American War by Omar El Akkad – Review

American War

I have to be honest; when I read a book and find it exceedingly uninteresting during the first one hundred pages, I give up and move on. However, I was pretty proud that I did not give up on this one. We held on Omar El Akkad!


American War was written by Egyptian author Omar El Akkad, and was published in 2017. This was a fairly new dystopian fiction with an interesting concept of a second Civil War in the United States.


The story follows Sarat Chestnut and her family, all born in Louisiana. Sarat is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually, Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.


This was me going into the first 200 pages of the novel: “Oh my god!” I exclaimed with annoyance, as I miserably forced myself to continue reading.

This was me during the last couple hundred pages of the novel: “Oh my god…” I whispered with disbelief as I continued to learn more.

Yes, the beginning was tedious. It was dull. It felt like I was reading a biography about the  entire state of a new America. Except, I pushed through all the uneventful exposition and melodramatic dialogue to final get the to the juicy parts of the novel. And it was worth it.

It’s an action-packed and horrifying dystopian novel, but also feels very messy with the timeline. We are following the story through the eyes of Sarat from six-years old to adulthood. I admit that Sarat was an interesting tragic character, but sometimes it was hard to sympathize with her since her personality was flat most of the novel (no spoilers). I like to read about characters who are a bit more interesting than having some predictable personality I can’t relate to.

But after the first 200 pages, and finally getting rewarded with some interesting plots, I could almost forgive El Akkad for the lack of character development. If there’s one thing I can say about the novel is that it’s mature for a dystopian story.

There are no love-triangles, the side-characters feel human, and decisions that are made also seem realistic with unpredictable consequences that had me at the edge of my seat.

The war-time part of the story was amazing, and it instantly changed my attitude towards the novel immediately. I wanted to see how El Akkad would finish off his story and I have to say; the ending was definitely satisfying.


One thing I appreciate in this book was the implicit warning about the coming environmental crises on both coasts of the US. With the world and climate changing drastically, El Akkad did an excellent job to show how America would be many years to come. Overall, it’s a dark, action-backed dystopian novel that should be read by mature readers.



Rating: 3.5/5


It by Stephen King – Review


Seeing the latest movie adaption this year, I remember the shrieks I made from the jump scares and the times I closed my eyes to avoid looking at the horrifying imagery. The movie was definitely a film of horror, but it was nothing compared to the book written by the King of Horror himself.


It was written by American author Stephen King in 1986. The story follows seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. The novel is told through narratives alternating between two time periods, and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode.

The book was adapted to an American miniseries in 1990 and another film adaption was produced in 2017. However, the both films were still unable to bring out the true horror and blood-chilling imagery King wrote in his book.

But what is it about It that makes the book so memorable and hauntingly good? It by all means, is not a simple novel.


The children of Derry, Maine, are terrorized by a supernatural entity that feeds off their fears and has the ability to seize and kill its victims. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Years later and the children grow up, but are confronted by their past once again. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.


As long as the book was, there were definitely some parts that made me very uncomfortable. Yes, I was scared at most parts, especially with Kings vivid imagery, but according to King, himself, he was a heavy alcoholic and abused his use of drugs in the 80’s. Despite his book being a masterpiece of horror, the scenes that were filled in and not connected to the plot at all were uneasy to read.

However, while most remember It for the great scares and spine-chilling descriptions, I will always remember the characters of the Losers Club and how King wrote them.

Vulnerability and being physically weak are two factors that make children perfect victims. However, children possess one strength that most adults had lost in the painful process of maturing – the strength of imagination. A child feels and experiences emotions much more intensely than an adult, but their unique imaginative capacity allows it to cope with the seemingly improbable much more efficiently.

King has been depicting children throughout his whole career, and his child characters have subsequently grown older, along with his own children. It is, in my opinion, his best novel with child protagonists. Even if it’s one of his longest novels.

However, the length is appropriate, because of the theme: After all, it deals with childhood and the struggles of being an adult. And then we grow up, all these years pass by us faster than expected.

