Review – The Asrama Anthology


  • Title: The Asrama Anthology
  • Editors: Zan Azlee
  • Featuring submissions by: Aiman Najhan, A. Ahmad, Adlyn Shazmy, Ili Nur Amalina Ibrahim, Hannany Md Salehuddin, Nuurrianti Jalli, Amirah Fatinah, Shalini Jay, Farah Hussin, S. H. Azemi, Silver Coyote, Asytar, Zulfikri Ahmad, Tharma Pillai, Yusoff Bulanbiru, Nadine Sahzan, Aqilah Aminuddin, Lyana Khairuddin
  • Publisher: Matahari Books (an imprint of Buku Fixi)
  • Release Date: July 26th 2018
  • Pages: 192


The Asrama Anthology shares 19 true stories of Malaysians who have experienced life in boarding schools, which they believe helped build them into who they are today. There are stories of friendship, heartbreak, family tragedy, conflict, race relations, and yes, there are one or two romantic ones. Chosen and edited by award-winning writer and broadcaster Zan Azlee, whose own true-life hostel accounts are too shocking for this volume.

After my read of Matahari Book’s Letters to Home,  I started keeping tabs on their work, particularly interested with how they encourage Malaysians to contribute relatable, personal stories by turning selected pieces into books. In this latest edition, The Asrama Anthology, editor Zan Azlee brings together 19 true stories by 18 authors (Yusoff Bulanbiru shares 2 stories) on their experiences studying in a boarding school environment. Ili Nur Amalina, one of the contributors, is a dear friend of mine too – all the more reason to read this book.

So there I was, feeling excited, afraid and everything in between. As we drove past the gates I felt that my moment was now. My journey began.

– A Tale of Tie, Aiman Najhan

Themes of self growth, discovery, family, and challenges growing up were some of the more common ones, shared in almost every story in this compilation. You will also find stories unique to certain topics, often heard but not talked about enough, including those on bullying, depression, sexual harassment, and even bulimia.

“This is it. I never thought that I would die this young,” whispered Kera to herself.        

– Kera in the Closet, Zulfikri Ahmad

Chapters are short, and easy to get into. Ideal for those who need a quick read every now and then, without the usual – “Oh no, what happened in the previous chapters again?!” Overall, I found this book to be, for the most part, an interesting read with a unique standpoint brimming with potential for some very great story-telling. Unfortunately, many stories turned out to be too draggy and boring for my own liking. It could be how they were written, or just for the fact that some of contributors did not really have a strong story to tell. Which is a shame, as I do believe there are many untold tales out there on boarding schools which somehow or another did not make their way into the hands of readers. Also – boarding school horror stories, where you guys at? I was expecting more of these! 

Which brings me to this – if you have a story to tell and the opportunity to do so, do take it seriously. Your writing may very well be relatable and touch the lives of many. Experiences in boarding schools, both good and bad, ride on great waves in shaping the lives of many Malaysians. I would still recommend you to give this book a go, there are a few notable pieces here worth discovering. 

No matter what situation you are in and how many people are against you, stand up straight and fight for what you believe in. The truth is always the best language to speak.

– What I Can Tell But I Cannot Show, Ili Nur Amalina Ibrahim


I would like to thank Buku Fixi and Matahari Books for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!


Review – Scenes of the Father | Amir Hafizi


  • Title: Scenes of the Fathers
  • Author: Amir Hafizi
  • Illustrator: Ong Chee Yang
  • Publisher: Maple Comics
  • Release date: March 2016
  • Pages: 100


We often remember our loved ones through rose-tinted glasses. The soft pink tint of the memories would sometimes reveal ludicrous details and anecdotes of humour and heartbreak, perhaps some hints at longing and love.

In this story, a man who was the pillar of his community is remembered for his stories and the stories he tells. These are facets that hope to form a semi-coherent collage of what makes a person.

Artist Chee takes on Amir Hafizi’s text and presents these facets of a man, a teacher, a farmer and a storyteller as they have never been seen before.

After half year of studying to prepare for exams, one can easily fall into the deep, dark pit of what we call the reading slump! I was also not spared from this evil curse as I welcomed July, free from exams but unable to finish any of the books I wanted to read. Every reader’s nightmare! One day as I was working on something, my friend came up to me and introduced me to this book – a short story with illustrations – hmm, it did seem like just what I needed to get over my slump.

