Midweek Mini Reviews #30

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two new YA titles.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
I’ve been excited for Samir and Pinky’s story ever since they interacted with each other in There’s Something About Sweetie! On the surface Pinky and Samir appeared to be complete opposites of so it was adorable seeing them get to know each other better and fall for each other’s true selves. As someone who grew up with cousins around my age, I liked the relationship between Pinky and her cousin, Dolly especially how they’re able to acknowledge their jealously of each other. I do hope that Dolly gets her own book someday. The relationship between Pinky and her mother was another interesting one. It’s one that many immigrant daughters could relate to especially if they feel like they could never see eye to eye with their moms. i do wish however that more time was spent on resolving this complicated relationship as I couldn’t buy her mother’s change of heart with very little lead up. This could also be in part due to the minor pacing issues in the book. There was a lot of back-and-forth and as a result everything felt rushed near the end. I also could have done without the possum or butterfly habitat subplots as they took time away from the development of Samir and Pinky’s romance in addition to resolving the tension between Pinky and her mother. Nevertheless, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky delivered an enjoyable fake dating, hate to love story that was the perfect light and fluffy distraction from the current craziness. Highly recommended if you enjoyed Sandhya Menon’s other books, especially if you love the humour, banter and heart in her books.

The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund 
Some nooks just read like movies. With its themes of high school relationship dramas, hookups and secret crushes Cameron Lund’s The Best Laid Plans feels like it could have been a teen movie on Netflix or Freeform. I’m always game for a friends to lover story and heard good things about this one. What I liked about The Best Laid Plans was its accurate portrayal of the high school experience, sure there were a few rather cliché and dramatic moments but for the most part the book does a decent job at subverting the usual cliché YA tropes. The characters mostly felt real and I could definitely see people I knew in them. It was also interesting to see how the book didn’t shy away from how messy and toxic friendships in high school could get while not making any of the characters out to be a one-dimensional villain. It was also refreshing for them to acknowledge how not everyone in a friend group is actually “friends” and sometimes you tolerate people because of mutual friends. I’m pretty satisfied with the ending even if the romance started to lose some of its magic near the end with all the reveals. Nevertheless, while nothing special The Best Laid Plans was a well-paced and well written novel.

 

 

 

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 #29

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two new YA titles.

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices
Once Upon an Eid is an anthology of short stories that take place around or during Eid, a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. As a non-Muslim person, I was intrigued by this book because I am familiar with some of the authors who have stories in this collection including S.K. Ali who is one of the editors. Like any holiday anthology the 15 stories are all heartwarming, fun and joyful in their own way. Two of my favourites were Like Chest Armor and Huda Al-Marashi’s Not Only an Only. The former was an adorable story about a girl’s first time wearing a hijab with touching upon other things like crushes and fandom in middle school, while the latter was a story about female friendship that I anyone who has been a minority in their school could relate to. I also enjoyed Asmaa Hussein’s Kareem Means Generous because it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling and I liked that it is set in Toronto, Canada. As Once Upon an Eid is geared towards middle grade and not YA, I’m far from the target audience for this short story collection. However, even I can tell after reading all the stories that Once Upon an Eid is a special book and I love getting a glimpse at how different cultures celebrate Eid. With the countless number of Christmas books out there, it’s nice that Muslims kids are able to have another collection of stories that they could personally relate to.

My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong
Pitched as Crazy Rich Asians meets Love & Gelato, I really wanted to like My Summer of Love and Misfortune. But it took way too long to get into it, and while I could appreciate the character development and growth I couldn’t completely buy into Iris’s “transformation”. While it doesn’t necessarily mean this is a bad thing, in the case of My Summer of Love and Misfortune the uneven pacing along with all the drama in the book gave me whiplash. In spite of that, I didn’t hate Iris, in fact I couldn’t help but feel bad for her because she really is clueless and while she is shallow she truly believes she has good intentions. Also despite being an annoying character, I was still rooting for her to finally stand up for herself against those who did not treat her well. The writing in this book was strong, along with all the juicy family drama redeemed this book for me just a bit. My favourite parts were seeing the Wang family reunited and seeing Iris and her cousin Ruby come together and realize they actually make a great team. It’s unfortunate, but My Summer of Love and Misfortune was not the fun and light summer read that I had hoped it would be.

