Book Review | Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Authour:
Paula McLain
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 1st, 2018
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“I didn’t want to cause trouble; I only knew what I knew. That Ernest could eclipse me, large as any sun, without even trying. That he was too famous, too far along in his own career, too sure of what he wanted. He was too married, too dug into the life he’d built in Key West. Too driven, too dazzling.

Too Hemingway.” (p. 100)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Paula McLain talk for the second time. The first time was for her book Circling the Sun which is a fictional account about the life of Beryl Markham, a British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. In her latest book, Love and Ruin she returns to Hemingway by telling the story of Martha Gellhorn, a prominent war correspondent during her time and the woman who would become Hemingway’s third wife.

Now I’m not a fan of Hemingway, despite the fact that he is a great writer, however I was incredibly interested in Martha Gellhorn’s story solely for the reason that I knew her as a woman who despised being a “footnote” to Hemingway as she was an accomplished writer on her own before and after her marriage. And even though I was unable to connect with Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun, I was willing to give Love and Ruin a chance since I was actually intrigued by Martha Gellhorn, the person in addition to the life she led.

I’m not as avid of a historical fiction reader as I used to be so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Paula McLain and Love and Ruin. However, I was pleasantly surprised that unlike Beryl, I was actually able to connect with the character of Martha. I loved her desire to jump right into the action and obtain the stories from the civilians themselves. And I could relate to her love of adventure, especially as she grew older.

For the majority of the novel, Love and Ruin is a quiet novel and not much happens. However, it does eventually pick up and of course, the prose is lovely from start to finish. That being said, Martha’s relationship with Hemingway often feels like an afterthought. As a result, I felt like the pair’s falling out came quite suddenly even if there were hints here and there of the cracks in their marriage. Perhaps this is why I found the sections where readers gain a glimpse into the consciousness of Hemingway to be a compelling read. In fact, initially, I actually preferred them over Martha’s story.

With Love and Ruin, Paula McLain has solidified her place as not only a writer of historical fiction but one who tells the stories of the women who are often forgotten in the mainstream history. These are the women who if even referred to in history books, may have been portrayed in not the most flattering way. From her books, I have enjoyed rediscovering the extraordinary women who have appeared in them so far and I look forward to seeing whose story she will tackle next.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

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5 YA Books I’m Looking Forward to this Fall

I’ve always said, as a book blogger its easy to forget what season we’re actually in because many of us are always reading ahead. For instance, over the last month or so I’ve had the pleasure of attending to bookish events that showcased some of the publisher’s upcoming fall titles. And while summer hasn’t officially begun, it can’t hurt to get a head start on creating your fall reading list. With that being said, here are a few YA titles that will be coming out in the fall season.


Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adis Khorram (August 28th, 2018)
I’ve heard great things about this one from many people. Darius is a half Persian, half White American teenaged boy who is forced to go back to Iran with his family due to the declining health of his maternal grandparents which causes him to feel even more out of place than normal. The main character self-identifies as a geek, so expect lots of references from shows like Star Trek. There’s also mental health representation as both Darius and his father suffer from depression and both deal with it in very different ways. Darius the Great is Not I Okay seems primed to be a heartwarming novel and I love that it is set in Iran as the authour is from there and we don’t often get YA contemporary novels set in the Middle East.

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (September 18, 2018) 

As a child of immigrants, one who was a refugee as well as someone who works in a field where we deal with a lot of marginalized individuals I’m always curious about the stories of those in other countries. The Unwanted Stories of Syrian Refugees is a timely read and given that it’s a graphic novel, this one is also good for just about anyone who wants to learn more about the conflict in the Middle East and the Syrian refugees. Featuring actual refugee stories, this one is an important read on a tough subject matter.

Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey (October 9, 2018)

So I haven’t read the Suitors and Sabotage books yet, however, it’s not mandatory to do so in order to enjoy Carols and Chaos. I love a good winter holiday read and this one with its side of mystery and danger in addition to romance sounds intriguing, to say the least. Plus I love a good historical setting and it’s always enjoyable to get a story from the perspective of the house staff rather than just the wealthy. And I’m always game for books that are recommended for Jane Austen fans.

Kingdom of The Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao (November 6th, 2018)

So I didn’t realize that Julie C. Dao was a Vietnamese writer until recently, which only adds to my excitement for this book. A companion novel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, which I haven’t read yet Kingdom of The Blazing Phoenix is a retelling of Snow White that takes place years after the events of Forest of a Thousand LanternsNow normally I not much of a fantasy reader, but I’m all for supporting Asian voices plus I’ve heard great things about this one so I’m stoked to read and review this one for my blog. Also look at that amazing cover! Stay tuned for a review of this title on the blog in November.

Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love by Heather Demetrios (December 18, 2018)

Dear Heartbreak isn’t your typical YA anthology. Bringing together some of the biggest names in YA, this book is a series of letters from real teens writing to their favourite authours who in turn reply to them. Each of the authours has chosen a letter that hits close to home with them, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what some of my favourite authours like Gayle Forman, and Sandhya Menon have to say on things like break-ups, cheating, betrayal, and loneliness.

What are some of your guys’ most anticipated titles for this Fall?

Book Review | The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Authour:
Helen Hoang
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5th, 2018
Publisher:
Berkley
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
With the lack of cultural diversity in the romance genre becoming increasingly obvious than ever, it’s refreshing to read a romance novel with characters who feel like they could be your own family. With Helen Hoang’s debut novel readers gain a heroine with autism and a male romantic lead who happens to be half Vietnamese! Even today, it’s still rare for Vietnamese characters to be presented as leads much less romantic leads hence my excitement for The Kiss Quotient.

Stella Lane is not your stereotypical romance heroine, she’s financially independent, incredibly intelligent and has an actual job that she loves and excels at. She’s also quite a relatable and quirky in an endearing way. Meanwhile, Michael Pham was a charming and sweet guy who just wants the best for his family especially his mother. I loved that we got to meet Michael’s family and I particularly loved his relationship with his cousin Quan as they have an amusing, brotherly dynamic. And while we do not get to know Stella’s parents as well as Michael’s family, I did appreciate Stella’s mother finally stand up for her in the end as up until that point she wasn’t a genuinely supportive parent.

Stella and Michael’s relationship was truly heartwarming as it starts as a reverse “Pretty Woman” situation with Stella, offering to pay Michael for his “help” and evolves into something more. The two of them had a great deal in common, for example, both have insecurity issues and both are passionate individuals, proving that the two of them truly were “endgame”. I loved witnessing how their “arrangement” brought both of them out of their protective “bubbles” and gave them the courage to take the risks that they were too scared to do so before. It wasn’t difficult to fall for Stella and Michael after watching their relationship unfold and observing how they were delightfully awkward in trying to navigate what it was that they truly wanted from each other.

Furthermore, I adored the diverse cast and secondary characters in The Kiss Quotient and with the exception of Stella’s gross and inappropriate coworker, Phillip I would love to see more of them. As a result, I cannot wait for Hoang’s next book, The Bride Test as it features a mixed-race heroine, and an Asian hero specifically, Khai Diep who is also Michael’s cousin. And of course, I am eagerly anticipating the day there is a book starring Quan, Michael’s cousin!

As the illustrated cover hints at, The Kiss Quotient is a perfect balance of steamy and sweet. As an own voices novel for autism and biraciality, I loved that it was an original story with the usual message that everyone deserves love and a happy ending. This one’s a book worth picking up if you are a contemporary romance reader looking for a little something different.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Authour:
Morgan Matson
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5th, 2018
Publisher:
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Growing up one of my favourite newspaper comic strips was Lynn Johnston’s For Better or Worse. Similar to Grant Central Station it was also a comic strip where the characters who were based on the creator’s real-life family aged in real life. Even today the majority of comics still use “Comic-Book Time” instead of having time actually pass in real time. It’s unfortunate that Grant Central Station isn’t an actual comic strip seeing that based on the few comics included in the book, I would have loved to have seen more.