That’s what my old man told me when I was six or seven

…when I was eating more monosodium glutamate than any human ever should, most of it from the Maggi noodles I ate almost every day.

The illustrations in the book caught my eye as I flipped through its pages. Anecdote and drawings to tell the tale of the author’s father who lived, fought and did whatever he could to contribute to his little community. A simple and honest account, I enjoyed the nostalgic and melancholic feel to it.

He did all of that. The old man. He worked like a horse. He said that if he stopped working even for a day, he would suffer pains all over his body. So he worked. And worked.

I finished the book quickly enough. The Malaysian references were fun to read. The political ones hmm — not so much as I found one a little disturbing, but raw, which I appreciate. I did learn a thing or two, which was nice. Thanks to the illustrations, the flow of the story was given more depth. Reading slump, no more!


Review – An Ocean of Grey | Kamalia Hasni


  • Title: An Ocean of Grey
  • Author: Kamalia Hasni
  • Publisher: Meraki Press
  • Release date: April 21st 2018
  • Pages: 159


I could find peace
in an ocean
of all the shades
of the colour grey 

An Ocean of Grey by Kamalia Hasni explores the pain and aftermath of a love that was promised a forever but had ended too soon. The collection of poetry and prose also includes beautiful illustrations by the author’s friends who had helped her through her healing.

Give a woman love and hope, and she might just write a book on you. It’s up to you though – on whether it would be about her happiness, or grief.

An Ocean of Grey is a poetry book written by my dear friend, Kamalia Hasni aka Malie, and it is the very first book published by her and two of my other friends – Adora and Nabilah – under Meraki Press. I’ve been following their publishing journey for some time now so it is truly exciting and inspiring to see all of it finally coming together.

Breaking up, losing love, having our souls crushed – synonyms of experiencing life at its most fundamental. We put our hearts out there to only have it torn. But yet, we continue doing so, never to give up on finding love again. We are all broken pieces of happy memories, laughters, shared dreams, hope – yes, hope – to love and be loved by a person who would choose us, over and over again. We keep this little spark of faith in our hearts, not wanting to show the world our vulnerabilities.

Malie, on the other hand, has chosen to pen it all on paper. All in this book, jewel, we now have in our hands. Her experience of heartbreak, healing and loving herself again. We call it – raw, real, bare.

We call it – An Ocean of Grey.


I just want to go back to the moment I let my guard down, the moment I had let the walls crumble. I want to hold the bricks in place, every last piece. I want to warn the fragile flesh within those walls that they will bleed, and it is not worth it.

I can feel the depth of her words, thoughts in every page. Each piece is accompanied by a beautiful illustration and titles of songs which capture the mood she was in, and what she felt at that very moment. A lot of thought and effort was put into ensuring the reader could take it all in, one memory at a time, one event at a time. I can feel her emotions, and empathise on her struggles. It was all so relatable, so if you are going through or have gone through such love and lost, it will remind you that we broken souls are not that much different after all. But we are still fighting today, we are still doing all we can to be the best versions of ourselves.

finding home

Maybe Love isn’t a person, or even a feeling. Maybe Love is its own element, its own creature floating in the hearts of the souls we fall in love with. Maybe when the people leave us, it’s actually the very same Love leaving that person’s body, going off to search for a better home to settle in.

Maybe when we finally fall in love again with someone new, that familiarity is Love, and when Love finally finds its long-lost home, the true one, it is also Love telling you after so many wrongly encountered souls, “This one. It’s this one.”

So don’t look for the person and instead go look for Love, because sometimes, the person isn’t the home Love was meant to live in.

An honest account yet emotional roller coaster – that’s what you have gifted the world, Malie. But like all crazy roller coasters, it comes to an end eventually. We then work our way to heal completely, we will then love again. There is a piece in the book which is divided into 3 parts on what Malie felt she should have said when her relationship ended – sampai hati. It appears at the beginning, mid-book and towards the end. Within this piece alone, you can witness her 3 different stages of healing, and since I generally love clever ties, connectivity within a story, I thought this perfectly summed the book – making it feel complete and whole.

