Review: When Dimple Met Rishi (Shandya Menon)

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 8.06.54 PM.png

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: May 30, 2017
Format: eARC
Source: Author
Page Count: 320
Add to Goodreads
Pre-order from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia

Blurb:
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

REVIEW:

THIS BOOK WAS SUCH A GEM!

When Dimple Met Rishi had me all mushy and glowing inside! I truly loved the wonderful Indian representation in such a modern YA Contemporary. It felt like reading a truly positive YA novel but instead of the usual white characters, we have Dimple and Rishi. Both Indian teenagers finding a place to fit in a place where neither feels truly at home. With a rich cultural background and strong family influence, When Dimple Met Rishi provides us with a unique outlook into one of the many Asian cultures that aren’t very well-known.

Ever since Wing Jones, I’ve come to appreciate Asian characters in YA Contemporaries. I’m so happy more diverse authors are reaching out to introduce their readers to the many wonderful cultures this Earth has to offer. And this book met every expectation of mine!

Strong, level-headed and ambitious teenage girl who happens to be a geek and goes get what she wants: checked.

A respectful teenage guy who appreciates his Indian roots and traditions while coming from a wealthy family, who happens to be humble and holds on tight to his family values: checked.

I’ve enjoyed the plot of this book, it was well written and had a good pace to it. It wasn’t draggy and while cliches still existed that reminded me so much of Hindi films, I think it complimented the book well! The characters were very well developed too. I immediately took a liking to Dimple for her fieriness and high ambitions to become a successful coder. As a working professional girl myself, I feel the need for publishers to provide more books to young girls encouraging them to dream and be whoever they want to be despite the stereotypes or stigma. When Dimple Met Rishi is such a wonderful testament to pushing girls outside their comfort zones, in believing in love and chasing after what you desire.

The book questions peer pressure and finding courage to stand up for what you believe in, which is wonderful I must say.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a sweet, romantic read with a wonderful dash of diversity in the mix! This book comes out May 30, 2017 so keep a look out!

I’d like to thank the author for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

RATING: ★★★★☆

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-7-39-04-pm
Genre:
Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: January 31, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 407
Add to Goodreads
Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia, MPH Online

Blurb:
Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

REVIEW: (Contains spoilers!)

Well, this book has been…interesting to read. I’m not exactly jumping head over heels for this book. So a fair warning to ya, this is gonna be a rant. Because I didn’t enjoy this as much as I was hoping to. I may be one of the few who found this book to be over-hyped and believe that this book is just not for me. And I was so caught up in the hype, waiting for its publication date. But unfortunately, Caraval was a huge disappointment for me.

What I Liked About Caraval:

“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”

Because I still believe each book has its merits, I’ll point out what I like about this book before telling you what about it that irked me.

I like the world building and writing in this one. Garber has done well in that, at least. It was fairly easy to imagine the wonderful world that is Caraval and its unique and magical characters. We have a beautiful island where Caraval is held and where all the mysteries and wonders take place.

With breath-taking views and splendid architecture that comes alive at night, Caraval has a pretty descriptive and interesting setting.

The writing is also alright for me. Whilst the plot isn’t my favourite part of the book, the writing does have its own special essence that made me continue reading it despite considering to DNF this multiple times.

“No one is truly honest. Even if we don’t lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.”  

What I Disliked About Caraval:

I wasn’t a huge fan of Scarlett and Donatella Dragna in this. Nor was I of any of the main characters. Though I loved the details of the performers and the way they brought themselves about in the game, the MCs weren’t anything special in my opinion. I found the Dragna sisters to be whiny and spoilt, and despite growing up in an abusive environment where their father is the true villain here, I’m surprised that Scarlett wasn’t made out to be a little bit brighter. This is a game of high risks, but to have the MC scared and paranoid the whole time when she should have tried to solve all those clues in a more efficient way just pissed me off. Yes she did eventually solve them and found Tella, but wasn’t her feelings for Julian more important?

It certainly felt that way…

Because what’s more cliche in a YA book than 2 MCs hating each other in the beginning only to fall in love after a week of knowing each other? God forbid, we teach the young-lings that going off on an adventure with a random stranger is a good idea.

