Book Review || 11 Birthdays

Author: Wendy Mass

Amanda Ellerby is about to turn eleven. She’s stuck having a costume party she doesn’t really want, and wearing a very uncomfortable costume. But most of all, it’s the first year she isn’t having her birthday with Leo. Leo is her best friend ex-best friend. They were even born on the same day. But one year ago, on their 10th birthday, Leo said something terrible, and Amanda hasn’t talked to him since. After an okay-ish day at school (she has a pop-quiz!), her birthday celebrations are not going well: half the guests haven’t even shown up, and the other half are slowly leaving her party to go to Leo’s huge birthday bash. 😐 *sheds tear* Amanda is extremely relieved when, finally, the day is over. Blissfully, she goes to sleep. But the next morning, everything happens exactly the way they do yesterday! At first Amanda thinks it’s a twisted trick. But when the same thing happens the next day, Amanda understands that something else is at work. But what? Before long, Leo and Amanda realize that, for some strange reason, they are in it together: they need to forgive each other and find out what exactly is causing their 11th birthday repeat over and over. Along the way, they meet a mysterious kind elderly woman with a duck-shaped birthmark who knows quite a bit about their ancestors and in the end, see that friendship is important in ways they never imagined.

Wendy Mass is, I must say, also one of my absolute favourite writers. She combines the real world and magic one seamlessly. Amanda and Leo are ordinary kids who act just their age and are true-to-life. The writing keeps you interested and turning pages eagerly. This is a heartwarming book that shows that friendship can be broken, but much more easily fixed.



Yasimone’s One Month Anniversary!

Hello everyone! Today is January 31st, and that means it has been one month since New Year’s Eve— but more importantly, one month since I started blogging on! 😀 It’s quite hard to believe that it has been a whole month since I wrote my very first post, so to celebrate, I will be doing not one, but two book reviews in a row this weekend: “11 Birthdays” and “Finally,” both by Wendy Mass. Enjoy, and thanks for being with me since December 31st! ❤


Book Review || Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Beatrice is just an average 16-year-old Abnegation girl— selfless, kind, quick to forget herself. Or so everyone thinks. Beatrice knows, that in her heart, she doesn’t want this life, doesn’t deserve it, because she is not selfless enough. Aptitude tests are coming up, and they will recommend which faction the new adults, 16-year-olds, should switch to— or stay in. What will Beatrice get? Dauntless, which the brave and courageous pick? Candor, where you cannot ever lie? Erudite, the faction with all the intellectuals and scholarly? Amity, where the people are peaceful and happy? Or Abnegation, her home faction, where she is not sure she fits in? After she takes her test, Beatrice learns that she has equal aptitude for not one, but three factions: Dauntless, Abnegation, and Erudite. She is Divergent. The test administrator tells her not to mention this to anyone, not even her family… or terrible things could follow. On the day of the Choosing Ceremony, where the teens must pick the faction to live the rest of their lives in, Beatrice is faced with a hard decision: follow her dreams and abandon her family by switching to Dauntless, or stay with her mother, father, and brother but regret the choice for the rest of her life in Abnegation (she has already decided that she most definitely does not want Erudite). At the ceremony, her brother Caleb, much to everyone’s surprise, becomes a member of Erudite. Beatrice is panicked, not wanting to stay yet not wanting to leave her parents all alone in their faction. In a moment of spontaneousness, Beatrice selects Dauntless, shocking everyone including herself. In the extremely harsh, competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris. She struggles, along with her fellow initiates, to survive initiation. They must train to shoot, throw knives, combat, and face their greatest fears through vivid simulations that delve deep into their minds. Tris finds herself making friends and, slowly but surely, falling in love with her instructor, a secretive but fascinating boy named Four. However, she soon realizes that life in her faction may not be what it seems, and that her secret— that she is Divergent— is a dangerous one to keep, one that might destroy both her and her loved ones.

