REVIEW: The Humiliations of Pipi McGee

I realised as a book reviewer, I’m filled with nothing but regrets. Today, we review a book I regret not reading earlier.

This was a book I downloaded from NetGalley back in 2019, when I first started reviewing. Suddenly I was overwhelmed, fell into a slump, multiple slumps, and now in 2021, I am kicking myself for not reading this earlier.

It was great. My heart is warm, so are my tears. I had a great time going through rollercoasters of emotions with this one.


The Humiliations of Pipi McGee
by Beth Vrabel

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

Award-winning author Beth Vrabel writes with humor and empathy about a girl who wants to shed her embarrassing moments before she leaves middle school behind her. The first eight years of Penelope McGee’s education have been a curriculum in humiliation. Now she is on a quest for redemption, and a little bit of revenge.

From her kindergarten self-portrait as a bacon with boobs, to fourth grade when she peed her pants in the library thanks to a stuck zipper to seventh grade where…well, she doesn’t talk about seventh grade. Ever.

After hearing the guidance counselor lecturing them on how high school will be a clean slate for everyone, Pipi–fearing that her eight humiliations will follow her into the halls of Northbrook High School–decides to use her last year in middle school to right the wrongs of her early education and save other innocents from the same picked-on, laughed-at fate. Pipi McGee is seeking redemption, but she’ll take revenge, too.

BOOK REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hurt people hurt people

Beth Vrabel, The Humiliations of Pipi McGee

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

With a combination of lovable characters, fast-paced storyline and enjoyable writing, I couldn’t put this down.

8th Grade: a new school year, a chance for new beginnings. For Pipi McGee, it’s a chance for new beginnings but first, she needs to check things off her list, ‘The List’, that is, of her 8 biggest humiliations and taking revenge on everyone who has humiliated her. From Regina George in middle-school form vile Kara Samson, her long-term unreciprocated crush who had rejected her in a horrific way Jackson Thorpe, and the ever-unbearable Frau Jacobs… and almost everyone who has ran away, shunned and snickered from the Pipi Touch.

Despite all that she has been through, she had her best friend Tasha by her side. Bold, fearless, captain of the track team and a book nerd with dyslexia, who no matter how busy her schedule was, had always made time and stood up for her best friend Pipi. She also had Ricky, who had always been there for her from the beginning, but she was too blind to realise and only believed they were friends because of his crush on Tasha.

I loved all the characters. From Pipi, her family, her schoolmates, the popular group in school, but maybe not the boring as stale bread Jackson Thorpe. He is still young, sure, figuring himself out, sure, but man I wished there was more to him. That aside, I loved the relationships and complex personalities of the characters in this book. Especially Pipi, who at times made me want to yell and hide in fear of consequences for her actions, yet hug and comfort her at the same time.

Aside from school, it focuses on Pipi’s family life, with her bad relationship with her sister Eliza, her adorable but insanely intelligent and wise for a 4-year-old niece, Annie, and her divorced parents and her mother’s new boyfriend Alec. It was refreshing and a lovely balance to the chaos in school, and it gave more depth into Pipi’s life outside of working on The List.

I especially liked how this book deals with issues like bullying, and generations of hurt and power complexes. The storyline is rather predictable, but I believe it falls under the good side of predictable, where it is set-up well and made sense. It was a very enjoyable read.

REVIEW: In

Graphic novels should be for everyone, regardless of age. It’s a great palate cleanser after a heavy book, great introduction to reading after a slump and it’s a great thing to read if you want to reach your reading goals.

I was in one of my rare moods of wanting to read a graphic novel. Whilst browsing NetGalley, I found this gem, and it’s by a New Yorker cartoonist. I’ve never clicked on it faster. I’ve always admired the artwork on the New Yorker magazine. Sometimes I wish I could purchase the magazine, cut out the cover and frame it.

I could go on and on about my love for the magazine covers, but that’s a topic for another day.


REVIEW: In
by Will McPhail

BOOK SUMMARY

A poignant and witty graphic novel by a leading New Yorker cartoonist, following a millennial’s journey from performing his life to truly connecting with people

Nick, a young illustrator, can’t shake the feeling that there is some hidden realm of human interaction beyond his reach. He haunts lookalike fussy, silly, coffee shops, listens to old Joni Mitchell albums too loudly, and stares at his navel in the hope that he will find it in there. But it isn’t until he learns to speak from the heart that he begins to find authentic human connections and is let in—to the worlds of the people he meets. Nick’s journey occurs alongside the beginnings of a relationship with Wren, a wry, spirited oncologist at a nearby hospital, whose work and life becomes painfully tangled with Nick’s.