The whole plot didn’t really work out for me. It felt like the romance was more of the focus in this book. That and Scarlett’s insistence of getting married to the Count and running away to her happily ever after, instead of figuring out how to save her sister from Legend’s grasp.

The ending seemed a bit abrupt and it felt like the story wanted to save everyone from dying. But I guess that kind of manipulation and deception is what made people like this book.

The one thing I truly felt made this book overrated is its comparison to The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern). I’ve read The Night Circus and I can honestly say Caraval doesn’t even begin to compare with it. The Night Circus had so much depth, plot and wonderful characters in spite of the amazing love story woven into it.

So no, Caraval is unlike The Night Circus.

So those are my thoughts on Caraval. I won’t be apologetic for having an unpopular opinion on an over-hyped book. It just didn’t work out for me. Though I won’t continue with the series, you could still give it a try. If you’ve read this do let me know what you think of it and what made you like it!

RATING: ★★☆☆☆

Review: Wing Jones (Katherine Webber)

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-9-48-05-pm
Genre:
Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication date: January 5, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 384
Add to Goodreads
Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia, MPH Online

Blurb:
Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

REVIEW:

“Neither of us belonged with anyone else, so we belonged together.”  

I’m beginning to believe in YA Contemporaries again after reading Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven. Stories about misfits or teenagers who feel out of place in the social hierarchy are something I love rooting for. And Wing Jones is definitely a book I root for endlessly.

I stumbled across Wing Jones in places that most people find book recommendations: Instagram. I was blown away by how beautiful the cover and spray painted edges are. But most of all, the story attracted me the most. The journey of a girl of African and Chinese heritage finding her potential through running got me hooked, and though I am neither biracial or athletic, I do love books that promote diversity and finding your own strength in the darkest of times.

I also love it when the characters are simple and the author doesn’t focus much on their sexual orientation, and whilst I respect LGBT themed books, it’s nice to see authors taking a different approach in addressing issues that teenagers face in adapting to difficult social situations. I love how Wing is a child of inter-racial marriage and while it seems a tad bit far fetched that both her paternal and maternal grandmothers are living under the same roof, the prejudice she faces in school is very real and daunting. I’ve had friends who are children of inter-racial marriages face these problems in school and throughout college: never really finding your place in the social chain because of the way you look.

“So I do what I do best. I keep quiet.”  

Wing Jones is such a well-written book about believing in yourself and accepting what makes you unique that I felt uplifted throughout the book. There are difficult moments in the book involving Wing’s older brother and her family’s impending financial crisis. But her grace and perseverance are what made me love Wing so much. For a 16-year-old, she seems very mature and knows what she wants. And while she has a lot of insecurities like all teenage girls do, she found the ability to see the beautiful side of herself and bring happiness to her family.

The situations faced by Wing are so real and emotional that I wish all YA contemporaries are this matured and realistic. Because teenagers need to learn that life is difficult, and you can never take it for granted or be lazy to reach your highest potential.I am a girl of high ambitions and dreams, and I wish my juniors could have the same drive and fire within them to go out and get what they wish for. God forbid, we need more girls like Wing in our society.

Overall, this book is a wonderful read and I would highly recommend it if you want to read something heart-warming that will leave you feeling happy at the end. I thought the ending was too brief for my liking, but I did enjoy the book in its entirety.

RATING: ★★★★☆

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Review: What Light (Jay Asher)

Screen Shot 2017-01-02 at 6.24.42 PM.png

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication date: October 18, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Add to Goodreads
Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia

Blurb:
Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

Review: (Contains some spoilers!)

Well…where do I begin with this book?

Let me just start off with how much I love Thirteen Reasons Why and how it brought so much light to bullying issues among high school students and surfaced many important questions about mental illness.

What Light is the opposite of how enlightening Thirteen Reasons Why was. Oh how I wish I had known this beforehand!

I bought this book on a whim thinking “Jay Asher wrote a new book? Sign me up! This is gonna be fantastic”

Boy, was I wrong. Dead wrong.

Apart from the festive Christmas-y feels which I genuinely enjoyed (even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, it does remind me of the wonderful winter I spent in London back in 2015), this book fell very flat for me. Like, iPhone-drops-on-your-face-flat.

