When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: Book Review

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Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 380
Publish date: May 30, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

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.

Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

First of all, I loved the diversity in this book. I love reading about different cultures and traditions, and this book actually gave me a great insight into a culture that isn’t my own.

The story was also super adorable. It was so sickly sweet that I found myself d’awww-ing out loud. I find a lot of YA romances feel interchangeable and eventually I begin to mix them up in my head, but you just know right off the bat that When Dimple Met Rishi is going to be a rom com to remember. All of the little details in the novel – Insomnia Con, Dimple and Rishi’s separate dreams and passions in life, the Bollywood dance routine – are ones that will make this YA romance stand out against all of the other ones for me.

Dimple and Rishi were great, and I actually really loved Dimple as a strong female lead. I could imagine her perfectly in my head, and I related to her quite a bit.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

Honestly, I felt the ending to this book was kind of rushed. There was only 100 pages left and Insomnia Con still had three weeks to go. I kind of wished all of the plots had more time to wrap up; it was literally the halfway-point of Insomnia Con and then the next paragraph was “we’re announcing the winners”.

My other issue with this book is that I didn’t particularly like the secondary characters – Celia and especially the Aberzombies – seemed very flat. The “bad guys” were so over-the-top “bad” that I just couldn’t believe them. I wish they’d had more redeeming qualities to make them more well-rounded.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You love cheesy romantic comedies;
  • You crave some diversity in your reading;
  • You want a read that will keep you smiling the whole way through;
  • You’d like to gain perspective about social privilege.

When Dimple Met Rishi is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Event Recap: Jeff Zentner, Susin Nielsen, and Danielle Younge-Ullman

I haven’t wanted to go to a book-related event in a while. (Kind of been enjoying the break from having to be “book blogger Michelle” all the time). But I told myself there were a handful of authors I’d 100% go see if given the chance. People I could not miss. So when Jeff Zentner was announced to come to Brampton, I marked off my calendar and started counting the days.

I arrived at my personal favourite bookstore, ordered a green tea frap, sat down near the Starbucks fireplace and cracked open Zentner’s new novel, Goodbye Days, to get ready. As people started to show up, I grabbed a seat in front of the panel table and got ready to see three amazing authors. Some context: I’ve read Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made of Molecules and loved it. 5 stars. I’ve read Jeff Zentner’s Serpent King and it is one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve never read any of Danielle Younge-Ullman’s work, but I was very excited to purchase Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined. The three authors took the stage after greeting some familiar faces, and the panel began.

Each of the authors took their turn in front of the mic to talk a bit about their new books, and then read a small excerpt. As each author took centre stage, I could immediately feel their personality all the way from the second row. Susin, Danielle, and Jeff were all incredibly down-to-earth and were having just as much fun at the event as the people who came to see them, which made it all the more enjoyable.

Then it was time for audience questions, where each author took their turn discussing fan-prompted topics such as their writing process, how they come up with their characters, and why they all chose to write novels dealing with grief and coping with loss. It was very clear that Susin, Danielle and Jeff were answering the questions and discussing their writing as sincerely as possible. I’m not a fan of listening to authors who very obviously have answered questions so many times that they just recite answers from memory, and I was very captivated listening to this group.

Once there were no more audience questions, it was time for the book signing! When it was my turn, I first approached Susin, who asked if I was an optimist or a pessimist (a la her newest protagonist), and said that I must be an optimist if I was a blogger. (I am definitely not). (I’m an anxious little bean). (Optimists die first). Anyway! It was such a delight to talk to her.

Next I met Danielle. At the beginning of the event, she was introduced as having dabbled in the Toronto theatre scene, and for the rest of the afternoon I was trying to figure out why she looked familiar. (Some of you may recall my obsession with theatre). I’m very excited to be able to read Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined, and hopefully report back to all of you how amazing it is!

And finally, I got my chance to talk to Jeff. This was his first signing outside of the States (!!) which made it all the more exciting. He signed my books and told me he liked my “no day but today” tattoo, and I got to tell him how much I loved The Serpent King. So you can imagine, I left the bookstore feeling quite dazed.

This Chapters is the one I grew up with. It’s the bookstore my friends and I have visited regularly since I was 11 years old, going for coffee dates and browsing the shelves as wee little book addicts. And now it’s the Chapters where I got to meet three fantastic authors and have my day made. It’s an afternoon I don’t think a book event will live up to for a while.

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Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain: Book Review

Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 352
Publish date: March 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Chloe Snow is just starting her freshman year of high school, and is still a kissing virgin. On top of joining extracurriculars, dealing with her drifting bestie, and the fact that her mom has gone to Mexico for 4 months to “work”, Chloe has a list of boys she’d like to kiss and has made it her personal mission to do so by New Year’s Eve. Because she gets so caught up with the idea of getting kissed, Chloe starts to lose sight of the other things that are going on around her.

WHAT I LIKED

Confession of a High School Disaster was one of the best young readers books I’ve read in a while on the topic of high school dating. The plot originally sounded fairly typical, but what I loved about this book was the fact that it’s so accurate. Chloe is fourteen. When a girl is just becoming a teenager, she is naive and selfish. And the way Chastain wrote from Chloe’s perspective was perfect – everything was about Chloe getting her kiss, or winning the guy, or getting a part in the school musical, that she just didn’t see anything else that was happening in her life.

I also loved the characters. There are only a handful of books where I finish and actually get sad because I feel like I can’t hang out with my friends anymore – the characters are so relatable and real to me. I feel that connection with Confessions. Not so much towards Chloe, honestly, but Tristan was my favourite, and I really loved Chloe’s dad. (I guess I relate more to the adults now, don’t I?)

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

There honestly wasn’t anything that really turned me off about this book. If there was one criticism, I’d say I felt like the antagonists could have been more dynamic, but again, the book was written from the perspective of a girl who would have thought these people to be evil, and not given them a second thought. Girls like Sienna and Bernadette do get their moments to flourish subtextually, but I wish I’d gotten to know them a little better.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You like stories about growing up.
  • You want an easy, fun read that is also captivating.
  • You enjoy teen books about romance where the characters aren’t ridiculously mature for their age. (Pet peeve of mine – I hate when 14-year-olds talk like they’re 25).

Confessions of a High School Disaster is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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February: Currently Reading

Guys, I am actually so excited to share with you the books I’m reading right now. Obviously not all of them at once, but I have quite the TBR pile building up, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not intimidated by the number of books sitting on my shelf (or on my “to-buy-ASAP” list). I’m actually so excited to read everything!

So here are books you can expect me to post reviews for in the next couple of months:

Running  Optimists Die First  Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary  The Fall of Lisa Bellow: A Novel

The Gauntlet  When Dimple Met Rishi   One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter   Goodbye Days

  1. Running – Cara Hoffman
  2. Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen
  3. Confessions of a High School Disaster – Emma Chastain
  4. The Fall of Lisa Bellow – Susan Perabo
  5. The Gauntlet – Karuna Riazi
  6. When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
  7. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Koul
  8. Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon: Book Review

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Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 384
Publish date: November 1, 2016
Rating: ★★★

Last year, I fell head over heels with Nicola Yoon’s debut book, Everything Everything. So you can imagine how excited I was to hear that she had written another YA novel. I was hoping for something just as quirky, just as unique, and just as romantic as her first book. There was definitely a good love story, but I still think I preferred her debut.

The Sun is Also a Star tells the story from two main perspectives of Daniel and Natasha – Daniel, a Korean boy meant to be going to a Yale interview, but who would much rather be a poet, and Natasha, a Jamaican illegal immigrant who is fighting to not be deported. Natasha is obsessed with science and needing facts, and Daniel is a head-over-heels kind of hopeless romantic. The entire book takes place in one day as this couple meets, falls for one another, and has to deal with their differences, and  the fact that their families would definitely not approve of this new “relationship”.

I’ll start with the things I loved about this book: I loved the writing. Yoon captured me in Everything Everything with her writing style, and the same goes for The Sun is Also a Star. It’s so mesmerizing, and it takes no time at all for me to fall face-first into the world of this story. I also loved the diversity and the topic of race that was a focus of the book. If this story was told about two white people, I would definitely not have continued with it.

Okay. Things that docked stars for me: the book took place in a day. I find it kind of sweet that these characters were able to find each other under the circumstances of the nvoel, but falling “in love” and calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend within one instance of meeting each other and having one date seemed a little ridiculous to me. I also am kind of bored of the whole “one person doesn’t believe in love and one person is a hopeless romantic and tries to convert the other one, and they end up changing each other for the better” cliche. Although I did appreciate that the girl was the scientist, in this case. I loved the romance, but the quickness of it all was a little too cheesy for me to believe in.

Overall, I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something super light and fluffy to read, and feel the need to get sucked into a love story that will take you away from the stress of your own life.

The Sun is Also a Star is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.
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Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland: Book Review

Our Chemical Hearts

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 320
Publish date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA romance novel that completely wrecked me, so when I read the synopsis for this one, I figured I’d give it a shot. Being compared to the work of John Green and Rainbow Rowell helped pique my interest, too, but I did not expect to fall so hard for this book. I have to say, this is probably my new favourite YA of all-time.

Our Chemical Hearts is told from the perspective of Henry – a boy who has never had the misfortune of having a high school crush before. That’s when Grace Town gets transferred to his school and they both get stuck editing the school paper together. Grace is a little bit stiff and grungy and wears over-sized boy’s clothes all the time, but creeping her on Facebook proves to Henry that she has a side to her he’s never seen – a feminine beauty with a gorgeous smile. Henry wonders what had made her change, and begins to fall in love with this idea of the girl in her Facebook photo.

If anyone’s read Paper Towns by John Green, this book definitely has elements of that lesson: falling in love with an idea of a person rather than who that person is. But Our Chemical Hearts is so much more. I’ve never read a book that so accurately described what it was like to love someone who didn’t feel the same way, or to feel heartbroken, or to feel so entangled with someone and hating how much you loved and depended on them to be happy, knowing you’d get hurt anyway. I’d say it was very comparable to the film (500) Days of Summer, actually. It was utterly heartbreaking and beautiful to read.

Besides the fact that this book was so incredibly written with regards to the characters’ emotions, I have to say my favourite part was just the characters in general. They were all so real and honest and diverse (yay lesbian couples!) I also loved the immense amount of nerd culture Sutherland brought into the book. At times it felt a little forced, like she was trying to make it ultra-relatable, but at the same time, it did make it ultra-relatable. Henry and his friends casually describing opposing sports team members as “the Mountain from Game of Thrones“, or mentioning their Doctor Who merchandise. I also appreciated the more random references and quotes from pop culture that were a little more subtle (“You know nothing, Henry Page” was one of my favourites; or their discussion about not reading Harry Potter – “HOW DARE YOU STAND WHERE HE STOOD”; or there was a fun 10 Things I Hate About You quote that made me squee pretty good).

I could talk about this book for another few paragraphs, but I won’t bore you. Just please, if you loved (500) Days of Summer, or you wished Paper Towns was a little more in depth philosophically, or if nothing else, you want to read a book that will make you laugh out loud at the Harry Potter references and then sob yourself to sleep (which I totally did NOT do after reading this…), I think you need to read Our Chemical Hearts.

Our Chemical Hearts is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven: Book Review

Holding Up the Universe

Obtained: Purchased at Chapters
Pages: 400
Publish date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

I love when bookstores do the thing when they stock the book before it’s technically released.

So last year, I fell in love with Jennifer Niven’s first book, All the Bright Places. When I found out she was writing another YA novel, it rose to the top of my “Want to Read” list. And then the other day (actually, yesterday), I found it sitting on the shelf at my favourite bookstore. Needless to say, I bought Holding Up the Universe and gobbled it up in a day.

Holding Up the Universe is about a girl named Libby who used to be America’s Fattest Teen; many people know her as the girl who got stuck in her own house and had to be rescued. Now that she’s lost a lot of the weight, she is ready to go back to school. The other protagonist, Jack, suffers from face-blindness – a disorder that means he cannot recognize faces, including his family, or even himself. He constantly feels as though he is in a crowd of strangers, even in his own home. But he compensates for that by remembering people’s identifiers and embracing the fact that his own identifier is often ‘douchebag’.

I was a little bit nervous going into this book due to the subject matter – if approached incorrectly, this story could have been offensive or cliche. But this novel is neither of those things (at least, to me). I actually found myself relating a lot to Libby. I never earned attention because I was too big, but I was often bullied by people who had simply decided upon first glance that they didn’t like me. And Niven captures those feelings really well.

The writing was very emotional, which I’m glad to see carried over from All the Bright Places. I loved reading about these two characters going through their own issues and finding comfort and support within each other. I also enjoyed the numerous references to nerd culture (Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who)!

I could go on about this book, so I’ll stop here. But basically, if you were a fan of All the Bright Places, or if you like books by Rainbow Rowell or John Green, I highly recommend you dive into the world of Niven’s writing. Because she is incredible, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Holding Up the Universe is available online at Chapters Ingido, Book Depository, and Kobo.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp: Book Review

The Spectacular Now

Obtained: Borrowed
Pages: 294
Publish date: July 9, 2013
Rating: ★★★★★

This book kicked me right in the feels. It’s been a while since I’ve read a young adult book that I didn’t find totally over the top, with unrealistic characters. I’ve been putting down a lot of the YAs that I pick up recently, so when my sister pushed this book on me and said I had to read it, I was hesitant. But as you can see, the book got 5/5 stars from me, so you can already tell where I’m going with this review.

The Spectacular Now is about an eighteen-year-old boy, Sutter, who is the life of the party. He’s super fun, friends with everyone, and okay, maybe he’s not academically inclined, but he’s got more personality than anyone he knows. He adores his ultra-confident girlfriend, Cassidy, too. Then one day he meets Aimee – a total nerd who Sutter immediately sees is a push-over, and recognizes that Aimee’s push-over-ness is ruining her potential. Even though he loves drinking at 10AM, and she loves writing science fiction novels about horses abducting her and taking her to another planet, Sutter decides to take Aimee under his wing and help bring her out of her shell.

Favourite thing about the novel: the characters. There are so many typical high school moments in this book – prom, parties, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, friends meeting friends, and everything in between – and not one of those moments results in the same typical teenage reaction you’d expect. There were a few moments I caught myself mid-eye-roll because I expected the typical teenage girl blow up, or the typical teenage boy fit of anger, at a situation, but Tharp did not write these reactions.

Every single character is real, multi-dimensional, and not just a plot point. They all have real motivations, real fears, real emotions. Which made my experience with the book that much more emotional. You want to hate a guy for stealing someone’s girlfriend, or hate a girl for breaking someone’s heart, but you can’t, because you see their side of the situation, and that creates more feels rather than uncomfortably forced conflict for the sake of story progression.

I could go on and on.

I also HEAVILY related to Aimee. As in, the minute I started reading about her, I could relate to everything she was going through and everything she did to cope, which made reading the book even more real for me.

If you’re looking for a good YA to pull you out of a reading slump, or to re-instate your love of young adult stories, I highly recommend this book. It’s incredible.

The Spectacular Now is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith: Book Review

The Way I Used to Be

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada ARC
Pages: 384
Publish date: March 22, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

I tend to love reading books about people who have undergone some sort of extreme life hardship: people who have had close family or friends pass, people who are coping with mental illness, people who are trying desperately to feel normal but know that normal is a little too far away from their reach at the moment. So I knew The Way I Used to Be was something I needed to dive into and experience.

The Way I Used to Be tells the story of Eden, a girl who in the very first chapter of the book is sexually assaulted by her older brother’s best friend, when she is only fourteen years old. The rest of the book explores her life throughout high school and how she attempts to cope with this trauma. Eden no longer feels like an innocent child, and begins to treat herself the way she does feel – like a disrespected crime scene.

Smith did a wonderful job of describing what was going on inside Eden’s head, and how she looked at every situation through a distorted lens. Instead of being happy a boy liked her, she would wonder what he wanted. Instead of letting herself get too emotional, she would hide behind a wall and strip every situation of all vulnerability – putting herself in control to ensure she couldn’t get hurt. It was very heart-wrenching and powerful to read about.

It hit a point where I was reading and couldn’t put the book down. I felt so stressed out while reading too, because as an outsider, it was so easy for me to think that Eden needed to talk to someone and get the help she needed, but as a girl who felt trapped in her own crime scene, she couldn’t see any possibility of hope and couldn’t admit what happened to herself, let alone to someone else. Which yes, was stressful for me, but also made the read that much more realistic.

This is definitely a book every teenager or young adult should take the time to read and familiarize themselves with – because rape and sexual assault is an issue that too many people have to deal with, and not nearly enough people understand.

The Way I Used to Be is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia: Book Review

Made You Up

Obtained: Gift
Pages: 427
Publish date: May 19, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

I was captivated by this story as soon as I saw the cover of the book and its title. I read the back of the book and got a very general understanding that Made You Up was about a girl with a mental illness who wasn’t sure if her friend was imaginary or not. As you can imagine, I asked my family for this for Christmas, and ended up flying through it in two days. It was amazing.

Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a girl who has schizophrenia. After having an incident at her first high school, she ends up moving to a second high school where she comes across someone familiar – a friend she once met as a child. A friend who her mother convinced her was not real. Alex and the boy, Miles, get to talking and Alex tries to figure out whether or not her reality matches up with everyone else’s.

The most obvious thing I can mention about this book given the summary is the fact that I really enjoyed its twists and turns. Alex is the most convincing unreliable narrator because she is so genuine. It’s not as though she’s twisting the truth on purpose – she merely can’t distinguish her paranoid thoughts from the reality of the world around her.

Alex is also extremely funny. It’s not funny to laugh at her inabilities, but the girl has a sense of humour that I found very comparable to my own. I laughed out loud at her one-liners on more than one occasion. The imagery in this book is also stunning; despite the beautiful cover, Zappia creates a story that fills your head with Alex’s shockingly red hair, and Miles’s blue eyes. I imagined every moment in this book as vividly as a film playing in my head.

Francesca Zappia’s novel will keep you wondering the entire way through. I could not put it down. Originally, I gave the novel 4 stars on Goodreads, but given time to think more about the book, I realize it deserves a 5/5. It’s been weeks and I’m still thinking about it. I even want to re-read it. If you’re a fan of books such as All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven) and Everything, Everything (Nicola Yoon), I recommend you try Made You Up.

Made You Up is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.