Thank you for sharing with us this piece of your heart, Malie. I will certainly treasure this book as proof that no matter what people say, no matter the hurt, there is still love out there. One day, one day, we would find it with the right one.

Because someday, somebody will fall in love with me again, and I will love them because I have so much love in me to offer, and we might fight, we might go through many downs, but someday, somebody will not walk away.

Nobody would walk away from the best version of me.


Review – Paracosm | Arina


  • Title: Paracosm
  • Author: Arina
  • Publisher: Tun Suffian Foundation Incorporated
  • Release Date: May 6th 2017
  • Pages: 177


Never hate yourself. Stop saying you’re not beautiful, it’s like you’re saying that God’s creations are hideous. If you are beautiful inside, no doubt your outside will shine. It just takes the right person to see it.

Paracosm is a heart-felt gem written by 17-year-old Puteri Fateh Arina Merican Megat Suffian Merican, the great-grandniece of Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. A “paracosm” is said to be a detailed imaginary world, often associated to one’s childhood and unfolded by a turn of events.

Arina’s passion for writing and poetry grew ever since she was a little girl, and let’s just say that she has never looked back since. The first thing I noticed when I flipped through this cream-coloured hardback book is the colourful illustrations that filled its pages. Most of the drawings were produced by Arina herself, such personal touch and vibrancy deserves every bit of attention.

Why do you see the surface
But not what is within
Your eyes are unfair judges
They are mirrors filled with sin
Dark colours displease them
Dark colours and strange religions
No cloud is the same shape
No garden has the same flowers
Yet they glow with beauty
They glow with pride
Beneath the skin
Same structures of bone
No matter who tries to destroy you
That you will never fight alone.

Arina writes with a certain level of boldness and persistence which is highly commendable. I can feel her eagerness on every page – the urgency to translate her thoughts into important messages for people of varying walks of life to read. The topics she covers spreads across – she speaks on her relationships with people, dreams, fears and the many challenges she has to face to be heard in a world heavily chained by societal norms.

Perhaps the crown I wear
Is a little old fashioned.

With withered silver leaves
And wilted gold lilies
There are no diamonds
Or rubies.

While others wear
A crown of garnets
And jewels
Mine is an antique
Of ancient legend
With the stories of my ancestors
Now leaving me
To find my own story.

Because I am the ink
On these pages
And the inspiration
Of my own legend.

All in all, this book breathes originality. There was so much thought put into not just the poetry writing, but in putting the book together as a whole. The poetry, visual art, photographs and even Arina’s old handwritten notes when she was just a 7-year-old! – a book to cherish by generations to come.

Sometimes the world is saved by only one good heart, not a million strong arms.


I would like to thank my good friend, Daniel Ariff Tung, for providing me a copy of this book to review. As a past scholar of the Tun Suffian Foundation, he felt that there is a great need to get the word out on this beautiful book – in which I absolutely agree. After all, proceeds from the book sales will be channeled towards awarding more deserving students to pursue their undergraduate and postgraduate studies. So the next time you pop into your nearby MPH or Kinokuniya bookstore, be sure to pick up a copy for RM30! Your contribution will make a difference in someone’s life.

Dearest Tok Mama

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – JRR Tolkien

But I get lost all the time.

Life is full of struggles, but do keep that passion of yours going, Arina. Aspiring to be a human rights lawyer one day, I do believe Paracosm is a huge first step for her to many promising things to come.


Review – Letters to Home


  • Title: Letters to Home
  • Editors: Ooi Kok Hin, Aish Kumar, Nik Mohamed Rashid Nik Zurin
  • Featuring letters by: Azalia Zaharuddin, Fikri Fisal, Ng Jung Kian, Aish Kumar, Zaryff Razali, Tan Heang Lee, Billy Hoo, Nurul Ismawi, Ooi Kok Hin, David Lim, Rexy Prakash, Tharmelinggem Pillai, Abdul Rahman Shah, Shamil Norshidi, Shahir Shukor, Benedict Weerasena, Nik Mohamed Rashid Nik Zurin, Achmad Bakhtiar M Yuni, Justin Lim Jia Tian, Sarah Syahirah binti Abdullah, Nizhan Faraz Rizal and Eddy Arief Zulkifly, Asyraf Muiz Roslan, Hasbullah Faudzi, Ian Chew, Izzat Adha, Puteri Eleni Megat Osman, Mohamad Syazwan Abdul Rahman and Mohd Izzuddin Ramli.
  • Publisher: Matahari Books (an imprint of Buku Fixi)
  • Release date: December 3rd 2016
  • Pages:234


24 universities. 7 countries. 1 hope.
These are the voices of young Malaysians all over the world–penning down our dreams, fears, concerns, aspirations, and hope to our nation, our home.

