studies.

When I saw this on NetGalley, I had to read it. I figured perhaps I could try to finish the original by George Orwell before I read the graphic novel, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the time. From what I’ve read, I’ve quite enjoyed so I’ll definitely continue it at a later date.


George Orwell’s 1948: The Graphic Novel
by Matyáš Namai

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, Big Brother. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Now, the Party is forcing the use of an invented language called Newspeak which will prevent political insurgency by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thoughtcrime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes. But a seed of dissent grows in Winston—one that will bring him into direct conflict with the Party, and with devastating consequences.

Rarely has one book ever been so rich in political and social criticism as 1984. Originally published in 1949, this new graphic novel edition of the dystopian classic, powerfully illustrated by Matyáš Namai, reveals Winston’s fight against the Party in all its horror and futility.

BOOK REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*A review copy was given by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve only read a few chapters of the book before reading the graphic novel, so I don’t have much to compare it to. I’ve DNF-ed this book on page 210, for reasons I’ll explain below.

As a graphic novel, most of the storytelling is in the art. The sparing use of colour, strategically and impactful, the art style adds to the story, invoking a sense of fear, unease and discomfort. The textures and lighting were incredible, and I wished I had more time with this book just to read it again and admire the art.

The chapter pages were brilliant, it showed the setting and the usage of perspective, making it stand out from the rest of the book. In addition to that, it also includes a beautifully crafted line that explains the chapter in a rather ominous way. It’s one of my favourite parts of this book, and I could compliment it for days.

I can’t tell if there are any crucial details from George Orwell’s 1984 that this graphic novel might’ve not included, but it was good enough for me. I appreciate the way the writer and the artist chose to layout the book, especially when Mr Smith was reading the book from Goldstein. I just wished it didn’t span 10 pages of just pure text, but the illustrations accompanying it at the side probably made it a little worthwhile. Still, as much as I think it was smart design-wise, long passages of text are the last thing I hope to see in a graphic novel.

Towards the end, it somewhat lost its’ charm. There was far too much text to find it enjoyable. Reading this through Adobe Digital Editions on the PC made it far worse with its slow loading time and blurry text. I do not fault the book for this, but instead, it contributes to the problem that it was no longer enjoyable to read.

REVIEW: And We Call It Love

Back again with another NetGalley book that I should’ve read and reviewed long ago but didn’t. At this point, I should stop requesting books (which I have, but still have a backlog of it) so I don’t have to face a menacing pile.

I’m nearing the end of my semester, so I’ll have some time to write blog posts aside from just reviews, which were the original intention of this blog. I’m looking forward to it and sharing more with you guys!


And We Call It Love
by Amanda Vink

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

Clare and Zari are best friends. They write music together, go everywhere together, and they know everything about the other. At least they did before Zari started dating Dion. The more Zari falls for Dion, the less she has time for anything else. At first, Clare chalks it up to a new and exciting relationship, and she tries to be happy for her friend despite her loneliness. When Zari starts to show up to school with half-hidden bruises, Clare knows there’s something darker about this relationship that has to be stopped.

BOOK REVIEW

*A copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

t/w: abuse, gaslighting

This poetry collection was addictive. If I hadn’t started it at 4AM, I would’ve finished it in one sitting.

And We Call It Love is a poetry collection surrounding the themes of friendship, love, growing up, prejudice and abuse. It reads like a diary entry told from the perspectives of Zari, a talented writer, and her best friend Clare, a great guitarist.

Unlike many poems I’ve read, this was easy to read. You didn’t have to think too much, it almost feels like you’re reading a novel as it follows a linear timeline. I’ve never read a poem like this before, and it’s extremely memorable.

The two best friends were incredible, and I loved the relationship between Zari’s brother and Clare. There were many themes in this poem, and it was just an all-around great read filled with so much friendship and love. Not to mention also anger and disbelief, but mostly great friendship that made me shed some tears. It was a rollercoaster of emotions.

The formatting of the poems is by far the most interesting part of the book. It uses alignment to show the conversation between the characters or their actions and thoughts. It was extremely refreshing.

REVIEW: 100 Things to Know About Art

As a graphic design student with a long-term appreciation and love for art and books, this was calling my name.

I’ve been reading more non-fiction books, mostly about art, design or self-help, which will definitely be a regular thing on my blog. I don’t really have a niche, and don’t plan to have one since I enjoy way too many genres to focus on any. I will, however, try to add variety to every month’s posts. Just to mix things up a little one in a while.


100 Things to Know About Art
by Susie Hodge and Marcos Farina (illustrator)

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

How do you sum up the amazing world of art in just 100 words? This striking book takes on the challenge! From pottery to Pointillism, each of the carefully chosen 100 words has its own 100-word long description and quirky illustration, providing a fascinating introduction to art. Basically, everything you need to know in a nutshell.