It’s a miracle that I eventually finished this because I thought about DNF-ing this several times (per day).

The Plot

Though I’m not a huge reader of YA novels, I am well aware of the cliche tropes contained within it. And What Light has the ultimate cliche of nice white girl-next-door falls for dashingly  good looking white male teen who, lo and behold, has a troubled past in need of a redemption!

Quite the package isn’t he.

The entire book is about Sierra coming to terms with Caleb’s past and how forgiveness and the holiday spirit brings out the best in everyone, and basically how a Christmas fling is never really a good idea for young people.

There’s not much else to the plot asides Sierra making a stand for herself and proving to her parents of how nice a guy Caleb is. Honestly, I do not understand the extent of her efforts.

Sierra also has some minor high school drama with her friends back home, which was resolved pretty quickly without any issue. And this made me realise how lackluster the plot is surrounding her romance with Caleb. It’s like Jay Asher only thought about Caleb as the main focus of What Light and threw the other characters around to decorate Sierra and Caleb.

The Characters

Both Sierra and Caleb lack any personality traits I could relate to. I understand how magical first loves can be, and whilst their relationship was pretty well written in the book, everything else was very blunt, including the characters themselves.

I do however admire Sierra’s selectivity in choosing a guy to date but making her fall in love with the troubled and hot dude in town doesn’t really say improve her standing on guys.

Caleb was strangely much affected by how the town treats him because of his past, given how it was years ago and as I recall from various global disasters, humans forget the mistakes of others pretty quickly. So yeah, to see him getting backlash from his community after all this time, sounds a bit surreal to me.

The Ending

Well tied off although the story was left a bit hanging. I guess that was the point of it. To show that relationships go beyond the endings in books…

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you just absolutely love cliche festive love stories and the YA tropes mentioned above. I do know many people who enjoyed this because of the Christmas-y vibe so give it a go if you want! I definitely hope you’ll enjoy it more than me 😉

RATING: ★★

Review: Heartless (Marissa Meyer)

Screen Shot 2017-01-01 at 7.42.34 PM.png

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication date: November 17, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Add to Goodreads
Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia, MPH Online

Blurb:
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Review:

“But hoping,” he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

To start this review off, here are a couple of responses I received when I showed this book on my social media:

“I don’t think you’ll enjoy this. It’s very slow and nothing happens much”

“I was very unimpressed with this one. Don’t get your hopes up too much”

So, to be fair, I did lower my expectations a whole lot because I thought this book was going to be overrated.

But I am so glad I turned out lovin’ this book !

It was so unexpected because the beginning was slow and nothing major actually happens. But, if you’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, you’ll know how Wonderland is set. With its melancholic settings and vibrant characters scattered throughout the book, I found Heartless to be a wonderful rendition of the Land of Hearts itself.

“Mind my words, Cheshire, I will have you banished from this kingdom if you tempt me.”
“An empty threat from an empty girl.”
She rounded on him, teeth flashing. “I am not empty. I am full to the brim with murder and revenge. I am overflowing and I do not think you wish for me to overflow on to you.”
“There was a time” – Cheshire yawned – “when you overflowed with whimsy and icing sugar. I liked that Catherine better.”

The Plot

In terms of plot, this book isn’t up for much. So if you’re expecting adventurous fantasy for the to-be Queen of Hearts, then that is where you will be sorely disappointed. But if you don’t mind a slow heart warming read that shatters your heart into pieces in the most agonising way, then Heartless is perfect!

The story develops as we see what led to Cath becoming the ruthless Queen of Hearts and the journey that gave the phrase “Off with his head” such character. We get to see the older side of Hearts and some lovable characters reappear — the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter (who’s known as Hatta in this one). To see them progress into the characters I first found in Alice and discover their secrets before meeting Alice was a wonderful experience for me.

Though not having much adventures or major occurrences in the book, Heartless will tug your heartstrings in rooting for Cath and wishing some alternate ending was at the end of the book. When the inevitable comes on that last page, you can’t help but to feel sorrow for the Queen of Hearts and how she came to be.

I love how Heartless is so similar to Wicked where the Wicked Witch of the West was portrayed in a positive manner to question “Are you born wicked or do you develop wickedness later in life?”. And Heartless is a matter of the latter.

