Book Review (#97): Amok by Anna Tan

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Title: Amok

Author: Anna Tan

Publisher: Teaspoon Publisher

Published: June 2021

Rating: 3/5

All Putera Mikal wants is to gain the Amok Strength, the supernatural power granted by Kudus to the Mahan royal family. No matter how religiously Mikal keeps his vows, Kudus still denies him the Strength—whilst his father, Sultan Simson, flaunts the Strength despite his blatant defiance of the Temple and the priests’ visions of coming doom.

Then the prophecies come true.

Taken captive, Mikal must find a way to liberate his people and restore his throne in Maha—and the key to this is the Amok Strength. But what does it take to gain Kudus’ favour?

I finally finished reading the book Amok by Anna Tan and I am ready to provide ya’ll with an in-depth and HOPEFULLY SPOILER FREE REVIEW.

Before we start, I would like to thank Anna Tan and Teaspoon Publishing for providing me with this ARC in return for an honest review. Let’s get started ladies and gents!

Amok tells the story of Prince Mikal, Prince of Maha, first city-state of Terang and his struggles in faith to their God Kudus due to the fact that he has yet to come into his Amok strength powers. The Amok strength is a legendary power that all royals can gain access to once they come of age (mind you Mikal is 15 at the start of the book). But no matter how much he keeps his vows and does what he is supposed to do nothing has changed and he still has yet to gain any Amok strength. 

Then some BAMBOOZLEMENT happens! Where Maha is invaded and destroyed by their enemies and the people of Maha, royalty included is thrown into a life rife with suffering and humiliation where one does not know who is friend nor foe. How will Mikal overcome this obstacle and gain back his honour, his pride and his rightful place in Maha as Maha’s royal Prince.

DUN DUN DUNNNNNN

If you follow me on my bookstagram (do follow me guys if you haven’t, links down in the description) you would kind of realize I took issue with one and ONLY ONE aspect of this book and that aspect was my utter disdain and annoyance with the main character Prince Mikal.

OMG I DONT EVEN KNOW WHEREEEE TO BEGIN WITH ANNOYANCE WITH HIM.

Ok ok I will chill and talk about other aspects of the book first.

Push my disdain for the main character aside, I actually really enjoyed this book. The writing is great and reeled me in like I was a fish on a hook, floundering around trying to understand my own roller-coaster of emotions as I was reading this book.

I liked the Malay phrases as well as the Malay elements used in the books makes me feel included you know, because duh I’m Malay (Sarawakian Malay but whatever still Malay). It was so much fun reading how the men practiced silat, they used keris and parang to fight, seeing how they used baju kebaya and samping along with calling people according to their titles such as Baginda Paduka, Laksamana etc because let’s be totally honest who uses those terms now in their daily life? (unless you work with the sultan I guess but for everyday people you dont really call people Laksamana do you?)

The plot was awesome… really kept you at the edge of your seat and when some characters that I liked died I did feel the pain of loss because you want them to survive. You want them to be able to overcome this enormous adversity and go home and be happy.

But alas, like I said previously, the enjoyment of this book I could not fully savour due to my problems with the main character. 

The main issue I have with Prince Mikal is the fact that he is mostly self-centered, entitled, privileged and the most whiny character I have ever read. Yes, you can make a defense saying that he is a child and whilst I agree 15 in our modern standards is still a baby but back then 15 you are already considered a man and mature plus he is a Prince. Mikal isn’t an ordinary boy, he is a Prince with responsibilities attached to that royal bloodline of his and yet because we read this book from his perspective all I saw was an entitled and spoiled Prince who needs to have everything given and delivered to him on a silver platter.

Not only that, my god, is he stupid. He is so absolutely idiotic. 

I say this because Prince Mikal has become a prisoner of war and is now a slave for his former servant Yosua. Not once did he ever think to pretend to be a slave/pretend to be broken and humble himself so he could learn the enemy’s routines and memorise the relative map of the enemy’s land which in turn could help him devise a way to escape. Something ya know, anything, but no all we read for pages on end is just Prince Mikal constantly… CONSTANTLY… complaining why me, why didn’t I get my Amok strength, why is this happening to me, this is not fair, always about him and his predicament.