It is a story of a group of children who are not among the most popular, strongest or smartest; a tale about the group of seven friends living in Derry, Maine in 1958. They form the self-called “losers” club and encounter a horrible, awesome force lurking in their hometown: a force feeding on fear and devouring young children. A force that adults do not seem to see; a force that appears as a clown, holding a hand full of balloons.

If there is a thing which places King above most other writers, it certainly is his great understanding of adolescence.

The unquestionably hard time of growing up – school, bullies, parents, first crushes – they are all here, and the reader feels as if they were experiencing them. King allowed me to re-live some parts of my childhood again; I wasn’t around in 1958, but if I were I would undoubtedly be one of the boys. It is truly an impressive experience to read how King builds his characters and the world they live in.


The story addresses important social topics: racism, prejudice, domestic abuse. But most importantly, It is a story about friendship and childhood. How it irrevocably binds people together and affect their lives. It’s a study of children facing the uncanny, and overcoming their greatest fear: the fear of being alone. This is a brilliant novel, beautifully told in crisp, clear prose, with truly unforgettable characters and situations. King knows his way around the corners when it comes to horror.

I recommend this book to anyone who are interested in reading horror, thrillers, coming-of-age stories, and the psychology of adolescence.



Rating: 4.5/5




The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande – Review



No matter how many times I read this book, I will always need a box of tissues by my side. Having to read this book twice this year for class and for my own pleasure, I never imagined the emotional connection I would eventually have towards Reyna Grande, the author of The Distance Between Us: A Memoir.  


Published in August 28th, 2012 by Atria Books, The Distance Between Us: A Memoir has received the National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for Autobiography/Memoir in 2012, and the Américas Award Honor Book of this year, 2017.

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir tells the story of Reyna Grande and her struggles with family separation, illegal immigration, and growing up in poverty. It tells shorts stories of her relationship with her siblings, her disconnection with her parents, her conflicts with adapting in a country known as “The Land of Dreams and Opportunity”, and her desire to obtain a college education.


Born in Mexico and raised by her grandparents after her parents left to find work in the U.S., Reyna and her siblings are left to fend for themselves in poverty while they await the return of their parents. Reyna has no memory of her father and paints him as a flawless man who will keep his promise to his children about coming home. At nine years old, Reyna and her siblings enters the United States as undocumented immigrants to live with their father. Filled with hope, she quickly realizes that life in America is far from perfect, as she struggles to learn English and adopt the new culture so unfamiliar to her. Her father isn’t the man she dreamed about all those years in Mexico. His big dreams for his children are what gets them across the border, but his alcoholism and rage undermine all his hard work and good intentions. It’s the dark side of Reyna’s childhood that motivates her to, one day, become successful in life to make her father proud.


“Wow,” was the word that came to my mind after finishing this book the first. The second time took me back to the first time I read it, remembering the powerful conclusion that made me simultaneously cry and compare my own childhood to Grande’s.

Reyna Grande starts her book off from the time she was two years old, where her father had already migrated to the United States. She continues to write the book in order of events that happened to her from the times in Mexico to growing up in the United States.

The book’s genre is non-fiction, but the way Grande writes makes me feel as if it were truly a fictional book. I believe I read somewhere that Grande had planned to make it a fiction book, but I was relieved to know that she decided to leave it as non-fiction.

Which it should be; the book reveals so many secrets and ugly truths that would be a hard time to digest for anyone.

The writing is spectacular, yet, so simple. The way Grande writes feels as if she is directly talking to the reader; like two friends at a local coffee shop discussing their childhood and dysfunctional family. I was able to connect with Grande through her writing and picture every situation she wrote. Everything flowed very fluently with Grande’s storytelling

In the book, Grande writes “there is something more powerful than La Llorona – a power that takes away parents not children. It is called the United States.”

I was in love with the novel the first time I read this line. I was hooked and read this book in two days because of it.