 

 

 

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 #25

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features a couple of new two very different YA titles!

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

High school guys can be jerks sometimes. That’s what CeCe in Sonia Hartl’s Have a Little Faith in Me learns when her boyfriend, Ethan, jumps her soon after the two sleep together for the first time. As someone who is not religious I found CeCe’s experience as an “outsider” at a Christian summer camp for teenagers to be interesting. I also appreciate how the story doesn’t waste too much time on CeCe’s original reason for going to the camp which was to try to win back her ex. Instead we get to see her bond with the other girls in her cabin with whom she never thought she’d have anything in common with. I loved the girls of Cabin 8 and seeing how CeCe helps to bring them out of their shell while the girls help CeCe get over her judginess when it comes to others. It was also refreshing to have a YA novel openly call out hypocrites in religion and I liked the way the topic of consent, and how religion deals with sexuality was approached. Finally even though it’s the way the story was set up, I was still rooting for Paul and CeCe because their friendship was heartwarming and the two of them are adorable with the “stories” they tell each other. If you enjoyed Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us and/or Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn then this book is for you.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Gloria Chao has truly come into her own as a writer with her sophomore novel. Our Wayward Fate, not only looks at the what it’s like growing up as a child of immigrants in a place where no one looks like you, but it does so by incorporating elements of the Chinese legend, The Butterfly Lovers in to her story. This mostly works well, although I initially disliked the sections that contained Chao’s twist on the legend as it took time away from Allie’s story which I found more compelling. I connected with many of Allie’s frustrations as I also grew up with a mostly white town. Like Allie, every time there was a Chinese kid my age, I was often paired with them, despite the fact that I’m not even Chinese. That being said, I did like Chase and Allie’s relationship as it was adorable how they bonded over their many similarities. However, I felt that their transition into being a couple was rushed at the start as the pacing was super-fast after Chase’s arrival since everything just starts blowing up socially all at once for Allie. Fortunately their romantic relationship gets more fleshed out with time. I also liked the direction the author took with Allie and Yun and what the two of them together with Chase end up doing in the end. Finally, I appreciated how Allie was able to grow and realized that while many in her small town are racist, she is not guiltless when it comes to having stereotypes about other people either.

 

 

 

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 | There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Authour:
Sandhya Menon
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 14th 2019
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
We first met Ashish in When Dimple Met Rishi as Ashish is Rishi’s little brother. There’s Something about Sweetie continues Ashish’s story and introduces us to the sassy Sweetie Nair. I’ll be honest, despite my excitement for this book I was a bit wary. The plot of There’s Something about Sweetie meant that Ashish and Celia would no longer be a couple and I loved them as the beta couple in When Dimple Met Rishi. In spite of that, Sweetie quickly won me over and I truly felt that she and Ashish were the perfect foil to one another. 

This was a book that had me grinning from ear to ear, of course, there were a few (joyful) tears as I love how authentically both characters’ families were portrayed. As a child of immigrants, I could definitely relate to Sweetie’s conflict about wanting to be her own person and not giving in to familial pressure yet at the same time not being able to fully go against her parents. After all, even if you disagree with them their words still have an effect on you because they’re your parents and you want them to accept and love you for who you are. I also loved how this was a YA novel where families, especially parents play such an integral part in a teenager’s life. However, I also love how both Sweetie and Ashish’s friends are heavily featured in this book, especially as they are all such fun characters who always have each other’s’ backs. Furthermore, it was amazing how a couple of Ashish’s friends, even got their own subplot and character development moments.