Along with some classic methods, such as painting and sketching, you’ll also discover less predictable aspects of art that will give you a fresh perspective. Featuring materials, elements, methods, art movements, styles and places this book covers a wide range of topics and themes, as well as some key artists of the past and present. With a clean, contemporary design, each word occupies a page of its own. A large striking illustration neatly encapsulates the accompanying 100 words of text.

BOOK REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

*A copy of this book was provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve always been a big lover of art, but understanding it was difficult. When I was younger, I wanted to learn the timelines and movements, but it was difficult to do so on my own. Only in college was I then introduced to it formally, through Design Theory classes that fell on Thursdays after lunch, too full and sleepy to focus in class, to my dismay. However, this book is a great starting point if you’re interested in learning more about art.

Susie Hodge explains art movements, painting materials, styles, and other art-related terminologies, such as a gallery, an exhibition and spatial design (which I am very interested in and definitely need to look into). She provides the historical context, examples and also a list of resources for extra reading.

From the cover to cover, each page was filled with fun and bright illustrations using a rather limited colour palette, but creating gorgeous, inspiring art. With great use of texture and beautiful fonts, this is a book lover and an art lover’s dream. It made me want to make some art.

As I was reading and typing notes for my review, I keep going on and on about the great illustration style and, here I quote an unedited, compelling point, “MAN I COULD START YELLING ABOUT THE TEXTURES AND COLOURS”. Overall, this is a great book that explains concepts in a way that is easy to understand, with or without prior experience in art history. The art is beautiful and very inspiring, and it also works great as a coffee table book.

REVIEW: The Sound of Violet

I haven’t been able to blog as much as I wanted to.

Hello friends, it has been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve missed a week, but of course, there were more things scheduled that I didn’t meet. Year 3 has been hectic, and it is now Week 11. I have 3 more weeks of this semester to go, and so much to do. I might not be able to blog as much until December, but I am looking forward to it. I have some things planned, and by then I’ll have more time.

Disclaimer: Today’s book is about human trafficking and forced prostitution. This is a heavy theme within the book, there were will be some links at the bottom of the page, and how you can help. A portion of sales from this novel will be donated to fight human trafficking.


The Sound of Violet
by Allen Wolf

get the book here, see the behind the scenes here

BOOK SUMMARY

Desperate to find his soulmate, Shawn goes on one awkward date after another until he encounters the alluring Violet. He starts dating her, but his autism keeps him from realizing that she’s actually a prostitute.

Shawn thinks he’s found a possible wife while Violet thinks she’s discovered her ticket to a brand new life. This hilarious and dramatic award-winning story takes all kinds of twists and turns and has been adapted into a major motion picture.

BOOK REVIEW

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

*A review copy was given in exchange for an honest review.

T/W: abuse, human trafficking

Today’s book was one that I instantly liked from the first page, and made me cry for 25 minutes straight. It’s hopeful and harsh, violent yet sweet. It’s conflicting, just like their two worlds. Personally, I want to mention more about this book and it’s contents, but the book summary is rather vague, which is why I feel hesitant as it seems like a big spoiler.

Shawn doesn’t like loud noises, bright colours, or people touching him. He is blunt, doesn’t really get jokes and understands things rather literally. So when he tries to find his soulmate in New York City, things usually don’t work out. Violet on the other hand, had horrible experiences with men, is constantly on the job and doesn’t believe that love is for her.

This is one of the books where I liked most of the characters, which made me want to read this book quickly. I instantly liked Violet, and could mostly understand the way she acts. I also found the Shawn’s approach to trying to date Violet very amusing and heartwarming. I also found the early miscommunication between them to be entertaining, as Shawn believed they were on a date but Violet thought that he would be a client. I really liked them together, and was rooting for them.

Quite a portion of this book were about prejudice, as every one around Shawn knew that Violet was a prostitute, except for him. Shawn’s family were against it, but Shawn was stubborn and held out hope. This book also deals with deaths, familial relationships, abuse, manipulation, sexual assault and human trafficking. I would say the highs were high and the low leaves you crying for maybe half an hour, based on my own experience.

I can’t wait for the movie! In the meantime, I believe you can still read this book and give it a review at NetGalley. If you have the ability, I hope you will purchase a copy of this book, as a portion will be donated to fight human trafficking.

Here is where you can learn more about human trafficking.
If you are based in the US, call this hotline 1-888-373-7888 for 24/7 confidential help.
If you are based in Malaysia, visit SUHAKAM (human rights services) for help.