Illustrated in both color and black-and-white in McPhail’s instantly recognizable style, In elevates the graphic novel genre; it captures his trademark humor and compassion with a semi-autobiographical tale that is equal parts hilarious and heart-wrenching—uncannily appropriate for our isolated times.

BOOK REVIEW

5 STARS

*A review copy was given by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
t/w: sex, nudity

The perfect balance of an interesting storyline, gorgeous illustrations and a brilliant use of colour. This book is a work of art.

‘It’ is a funny graphic novel by New Yorker magazine illustrator Will McPhail, and it is snarky, creative and reflective. The dialogues were hilarious and comedic without trying too hard, and the characters were likeable. It has been a long time since I’ve read something as good and memorable as this.

The story follows Nick, a 21st century ‘woke boy’ who spends his days in and out of cafes, working a job he hates and often times could be heard exciting himself through the walls and listening to Joni Mitchell right after. He struggles with emotional intimacy, and often has internal monologues about keeping a façade in a world where people commonly engage in small talk.

Then enters Wren, a wry and outgoing oncologist that he met at a bar while he was reenacting the common ‘sad guy at a bar’ scene from a ton of movies (he reference movies quite a bit throughout the story, most of the references fly past my head but I can still appreciate it). They hit off almost immediately and form an interesting relationship with plenty of sarcasm, teasing and emotional moments. She’s my favourite part of this book.

A big chunk of the book was on Nick trying to have conversations that matter with the people around him, and trying to know the person before it becomes too late. I also loved how McPhail left hidden messages in the scenes, especially the names of bars and hipster cafes. A reflection of society and businesses. It’s clever and always a joy to read. He writes in a way that is holding a mirror towards the audience and reminding them to reflect and form better relationships, encased in satire.

Colour is use very wisely in this graphic novel. Most of the pages are in black and white, heavy on the shading, but there are instances where colour is used, commonly to portray the explosion of emotions and happiness when there’s a connection or vulnerability. It is literally a burst of colour, and it is beautiful. Some scenes even looked like photographs.

It’s amazing.

REVIEW: Poetry Dead to Society

cover161014-mediumPoetry Dead to Society
by Cee Jay & Shirley Spring

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

All types of poetry; love, romance, life’s journey, religion, heartbreak, and even hatred and anger that will amaze and stun readers. It’s guaranteed to open your mind’s eye. Poetry Dead to Society written to awaken the life of poetry within our society.

BOOK REVIEW

3.5 STARS
*An e-ARC was given through Netgalley in return for an honest review.*

I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a poetry collection as much as this.

It began with a rocky start – poems about love that made me hydrate my eyes by rolling every few seconds, inconsistent and strange illustrations that ended up somewhat disturbing. However, after the initial 7 (yes I counted), I found a few that I really liked.

After the first chapter, every poem was enjoyable. There were around 8 poems that left me speechless and became instant favourites. A few of those are ‘Today the World Ended’, ‘Quiet What I Wish to Be’, ‘True, Real Life’ and ‘My Only Fear’. I absolutely loved the free-flow verses and the diverse topics in this poetry collection.

However, I had a few issues with this that although I can look past, it is rather disappointing. These issues are more towards the formatting of the poetry collection. I downloaded a kindle version of this, hence I’m not sure if some of the text merged together into a line instead of it being split. Furthermore, the illustrations were inconsistent. The art styles and size constantly changed and towards disappeared completely from Chapter Four onward. I was unable to enjoy some of the earlier poems because of this.

Overall, it was an incredibly enjoyable read that speaks to my heart. If you are dipping your toes into poetry, want to read poems covering different topics and just want to read something that can possibly put your thoughts and feelings into words, this is the book to pick up.

REVIEW: Things That Don’t Make Sense

cover154930-medium Things That Don’t Make Sense (The Bad Kids in 4B, #2)
by Brynn Kelly

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

Hi-lo fiction. Landon currently has an F in life. He won’t do his homework, won’t take tests, won’t even look at the chalkboard during class. His parents and teachers think it’s because he’s just not trying, but really, Landon is hiding a deep secret: nothing makes sense to him. He struggles to read, has trouble focusing, and can’t wrap his mind around math. Maybe this a problem only the kids in 4B can solve.

BOOK REVIEW

4 stars

“A free version was given to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Middle-grade fiction that should be read by every student. ‘Things That Don’t Make Sense” shares about the difficulties some students with learning disabilities face.