Veronica Roth began writing Divergent when she was in college, and it has turned into the first book of one of the most popular trilogy describing the dystopic, very structured Chicago from Tris’ point of view and emotions. Tris is a head-strong and intelligent girl, observant of her surroundings and easy to relate to— don’t we all feel like we don’t belong sometimes? The writing of this book is fast-paced and highly suspenseful. Behind all the action, however, are meaningful themes. It touches on identity, loss, love, bravery, friendship, and above all, finding your place in society.


I Wonder…

This is a piece of mine that I wrote a while ago. It’s about what we, as a world, suffer— not just as humans. I hope you enjoy it and that it makes you think.

I am keeled over, clutching my belly. It hurts to swallow; there is a blade up my throat, a blade of hunger. I feel incredibly weak, vulnerable, and frail. Maybe if a breeze blows, I’ll snap in two and drift away. Something is clawing at the empty void that was once my stomach, trying to rip me to shreds, angrily demanding food. What can I do?  I try to silence it helplessly. I’m just as starved as you are.

The air is heavy with the tang of blood. Salty and metallic. Bodies lay on the ground, clothed in camouflage, and I’m not sure who is alive and who is not. My face is smeared with grime and I have a damaged gun in my hand. When did I pick it up? Whose is it? I do not know. It breaks my heart to see the faces twisted in agony, others drooping in grief. I can’t stand it, so I look down at the ground and gasp. The once-green, trampled grass is stained a rusty maroon.

The whir of chainsaws rings through the rainforest, followed by a deafening thud! This has been going on for months, and the lush jungle that once was is drastically thinning. Countless animals have been forced to migrate, and countless others have lost their homes. It is out of sheer luck my family and I have not. We are still living in the same tree as our ancestors of yesteryear, some of the first creatures to settle in this part of the jungle. The humans will come soon, though, with their yellow hard hats and corroded chainsaws to cut down these trees, home to entire ecosystems.

I am so excited that I’m practically bouncing out of my seat. The other people on the bus are smiling in amusement at my glee. Mother turns to me, saying, we’re nearly there and BOOM! There is a thunderous sound, and red, everywhere, and then all goes black.

When I wake up, I am lying down on a cot on the ground. My eyelids flutter open and it’s too bright. It takes a second for me to adjust to the sunlight. There are others stretched out on blankets beside me, all with labored breathing and blood-stained clothes. Then I notice the smoking husk of a bus looming in front of me.  A wave of panic washes over me and I jump up. Mother! I call out. Mother! I wait for my mother to weave through the crowd, take me in her arms, and stroke my hair. Instead, a man and woman wearing paramedic uniforms step up to me, looking at me in pity. Molotov cocktails, they say. Explosion. Miracle that you are alive! But I am not listening, because I have a feeling I know what they will say next. I wildly scream and shriek, kicking away the cots and even the paramedics as they try to restrain me. My mother is gone. But what have I done to deserve this?

I hate this shelter. It’s too dark, and too cramped, and too strict. But I guess anywhere is gloomy compared to home… well, what used to be home. It’s getting harder to remember, but I do recall that it was small but cheerful, with its walls all painted baby blue. I miss it so much. I miss everything about it, especially our backyard. Dad and I used to be out there all the time. We had just planted some strawberries when the bank official came and told us we had 24 hours to pack up and leave. He, Mom and Dad had sat at the table, talking for an eternity. Stay in your room, honey, Mom had told me, but I disobediently had eavesdropped through the door, listening but not understanding. Finally, they had come out, the bank official triumphant, Mom and Dad weary and distraught. We stayed up that night, packing, and in the morning, I had a home no more.

The biggest problem in the world… Is it hunger? War? Global warming, terrorism or economic crisis? Like a pleochroic crystal, viewed from different perspectives, the answer appears to be different, but if you trace every one of these problems back to their source they are essentially the same thing: the lack of empathy for other people and even for other species.

I wonder how it would be if we all agreed to switch places with others even for a short period of time to have a glimpse into their lives, hopes, and struggles. It could be an international protocol, integrated into our education. We would switch countries with foreign children, go and live in places we can scarcely imagine, so that from youth, we would learn to understand and respect each other as well as the environment and animals around us.  Would we be indifferent to the difficulties, trials, and views we have?  Would it help to cure this lack of empathy?

