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Book Review Blog

  • Writer's pictureSeema M. Fazil

Title: Mission Rider

Author: Sharmin Akter

Published: October 3, 2023

Purchase: Amazon

Add it on Goodreads

Rating: ★★★★★


In this YA debut about navigating loss and confronting hurt, two teens unwillingly paired for a school project spend time together and discover their lives are a lot more similar than they are different.
Aeryn Rider wants to do better, but her temper cuts through people like a blade. Aeryn was used to her mother taking off, always sure that her mother would come back. Until one day, she didn’t. Now, Aeryn is under her sister’s guardianship with a whole new set of problems—stress about college, her nephew stuck in the hospital, and returning to school after punching Robbie Nelson.
Alex Finley seems to have it all—a winning attitude, a wealthy family, and a group of friends who just so happen to have it out for Aeryn. When the two are paired for a school project, Alex is sure he can charm his way into her life, but Aeryn is less than enthused about Alex’s persistence, especially his hopeful attitude.
As they delve into this partnership and possible friendship, Alex learns what lay beneath her tough exterior, and Aeryn discovers that she and Alex are more alike than she thought. Maybe having a little hope isn’t so bad after all.


My Review:

Despite still having a lot of unread books to get to, I couldn't resist getting Mission Rider on my Kindle, seeing it would make the perfect read at this time of year with the cover giving me fall vibes. I especially couldn't pass up the free offer!

I've been following Sharmin on social media for a while and have been looking forward to her debut ever since. The way she's been hyping Mission Rider made me want to get my hands on it soon. Also, I've been on a search for a good mental health rep book. I'm so glad to finally have picked up Mission Rider. It's got the perfect mental health rep I've ever seen, and such a beautiful novel with deep messages. I was impressed.🥺

Mission Rider follows two teens, Aeryn Rider and Alex Finley, who deal with their own struggles. While Aeryn goes through the trauma of abandonment, Alex has to deal with his family breaking...

It's a novel that shows what it's like grieving for someone alive.

I guess the author wasn't kidding when she kept promoting it as a "reverse grumpy/sunshine trope". I swear, such reversed roles. I can't tell you how unique that trope was... 🥹 While Aeryn isn't the average girl, Alex isn't an average boy. Usually, unlike girls, who are more sappy and emotional, guys are reserved and don't like to show their emotions. Well, that wasn't the case in Mission Rider. While Aeryn is our grumpy, Alex is our sunshine. It was nice to see something new in literature.

I was especially really impressed with how Alex was portrayed. As a strong mental health advocate for males, I found him to be such a great example as a guy showing that men struggle too, and that they are allowed to cry and express their emotions. Hell, he's also been the one encouraging Aeryn to let out her emotions! I've never read about such a male character! I found him to be unique, and I liked him right away, especially for his jolly personality and sense of humor. As for Aeryn, I'm not gonna lie... but with her prickly attitude, I didn't find her very likable in the beginning... but at the same time, as someone with a good understanding of the subject of mental health, I didn't hate her as I was sure that she must've gone through something that made her the way she was. After all, trauma usually changes people, right? Instead, I had compassion for her and hoped that things would turn around for her. As the story progressed, I enjoyed watching her grow and develop as she struggles to do the right thing. She was so real and believable! The book posed questions in my head as I wondered what made her punch Robbie and what happened in her family that left her traumatized.

I also really loved their friends. I found Kyle, Maddie, and Cyrus to be so loyal. I agree with one reviewer on Goodreads mentioning that the book leaves you wishing "you had a Kyle or Maddie or Cyrus". This book was full of likable characters!

I found Mackenzie to be such a strange character; why was she so desperate to know about Aeryn? Why did Alex's friendship with Aeryn affect her? In the beginning, she annoyed me, but as soon as I got where she was coming from, I felt compassion towards her as I found that there were some things that I could relate to her.

One of the themes that Mission Rider covers is the fact that love hurts; it's the people you love that hurt you the most, which is one of my favorite themes as I can relate to that. Also, there is a message that's so similar to the one I'm trying to get across in my current WIP, which is, hard times pass.