Landon failed all his classes except art and gym, maths doesn’t make sense and he wants to be a game developer. He tried but he just can’t understand it whereas everyone else doesn’t understand him.

“Things That Don’t Make Sense” touches on the topic of bullying, parents setting high expectations on their children and the fear of not being able to explain yourself and what you’re going through.

Although it is a short book (less than 100 pages), it would have been better if there was more on the characters and how they helped one another. I felt it was a bit too fast paced but it was able to show that no matter how difficult life may be, every thing will always work out.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Aldo

finale-cover

Aldo
by Yannick Pelegrin

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

Aldo has been twenty-eight for three hundred years. Despite his long life, he still hasn’t developed very good social skills. His whole family has been dead now for a long while, and nobody believes he is immortal. As a result, he leads a lonely existence. He is afraid to love anything or anyone, except for his beautiful Alfa Romeo and his little pug Gustav. When he tries to seek professional help, there too the truth seems too absurd for words. But then he spots someone on television and recognizes him from an encounter two hundred years ago. And he decides to visit the to get some answers.

BOOK REVIEW

3 STARS

*A copy of Aldo was provided by Netgalley in return for an honest review.*

Aldo is a book that requires some thought to understand it. It makes a little more sense the second time reading it and some scenes are required to be read more than a couple of times.

In terms of the story line, I like how the writer is able to make the readers relate to Aldo’s confusion of his immortality. The story revolves around Aldo and he is rarely seen having a conversation with someone else which reflects his loneliness really well.  However, it does get confusing at times since the narratives were unclear.

I really like the art style and the colours Pelegrin used. I like the contrast in colour, the red and green tones were very consistent in this work and it highlights which part the readers should focus on. The style also accentuates the sadness and confusion Aldo feels.

REVIEW: The Dark Prophecy

e214399b-4bbe-4d98-9197-93c6dbd89e75The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, #2)
by Rick Riordan

get it here

BOOK SUMMARY

A perilous quest to complete.
I must become a god again.

I, the god Apollo – cast down to earth in the body of a gawky mortal teen – bravely endured a series of dangerous trials at Camp Half-Blood.

Now, accompanied by Leo Valdez and the sorceress Calypso (also mortal, ha!), I must find the most dangerous Oracle from ancient times, who may hold the answers I need to return to Mount Olympus.

To make things worse, the second member of the evil Triumvirate – a Roman emperor with a disturbing love of bloodshed – stands in our way.

Without my powers (and good looks and singing voice), how does Zeus expect me to overcome the greatest challenge I’ve faced in my four thousand years of existence?

BOOK REVIEW

4 STARS

I never liked Apollo until the end of the first book in this series. A once arrogant, selfish and merciless god (human, since he was in the form of Lester Papadopoulos) had a character development and became someone who was more selfless and actually cared for others. He is still, rather full of himself but it is more tolerable now.

I’ve always been a fan of Riordan’s books. I loved Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgards. However, this might be the series that I find the hardest to love. Unlike the aforementioned series, I found it difficult to like the main character. I also couldn’t care less about Meg.

In addition to that, I think this book might be my least favourite by Riordan so far. I am very aware that Riordan loves to include 21st century references into his stories. I am absolutely for it! However, I noticed that it happened way too frequently in this book and instead of finding it amusing or relatable, I felt as if he might be trying way too hard.

On the other hand, I loved that Riordan included the community’s favourite characters as if it was a major throwback to the first two series. Characters like Leo and Calypso, Thalia, Grover and even Coach Hedge were mentioned and it warmed my heart.

Although this book might be my least favourite, I am excited to read the third book in the series, The Burning Maze.

REVIEW: Gold Shadow

Gold Shadow (Bronze Rebellion, #1)
by L.C. Perry

get it here

 BOOK SUMMARY: 

In the North American continent, eighteen-year-old Ebony has been living as a slave for as long as she can remember. The underground cities, the tattoo, the scars and the shackles are a part of the only world she has ever known. She knows that in order to survive, she will have to stay strong. And she will stay strong, cursing those in power, until her very last breath. She waits for a meaningful way to die as she quietly pushes her body to its limit…but that all changes when rebels from the surface drop down right in front of her. 

Now, Ebony is challenged to envision a life beyond slavery as she and the other escapees are thrown into the center of a rebellion against the monarchy. She has to embrace this glimmer towards a real life…this glimmer called freedom. But what can she contribute to a rebellion that is doomed to fail like those before it? How can they stop a corrupt monarchy that has lasted for a century? Among the lower class, those with hope are hard to come by, but Ebony has found refuge with people full of it. And through their strong desire, an idea emerges…one that has never been done before. The princess of the country is coming of age and what better way to send a message to the king and queen than to kidnap their only daughter?