If you know me well enough, you would have realised how much I love reading books written by local authors. It gives me a great sense of pride to see my fellow Malaysians contributing to the writing and reading community. What’s more, I feel responsible to share these great books to more readers – hence why I was more than happy to read and review this book.

Letters to Home is a collection of stories and thoughts penned by 30 young Malaysians who all have one major thing in common – hope for our beloved country, Malaysia. As you read these letters, you will come across them making a stand on topics close to heart, formulating their views and sharing their aspirations for the greater good of our community. Coupled with some bahasa rojak and light Malaysian humour, this was an enjoyable read!

If Malaysia was a Pokemon, Canada is what it might evolve into – Nizhan Faraz Rizal & Eddy Arief Zulkifly

The letters written are very distinct from one another, making it very refreshing to progress and dive into. From Malaysian politics, to education, to freedom of speech, to people disabilities etc. – there’s something in this book for everyone. Oh and may I add that I made it a point to read this book in public – just to give it some coverage it deserves. It was very promising to see Malaysians looking over curiously at the cover, and several even approached me to know more!

While our child law currently upholds the general rights of children in Malaysia, more reforms are needed to protect specific groups of children, including the children living in orphanages. – Puteri Eleni Megat Osman

Overall, I am extremely happy with the selection of topics included and have high hopes for more to be published in a similar manner – part two please! There’s so much to learn from the book and it is indeed an insightful source to kickstart healthy discussions with family and friends. Read it with an open mind and form your own opinions. Connect with the authors and immerse yourself with conversation. We Malaysian youths have so much more to do, learn and explore. Let’s keep on going.

Together, we can make a difference. – Rexy Prakash 


I would like to thank Buku Fixi and Matahari Books for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Review – Letters to You | Almaz A


  • Title: Letters to You
  • Author: Almaz A
  • Publisher: Almaz
  • Release Date: August 1st 2016
  • Pages: 96


Some people spend a lifetime looking for someone to call home. I found you.

Letters to You is Almaz’s debut poetry collection that narrates her journey to finding love by experiencing fear, hesitation, courage and ultimately letting herself freefall into the arms of her soulmate.

Sharing your love with someone is daunting, especially for those who have tasted its bitterness. Broken hearts doubt themselves and question the existence of true love. Though no matter how far deep this can swallow one’s self; there is always that longing to find love again. Love that can last. Love that can hold them together. Love that is encapsulated with hope, faith and courage.

And I’m trying, 

Trying so damn hard to unearth all the buried dreams I’ve forgotten about, 

Because I’m sure one of them was to love someone like you. 

Letters to You is a collection of poems written by the author for her lover. Every page draws you in with an array of emotions, peeking into memories of love you may relate to. As you immerse yourself into the book, you will see how beautiful love can unfold itself to, no matter how imperfect it may be.

You will always be that little piece of magic I carry with me wherever I go.

As I went on though, I realised that the poems were rather jumpy and sometimes repetitive; which could be seen as raw yet genuine. However,  I do believe that if there was more cohesion to it, the main message the author was trying to present could have been expressed more convincingly. Nonetheless, I must commend the author for stringing her words with so much heart, soul and honesty.

The book talks on old relationships, newfound love and all the securities and weariness in between. But most importantly, it is about the courage to believe again and experience love at its most fundamental. To allow it to take you through rain and shine; yet always finding a reason to smile at the end of the day.

I loved this book – read it in one sitting and kept on marking my favourite quotes as I progressed. I am definitely looking forward to more from this local author. Do read, and allow it surprise you with gems you may find.

 I fell in love with the way you held my hand and the way your breath whispered across my skin as you told me that 

it was okay to fall,

because our bodies may not have wings, 

but our souls already knew how to fly. 


