Book Review | The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Authour:
Beatriz Williams
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
July 10th, 2018
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Beatriz Williams’s The Summer Wives was one of the titles from the Buzz Books 2018: Young Adult Spring/Summer sampler that I was excited to read the rest of the book after finishing the excerpt. A tragic love story and a gripping mystery that is wrapped up in this family saga, The Summer Wives is the story of two women from two generations, one is a grown woman who faces consequences for her reckless choices as a youth and is forced to do whatever it takes to survive while the other is a young girl who grows up to be a movie star.

The writing is captivating, and the central protagonist Miranda is a well-developed character with a fascinating history, which made me want to get to know her more despite her being a slightly unlikable person. The story overall is also a compelling one filled with plenty of drama, secrecy and of course tragedy. There is so much tragedy that affects both the working class residents and the privileged families on the island, and it’s what makes The Summer Wives a story that completely consumes the reader, begging for their full attention in the worst yet maybe best possible way.

Other than Miranda, who truly is the star of the book, the other characters remain fairly flat and in the background. That being said, I did adore the sibling dynamic between Miranda and Hugh Jr even though they have just met for the first time. Their relationship has such a laid back and easy rapport which makes it a stark contrast to the majority of the other families and relationships on the island.

I went in to The Summer Wives expecting your typical historical fiction read with a side of romance and was definitely not ready for all the soap opera drama in the book. I would’ve preferred a happier ending for the characters in The Summer Wives, although I’ll admit the book ended in a fairly satisfying and realistic way. Even though I probably won’t be in any hurry to pick up another Beatriz Williams book, The Summer Wives is an acceptable novel to escape into for the summer and on the beach if you enjoy the historical family drama of the wealthy with a touch of darkness.

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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Book Review | What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan

Authour:
Lucy Tan
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
July 10th, 2018
Publisher:
Little, Brown
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
A rag to riches tale, Lucy Tan’s What We Were Promised follows the Zhen family as they move from their hometown in rural China to the USA then back to China, only this time they’ve become part of the new wealthy class living in Shanghai, China.

The story follows the lives of Wei and Lina Zhen in addition to the woman who becomes their housekeeper, Sunny. While the focus is on the Zhens, there is enough of Sunny’s backstory to fully flesh out her character development. Each the characters’ stories are told by an omniscient narrator which lends itself well to the reader who is getting a glimpse behind the “doors” of one family among the many who live in the luxury apartments.

For a début novel, What We Were Promised has exquisite prose and stellar storytelling. Tan truly captivates the reader with her descriptions of China and the manner in which she weaves together all the characters’ lives, ensures that their past and present stay connected. The book is rich in detail which further allows the reader to escape into this often inaccessible world of the well-off in China.

I appreciated the fact that Wei was not made out to be a stereotypical, arrogant executive who has countless extramarital affairs. While he has his flaws just like the other characters, it was easy to sympathize with him being a regular man who worked his way up by being diligent and hustling. Meanwhile, Lina’s story gives us a behind the glamour and glitz look at the life of a Taitai aka rich housewife. It’s understandable that transitioning from working full-time to staying at home requires a bit of an adjustment and Lina’s boredom and restlessness is never sugar-coated. Still, in spite of Lina and Wei’s story being the central focus of What We Were Promised, it’s Sunny’s story that resonated with me the most. Unlike the majority of women her age, Sunny is single and makes her own money though she sends a chunk of it back home to her parents. I enjoyed seeing a female character who actually is satisfied with not remarrying and just being financially independent and free. Sunny’s story also provides the readers with a servant’s perspective of the Zhen family drama and life inside a luxury, fully serviced apartment.

What We Were Promised is a story about homecoming, complicated and messy family dynamics and the “Asian tax” meaning the obligations we feel towards our family when we’ve made something of ourselves. And just as the title suggests What We Were Promised is also about expectations both from the family and individual and how it’s all too easy to waste time dwelling in the past and what could have been instead of staying in the present and looking to the future.

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 | Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ. Pearce

Authour:
AJ Pearce
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
July 3th, 2018
Publisher:
Scribner
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
AJ Pearceit’s Dear Mrs. Bird is one of those warm-hearted British stories that has you easily to get swept up in the cozy feel of the book all while making you forget that at its core, it is still a war novel. These days, I’m less of the avid historical fiction reader than I used to be, however I was intrigued by the concept of advice columns during WWII enough to give Dear Mrs. Bird a chance.

Both sad and sweet, the heart of Dear Mrs. Bird truly lies with its protagonist, Emmy who is every bit the plucky, and likeable character that readers will find endearing and perhaps even relatable. I also adored Emmy and Bunty’s friendship as the two young women fully supported each other even when times were tough and they couldn’t be there for each other fully.

Unlike the majority of the historical novels I’ve previously read, Dear Mrs. Bird isn’t about an individual who is particularly remarkable or who finds themselves thrust into an unusual and/or extraordinary situation. Rather, Emmy is quite ordinary for a young woman of her age and era, which makes Dear Mrs. Bird stand out for it shows us that in a way even when there’s a war occurring, life still continues on as usual for the majority of the book.