I mention this since one of the central elements of the plot in Morgan Matson’s Save the Date is the fact that Charlotte aka “Charlie” and the rest of the Grant family are characters in the mother’s comic strip. This is significant as one of the main conflicts within the Grant family concerns the mother drawing a real-life incident into her comic strip despite her promising not to. This leads to real-life consequences and one of the siblings being estranged from the Grant family. I’m glad this was not glossed over as I’ve always wondered how the people who have fictional characters based off of them truly feel about it. The conflict was handled in a way that felt authentic which I appreciated since this is a real issue creators need to consider when using “real life” in their work.

Other than the comic strip aspect of the book, I did enjoy the main storyline, which centers on Charlie coming to terms with the reality of her family and her life-changing. The fact that this occurs over the weekend of her older sister’s wedding adds a great deal of chaos and hijinks to the mix. Those who have been involved in planning a wedding know just how insane the process can become and how it brings out both the best and worst in all those involved. I could definitely relate to Charlie’s attempts to try to fix everything for her family in addition to her struggles to make a final decision when it came to college. That being said, my family is nowhere as large as Charlie’s even though they could probably match hers in terms of wackiness, hijinks, and drama.

Save the Date is probably my favourite Morgan Matson book thus far. I found it refreshing to have a YA contemporary novel where romance was only hinted at. Instead, the focus of Save the Date was on the Grant family dynamics and Charlie coming to terms with a major change. And while it was a hefty looking book, the pacing was splendidly done so that I flew through the pages quickly. An enjoyable read with a lively cast of characters, it feels at times like Save the Date was meant to be a movie or at least a TV show as you can vividly picture the story in your head. Pick this one up if enjoy a light, contemporary and entertaining YA read for the summer!

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Authour:
Uzma Jalauddin
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
June 12th, 2018
Publisher:
Harpercollins
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance.” So ends the first chapter of Uzma Jalaluddin’s début novel, Ayesha At Last. In case it wasn’t already obvious, Ayesha At Last is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s beloved classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. As excellent of a retelling as it is, Ayesha’s story also stands on its own as both an own voices story and a Muslim romantic dramedy.

Despite its initial slow start, I found myself slowly drawn into Ayesha and Khalid’s world and social circle until I couldn’t put down the book. The characters feel like real people as they all struggle with relatable problems like workplace harassment, racism, finding the courage to follow your dreams and dealing with familial pressure when it comes to your career and love life.

I loved the relationships and friendships in this book. Ayesha and Claire’s friendship were truly heartwarming as was her relationship with her grandparents who more often than not stole the spotlight from the other characters in every scene they appeared in. I loved Nana and his habit of quoting relevant Shakespeare quotes and Nani with her investigatory talents and love of mysteries only surpassed by her love for her family especially her granddaughter Ayesha completely won me over. Furthermore, I appreciated that we get the story from both Ayesha’s and Khalid’s point of view as it helps us to understand who Khalid truly is and not judge him based on his appearance and his initial actions.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’m all for supporting diversity and own voices, stories in addition to local talent (Jalaluddin is from Toronto) Ayesha At Last is a well-written and well-paced novel that is one of my favourite takes on the Pride and Prejudice novel to date. It’s refreshing to read a novel that has a modern and realistic take on a romance between two individuals whose faith is important to them. Highly recommended for fans of Pride and Prejudice retellings and those who are interested in reading a romance from a unique cultural perspective.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

June Schedule

May really did fly by so fast! In two months I’ll be going on what will probably be the last family vacation with my entire family as we’re all getting older and would rather do our own thing now. Until then I plan to have fun weekly outings to make up for the fact that I’ll be in over my head with work especially since I’ll be losing my assistant for the summer. Fortunately, I also have a couple of book event this month to look forward to as well! In the meantime, I can’t wait to share my thoughts on this month’s book picks as they’re probably some of my favourite titles of the year as not only are they great reads but they’re also quite diverse as well!