There were some points when I felt greatly emotional for Grande and her family, as they each had to go through their own suffering and despair while trying to maintain a family unit they had all wished for. It definitely makes me rethink my own childhood with the difficulties I had faced, but nothing can compared to what Grande and her siblings went through.

The book is not trying to make you feel bad about yourself, or make you pity Grande’s rough obstacles. The Distance Between Us: A Memoir was dedicated to Grande’s father, who was the main reason Grande is now where she is today. The ending focuses on the connection between the daughter and father relationship these two had for each other, which was Grande’s main goal from the beginning. Her dream was to be with the “Man Behind The Glass”, she dubs him as the first half of the book. Once as just a photo of her father she had hope to one day see again, to the real man who was not as she imagined, but still held a unbreakable love for.

The story ties everything together at the end of Grande’s journey to success. Grande is an amazing story teller and brave writer for revealing her unforgettable childhood.


The Distance Between Us: A Memoir demonstrates the struggles that many people face everyday; from abandonment to separation to alienation. Many different ethnics groups go through different situations to have a better life for their families, but Reyna Grande writes a very truthful book to help understand the the obstacles and conflicts one might face to achieve a better life. Nobody really knows what immigrant families go through and what they leave behind in their home countries, but Grande tells her story perfectly. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys non-fiction storytelling, a book about coming of age, and want to go deep into the life of an illegal immigrant striving to survive.



Rating: 5/5

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Review


There are a couple of interesting lessons I learned from reading this book. First, don’t drink or do drugs. Second, don’t ever piss off the one you love. Third, stay the hell away from crazy bitches.


The Girl on the Train is written by Paula Hawkins and was published by Riverhead Books (US) January 13, 2015 and Doubleday (UK) January 15, 2015.

In 2015, the novel became the fastest-selling adult hardcover novel in history, and it spent over four months on the New York Times Bestseller List following its release. The novel was honored by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of 2015, in the fiction category and it won Goodreads Choice Awards in the category Mystery & Thriller.

But how could a psychological thriller gain so many praises and awards? Well the story starts off simple…

It’s the morning of Friday, July 5, 2013 set in England. Rachel is a girl (well, actually a woman) and she’s on a train. That’s right: She’s the girl on the train.


You have the story Rachel. Rachel is an alcoholic who gets on the 8:04 train every morning. She pretends to go to work (she got fired for drinking and basically acting like a fool) and goes on that same train every day.

She sees her “Golden Couple”, Jess and Jason, everyday. They live next to her old home where she lived with her cheating ex-husband in.

Rachel catches Jess kissing a guy that isn’t Jason on the train ride. The next day, Jess goes missing. Rachel then decides to go to the police with what she knows, but the police find out she is not a reliable witness and tell her to stay out of the missing case. Rachel, who is a hard-headed woman, decides to investigate the case on her own. And so, we have a story!


First off, Paula Hawkins’ writing is unique and entertaining to read, turning this mystery thriller into a puzzle for the readers to figure out. Each chapter gives you more clues and truths about the murder Rachel is trying to solve, and the book does a good job with connecting everything together at the end.

But it also makes the reader question themselves. What this book did was made me rethink the times I’ve created stories about other people for my own satisfaction, before realizing the real truth of these people I assumed were flawless. I’m so used to thinking everyone’s lives are perfect compared to my own, but the The Girl On the Train shows how no one can obtain an ideal lifestyle. Everyone has their own weaknesses and demons they deal with. The character, Rachel, has an imperfect life, but likes to see other people’s success for her own enjoyment because of her insecurity.

But despite the personal connections readers might feel and unique writing, the story was still going to have it’s own flaws. Specifically with Rachel and her unreliable narrative.

Rachel was a good character to read about through most of the book, but her narrative was completely scattered at some points. Yes, she’s a character who is described as being an alcoholic mess with no hope in life. Yes, she’s interesting because it strays from the Mary-Sue protagonist. However, it’s hard to read her story when her mind is all over the place. Her main focus was on the mystery, but there were some points in the novel that made her question a lot of situations around her, and yet, we never got any answers to those questions. It felt as if Hawkins was trying to show us how messed up Rachel is, but we, as the readers, already knew that from the beginning, so she doesn’t need to bang us over the head with:

-“She’s an alcoholic!”