I would like to thank the author, Almaz A, for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Review -The Throne of Ledang | Iskandar Al-Bakri


  • Title: The Throne of Ledang
  • Author: Iskandar Al-Bakri
  • Publisher: Buku Comel
  • Release Date: October 1st 2015
  • Pages: 229


The legend of the Princess of Mount Ledang is the best-known and best-loved folklore in Malaysia. In 1488, news of her timeless and incomparable beauty reaches the ears of Sultan Mahmud Shah, the eighth Sultan of Malacca, who immediately dispatches an entourage to seek her hand in marriage. She agrees, only on the fulfillment of several bizarre conditions within a year.  His majesty was tasked to prepare seven barrels of mosquito’s liver, maiden’s tears, areca juice, hearts of germs, a golden bridge spanning the distance between Mount Ledang and Malacca, and a cup of royal blood from the Sultan’s infant prince as His Majesty’s wedding gifts. The night before the year’s end, the Sultan had all but one condition to fulfill; to prepare a cup of royal blood. His Majesty holds his son’s head and prepares himself to slit the boy’s throat. Magically, the princess appears and angrily tells him that she would not marry a man who would murder his own son. 

All is lost, and the bridge, after several generations, is forgotten. 

In 1875, Indera Sakti, a secret society with ambitions to seize political control of the entire Peninsula, mounts a quest to claim the twenty-six mile long golden bridge. Darul Kubra, a brotherhood of noble warriors, fights them to the bitter end. 

This is a story about the adventures of a young rope maker and a slave, Izz and Purnama, who are drawn into the hunt for the greatest treasure in Malay Literature that would ultimately change the course of their lives. 

I have so many things to say, but I too want to keep this spoiler-free so that you will be able to enjoy this great book as much as I did.

“Clear your mind and think about it slowly,” Che Khalid advised.

Thanks, Che Khalid. I know I can count on you!

It gives me great inspiration and pride when I come across a Malaysian author, especially one who writes exceptionally well in English. The feeling is even greater when the book is about Malaysia – and in this case, Malaysian folklore, which I, as a youth in my early 20s, still have so much to explore!

Puteri Gunung Ledang is one of Malaysia’s most talked-about folklore. Our community has always used different mediums to share this legend to the world – through movies, music and even theatre. So your next question might be – is this book a retelling of the legend, similar to ones we’ve seen before? Yes and no. Yes because it does give a fresh new perspective on the conditions given by Puteri Gunung Ledang to Sultan Mahmud Shah when he asked for her hand in marriage, and no because the setting of the story is generations after the setting of the legend in 1488. The Throne of Ledang is a totally new work of fiction in extension to the original Puteri Gunung Ledang, and set in 1875.

This book was slightly difficult to get into at the beginning because I didn’t really know what to expect. I had the impression it was going to be a rather heavy story.

“From this day forth I shall no longer be known as Radin Mas Merah. You may call me Ibunda.”

But as I went on, it was certainly very far from that. The Throne of Ledang is engrossing and educational. Even though it is fictional, it is so satisfying to learn on the many things the Malaysian community was involved in at that point of time. Be it strong bonds of brotherhood, the colonization of the British, Islamic teachings, the use of black magic, traditional medicine, or even silat, the Malay art of self-defense – there was never a dull chapter. It was full of great discoveries, adventures and so much learning! You would be glued to it for hours.

The author went in depth on slavery in Malaya too, which is often not talked about. The breakdown of why and how it was practiced – you would be caught taking sides and debating in your head. You will find yourself forming your own opinions, as you take in more and more of such pressing issues along the way.

In between all that “heaviness”, you will find fun riddles and heart-warming romance which is sure to keep you entertained. Blossoming friendships, acceptance among young children and the teamwork among villagers – the entire community setting brings a homely feel to the story.

“Wouldn’t be lovely if we could live up there among the stars?” Purnama asked. 

Nothing but love for this book. I highly recommend this to everyone – those in search for something closer to home and to readers out there who are interested in a glimpse of Malaysian folklore! You will be enlightened, amazed and engrossed.

And in the blink of an eye, she was gone. 

Here’s to many, many more great local reads ahead!


I would like to thank the author, Iskandar Al-Bakri, for this review copy in exchange for my honest review! Iskandar Al-Bakri is also the writer of The Beruas Prophecy.