A slow-paced read that can be enjoyed at leisure, little action or plot development takes place in Dear Mrs. Bird. Instead it felt like a realistic glimpse into the lives of regular people who are forced to continue on, business as usual despite the fact that there is a major war happening and that anyone could die at any moment. There are a few heartbreaking moments in this book, however I finished the book grinning. While far from my favourite read, Dear Mrs. Bird works as a heartwarming and comfortably, easy 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 | Go Home! edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Edited by:
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Format:
Trade Paperback
Publication date:
March 13th, 2018
Publisher:
The Feminist Press at CUNY
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“My idea of home is a verb. Home is a straining towards belonging. For me the feeling of wanting to go home is home. For others, home is a place they want to escape, a place that doesn’t exist, a place that exists only in time, a place that exists in the breath of a parent, or the mouth of a lover. For some, home is geographical, but they cannot return because of political, financial, or personal reasons. Others are seen as foreigners in their chosen home…” (p. 2)

When I told one of my managers at work I was planning to visit Vietnam this summer she asked me if I was excited to “go back home”. Let me preface this by saying she meant no harm when she asked me that yet I found myself a bit taken back. Vietnam has never been “home” to me it’s been many things, like that boiling, hot country where my cousins and father’s siblings live, and the country where I never felt like I belonged despite speaking the language since apparently I walk and talk like a “foreigner” but it’s never been “home” to me.

Like with any collection, there are some pieces that speak to you while others you fail to connect with. When I first heard that there was going to be an anthology of Asian-American writers with pieces centering on the theme of “home” I was beyond excited! Even more so when I saw the list of featured writers. As it’s difficult to review an anthology as a whole, I’d thought I focus on a few pieces that truly stood out to me and share my thoughts on them.

First up is the foreword by Viet Thanh Nguyen which was both thought-provoking and powerful. I loved his writing in his short story collection The Refugees, and it is his foreword truly sets the tone as well as a high standard for the rest of the book.

“My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” by Mohja Kahf is a story that all of us children of immigrants can relate to, as it’s so much easier to look down on our parents and grandparents for what we think are odd traditions than to defend them against the scrutiny of others. The simultaneous feelings of embarrassment of your parents and shame of not being to stand by them are definitely feelings I can relate to. It the end it was a hauntingly, relatable story that remains in my mind well after I finished this anthology.

“Elegy” by Esmé Weijun Wang was my favourite piece in this anthology. It’s a nonfiction piece about how the writer discovers she’s gluten intolerant and her journey of coming to terms with the implications it has on her family and culture. I liked how she and her husband were able to create their new feeling of “home” for her by adding their own twists to her favourite foods so that she may be able to continue to enjoy them,.

Finally, while I am not a diehard poetry fan yet I did enjoy Jason Koo’s “Bon Chul Koo and the Hall of Fame”. As someone who also has a father who is an immigrant, I could definitely relate to this poem about the awkward attempts to bond with your father as an adult. Both my siblings and I do ask our dad more about what his life was like back in Vietnam as we are now old enough to appreciate these stories that he is more than happy to share with us.

As a whole, Go Home! felt a bit lackluster. However, there were several standout pieces in this anthology, and I do believe that all the voices and stories in this collection are important additions to Asian Literature that do need to be heard.

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 | Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim

Authour:
Sheba Karim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5, 2018
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
With summer around the corner, this book had me at friendship and a road trip! I didn’t even care where the characters were headed (New Orléans) but I knew this was the one title I NEEDED to have from the Frenzy Presents preview. Fortunately, through trades, I was able to obtain an ARC of it and it did not disappoint!

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road follows Mariam and her two best friends, Umar, and Ghaz as they embark on a cross-country road trip to New Orléans. Part adventure, part escape and part journey of self-discovery, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is definitely a character-driven as the three friends have their own personal issues to sort out. Nevertheless, there are several amusing and entertaining moments during their trip and I appreciated that the characters acknowledge their privilege and the fact that negative stereotyping can come from either side.

Speaking of stereotypes, I love the relationship Mariam has with her mother and how their relationship subverts what the stereotypical Desi mother-daughter relationship and her relationship with her brother mirrors the one that I have with my brother. That being said, the families of the three are merely background characters in this book. I love the bond the three friends have with each other, cheering one another on and steeping in as “family” where their parents and even siblings may have failed them. This is all the more heartwarming as the three of them at first glance seem like a peculiar group of friends and became friends by virtue of the fact that they all felt ostracized by their own religion and culture.

For those of you who are looking for another YA novel featuring college-age teens, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is a great read. I also heard a few people say that Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is “the” road trip novel you need to read this summer and I agree. This book is a true coming of age novel for Mariam and her two friends that manages to touch on serious issues among them being faith, race, cultural growing pains, and relationships while keeping the story fairly light-hearted. In addition, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road avoids veering into the overly dramatic storytelling territory by staying true to how the characters’ journey would unfold in life. In the end, while all three come away with new a new outlook and new insights, none of their stories are resolved neatly. Instead, just like in life, there is still so much more to all their stories even after the book is done.

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 | 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.

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.

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.

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.