First few weeks I get it man you’re in shock and you dont know whats going on what’s going to happen but as a Prince that must have had some sort of training like get your shit together man. Devise a plan. Like okay, right now you’re in this predicament how will you get yourself outside of said predicament which reminds me that Prince Mikal is a reactive character.

Things happen to him, the plot moves him along instead of him making decisions that affect the plot. This happens for most of the book where shit just happens to Mikal and he would complain about it to no end. It is towards the end of the book, I would say the last 100-200 pages he changes into a more proactive character but by then it was too late for me. 

Also, kan, he keeps complaining Kudus left him la, doesn’t love him la, this and that… sikit-sikit lost faith… ITS SO FUCKING ANNOYING… I GET IT LIFE IS HARD BUT THIS IS A FUCKING TEST FROM GOD… You think God when he tests you he just gives something that you can easily overcome especially for a person like Mikal who follows everything by the book but doesn’t truly have faith. He says he does and he says he has an epiphany and he will change and have more faith and truly follow Kudus (which to be honest with you gave me hope for him I wanted to like him damn it!) but then some small shit happens and Mikal is back to being that whiny punk that doesn’t have two brain cells to rub together and is all like omg Kudus why you left me, how could you Kudus, are you even real? MALAS AKU EH ORG KDAK TOK… PADAH TEK CAYAK AN KUDUS TAPI IDUP SUSAH SIKIT ALU LOST FAITH BAGUS SIK PAYAH EH… BAGUS SIK PAYAHHHHHH… AISH SETAN BENA

I gotta calm down… I gotta chill.. This wasn’t supposed to be a rant review…I cannot delve further into this without going into spoilers so I will just continue to my next issue.

This issue isn’t so much a deal breaker, it’s just confusing and that is the loyalty that Yosua has for Mikal. I dont get it… sometimes its borderline romantic so I am not sure if the author is queer-baiting or I am just not used to this type of unexplainable loyalty. 

This is because you don’t get to see the why of the loyalty, Mikal says that they grew up together and are best friends but that’s the thing, you have to wholeheartedly believe what Mikal says. You don’t get to see it unfold. You don’t see other characters talk upon how close they are and the background for it. There is no concrete foundation that you as a reader can see and understand the why. 

I had a microscopic problem with the magic system of the book. It’s not bad, I just wanted more explanation on how it worked, who gets what etc because it was pretty loose so you have to use a lot of your imagination to fill in the blanks. 

Again, I have to reiterate, everything else in this book chefs kiss… the writing SUPERB! IF EVEN THE WRITING PUN I DON’T LIKE TRUST ME FAM I WOULD’VE DNF’ED THAT SHIT but I didn’t because the writing is genuinely good. Plot also BOMBASTIC! It’s just the main character that was meh for me, maybe it’s because I am 28 and had to be the breadwinner of my family for the longest time and had to hold that amount of responsibility that when I see a whiny character that doesn’t even try to improve their own situation by any means necessary I truly cannot empathise. 

Thus, concludes my review for the ARC Amok by Anna Tan and again my review is my own and is only focused on the book and NOT the author. 

Book Review (#96): The Guest List by Lucy Foley

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Title: The Guest List

Author: Lucy Foley

Publisher: William Morrow

Published: 2 June 2020

Rating: 3/5

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley had potential to be a 5 star read for me to be quite honest with you. It had everything that I generally enjoyed in a murder mystery whodunnit… We have

  • Intense creepy atmosphere
  • Plenty of suspects with dubious backgrounds and motivations
  • Secrets galore!

But alas, it was not meant to be a 5 star read for me. 