As Maia said to Alex in one part,

"Nothing is bleak for too long."

With some things being similar, I almost felt that Mission Rider was the sister to my own WIP. 😉

Most of all, as someone strongly passionate about the subject of mental health, I really loved how the book emphasizes the importance of unbottling emotions and how suppressing your feelings isn't good for you, which I've always been a strong believer in. It's another that I'm trying to show in my own WIP.

Mission Rider is a novel that gives readers hope.

I loved the ending so much! 🥹❤️❤️

If you want a clean YA that's full of positive messages, please do yourself a favor and pick up Mission Rider!

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Title: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Author: Judy Blume

Release Date: First published January 1, 1970

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Purchase: Amazon

Add it on Goodreads

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆.5


Margaret shares her secrets and her spirituality in this iconic Judy Blume novel, beloved by millions.
Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.
But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.
Margaret is funny and real. As you read her story, you’ll know why this book has been the favorite of millions of readers. It’s as if Margaret is talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.


My Review:

I first heard about Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was during the times when I studied library. Reading the children's literature textbook that was required in the course at the time, the book had been mentioned many times; how popular it is and the fact that it had been banned. Later, I eventually decided to get it (I was really excited when I found it in stock at the bookstore!) after hearing a lot about how popular it is and the fact that Judy Blume is beloved by many readers. Not that Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was my first Judy Blume book; I've read her books previously, like in elementary school, but don't remember much about them. So now that I've got a different perspective as an adult, I was really excited to discover her and see what all the fuss was about her. I was also excited to get back to reading middle-grade as I missed them alot. Started with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a middle-grade novel about growing up and hitting puberty. It's a book that would be awkward for boys to read since it talked a lot about girl stuff such as getting periods and bras. 🤭 Also, it's about finding religion. To be honest, I really don't know how I feel about the book. After I finished it, I instantly got mixed feelings about it and had difficulty rating it. Couldn't decide between one or two stars (yes, unfortunately, I didn't like it very much). Eventually settled on a 1.5 star. Okay, so as a big fan of realistic fiction, in the beginning, I was impressed with how realistic it is; the accuracy of what pre-teen girls go through and think. But then later, I started to get uncomfortable... Yeah sure, the realisticness of what pre-teen girls go through and think may have been impressive, but that absolutely doesn't mean I think it's okay for 11-year-old girls to talk about these things such as nudity and boys. No wonder it had been banned. Maybe Blume should have acknowledged that somehow. Honestly, the book was such a disappointment - I really expected it to be better than that! I was really hoping to like it, but most of the time, I felt as if I was reading about someone's just regular, everyday life. Then there were some things I didn't get. For instance, despite the students not writing their names on their test papers, how did the teacher figure out which test belonged to whom? (Yup, I'm that person who pays close attention to details, so bear with me 🤭) Also, I didn't get why ***Spoiler*** Margaret continued talking to Nancy like nothing happened despite the fact she lied to her. ***Spoiler*** Finally, it's somewhere near the end of the book that really pissed me off and caused the one star. There was a point where Margaret was really angry with God and said offensive things about Him that made me cringe. I would have liked to see her face the consequences of that! Honestly, how I wanted to reach across the pages and give her a good slap! Another thing I would like to point out is that when referring to God, it should always ALWAYS be capitalized, as respect for our Creator. For instance,

Are you there God? It's me, Margaret. (The 'you' SHOULD be capitalized!)

Also, I really don't agree with this BS that it's "too late to choose a religion". There are many people in this world who turned their lives around and became religious.

In the end, basically, the only thing I can say I liked about it was how it stood up against bullying. And that's all.

Overall, unfortunately, I mostly thought Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was a pointless book with no real plot. As I said, mostly just regular everyday things that I didn't get anything out of - could've been better. I regret putting my money in it. Also, I know this may sound unpopular, but kids should not read this.