Ashish truly has come a long way since his first appearance and I love how Sweetie grows, although her character doesn’t change a great deal. Perhaps this due to the fact that she was shown as being perfect with her only flaw being her struggling between standing up for herself and being a dutiful daughter? It’s hard for anyone to not fall in love with her. A delightful read, There’s Something about Sweetie is one of those books that’s guaranteed to put you in a good mood with its adorableness, lack of any major angst and message of loving yourself and opening yourself up to others.

 

 

 

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 | American Panda by Gloria Chao

Authour:
Gloria Chao
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
February 6th 2018
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m truly enjoying the rise in diverse YA fiction voices. This is coming from a girl who grew up with little exposure to stories starring Asian characters. I remember getting excited when on the rare occasion a required reading in class was a short story by an Asian writer with Asian characters that I could relate to. American Panda is the latest addition to the own voices, narrative trend which I hope is here to stay.

While I went into American Panda under the false assumption that it would be a light, rom-com similar to Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, so I was a bit caught off guard by the serious nature of the book especially in the beginning. Yes, there are a few moments of adorableness between Mei and her love interest, Darren Takahashi, however this comes later in the novel and is far from being the central focus. Instead, American Panda is about complicated parent-child dynamics, and the struggle to be true to yourself and your passions.

I can definitely relate to Mei’s pressure to not let her parents down while trying to stay true to what makes her happy. My own immigrant parents never pressured me or my siblings to be doctors, however they have made it clear that they want us to have a stable life without the hardships that they faced. And that’s what I loved the most about American Panda, it realistically showcases one example of how traditional Asian families act. Sure, my parents would never even threaten to disown any of us, however they do gossip and compare us to other kids while giving us backhand comments as a way to show that they care. I also found it refreshing how the family issues were not glossed over. By the novel’s conclusion the family conflicts are not all resolved in a neat and tidy way (as is the case in real life), instead progress is gradually being made from both sides. After all, people can’t just change on a whim, it takes time and considerable work in order to reach an understanding.

What’s nice about the rise in own voices trend is we are getting stories, especially geared towards a YA audience that we haven’t gotten before, I do not think I’ve ever read a story similar to American Panda and while I can’t relate to all of Mei’s experiences I know people who have had similar experiences. Furthermore, as a child of Asian immigrants, growing up as a minority among Caucasians who had younger parents with laissez-faire parenting styles, it was difficult for me to explain to others how I did not have the same freedom that was afforded to them. While it was fine for them to rebel and do as they pleased, similar to Mei in the book, growing up I couldn’t just do as I please without the massive guilt trips. Heartbreaking yet heartwarming, lovely, and well written American Panda is a perfect read to inspire and encourage Asian teens by showing them that there isn’t just one path that they must follow in life.

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 | Siege of Shadows by Sarah Raughley

Authour:
Sarah Raughley
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 21st 2017
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
While I wasn’t too impressed with Fate of Flames, despite my initial excitement for it, I was intrigued enough to want to pick up the next book in Sarah Raughley’s Effigies series.

Like Fate of Flames, Siege of Shadows took a bit of time to hook me in. However, what I liked about this book was just how action packed it was. Since the majority of Fate of Flames was used to set up the world building, and mysteries and mythology of the Effigies there was more room in Siege of Shadows to focus on the relationships. Now that all four girls have come together and forced to work as a team it definitely brings out the more interesting dynamics. I also loved that we become more acquainted with the girls’ families, especially Maia’s uncle who proves himself quite useful to their cause. Of course there’s a bit of romance here and while I could have done without it, I did feel that there was a proper amount of build up especially from the previous book that the romance was all but inevitable.

As always, I love the Canadian and Toronto setting in the Effigies books! I also appreciate the diversity when it comes to the girls. Both the Canadian setting and the diversity is something that’s not often seen in YA novels, especially ones in the fantasy genre so it was definitely refreshing. Siege of Shadows has definitely upped the stakes for the Effigies and I loved how action packed it was. Also that ENDING!! Now I even more hooked and cannot wait to see where the series goes next, although I do hope that the “deaths” of all but one (for obvious reasons) in Siege of Shadows actually stick as they were incredibly emotional and powerful and it would be a cop-out if those particular characters survived.

