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.

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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 | 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 | 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.

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.

Waiting on Wednesday #25 | My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

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:

Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soulmate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her 18th birthday, and Raj meets all of the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked to return from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. Worse, Raj is crowned chair of the student film festival, a spot Winnie was counting on for her film school applications. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek, and one of the few people Winnie can count on to help her reclaim control of her story. Dev is smart charming, and challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope to find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy, and her chance to live happily ever after? To get her Bollywood-like life on track, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.

Like an expertly choreographed Bollywood dance scene, Nisha Sharma’s off-beat love story dazzles in the lime light.

One of my first forays into diverse YA romances was Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi which I adored! I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been a fan of South Asian culture and of course Bollywood. I love how the synopsis of My So-Called Bollywood Life hints at the idea of “fate”, and how things that are pre-determined don’t always work out the way we want. Having been pushed back from its original release to May 2018, I can’t wait to finally be able to read this fun, and modern take on the Bollywood love story!

What books are you “waiting” on this week?

Book Review | Busted by Gina Ciocca

Authour:
Gina Ciocca
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 1st 2018
Publisher:
Sourcebooks Fire

Review:
As mentioned in an earlier post, Gina Ciocca’s Busted was my most anticipated YA title from the Raincoast Teen Reads Preview back in September. Fortunately I was able to snag an ARC of it last year.

The synopsis of Busted somehow had me thinking that it was going to be light, fluffy read where the girl falls for her “mark”. However, in reality it was far from an adorable read though what do you expect when a book is compared to the show, Veronica Mars? Still, there wasn’t much actual investigating either, which made Busted and interesting novel that was somewhere between your lighter contemporary YA fare and a YA thriller.

Personally I felt that overall the novel is well balanced as it was overall a gripping read that was neither too light or too dark. My favourite thing about Busted is actually the characters, and their relationships. And by relationships I don’t necessarily mean the romantic ones which honestly weren’t that well-developed. Instead the friendships and sinking relationships felt more fleshed out. Marisa, herself is definitely a relatable character in that she’s geeky and quirky yet down to earth and doesn’t take any crap from those in her life. I loved that her brother was her occasional albeit reluctant accomplice and that he wasn’t her best friend or her enemy, which I found to be a fairly realistic portrayal of the brother-sister dynamic in real life. I also enjoyed the portrayal of female friendships and how the book showed how people remain friends even if they don’t go to the same school. Also, I admired how the friendships had several layers, and that Charlie and Marisa weren’t just about blindly and superficially supporting everything the other does.

Busted was not as fluffy as I thought it would be, however I still found it mostly enjoyable. Recommended for those who like a quick read with a bit of high school drama, a pinch of darkness, and a dash of 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 | Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet

Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 2nd 2018
Publisher:

HMH Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Back in May during the Raincoast TeenReads Fall 2017 Preview, Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet was the top title on my review book wish list. Even before the preview, when I first found out about this book I knew that it would automatically be on my must read list. After all YA Contemporary fiction is (probably) my favourite genre to read, and several of my favourite authors like Emery Lord, Nicola Yoon and Katharine McGee contributed to this collection of stories about fateful “meetings”.

Typically in short story collections, there’s at least one story that I’m not sold on, however, with Meet Cute I found that even if I did not love the story there was always some aspect of each of the stories that I enjoyed. Some of the more memorable stores were Emery Lord’s Oomph which features a meet cute between two girls in an airport, Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Dictionary of You and Me and Click by Katherine McGee. However, my favourite of them is Julie Murphy’s Something Real as it was such an adorable and fun take on the  usual reality show competition.

For those of you looking for diversity in characters and stories, Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet is definitely a short story collection that you need to pick up. While all the stories in this collection are technically “love stories” they vary in genre and structure. And it was refreshing to discover that they weren’t all insta-love and happily ever after stories, in fact the majority of them were fairly realistic. If you enjoy adorable stories, then Meet Cute is for you as there is something for everyone as long as that person is someone who can appreciate an adorable first meeting between characters.

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 | The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Authour:
Cynthia Hand
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
October 24, 2017
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Okay, confession time The Afterlife of Holly Chase is my first Cynthia Hand book. I am aware of how much love her writing gets like with the Unearthly series or even with her work on My Lady Jane, however I wasn’t really enticed to pick up one her books until I read the synopsis for The Afterlife of Holly Chase. I adore Christmas as a holiday and a modern YA retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol sounded perfect to me!

Holly  to me felt like your typical, albeit spoiled teenager. While I could understand Holly’s actions, I couldn’t relate to her for the most part. That being said, I did like how she was able to eventually open up to her colleagues at Project Scrooge. And I did enjoy the twist at the end regarding the latest “Scrooge”. I also appreciated the fact that while there is some “romance” in the book it doesn’t play out in the typical way which I found refreshing for once.

Reading The Afterlife of Holly Chase in July definitely gave me the Christmas “feels”. While at times it seems like the story was trying too hard in its attempts to be a retelling of an old classic tale, I felt that overall it was handled in a way that captured the spirit of the original novel. Additionally I adored the characters who worked at Project Scrooge and while the ending may come off as a bit too clichéd with it’s sweet yet bittersweet tone, I liked that it was realistic in that while Holly doesn’t automatically become a good person instead she continues to try to be a better person. The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a book that is isn’t too overly sentimental and yet it may still get you in the Christmas mood.

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