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  • Writer's pictureSeema M. Fazil

Updated: Aug 18

Title: Let Me Sleep

Author: Laura J. Sillett

Published: September 23, 2021

Purchase: Amazon

Add it on Goodreads

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


He would do anything to remember. And even more to forget.
Tormented by nightmares of a screaming woman, Nico Jakes opens his eyes to an unfamiliar world.
Forced into hiding by a global war, a society has made its home underground. Suffering from psychological trauma, Nico learns that his lost memories hold the key to the survival of the entire community. Frustrated, confused, and under the watchful eye of his protective brother, Nico submits to an unconventional drug treatment to unearth a crucial secret, before an escaped traitor can exploit it.
But the descent into his mind also opens the flood gates to Nico's past, bringing back forgotten lovers, enemies, and tragedy. With dreams warped by drugs and memories tainted by lies, Nico soon realises that he cannot trust anything, not even himself.
Let Me Sleep is a dark, fractured psychological thriller, exploring identity, relationships, and the darker side of human nature when forced into survival.


My Review:

Where do I start?

There is just so much to say about this book that I don't know how to organize my thoughts, but here we go... 😅

This was my first time picking up a psychological thriller. Laura J. Sillett's Let Me Sleep follows a young man, Nico Jakes, who has amnesia and whose memories hold the key to the survival of the entire community. He has to remember before a traitor can exploit an important secret. Intriguing! 👀

I do admit that in the beginning, I was a little lost and confused as I wondered why does a woman keep screaming in Nico's dreams, but then slowly got the hang of it later as things started getting intense with Nico's memories slowly coming in parts after he submits to a drug.

Let Me Sleep was a book that posed a lot of questions in my head.

Why does Nico keep having dreams that he's murdering his brother?

Why is it that some of his dreams about Elena are bad and then some of them are good? I found Elena to be such a strange character; was she bad or good?

Why is Nico forbidden to go outside the medical bay?

Why does Hanna keep feeling jumpy? Why is she lying about the bruise on her face?

Let Me Sleep was a strange, fishy thriller with a lot of unpredictable, unexpected turns that you don't know who the bad guy is. I loved how the author makes us think something in the beginning and then later it turns out that it isn't what it is.

Okay, so while I found Let Me Sleep really intriguing that makes you guess until the end, unfortunately, it isn't one of my favorite books. There were some things I didn't get, and there were some parts that were so slow and boring that many times I felt relieved whenever a chapter ended so I could put it down. In other words, one minute I'm hooked, and then the next thing I know, I'm like, ugh! I can't wait to finish this. No offense to the author. I guess it's just me since I'm not used to the dystopian genre; they're usually confusing for me. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the key to enjoying a story for me would be to feel attached to the characters; happy when they're happy and sad when they're sad. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like that to any of the characters in Let Me Sleep. I may have liked a few of the characters - the side ones, mostly - but it wasn't like I loved them so much that I'd die for them.

As someone who's crazy for brotherly love and bromances and always in search of good books about them, what drove me to get this book in the first place were the words "under the watchful eye of his protective brother" in the synopsis, which got me excited as I kinda expected to see brother moments. Unfortunately, there was none of that at all. I mean, that wasn't the main reason I knocked down stars as I gotta accept the harsh reality that not every book about brothers has to be about close brothers, right?😅 ***Spoiler*** Unfortunately for me, Gerrin, Nico's older brother, turned out to be one of the bad guys. ***Spoiler***

I may not have liked Nico very much, but I do admit that near the end of the book, I kinda found myself rooting for him.

As someone who hates spicy romance, there were some inappropriate parts that made me squirm, I skipped through them. 😫

With the plot intriguing but not feeling attached to any of the characters, I thought Let Me Sleep would be a three-star read for me in the end, but unfortunately, the ending made me decrease it down to two. Not sure if it was just me, but I felt as if it showed that suicide can be an answer - long story. I absolutely didn't like Nico's thinking! Suicide absolutely gets you NOWHERE!

If you're like me and love to read good books about close brothers or guy friendships, then Let Me Sleep wouldn't be the book for you. But if you love a good thriller with unpredictable, unexpected turns of events, then go for it!

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