***

June 5 Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
June 7 – Save the Date by Morgan Matson
June 12 – The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
June 14 –  Fall Preview (YA Edition)
June 19 – Love and Run by Paula McCain
June 21–  Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim
June 26 Go Home edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
June 28What’s Next #3

Book Review | The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Authour:
Chloe Benjamin
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
January 9th 2018
Publisher:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“If nothing else, Judaism had taught her to keep running, no matter who tried to hold her hostage. It had taught her to create her own opportunities, to turn rock into water and water into blood. It had taught her that such things were possible.” (p. 138)

What if you were told that there was someone who could tell you when you were going to die? Would you want to seek out this person to know? What would you do with this knowledge? These are questions that haunt the Gold children in Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists.

Divided into four parts for each of the Gold children, Daniel, Varya, Klara, and Simon. Thus readers are given a glimpse at each of their lives from the time they first encounter the mysterious gypsy woman who tells them when they are “destined” to die to the end of their life. The majority of the book is incredibly tragic and heartbreaking as we witness the downfall of each of the siblings one by one. And while none of the siblings are truly likable, they are written as if they were real people and this made it difficult not to sympathize with and mourn each of them even if they usually were the cause of their own undoing.

Often it’s been said that knowledge is power, however, in the case of the Gold siblings, it is shown that knowing when you’re going to die may not give you the sense of freedom that you think it may bring. Each of the siblings deals with this information in their own way, and none of them execute it in a healthy way. Instead, they trap themselves in “mental traps” of their own making. All four of them focus more on survival rather than actually “living” and this brings about consequences, not just to themselves but to those close to them. And in the end, the reader is left with the same question that is posed to Varya, which is more desirable? Living a longer life or a “better” life?

A beautifully written novel, The Immortalists is infused with an element of magic realism as one has to wonder if the mystical woman was truly psychic or if she was just a scammer similar to the rest of her family. Regardless, it just shows how fragile humans are and how susceptible and vulnerable children’s minds can be despite a brave front. And while I’ll be lying if I didn’t say that I was hoping for a more uplifting read, The Immortalists was still a well-written albeit at times a difficult read that I suppose deserves all the buzz it has received.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

What’s Next? #2 | Deadly Summer Golden Hairpin

What’s Next is a weekly book blogging meme originally created by IceyBooks; where bloggers ask their readers to vote on which one they should read next.

Today on Words of Mystery, I need to decide which of the two mystery novels on my shelf I should read first.

Ten years ago, Summer Butler was television’s most popular teenage sleuth. Since then, she’s hit—what gossip sites just loveto call—the gutter. Nearly bankrupt, betrayed, estranged from her greedy mother, and just about unemployable, she’s coaxed into that desperate haven for has-beens: reality TV.

Winging it as a faux PI, she’ll solve off-the-cuff mysteries in her hometown of Sweet Briar, Alabama. For added drama, there’s police chief Luke Montgomery, inconveniently Summer’s first and only love.

It’s when Summer stumbles upon a very real corpse that Darling Investigations takes an unexpected twist. The growing list of suspects is a big draw to viewers, but the reality is that Summer doesn’t know whom she can trust. Someone has written this killer new scene especially for her, and unless Summer gives the role everything she’s got, it could be her last…

In ancient China, history, vengeance, and murder collide for a female sleuth.

At thirteen, investigative prodigy Huang Zixia had already proved herself by aiding her father in solving confounding crimes. At seventeen, she’s on the run, accused of murdering her family to escape an arranged marriage. Driven by a single-minded pursuit, she must use her skills to unmask the real killer…and clear her name.

But when Huang Zixia seeks the help of Li Shubai, the Prince of Kui, her life and freedom are bargained: agree to go undercover as his eunuch to stop a serial killer and to undo a curse that threatens to destroy the Prince’s life.