 BOOK REVIEW: 


5 STARS

*A free PDF copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review*

Gold Shadow may have a slow start but 10% into the book and you will find yourself hooked, I assure you.

We are first introduced to Ebony, a character who is cold and self-sufficient. As a slave all her life, she has learnt to harden her heart and disregard the companion of others as it could only bring more trouble. The foil character, in contrast to Ebony, is an innocent princess named Irene who was shielded from the harsh reality of the world, fed with the idea that the rebels were causing more trouble to her soon-to-be kingdom. The narrative of the story is told through the lives and experiences of the two characters, forming a clear understanding of the background of the characters.

Being at the wrong place at the wrong time, Ebony crosses paths with the rebels from the surface and is forced to go with them. As they make their leave, they are noticed by other slaves who wanted in on the escape as well. Ebony who was a slave all her life was experiencing freedom and the outside world for the first time. It was what she wanted, but yet she feels empty and wants more meaning in her life.

Gold Shadow has a variety of characters, each unique and captivating in their own way. There was diversity, which I really like. In my opinion, it wasn’t the plot that drove the story, but the characters. Every character had a past that shaped and motivated them to be a part of the rebellion. It was also the relationships between the characters that made this book so interesting. 

I love seeing the character development in the story, especially for Ebony whose life changed because of her mentor, Asher. She was constantly driven to the edge, motivated yet scared for her life. I would see why too, especially because of Asher’s personality. It was also how Perry revealed each characters’ past that made me engrossed in the story. It was done so smoothly without it seeming as if it was awkwardly inserted into the middle of the story. Furthermore, the characters were so relatable that it could make the reader feel a connection with them.

The only thing that I disliked was how it ended with a cliffhanger, however, it sure sets the mood and thrill to read the second book in the Bronze Rebellion series.

POPULAR BOOKFEST 2018

The long-awaited Popular BookFest is here once again! From June 9 to June 17, bookworms around Kuala Lumpur are able to enjoy the wonderful book sale and splurge on the books that they’ve been waiting to read. From YA novels, Chinese books, technology and even stationery, Popular BookFest has it all!

Unlike the previous years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Popular Bookfest twice this year. The entrance fee was only RM2.50. It is free of charge for children 18 and under as well as for senior citizens aged 60 and above.

TIPS
1. Bring your own bag

The more environmentally friendly option to shop. Plastic bags will be charged at 20 cents in order to encourage using our own bags. It is also more rewarding to know that you’re doing a part in helping the environment. You also won’t have to worry about the plastic bags breaking.

2. Visit the stationery section and electronics first

I’ve only done this this time around and I highly recommend it. Usually, I’d visit the books section first instead of the stationery and electronics section. By the time I’ve bought my books, I’ve already spent 2 hours in the convention centre, exhausted and aching to go back home. Lunging around the crowded stationery and electronics section with heavy bags of books isn’t the most ideal shopping condition, after all. I’ll definitely start my day by heading off to the stationery section first as it gets crowded during the afternoon.

HERE’S THE LOOT!

The School for Good and Evil set usual RM134.90, now RM79.90

I’ve seen my friends read this book and the blurb really interested me. I would’ve not bought it but it was surprisingly cheap, so what’s the harm.

The Girl With Seven Names usual RM59.90, rebate 20%

After reading Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live, I became more interested in wanting to hear what others faced in North Korea. I believe that everyone has a story to tell and I’d like to listen to Hyeonseo Lee’s story.

Aru Shah and the End of Time usual RM41.90, now RM29.90

I’ve never really thought of picking up this book either. I’ve seen my favourite author, Rick Riordan constantly posting and retweeting about this book on Twitter. Seeing that it was on sale, I’d decided to take a shot at it.

 Around the World in Eighty Days 25% rebate

I’ve been wanting to read this for a while now. It was difficult to find this book. Honestly, I am not quite sure what its’ about but I guess the title tells it all. I hope it’s filled with adventure!

Murder on the Orient Express  usual RM 39.90, now RM 27.90

I’ve heard wonders of Agatha Christie. I’ve also read a book review on this book that has made me quite intrigued by it. I’ve only added it to my TBR list a few weeks ago and I’m so glad to be able to tick it off! 

 One of Us Is Lying RM46.95, 25% rebate

I remember adding this to my TBR too a while back. I’ve already forgotten what the blurb was about but I am always up for a mystery novel!