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 | When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

dimAuthour:
Sandhya Menon
Format:
ARC, 380 pages
Publication date:
May 30th 2017
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
When Dimple Met Rishi is a novel that at least in the circles that I run it, has received a bit of hype. And while I was wary at first since it was pitched as an “arranged marriage” romantic comedy, I gave in to since I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Bollywood films.

After finishing the book, which I read way before its release ( I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy) I can say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that When Dimple Met Rishi struck just the right balance between its romantic comedy plot and its cultural aspects. I adored both Dimple and Rishi although I connected more with Dimple her wish to be independent and not wanting to sacrifice her dreams. This is something countless young women can relate to as often we feel that we are “forced” to choose between having a career and having a family.

While it is without a doubt that When Dimple Met Rishi is a romantic comedy, it was refreshing to have a story that was more than just a love story. Both Dimple and Rishi’s have a complex relationship with their family, who regardless of whether they’d admit it or not do have a major impact on their lives . Additionally, I enjoyed the friendship that develops between Dimple and with her roommate, Celia as it was authentic in that it had its imperfections along with its perfections.

When Dimple Met Rishi is undeniably THE YA romance novel that you should pick up whether you are in search of more diversity within the romantic comedy genre (can it be a movie already?) or you just want a book with a sweet love story that will charm you with its genuine characters and relationships.

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

Waiting on Wednesday #24 | Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

wed Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights upcoming titles that we’re looking forward to/dying to read. It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Synopsis:

Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.

Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato, is probably one of my favourite travel themed YA novels so I was dying to see what Welch would write next. Turns out Love & Luck is a sort of spin-off of Love & Gelato (the covers even match), as it focuses on Lina’s friend Addie. I’m definitely looking forward to the Lina and Ren appearance as well as Addie’s story which promises a road trip through Ireland as well as some brother and sister bonding which I haven’t seen as much in books. Love & Luck is out in stores on August 29, 2017!

What books are you “waiting” on this week?

Top Ten Tuesdays | Top Ten Best Books of 2016

TTT Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesdays | Top Ten Best Books of 2016”

Book Review | Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

Authour:flames
Sarah Raughley
Format:
ARC, 353 pages
Publication date:
November 22nd 2016
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
The moment I heard it about a book that was pitched for fans of Sailor Moon, and Avatar in addition to featuring a group of kick butt female leads, I was in and Fate of Flames became probably my most anticipated YA title from Simon and Schuster’s fall catalogue.

Fate of Flames is about four girls who all have control over an element resembling fire, water, or air. What’s intriguing about these girls is that there are always four of them, when one dies, another girl comes into her powers in addition to all the memories of her predecessors. This brings us to our protagonist, Maia whose effigy powers awaken during a lockdown at her school. This causes her to realize that her predecessor, the fire effigy has Natalya has died. She is at that point quickly thrust into the world of the effigies and fighting phantoms.

What I enjoyed about Fate of Flames was that it incorporated modern elements in a fantasy/science fiction story. Social media is a major element in the story, as are online forums which Maia tends to go on even before she became an effigy. I also liked the fact that Maia existed as a fangirl before she became an effigy as it makes this more relatable. Interestingly enough, I think the book took a realistic approach to how someone who is a fangirl transition into become one of the “heroes” they looked up to. Maia is definitely out her comfort zone, and it was refreshing to have a protagonist who doesn’t just easily adapt into her new powers and her role as a fighter, especially since it’s clear that Maia did not have any pre-existing badass attributes or abilities. Unfortunately, not much happens in Fate of Flames, the reader is thrown a great deal of history/backstory and information with little explanation. Furthermore, there isn’t much fighting until the near the conclusion of this book. Maia, the protagonist is incredibly useless for the majority of the book and instead her role is relegated to gathering the other effigies. Once the four girls, Belle, Lake and Chae Rin are gathered that’s when the story proceeds to move forward.