Huang Zixia’s skills are soon tested when Li Shubai’s betrothed vanishes. With a distinctively exquisite golden hairpin as her only clue, Huang Zixia investigates—and discovers that she isn’t the only one in the guarded kingdom with a dangerous secret.

So, which book do you think I should pick up next? Cast your vote in the Twitter poll below!

Book Review | Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Authour:
Rachel Hawkins
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
May 1, 2018
Publisher:
Penguin Random House
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
In terms of release dates, Rachel Hawkins’ Royals hit the jackpot since it comes out right around the time of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. And I’ll admit that while I’m not a major royal fan or even a fan of the royalty trope, that there’s an actual royal wedding happening this year was one of the deciding factors for me to pick up Royals.

The premise of Royals promises tons of fun and fluff and that’s exactly what you get in this somewhat shallow read. Our heroine, Daisy Winters isn’t the one marrying into Scotland’s royal family instead it’s her seemly perfect, older sister who’s going to marry the Crown Prince of Scotland. The fact that the focus is on the sibling who isn’t directly involved with the royal family made for a refreshing read as we don’t often hear from the family members who are suddenly thrust into the spotlight when someone in their “common” family is marrying a member of a royal family.

While Daisy isn’t my favourite character, I had to admire how she deals with her situation which is relatively well considering all the unreasonable expectations others have of her. She felt like an actual, ordinary American teenager and I loved her friendship with Isabel in addition to her relationship with her father who is basically the best character in the book. Furthermore, I appreciated the fact that Royals doesn’t take the stereotypical route with Daisy’s story, she doesn’t go wild with her status of being the sister of the girl who is marrying a Crown Prince nor does she even entertains the idea of hooking up with her future brother-in-law despite every other person including the Queen herself thinking she is after him. Finally I welcomed that way that Daisy and Eleanor’s sibling relationship was depicted as it felt true to life and relatable. And while it may be a bit clichéd it would’ve been interesting to get Eleanor’s story as she started off as a character who seem terrifyingly “perfect” yet was selfish and uncaring towards her sister. She only becomes more “human” and sympathetic near the end.

While Royals is a rollicking ride of a read there were a few issues I had with the book. Firstly, while the romance between Miles and Daisy had its moments, I felt like it was introduced too late into the story despite the tension being there from the start. As a result, there wasn’t enough time for the romance to fully develop. This ties into my other issue with the book which was that there were way too many storylines happening, which meant that by the book’s conclusion almost everything was left hanging which made for a less satisfying story.

For my first Rachel Hawkins’ book, Royals wasn’t an awful read, but it wasn’t my favourite read either. It is, however, an entertaining and unique take on the usual “princess” story which means it’s a fun, fairly cheesy story with a touch of drama. So if that’s your cup of tea, then this one’s for you. Personally, I liked Royals enough that I will most likely

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

Authour:
Sandhya Menon
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 22nd, 2018
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my favourite reads back in 2016 so I was eager for more Sandhya Menon! That being said, I definitely wasn’t prepared for From Twinkle, with Love.

From Twinkle, with Love is centred around Twinkle Mehra who is an aspiring, teenaged filmmaker. Through her diary entries written as letters to her favourite female filmmakers, we get to learn more about the Twinkle who sees herself as a “wallflower” who is nothing special. She finds proof of this in her life where her parents who are almost never around physically or emotionally in addition to her complicated friendship status with her former best friend, Maddie.

What sets From Twinkle, with Love apart from your typical adorable contemporary is that traditional storytelling is basically non-existent in this book. Twinkle’s story is told mainly through her journal entries and this is interspersed with text messages between Sahil and his buddies in addition to Sahil’s blog posts which provide an alternate perspective on the events of the story. As a result of this non-traditional storytelling, I initially could not get into the story, although I did love Sahil from the start as his blog posts and text messages between him and his friends were hilarious and helped to endear him to me more as a reader. Twinkle, however, took some time to grow on me, though I could definitely relate to her in several ways as I had my share of “complicated” friendships at her age though I never had a talent like her penchant for filmmaking.