First, there were no characters for me to relate to as most of them seem to be pretty unlikeable and when most of the characters are unlikeable it’s not much fun to read. The only reason I persevered was because writing kept me intrigued on who had died and who was the killer… was it somebody at the wedding? Somebody close? Why did they want said person to die? What is going on? Plus, the whole guessing game of whodunit is immense fun for somebody who loves murder mysteries.

But the thing that made me change my mind that this could be a solid 5 star read was how unbelievably convenient at how every main suspect for the murder was interlinked with one another. The first few interlinking of characters with said murder victim I can understand and see how it came to fruition but all of the main suspects? Are you for real? It just made the story less convincing ya know and when that happened I couldn’t suspend my belief any further. There’s only so much suspension of belief that one can take.

Had the ending did not end the way it did, I would’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book even more but what can you do. 

Would I still recommend this book? Most definitely, it was still a good read even though at first it was quite slow.

Book Review (#92) : Anna K by Jenny Lee

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Title: Anna K

Author: Jenny Lee

Published: 3rd March 2020

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 400

Source: Legenbooksdary

 

Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.

Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

I obtained this book from Legenbooksdary as she was giving away her arcs and I chose this book specifically because I am obsessed with Anna Karenina.

Okay, perhaps saying I was obsessed is a bit much considering I have yet to read the actual book but in my defense what hooked me with Anna’s story was the Russian movie adaptation of Anna Karenina.

Bruh, I watched that movie maybe 15 years ago, so long ago I truly cannot remember where and when and how I even got to watch this Russian movie but when Anna flung herself in front of that train… That scene stuck by me… It definitely made a home in the recesses of my brain.

But let’s get started with this book review.

To be quite honest with you, I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. It was a pretty meh book for me. I initially thought the book would make engulf me in the throes of family drama but reading it my feelings were more of okay this is boring I do not understand what is the big deal with all these relationships especially the relationship between Anna K and Alexia Vronsky.

And if you as a reader already feel this way regarding the relationships of the main protagonists, it is not a good sign.

I think that my nonchalance on the romances and the drama that ensues in this book is due to the characters being so young. They’re just teenagers and being an adult who is currently unemployed with nothing to look forward to in terms of a career, I honestly cannot relate. I cannot relate to how much stock they put into their romantic lives especially the insta-love that happens between Vronsky and Anna.

I just don’t understand the insta-love thing and how suddenly they’re just so obsessed with each other without any apparent reason.

At least, from what I understand in the Anna Karenina movie, Anna was in a loveless marriage and then she met with Vronsky who swept her off her feet and introduced her to a world and life filled to the brim with passion and love yet the decision she makes to be with him will ultimately seal her fate. By choosing Vronsky, Anna must forgo everything in her life; her children, her social standing, her family’s social standing and even her friends. Essentially she literally has to give up everything to be with this man and that decision eats her up from the inside until she just cracked and throws herself in front of a train.

The decision that Anna K in this book whereby she chose to cheat on her boyfriend to be with Vronsky just because her boyfriend was in an accident and she did not have the heart to break up with him just baffles me. Especially since this book is set in modern day Manhattan and there has been progress and modernization in terms of women’s rights.

Also, in terms of writing, I feel this book was more of a modernisation of Anna Karenina as opposed to a retelling that has its own plot because whilst I may say that I have yet to read Anna Karenina, I did read the first 20 pages and let me tell you that the first chapter of Anna K and the those first 20 pages in the original book is almost identical.

Another issue I find with this book is the ending which in my honest opinion is bullshit. BULLSHIT!

SPOILERS AHEAD

You’re telling me that in this book instead of Anna committing suicide due to the mental stress she has been under, the author changed it to Vronsky sacrificing himself to save Anna so it is he who dies at the end.

I am not saying that the ending should end in any form of suicide or death or whatever. I am just saying that the author had a chance to retell this story in a different manner because it is a retelling.

They could have just allowed both Anna K and Vronsky to live and then expand on the repercussions of their actions which in all honesty would have been an interesting read. Would their relationship withstand that test?

But, they didn’t so thats that.

Overall, this book was a meh with characters that were meh and I give this book a rating of……

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