n_asyikin_'s reviews
231 reviews

My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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challenging dark funny fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

It's infuriating & twisted; what more can you expect from a story about a sister who protects another despite her being a serial killer?

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Our Dining Table, by Ori Mita

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emotional inspiring lighthearted sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Two men grieved for a love lost or not given, which led to the tendency to build-up walls that isolate them either from other people or from the vulnerability evoked by emotions. Until they found possibilities with each other. Being nudged by the vivacious toddler Tane, Minoru & Yutaka stepped away from the shadows that clouded over them to welcome & savour joy.

Hopeful & touching in a subtly eloquent manner, Our Dining Table asked us to embrace our fears, highlighting how one can find comfort & companionship through our love for foods. 

You'd find yourselves grinning at their antics, or moved to tears only to be comforted, all the while be reminded how foods in itself can be a language of love.

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Life of Melody, by Mari Costa

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funny lighthearted fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

4.0

A fairy godfather & a troll fought to raise an abandoned human child. Instead of duking it out with each other, they reluctantly raised Melody together. And what ensued was a sweet story of love & acceptance, of a found family that would surely warm your heart.
Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi

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challenging dark reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

5.0

A fascinating take on horror that focused not on the actual monster, but rather the horror that derived from political instability & violence & how they interacted with human selfishness. The monster, called Whatsitsname, represented how one may spiral into the chaos of uncertainties with astute philosophical takes on what makes & drives a person to either be heroic or villanous; traversing the fine line between those two based on one's social identity & situations. 

Told through the views of different characters with varying privileges, you'd see how violence, lack of security, & displacement affect people: some tried to profit off the chaos; others believing that they held the key for betterment; there were those whose grief & trauma were too heavy that their mind sought an alternate reality. 

Gripping in its commentary, Frankenstein in Baghdad portrayed how fraught humanity can be especially in a place that lack safety.

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XOXO, by Axie Oh

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hopeful lighthearted fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

4.0

It's a fun, enjoyable story with a strong K-drama vibe. The story was simplistic, told in brief snapshots across scenes, making it fast-paced. The vivacious, youthful characters added warmth & lightness to the story.

Due to its simplistic nature, some may felt like the characters were one-dimensional. Some side characters were rather decorative, not meant to add to the storyline though at certain moments, it might felt like it. I also had issues relating to the problematic depictions seen typically in Korean dramas, e.g., male love-interest's demands brushed off as affection instead of control; the normalisation of having a college guy showing romantic interest to a sophomore in high-school. Again, due to the transient nature of the story, these elements showed little impact to the story/characters, hence, little thoughts or significance were attached to them. Still, they did irk me a bit.

The quick change between scenes meant very little introspections were included with sparse details typically use during narration, i.e., the story was told straight-to-the-point. But if you enjoy strong, romantic ideals imbued into a story, you'd enjoy the vibe XOXO gives off.

The characters' vivaciousness & hopeful relations with one another will definitely put a smile on your face. XOXO is one of those books where you get to relax & unwind to.

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The Charm Offensive, by Alison Cochrun

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challenging emotional lighthearted medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

A contemporary romance set in a background of a reality show where reality really catches up with our cast of characters.

I think it's important how the story depicted mental health issues especially in terms of the pervasiveness of ableism in our society. Being that it is a current default in society that often shaped internalized ableism, having the effects of ableism being portrayed set as a reminder of its cruelty.

Charlie's discovery of being in the ace spectrum spoke volume to me, personally. I think that compassion & acceptance seen between Dev & Charlie was necessary; the concept of being accepted for who you are consistent throughout this story.

That being said, there were certain aspects of the story that irked the pragmatics in me.
SpoilerAlthough Charlie was blacklisted in his industry, he was still a millionaire; I found the helplessness surrounding his situation, the dismissal over the power his wealth should bring as unbelievable really.

Although Cochrun did point out later on that 'love doesn't always provide miraculous cure', I thought that it was still a running theme in the story - which can be problematic. I get that Dev & Charlie were the stars of the story, but Dev's seeming magical ability to manage Charlie's anxiety and Charlie for Dev's depression implied that romantic partner should have innate ability to know-it-all which improve one's mental state.
I personally found this idealism reductive of the efforts that go into managing chronic mental disorders. But perhaps I'm being pedantic.

I adored the analogies used by Cochrun, rather beautiful for a sweeping romance like this. Furthermore, I quite enjoy reading about the friendships shared between the characters; strong friendship is always a plus for me!

If you enjoy the drama & chaos that surrounds reality TV, you'll likely enjoy this book. The Charm Offensive was witty with a swoon-worthy romance set in the backdrop of self-discovery & self-acceptance.

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The Only Good Indians, by Stephen Graham Jones

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challenging dark tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0


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This Winter, by Alice Oseman

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challenging emotional lighthearted fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

4.0


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The Summer of Everything, by Julian Winters

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challenging emotional funny lighthearted medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

Wes is desperately trying to figure out what to do after he'd graduate from high school, i.e. what should be his major in college; is college even for him.

Throw into the midst are the strained relationship with his brother Leo, Wes needs to overcome for Leo's wedding, a threat to close down the bookstore he called his second home, & the possibility of going on a different path from his best friend whom he secretly loves. Wes is practically kicking & screaming, resisting the idea of adulthood.

Messy & raw, this coming-of-age story tackles the fear & anxiety that came with the uncertainties in life, and the pressure to be self-assured when you "reach" adulthood. 

The book depicts how making mistakes, being driven by the uncertainties that haunt us, is just parts & parcels of growing up. And that as overwhelming as we might find some things to be, it is by surrounding yourself with those who accepts you & support you in that messy growth does makes life feels less intimidating. 

Simple to connect with the mess often associated with a big transition in life, The Summer of Everything is emotional, youthful & feisty like the season it was set it.
The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin

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challenging dark emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

I liked to take my time reading Jemisin's works, because her world was so rich, so complex, you found yourself captivated in an anthropological way.

Set in a dystopia where xenophobia (against orogenes) & ableism were rampant, the Broken Earth series explored morally questionable decisions people made, & were made to choose. The unequal interplay between sociopolitical standings were exacerbated by the power of nature, i.e. Father Earth, highlighting the greater injustices faced by the oppressed. 

If anything, I'm always in awe with how layered the structure to Jemisin's books were. She'd made you questioned who's the narrator, the linearity of the story timeline, the intent of her characters that left you feeling somewhat out-of-sort, but never to the point of confusion. Jemisin's style of writing would teased you & enlightened you in equal measures; it will leave you hooked.

The way Jemisin imbued the characters' complex internal world with the chaos of their reality was mindblowing. I found myself wondering how one could even begun to think of creating such a world. Truly, a brilliant read!

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