From Twinkle, with Love is a clever and enjoyable book that teens may be able to relate to especially with all the high school drama that occurs in the book. Filled with entertaining and diverse characters, From Twinkle, with Love was an above average read that remained consistently genuine throughout.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

Authour:
Jen Wilde
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 22nd, 2018
Publisher:
Swoon Reads
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek was one of my favourite reads of 2017, so I was highly anticipating her next book, The Brightsiders. The book follows Emmy King, the drummer of a teen band called The Brightsiders that’s rising in popularity. Along with her friends and bandmates, Alfie and Ryan she has to deal with both family and relationship drama and often public fallouts that result from the drama. The book also looks at the pressures of being a young person under the scrutiny of the media due to fame and how it’s important to be true to yourself no matter what.

What I loved about The Brightsiders was the focus on Emmy’s “chosen” family. I love the friend group that Emmy has as on top of being a kick-butt group of individuals, they always had each other’s backs by providing support, comfort and cheering each other on! The best part of this book was just how LGBTQA+ friendly and positive the entire book was. Gender pronouns for any character are never assumed and everything is mainly treated in a matter of fact way. This makes it a perfect read for anyone, especially young people who identify as LGBTQA+ as they are not as commonly represented in fiction as cis individuals are. I also loved the fact that there is mental illness representation as I could definitely relate to having social anxiety that causes you to vomit when you’re nervous.

Unfortunately, in the end, I did not connect with The Brightsiders like I did with Queens of Geek. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t who the book was intended for or maybe it was the fact that there were too many characters to keep track of, but I just couldn’t connect with Emmy or any of the other characters in the book or their stories. It was difficult to relate and/or sympathize with them since not only were they slightly unlikable, but also because due to their lifestyle, and the industry they are all in, they had to “grow up” faster than the ordinary teenager. However, I did find Alfie and Emmy interactions to be extremely adorable. And I also squealed at the cameos of Alyssa, Charlie, Jamie and Taylor who were the main characters in Queens of Geeks!

The Brightsiders wasn’t as “dramatic” as I was led to believe and that may be due to the fact the Emmy and her friends are rather “tame” when compared to the stereotypical rock stars. Altogether, The Brightsiders was an amusing (fictional) behind the scene “glimpse” at the life of young musicians and it’s definitely a book for all those looking for diverse voices and awesome queer representation!

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Authour:
Nisha Sharma
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 15th, 2018
Publisher:
Crown BFYR
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“As much as love Bollywood damsels in distress, I don’t need saving. I’m my own hero.” (p. 69)

I love the recent influx of diverse voices in light contemporary fiction and I hope it doesn’t stop! Nisha Sharma My So-Called Bollywood Life is the latest addition to this category. Since My So-Called Bollywood Life was one of my “Waiting On” Wednesdays’ picks I was ecstatic to be able to snag an ARC early on in 2018.

To be honest, I haven’t watched that many Bollywood films, however after reading My So-Called Bollywood Life, I will definitely be remedying that! Fortunately, Winnie Mehta is a major Bollywood fangirl and film geek. I love that each chapter has a mini-review of a Bollywood film and that they are written in an honest, straightforward and kind of snarky manner. Furthermore, there is a complete list at the back of the book of all the films that were referenced throughout the book which makes it easier for anyone who is interested in going on a Bollywood movie binge.

Of course, this being a Bollywood inspired YA novel, there is heaps of drama and “destiny” is a key player in Winne’s story. That being said, I found it ridiculous how persistent and relentless Raj was and how Winne’s teacher and mother were incredibly unreasonable were for almost the entirety of the novel. And even though Raj’s behaviour was eventually given an explanation, I still find his actions borderline creepy and extremely manipulative which made me feel uneasy. Dev, on the other hand, was quite charming and he and Winnie were adorable together.