Overall as a first book in a trilogy, I’d consider Fate of Flames to be a decent read. I just hope all the hints, back stories, and mysteries lead up to a thrilling and satisfying story. My interest is definitely piqued, at least for book two which I hope will focus more on the girls learning to work more effectively as a team. Fate of Flames is a book for those who desire a female group focused fantasy novel that is refreshingly light on the romance.

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 & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

lovegelatoAuthour:
Jenna Evans Welch
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 386 pages
Publication date:
April 12th 2016
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
My conundrum when it comes to YA novels remains that I have yet to find several novels featuring travel that I have come to adore. However, Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato was one of the rare few that met my expectations.

Love & Gelato is the story of 16 year old Lina whose mother has just passed away, as per her mom’s dying wish she is sent to spend the summer in Italy in order to be acquainted her father. To make matters worse, when she arrives she find out her father lives near a graveyard where he’s the superintendent. However, things improve when she is given her mom’s journal. This leads her on an adventure with her friend, Ren as they discover an entire other side to Florence in addition to a few new things concerning Lina’s mother.

The writing throughout Love & Gelato is simplistic yet amusing and entertaining, incredibly relatable. I loved the usage of journal entries to tell Lina mom’s story as you get to read the entries with Lina. The best part of having the story set in Florence, Italy were the numerous descriptions of marvellous food on top of the sights and sounds from one of the places that I have always wanted to visit. The entire time it felt akin to essentially being there in person and experiencing all the things alongside Lina.

As with the majority YA novels, there is romance to go along with the travel. To be honest, I wasn’t as invested in Lina’s romantic adventures. However, I stayed incredibly intrigued in the romance and love aspect of Lina’s mom, Hadley since it’s a major plot point to the central story. And even though we are familiar with how Hadley’s story ends at the start of the novel, it remained still a more compelling story than Lina’s story. Overall, Love & Gelato featured an incredibly charming cast of characters and a story about all types of love that gradually grew on me. And if possible I would love to read a continuation of Lina’s adventures and misadventures in Italy.

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 Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

yearfellaprtAuthour:
Emily Martin
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 314 pages
Publication date:
January 26th 2016
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
What drew me to The Year We Fell Apart was the premise. I’m a major fan of the friendship turn romance trope and the synopsis of The Year We Fell Apart promised a story that remained more than just a fluffy read. However it was much more than the story that made me fall in love with this book. First and foremost, the prose in the book was gorgeous and filed with much emotion that you can almost feel exactly what Harper is feeling both in the present and in the flashbacks. It’s as if you’re right there feeling her confusion, hurt, anger and frustration as she comes to terms with her situation and moves on from her past mistakes.

Starting this book, I felt it would be a major tear-jerker however fortunately it wasn’t. It however was full of heartbreaking moments as both Declan and Harper have been deeply wounded emotionally both by each other and by their family situations. I enjoyed the flashbacks and the reveal to why they fell apart since it made me root for them even more in the present to hurry and find their way back to each other.

Another element of the book that I enjoyed was the authentic portrayal of other non-romantic relationships. I liked how it showed that Harper and her brother both had their own way of dealing with their mom being sick. I can definitely relate as my siblings and I have been in a similar situation with our father and though we are all siblings we dealt with it all in extremely different manners. Additionally, I love the character of Cory as he’s an excellent friend to Harper especially. I believe it’s realistic that he knows he can’t stop Harper from her self-destructive ways nevertheless it’s nice that he was only a phone call away and when it came down to it he was there to pick up the pieces and/or provide her a ride home so that she made it home safely. At times it’s the little things you do for your friends that make all the difference, you don’t need to be a “hero” who saves them or their “parent” who tells them what they can and can’t do you just need to be there for them. And I reason this book captures this idea beautifully not just with Harper and her friend Cory but also with her and her brother.

Set against a tragic backdrop of death and heartbreak, The Year We Fell Apart remains a story that made me smile at the little heart touching moments and left me with an even greater smile every time I put it down. And I highly recommend it to all you contemporary YA lovers out there.

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