The Diary of A Young Girl usual RM55.90, now RM14.90

I’d like to know about her life, the things she faced and her experiences. I am someone who likes reading autobiographies, just to get to know the person better. It has been a book that I’ve constantly seen and I’ve been waiting to pick it up but didn’t think I’d like. A new year, a new challenge. 

All that She Can See + On The Other Side usual RM42.90, 30% rebate

I’ve been a subscriber to Carrie’s YouTube channel for a while now. I’ve always wanted to read this really. I’m more excited by All that She Can See compared to On the Other Side, but either way, I’m thrilled to have seen these goodies on sale! 

My TBR is growing week by week with me trying to get more indie authors’ books to review as well as my habit of buying books faster than I read them. Nonetheless, I am glad to have rekindled my love of reading. Cheers to more book reviews in the future. I’m sure a review of some of these books here will be out in the future. Till then!

– J

REVIEW: The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman
by Denis Thériault

Get it here

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bilodo lives a solitary daily life, routinely completing his postal rounds every day and returning to his empty Montreal apartment. But he has found a way to break the cycle—Bilodo has taken to stealing people’s mail, steaming open the envelopes, and reading the letters inside. And so it is he comes across Ségolène’s letters. She is corresponding with Gaston, a master poet, and their letters are each composed of only three lines. They are writing each other haikus. The simplicity and elegance of their poems move Bilado and he begins to fall in love with her. But one day, out on his round, he witnesses a terrible and tragic accident. Just as Gaston is walking up to the post-box to mail his next haiku to Ségolène, he is hit by a car and dies on the side of the road. And so Bilodo makes an extraordinary decision—he will impersonate Gaston and continue to write to Ségolène under this guise. But how long can the deception continue for? Denis Thériault weaves a passionate and elegant tale, comic and tragic with a love story at its heart

BOOK REVIEW: 

3 STARS
What stood out for this book was the interesting plot. The idea that our trusted postman could be someone who finds thrill and excitement in reading our mail was the last thing I’d think of, and Thériault turned the whole idea into a book. What enticed me about the book was the haikus and the thought of communicating through haikus fascinated me, something I did not think was possible.

Bilodo was just like us – seeing a romantic love story and falling in love with one of the characters, infatuated with a love life that he wish he had. And when he saw his chance to be the next actor of this love story, he jumped at it.

The plot was interesting and somewhat different. It introduces different Japanese literary art like ‘tanka’, ‘renku’ and ‘enso’ but it happened all in a blur and I could not understand any of it. The only reason why I bothered continuing the book was to look for good haikus. Unfortunately, there were only few that stood out.

It was rather creepy of Bilodo to have such a hobby and it certainly made me wonder if any of the postmen did the same. He invaded the privacy of others, just for his mere enjoyment. Poor Ségolène, if only she knew. Their poor love story would never had happened.

The ending was unexpected, but nonetheless, I loved it. It felt as if the entire story had come to a full circle. It also leaves me wondering, had ‘Grandpré’ really been Grandpré?

TL:DR

I believe I expected too much from this book regarding the haikus. It was a good book in terms of the plot and how unique it was. However, some parts in the book was confusing, especially when the literary arts in Japan were mentioned.


A segment of this review has been first published on my Goodreads.

REVIEW: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle
by Rick Riordan

Get it here

BOOK SUMMARY: 

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.

But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go… an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

BOOK REVIEW:

5 STARS
If I were to be honest, I thought I’d hate this book. Apollo was a selfish god, proud and narcissistic. He was easily my least favourite amongst the 12 Olympians.

Losing his powers and becoming a mortal, Apollo now undertakes the identity of Lester Papadopolos. He faces the hard life of being a mortal, a whole reality-check since he spent most of his time admiring himself in the mirror back on his throne with the other Olympians.

The start of the book was sickening. Apollo was in denial of the whole situation, being the selfish god that he is (or was) and was throwing tantrums everywhere. Riordan did a wonderful job, channelling the actions of a baby into an ex-olympian and making people find him unbearable.

Apollo faces a huge character development towards the end. He realises his mistakes, he grieves his losses, he regrets his wrongdoings. That was when I had a soft spot for Apollo and began to admire him.

This book was about how Apollo dealt with losing his powers, being completely helpless in the mortal world where he could possibly die while fighting off monsters. It was about friendships and relationships, cherishing and regretting. Most of all, it was about how people can change due to some issue they faced. It was about growth and that was extremely impactful. Apollo’s self-reflection made me gave this book 5 stars.


This review was first published on my Goodreads account.