I do enjoy learning about new cultures, therefore I appreciated the fact that Winnie’s family and culture were well represented through the course of My So-Called Bollywood Life. As a child of immigrants, I could absolutely relate to certain aspects of Winnie’s including the switching of languages spoken within your family and the fact that you are “required” to constantly defend your cultural beliefs to your classmates who are unable to understand the complexities of your family situation.

Wonderfully frothy and over-the-top, My So-Called Bollywood Life is exactly what you’d expect from the synopsis. And while a couple of the Bollywood references may be lost on those unfamiliar with the culture like the dream sequences with Shah Rukh Khan which started to annoy me after some time, it did help with providing a “distinct” feel to the story. At times, reminiscent of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, My So-Called Bollywood Life is, for the most part, a delightfully cheesy and romantic read.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

Authour:
Julie Murphy
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 8th, 2018
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
So I am most likely in the minority, but I read shortly after it was released and felt “meh” about it. Willowdean was unlikable and it was difficult to root for her to come on top. However, the same cannot be said for the “sequel” Puddin’. I first heard of the book when the author came to a Frenzy Presents event in Toronto and was intrigued since the focus was to be on female friendships.

Taking place a few months after the events of Dumplin’, Puddin’ is told from the perspective of Millie the girl who won the runner-up position in the beauty pageant in Dumplin’ and Callie who was one of the mean girls who teased Willowdean and her friends. The book alternates between the two girls which allows readers to become acquainted with both of the girls. Millie was easy to relate to an extremely likable and it was easier to sympathize with Callie in spite of her past actions once we understood her character better. As a friendship tale, Puddin’ is marvelously adorable yet also realistic. It was refreshing, albeit a bit sad to see the girls who got to grow extremely close in Dumplin’ drift apart at the start of Puddin’. I appreciated the fact that Puddin’ establishes that while a major event can form bonds between people, it up to the people to maintain the relationships afterward. And this is what Millie does roping Callie and the other girls into “mandatory” sleepovers on the weekends.

The positive female friendship is truly the crowning piece of Puddin’ as, over the course of Puddin’, both Callie and Millie undergo a bit of character development as a result of their unexpected friendship. Millie learns to assert herself and fight for her dreams while Callie becomes slightly more soft-hearted and caring towards others after she opens herself up to the other girls. I also enjoyed seeing both the girls’ relationships with their mothers as they were far from ideal yet authentically portrayed.

Ultimately a solid YA contemporary novel, there are a few aspects of the book that just did not reach the same level as the rest of the book. Considering the central focus is on girls’ friendship, the romance in the book is more of an afterthought and the guys did seem a bit one-dimensional since there wasn’t enough time or space to develop them better. Furthermore it’s unfortunate that the dance team as a whole did not actually suffer any consequences and that only Callie was punished. Still, Puddin’ is my favourite of Murphy’s books to date as I delighted in the diverse characters and the overall female empowerment which made Puddin’ an excellent spring/summer read that I couldn’t put down!

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Frenzy Presents | Spring 2018

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Frenzy Presents Spring Preview at the new HarperCollins Canada office. As always it was a fun day filled with good company, great snacks and of course lots of book talk! Not to mention we got to hear authour, Hadley Dyer talk about her  new YA novel Here So Far Away. As per tradition instead of doing a full recap, I thought I’d once again share my top HarperCollins Spring/Summer YA titles picks with you guys. Feel free to let me know in the comments below which books you guys are most looking forward to.


Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli – April 24, 2018

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

So I’m going, to be honest here. I never really got on the Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda bandwagon with the book and so my first Becky Albertalli book was actually The Upside of Unrequited which I liked but didn’t really love. I did, however, adore the movie adaption of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaLove Simon which made me really fall for Simon and his group of friends. And while I’m nervous at the thought of Leah and her group of friends drifting apart during their senior year of high school, I am excited for Leah to finally get her own book!