The Characters

I ended up liking Cath so much in Heartless! Her aspirations to become a baker and open her own bakery touched my heart and I was rooting for her throughout the book. Meyer also happens to like making her readers drool while reading because her descriptions of the pastries and confections Cath makes throughout the book is divine!

And then, there’s Jest the Joker who was equally charming, giving off that mysterious yet sincere vibe from someone who just arrived in Hearts. You can’t help but to be attracted to him and how he treats Cath, not as a Marquess’ daughter, but as an individual person.

“The easiest way to steal something, is for it to be given willingly.”

Mayer wrote the characters so well in this one that I didn’t feel any important character was left out. Even Cath’s over-protective but well meaning parents were described very well in the book!

We also got to see many of these character’s selves before meeting Alice and what secrets they held long time before that. I especially liked the Mad Hatter origins and thought his history was unique and held so much importance over the story.

Overall, I truly, truly enjoyed Heartless and would recommend this if you enjoyed Lewis Caroll’s works in Alice. Heartless is a wonderful and quick journey to remind us the power of imagination and celebrate Caroll’s works that has inspired so many stories and imaginations.

RATING: ★★★★

Have you read this and what did you think about it?

Review: Illuminae (Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff)

Screen Shot 2016-12-25 at 9.56.54 AM.png

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 599
Publication date: November 1, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Add to Goodreads
Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia, MPH Online

Blurb:
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

REVIEW:

“He presses the triggers. And like roses in his hands, death blooms.”  

Well, this was definitely one interesting read. As much as I wanted to enjoy this, I guess the hype didn’t really reach me for this one. I understand how this book could receive such brilliant reviews and whilst I acknowledge aspects of this book that made it a wonderful read for some, I have to take into account some parts of it that didn’t really suit me.

The Good:

Illuminae is without a doubt known for its unique format. Its unconventional way of story telling is what attracted me to read it in the first place. The story of how the Kerenza invasion was presented in files and documents obtained illegally. It’s not narrated per se, but rather the files you read allows you to piece the information together to form a story. The files consist of interview reports with Ezra & Kady, instant messages between crew members, written reports by fleet or military crew and the Artificial Intelligence (AI)’s server historical data. It’s literally like watching a movie play out in your head as you read these files. It gets a bit difficult to grow accustomed to the format, but once you get that out of the way, Illuminae does get very intense and suspense.

I definitely enjoyed the plot, because of how unpredictable it is in nature. You’ll never really know what secrets you’ll unearth whilst reading this book. And the plot twists are out of this world. Just when I got my heart broken at some point in the story, that ending blew me away. This was quite a good book in the way it grasps your attention.

Also the AI will scare the shit out of you…

“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”  

The Not-So-Good:

For this part, bear in mind it is purely my own personal approach to the book that led me to not fully enjoying Illuminae. Also, I kind of went into this one blinded and I wish I had known how violent and gory it was going to be (Why had no one told me this before??!)

I took this book on a business trip and whilst it made for a good companion on my flights and at night after work, I didn’t particularly enjoy the violent attacks and death scattered in the book like sprinkled sugar on top of a cupcake. When you’re exhausted from days of long hours working, reading about violence, death and lethal Phobos virus really turns you off. This book was so depressing in some parts that I feel like I should completely avoid books like this in the future to preserve my ever-depleting energy.

Also, the relationship between Ezra and Kady didn’t really move me. Their back and forth chats were so high-school-cliched that I couldn’t really relate much with either characters. And it didn’t make much sense to me that Kady was on this mission to uncover Kerenza’s secrets yet she seems entirely smitten by Ezra. He must have one hot bod.

But I have to give credit to the authors for making me sad at that one scene in the book where I felt all hope was lost for Kady. If you’ve read the book you’ll know which scene I’m talking about 😉

“You have me. Until the last star in the galaxy dies, you have me.”

So those are my thoughts for the critically-acclaimed Illuminae! My thoughts may be a bit unconventional and unpopular but I do hope you enjoy this book more than I did. I’ll be reading Gemina soon and I hope that’ll be a major improvement for me!

RATING: ★★★

Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies (Louise Gornall) 

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Rating: ★★★.5

Synopsis:

Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …

An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD.

Continue reading