-“She’s crazy!”

-“She can’t recall anything around her!”

Yes Hawkins, we understand, you don’t need to exaggerate too much on Rachel’s character. Even toward the middle and end of the book, we already knew the character very well because of the way she interacted with people and her surroundings.

However, the murder mystery was the one strong quality the book had. Everything else would, at some points, get dry and uninteresting. Mostly from the two other main women, Megan and Anne.

Rachel, out of Megan and Anne, had the most interesting story and I personally enjoy her sarcastic character. Despite her unreliable perspective to move the plot forward at some points, she had the most personality compared to Megan and Anne. Both women had flat personalities, and only had a point-of-view chapter to move the plot forward. Maybe that was their point of the story. Bu if Hawkin’s goal was to make those two main characters, she did not round them at all and gave them not motivation. Yes, they were important, but they also did not have character development compared to Rachel.

Even some of male characters seemed a little too cartoony and unrealistic, which was another flaw the book had. Some actions these male characters committed seemed abrupt and awkward. Well, some of the events in the story seemed a little too unrealistic, but they were only there to further the plot. It’s a small flaw readers can overlook because the book is outrageous with everything.


Even if some of the characters were a little impatient to read about, I still kept reading until the end. Some of the scenes were a bit confusing, making me have to reread what just happened, but I felt satisfied with the jaw-dropping ending and everything tying together. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of mystery and thrillers, and has patience to read such a puzzling book.

However, it’s a book you might need to read twice, but only want to read once.



Rating: 3.5/5

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Review


Readers of Jay Asher’s, Thirteen Reasons Why, may be a little hesitant when turning the pages of a rather serious novel. This comment may seem a bit confusing for readers wondering whether or not they should read this book. However, my comment is in fact a compliment towards a story that has made me understand another world people in our society may deal with everyday, and I praise Asher for making me feel connected to a character so realistic and relatable.

The story follows Clay Jensen, a quiet, intelligent teenager who comes home one afternoon to find a package with no return address on his porch. Inside are seven cassette tapes, each side numbered until reaching 13, with the last one blank. When he puts the first tape in an old player in his garage, the voice that he hears is his secret crush Hannah Baker, a girl from his school who had taken her own life two weeks earlier. Hannah’s instructions are specific: Clay must listen to each tape, for each one is about a person whose actions had some bearing on her suicide. He must follow a map she has provided to locate events in where her story took place. When he’s done listening to all 13 tapes, he must send them on to the next person on the list.

The book was unique with a writing style and plot I have never read before. The story follows the perspective of Clay and his own development when he learns more about Hannah. His character was relatable in a sense that we were following him on a journey for answers and understanding. Clay’s decisions and actions made me wonder whether I would do the same thing if I was in his position. But the main focus is on Hannah’s story and the weight she had to carry before ending her life. Each tape is a chapter that introduces the reader to a new conflict that has an effect on Hannah’s life, which made me want to read more. I was so engrossed with Hannah’s character that I eventually began to sympathize with her. What I was intrigued most about in this book was how it wasn’t just one event that caused Hannah to commit suicide. It was small, realistic events that eventually caused Hannah to give up on everything. What this book tries to explain is that little things all build up, day after day, one small thing after another, until the little reasons all blend into a single feeling of hopelessness.

That is what this book is about. And it’s also about taking responsibility for your actions and understanding how your small selfish acts can affect someone else.

Thirteen Reasons Why tackles the issue of suicide head on, and doesn’t offer any easy answers, but it does offer hope. It helps readers understand more about what people might be going through and how our actions may have an impact on people’s lives. I have generally enjoyed reading this book and the story of Hannah. However, it’s a serious read, recommend for serious readers.