Midweek Mini Reviews #21

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two romances just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Having heard many good things about Matchmaking for Beginners I decided to move it up on my TBR list. Unfortunately, this one fell short for me and I felt that it did not live up to the praise it received. Maybe it’s because I hate when people are no given much choice, but I had a hard time getting through this book. The protagonist, Marnie wasn’t very likeable and she came off as extremely flaky and an incredible doormat. Her heartbreak, however was relatable, which made it tough to see her getting pushed around and manipulated by basically everyone, including little kids, her horrible ex and even complete strangers. That being said, the side characters were entertaining at times and I did appreciate Jessica’s friendship with Marnie in fact, she was probably one of the few reasonable characters in the book. As for the “magic” aspect of the book, I thought it was cool initially as Blitz grew on me as a character, however, it eventually got rather irritating as the “sparkles” was used as an excuse for everything including going behind people’s backs to “help” them. I can certainly see how Matchmaking for Beginners could be the perfect, warm and magical holiday read, however for me it was too saccharine for my liking especially the ending and instead left me feeling slightly depressed.         

Liars, Inc. series by Rachel Van Dyken

The first Rachel Van Dyken novel that I read and loved was Infraction. So when I heard she had a new series coming out, this time centering on a women run PI agency that exposes cheaters, I was intrigued. Starting with Dirty Exes, I wasn’t completely sold yet. I liked Blair alright, however I wasn’t as big on Colin or even him and Blair as a couple. That being said, the book did introduce me to Jessie and Isla and from their shared scenes and off the charts chemistry in Dirty Exes I knew I just had to read their book. Fortunately, Dangerous Exes was a definite hit with me. While Jessie and Isla start off as “enemies”, it does not last very long. Soon they’re thrust into a fake engagement and before either of them realizes it, they’re hooking up and starting to develop “feelings”. I love how sweet the two were as a couple, and how they brought out the best in each other. I also appreciated the fact that Isla was half Chinese and that we got to meet Goo-Poh (her aunt). Goo-Poh was such a wild and hilarious character that she stole every scene she appeared in. While Dirty Exes was an okay read for me, Dangerous Exes was a hot and sweet romance that I could not put down. 

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #20

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two “self-help” books, perfect for starting a new year.

Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life by Melissa Leong

One of my New Years’ resolutions for 2019 was to learn to manage my money better. This is where my copy of Melissa Leong’s Happy Go Money came in. Unlike the majority of other personal finance books that I’ve tried to pick up, but failed to get through, Leong’s book was easy to follow, light-hearted and entertaining. Part personal finance, part self-help I appreciated how Happy Go Money combines psychology and happiness research with finance tips and tricks to give the reader advice, conversation starters and tasks that the readers can start to tackle their financial goals. While a lot of the material in the book may seem like common sense, it was a good reminder for me. I love how Leong encourages people to spend money on experiences and “time-savers” and I wholeheartedly agree with her advice on opening a separate, no-fee bank account with a debit card for all your non-essential spending. I’ll definitely be doing this, as soon as I have enough money to start another account without having any of my other accounts suffering as a result. Happy Go Money is perfect for people who don’t really read “finance” books but want to learn more as it manages to mostly maintain a decent balance between being warm and friendly while still being informative.

Design Your Next Chapter: How to Realize Your Dreams and Reinvent Your Life by Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis is well-known for her home and design shows on TV. However, Design Your Next Chapter isn’t another book about decorating or painting. Instead, it is more of a self-help book that is packed with tons of tips and inspiring stories about people who’ve taken the leap and pursued their dreams. While a lot of the material in the book seems geared more towards an older demographic, there are some takeaways for younger people as well. In particular, I loved the sections that allow you to fill in the blanks with your own hopes and dreams. I also found the Ten Commandments chapter, especially the section on losing your “fear” and the section on budgeting to be incredibly useful. For anyone who may find themselves thinking “what’s next?” reading this is book is a good start and for those who are curious, Design Your Next Chapter is an easily digestible and comforting read that can be relatable to many people.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews 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 | 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.