I wonder…


(Please do not use this story anywhere without my permission. Thank you!) 🙂

The Thing about Ebola

I love sharing my thoughts about my favorite books, and getting your feedback, but for this post I would like to talk about something very real. Ebola…

It was plastered all over the news last year. People were shocked, people were horrified, people were scared. You turned on a news channel, there would be an Ebola update streaming. Gradually, however, we moved on to other things— political troubles, sports, taxes, entertainment, and the headlines no longer read “WORST EBOLA OUTBREAK IN HISTORY OUT OF CONTROL.” Phew, what a relief. So, it’s over right?

Nope. In fact, Ebola is just as bad than it was during the summer, which was when it was the height of the news. In some countries, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia, the cases are lessening. In others, like Guinea, they are just increasing. Guinea has had 230 cases in the past 21 days. Sierra Leone, the worst affected country, has had 769 and Liberia 48, which still adds up to 1047 recent cases. How many people in total, over the entire course of this terrible Ebola epidemic, have died so far? 8414. And that’s only in these three major countries.

We may be thinking: “Well, as long as it doesn’t come here, I can just go on with my life.” But the problem is, the Ebola victims can’t. Some are struggling directly with this disease while others are losing those they love. Many brave people are volunteering and risking their lives to help the victims survive the outbreak. Donations are still needed for hygienic clinics, provision of protective equipment and other supplies for Ebola response, access to medicine and medical supplies, and family support. If you’ve seen the pictures or videos of Ebola victims and clinics, it breaks your heart to see what little these people have and how much they need right now.

Ebola may not be “current” enough to be featured on the mainstream media, but this battle for life is far from over. If you want to view the current statistics on Ebola, go to To the victims of Ebola, my best wishes are with you.


Book Review || Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Author:  Grace Lin

Minli lives in a poor, monotonous village at the base of Fruitless Mountain, where nothing beautiful grows and the villagers spend their days tediously planting rice. Her mother sighs loudly and often about their terrible misfortune, and Minli longs to make Fruitless Mountain green as it was long ago so that the village may prosper and her mother and father will be happy. One night, her father tells her a story about the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answer to every question. Minli decides that she will go on a quest like the ones in the stories her father tells her every evening to meet the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how to bring good fortune to the village. The next day, she quietly packs her bag, writes her parents a note, and slips out of the village, beginning her journey to Never Ending Mountain. Minli’s parents are desperate for her to return, and their days are long and bitter. Along the way, she meets a talking fish who helps her find her way, a dragon named Dragon who becomes Minli’s travelling companion, a king, friendly villagers who save Minli and Dragon from an evil tiger, and, of course, the Old Man of the Moon. In the end, however, Minli understands the true meaning of fortune, and when she returns to her family, Fruitless Mountain blooms again.

This is a beautiful book that seamlessly brings together many Chinese and Asian folk tales together to create Minli’s journey. The settings are described vividly and the emotions that the characters experience— joy, remorse, excitement, discontent, desperation, sadness, and thankfulness— feel so real. It has a universal appeal in the discontent mother, the wise, faithful father, and the clever, selfless daughter who just wants the best for her family. The message, that appreciating what you have is the key to good fortune, is very meaningful and ends the story on a happy note: where everyone is prospering.

I actually had the chance to meet Grace Lin, the author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a few years ago at a book convention and it was a great experience. Ms. Lin talked a little bit about the Chinese culture and where she got her inspiration for this book from. She said some of the fables in the story are actual Chinese myths, while others were made up, although you can probably find similar elements in other Asian folktales. According to Ms. Lin, the Old Man in the Moon is actually Yue-lao, the Chinese god of marriage merged with Shou Xing, the god of longetivity. The settings in the book were also inspired by real places such as the mountain village of Chuadixia and the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou in China.

Grace Lin even signed my copy of the book! 🙂