Puddin’ by Julie Murphy – May 8, 2018

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a little girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream of being a newscaster—and to kiss the boy she’s crushing on.

Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend.

When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing that they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

So this was a title that I was fortunate enough to read before the event as an eGalley. I did read Dumplin’ but it just wasn’t for me. Puddin’, however, was an awesome, heartwarming read! I love the female friendships in this book and all the girl power that happens. Pitched as a title that would appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell’s books, I also think this is perfect for those who may not love Rainbow Rowell’s books but are looking for a feel-good read to put them in a happy mood. Look for my review of this one on the blog early next week.

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim – June 5, 2018

The summer after her freshman year in college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala and religious but closeted Umar. But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what better escape than New Orleans?

The friends pile into Umar’s car and start driving south, making all kinds of pit stops along the way–from a college drag party to a Muslim convention, from alarming encounters at roadside diners to honky-tonks and barbeque joints.

Along with the adventures, the fun banter, and the gas station junk food, the friends have some hard questions to answer on the road. With her uncle’s address in her pocket, Mariam hopes to learn the truth about her father (and to make sure she didn’t inherit his talent for disappearing). But as each mile of the road trip brings them closer to their own truths, they know they can rely on each other, and laughter, to get them through.

So out of all the titles that were presented during the event, this one was my most anticipated title. It’s a summer story of a group of friends who embark on a road trip together to New Orleans. The characters are said to be relatable and hilarious and I like that it tackles the cultural issues along with the usual teenage drama. I also like that the characters are in university as opposed to high school like in most YA novels. This one’s recommended for contemporary fans who’ve enjoyed books like When Dimple Met Rishi.  I actually manage to snag an ARC of this one at the event, so if you guys are interested in seeing my review of it on the blog let me know in the comments below.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning – July 31, 2018

Ever since her best friend Anna died, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. Hiding her talents, mourning her loss, drowning in her guilt.

Then a girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears on the shore, and the two girls catch the eyes of two charming princes. Suddenly Evie feels like she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But magic isn’t kind, and her new friend harbors secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad—or on two legs—without Evie’s help. And when Evie reaches deep into the power of her magic to save her friend’s humanity—and her prince’s heart—she discovers, too late, what she’s bargained away.

For fans of fairy tale retellings and the musical Wicked, Sea Witch is the story of the evil witch in The Little Mermaid (known to Disney fans as “Ursula”). Pretty much every blogger I knew was excited for this one. And while I’m more of a contemporary YA girl myself, the comparison to Wicked (my favourite Broadway musical) in addition to the promise of strong female characters and friendship on top of a revenge plot has me intrigued. And while I’m not really the biggest fan of getting to know the “villians”, I am curious to see Henning’s unique take on the classic story of The Little Mermaid. Not to mention just how awesome and haunting the cover is of this book is! Also recommended for fans of Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series.

May Blog Schedule


Happy May Day! April was more of a bookish month than usual as I attended the Frenzy Presents event at the new HarperCollins Canada offices which had some amazing views, as well as an authour conservation between one of my favourite authours, Kim Thúy and Jess Allen from The Social. It was surprisingly an incredibly hilarious and fun talk!

In other news, we’ve finally got some decent weather where I live and I’m hoping for the warmer weather to come and stay for a long time. Work wise there’s going to be some significant changes coming and my contract is up in two months so it’s both exciting and stressful not knowing what’s going to happen but I hope things will turn out okay. Anyways hope you guys had a good month, and that May will be just marvellous. As always I hope you enjoy the posts this month, and I’ll “see” you guys again in June.

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May 3 Frenzy Presents: Spring/Summer 2018
May 8 – Puddin’ by Julie Murphy
May 10 – My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
May 15 – The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde
May 17 – From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon
May 22–  Royals by Rachel Hawkins
May 24 What’s Next #2
May 29The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin