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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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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The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak: Book Review

The Impossible Fortress

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 304
Publish date: February 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Summary

The Impossible Fortress is about Billy Marvin, a 14-year-old boy growing up in the 1980s who is addicted to his Commodore 64. This game-coding kid and his friends discover that Playboy has released some scandalous photos of Wheel of Fortune‘s Vanna White, and they need to get their hands on a copy. The mission to buy a Playboy ends up getting a little bit out of hand, and in order to impress the guys, Billy has to steal a security code from the girl at the corner store by flirting with her. But when he learns about Mary’s mad game-coding skills and the two of them begin creating their own game, he starts to actually care about her.

What I Liked

I thought it was great how Rekulak was able to capture being a teenager in 1987 so perfectly. Billy and his friends were crude, made disgusting comments, casually bullied each other – and despite how uncomfortable it made me sometimes, it is very accurate to what it was like growing up at that time. Billy’s character felt very real to me.

I also really enjoyed reading about gaming and coding, because they’re two things I find really interesting. And while I may not be the best at either of them, I know enough to appreciate these hobbies, and it definitely kept me interested in the book.

and What I Didn’t

I honestly had a hard time staying interested in this book. If it weren’t for the plot involving Mary and the video game coding, I honestly would have put the book down. The main plot involving the group of boys trying to break into a store to steal and sell Playboys just wasn’t interesting to me – maybe because I couldn’t relate.

I was also sort of offended that this book was compared to Ready Player One when I was given a summary. That set my expectations pretty high and honestly, let me down a lot.

Recommend if…

  • You enjoy young adult books set in the 80s
  • You like reading about characters who love video games
  • You are looking for a new, light read

The Impossible Fortress is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins: Book Review

The You I've Never Known

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 608
Publish date: January 24, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

I am a huge Ellen Hopkins fan. I loved the Crank series, and Identical is probably one of my favourite books ever. So when I heard she had a new book coming out, of course I had to read it. As soon as I opened it, I fell straight into Hopkins’s wonderful writing style and found it hard to put the book down.

The You I’ve Never Known tells two stories: The first is about Ariel, a girl who has grown up jumping home to home with her fairly abusive dad, staying with whichever of his latest women will keep them for a few months. When they finally settle in with a woman who looks like she could be something special, Ariel allows herself to make new friends, and falls for her best friend, Monica. The second story is about a girl named Maya who got pregnant when she was sixteen and got kicked out of her house by her Scientologist mother. Luckily, her soldier boyfriend proposed to her and they started a life  together.

As I will say again and again in Hopkins reviews, I love her writing style. It is very literally poetic. Not only is it a unique way to write a novel, but it also makes me as a reader feel better about reading 600 pages when I can fly through 150 of them easily in an hour. I also really enjoyed how the theme of the book really wrapped into the title, “The You I’ve Never Known” being a side to people you never expected to see – a large part in the case of Ariel, as she questions her sexual identity as bi and the validity of liking different things about different people at the same time. I really liked the way Hopkins portrayed Ariel and this internal struggle, because it felt very real, as something I have gone through before.

But this book didn’t get a perfect 5 stars from me, and here’s why: every Ellen Hopkins book that I’ve loved has a great twist. I love spending the entire book trying to figure out what it’s going to be. But the summary on the back of the book sort of gives it away. Luckily I didn’t read that far into it and just jumped into the book knowing nothing, but I read it afterwards and could see how that would ruin the story a little bit. Also, once I figured out the twist ending and it was revealed to me, there was another 200 pages to sift through. I understand it was important to not just end at the twist and have that development of the aftermath, but it could have been condensed a lot.

Overall, the book still earned 4/5 stars from me, and if you’re a fan of Hopkins or want to read a YA book that’s a little twisted, I highly recommend you don’t miss out on The You I’ve Never Known.

The You I’ve Never Known is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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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.

Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y.K. Choi: Book Review

Kay's Lucky Coin Variety

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 288
Publish date: May 3, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

I’d seen book bloggers in the community talking about this new novel, and how they couldn’t wait to read their copies. Well, of course I had to see what all the hype was about! Going into Choi’s book with minimal background really let me immerse myself in the story, and I was definitely pulled along for the ride.

Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety tells the story of Mary (as she would come to be known) and her family that has settled into Toronto from Korea. Besides the culture-clash and identity crisis Mary struggles with growing up in 1980s Toronto, there are also the issues of violence in her family’s convenient store and having to deal with a Korean boy who loves her, and the Canadian man she loves. All of these stories come together in a beautiful tale about a girl who is on the journey of self-discovery and figuring out where she stands on her own, and where she stands as part of her family.

I immediately loved this book. The moment I opened it and started reading, I was drawn right into Mary’s world. Granted, the physical world is not much different from my own – I’m from Toronto, and every mention of a place in the city made me excited, as I imagined my own memories from those places. But when I talk about her world, I mean the world of a Korean living in Canada. I felt the struggle that Mary experienced between wanting to deviate, but also wanting to remain loyal to her family’s traditions. Wanting to follow her heart and be an independent woman, but wanting to take responsibility and help where she was needed.

I also have a really soft spot for stories with girls falling in love with their teachers, because it seems so taboo, but is such a classic experience. So the love triangle in this book was really touching to read about – especially since the characters are so realistic and well-thought out that it complicated the story and made it so the issue wasn’t entirely black and white.

Choi’s novel was absolutely beautiful and drew me in right away. I highly recommend this read to anyone who is a fan of Canadian Lit, and those who may want some insight into a culture that may not be their own. I found the culture clash one of my favourite things to read about; it was very educational and gave me a new perspective that I understood, but couldn’t experience so personally.

Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

 

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: Book Review

The Serpent King

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada
Pages: 384
Publish date: March 8, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

When I picked this book up, I had no idea what I was going to think. But book lovers everywhere were raving about it, and I knew it was one of the releases I couldn’t miss. The Serpent King was one of those novels that I picked up and could not put down. Literally. I picked it up, and read it all day nonstop until it was over. And when it was over, I got depressed that there was no more.

The Serpent King is told from the perspectives of Dill, Lydia, and Travis – high school seniors and best friends living in Forrestville, Tennessee. Each of these teenagers has their own opinion about living in such a small, conservative town, understanding their individual struggles and doing whatever they can to cope with them. Dill is forced to live with his father’s name, after the minister was arrested for possession of child pornography. Lydia is a fashion blogger with dreams of escaping and attending NYU in the fall. Travis is addicted to fantasy novels and online forums about his favourite series, wishing this was the world that was real, and not the one where his brother is dead and his father abuses him.

The characters in this book were so strong and real, I loved reading about them so, so much. Zentner created this group of dynamic kids that were so deeply imagined that I felt like I was spending my time reading with a group of my own friends. The stories he weaved about these characters were both heart-wrenching and hopeful, creating an overall beautifully captivating book that I refused to let leave my hands until it was finished.

I believe I’ll spend a lot of time raving about this book to my friends and recommending it to every book-lover I know. The Serpent King is probably one of my new favourite books of all-time. Incredible.

The Serpent King is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon: Book Review

Everything, Everything

Obtained: Random House CA, ARC
Pages: 320
Publish date: September 1, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

I was initially told that this new YA novel by Nicola Yoon was just as the title promised: Everything. Well, I didn’t need anyone to sell me on this book. The cover page was beautiful and the tagline caught me immediately – The greatest risk is not taking one. As a saying that really struck me as something I could stand to learn, I was always infatuated with this book. I actually put it off for so long because I knew I would love it and didn’t want it to be over. And I was right.

Everything, Everything tells the story of 18-year-old Madeline, a girl who suffers a disease called SCID, which basically means she is allergic to, well, everything. She is confined to her sterile house where she lives with her mom and sees her nurse every day, but otherwise, she is cut off from the outside world. Then a family moves in next door and she begins to email the son, Olly – a boy wearing all black in her world of sterile white, and she sees how much she has really missed being locked away in her house all these years.

This book was so captivating, I couldn’t put it down. If I had the choice, I’d have read it all in one sitting. Besides the beautiful and heart-wrenching story, Yoon has structured the novel in a way that is more than just “okay, onto the next chapter…”, she writes as though this is Madeline’s journal – even a scrapbook sometimes – as the “chapters” are very short, and often include drawings, charts, IMs, or postcards. It was just lovely to read and see what would come up on the next page.

I was worried Yoon’s characters would be predictable or flat, as I find happens often in YA novels recently, but this was not the case here. Madeline and Olly both have interesting back-stories relating to their families and their lives up until this point, and their characters seem pretty real. Of course some unrealistically amazing things happen to them, but that’s fiction in general – what’s the point of writing a story if that story isn’t amazing?

One other point I find that I should mention is that I LOVED the diversity in this book. Finally, a romantic YA that isn’t full of white people! Spanish, black, Asian, gay, straight – this novel covers a variety of cultures and personalities, and I really appreciated that fact. It added to the book’s realism and of course, contributed one more step to overcoming this issue we seem to have in our society.

This novel took a turn I didn’t expect, and my heart was with these characters every step of the way. As much as I don’t want a sequel, because I prefer stand-alone novels, I sort of want a sequel just to spend more time with this lovely story. Everything, Everything is a beautiful novel that is well worth your time to sit down and read – and even re-read.

Everything, Everything is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Depth of Field by Chantel Guertin: Book Review

Depth of Field

Obtained: ECW Press
Pages: 200
Publish date: August 12, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

After having read Rule of Thirds (my review here), the first book in the Pippa Greene series by Chantel Guertin, I was really looking forward to reading the sequel. I’d been proven that this story was something special, and I was excited to see how the characters I loved from the first novel would grow in this novel.

Depth of Field differs from Rule of Thirds because, as the title suggests, I found it to be a lot deeper. The story wasn’t simply Pippa trying to achieve some physical prize; instead, she found herself on a journey for information about the people in her life, those in her photography classes in New York, and her family members. She spends her two weeks in the city finding out who she is and the history behind her love for photography.

I much preferred this method of storytelling to the first novel, which seemed to be more typically YA. The photography references in this novel were plentiful and made my little heart soar as I imagined all of the wonderful studio work and travelling images Pippa was able to capture. Guertin is very detailed in her descriptions of Pippa’s photography, but as a photographer myself, I sometimes wonder if these references go over everyone else’s head…

The theme of this book’s title is riddled throughout the book: literally, in her classes, and more figuratively, as she continues to learn to look for the unexpected aspects in the people who surround her. I wish some of the new characters had been looked at as deeply as the returning characters, but overall, I’m satisfied with the new insights I gained into the history of Pippa’s family and friends that I thought could have been expanded upon in the first novel.

If you love photography or YA lit, I recommend this series. I cannot wait to read the next one!

Depth of Field is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

The Rule of Thirds by Chantel Guertin: Book Review

The Rule of Thirds

Obtained: ECW Press
Pages: 196
Publish date: October 1, 2013
Rating: ★★★★

When I first heard the plotline of The Rule of Thirds, I was skeptical as to whether or not I would like it. The story sounds sort of typical YA when you first read a summary, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

The Rule of Thirds tells the story of Pippa Greene, a high school student and die-hard photographer. She and her best friend Dace, fashion-model-to-be, are working together on her portfolio for the big photography competition, Vantage Point – but Pippa would rather photograph things that remind her of her father, rather than keep to their theme of fashion. Of course, there are boy troubles, friend troubles, and an interesting plot about dealing with tragedy.

As I read the first couple chapters of the book, as I said, I was skeptical. I was critical of everything the characters said and did. But after a while, I stopped hating Pippa because she was a typical teenage girl and started loving Guertin for being able to write as a teenage girl. I was impressed with how much this book made me realize that I was like that not too many years ago, and that as lame as it may seem to current-Michelle, boys were at the root of many of my motivations when I was fifteen.

My favourite bits of the book though were twofold: I loved the photography references. As someone who enjoys photography myself, I learned a few good tips for taking photos, but I was also able to appreciate the technique in Pippa’s style – able to imagine it as though I was looking at her photos instead of reading about them. I also really enjoyed the plot that followed Pippa dealing with the tragedy that struck her family. It added a lot of depth to who I assumed was a flat character at the beginning, and it made me sympathize with her.

Overall, I’m glad I kept reading, and I cannot wait to dig into the next two books in the series!

The Rule of Thirds is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.