BOOK REVIEW : LUCKY CALLER

Author: Emma Mills
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company.
Genre: Young Adult; High School; Contemporary; Romance.
Warnings: None.
Release Date: January 14th 2020.

synopsis

Lucky Caller

When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.

The members of Nina’s haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she’d hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.

The show is a mess, internet rumors threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina’s family is on the brink of some major upheaval.

Everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control―but maybe control is overrated?

With the warmth, wit, intimate friendships, and heart-melting romance she brings to all her books, Emma Mills crafts a story about believing in yourself, owning your mistakes, and trusting in human connection in Lucky Caller


review

Emma Mills has somehow decoded the art of writing consistently good Young Adult books, because she keeps doling them out year after year, never compromising on the quality. And Lucky Caller might just be my favorite book by her. Honestly, this is how every story about high school life should be like. Lots of warmth, some teenage angst, family drama, romance and humor. 

Nina’s mother is getting married. And although she genuinely likes Dan, the guy her mom is marrying, she’s still on the fence over how to take the new changes coming her way. She’s also starting her final semester and decides to take the elective class on radio broadcasting, where she is forced to be in a group with Sasha, Joydeep and Jamie (her ex-best friend who she has some history with).

I loved every bit about their radio broadcasting course. The course is basically about every group coming up with their own radio show for the school radio, which would air in hourly slots on every school-day. Although Nina and co. treat it as a walk in the park at first, but after some hilarious hijinks it’s clear that they need to step up their game. And desperate times call for desperate actions. Which leads to even more hijinks. It’s just too entertaining and somewhat realistic.

Even though the parts with the radio assignment were my favorite, I enjoyed the bits with Nina’s family no less. The author created a relatable family, particularly the equation between the sisters resonating with me. And I liked how each of the 3 sisters – Rose, Nina and Sidney had their own colors and their own arcs even if small. The author uses flashbacks to show us the small cracks between them and their dad who’s a radio show host living in LA. It’s also through flashbacks that we see what exactly transpired between Nina and Jamie.

Emma Mills is a great writer of the Young Adult genre, because she can write teenage characters well. Joydeep, for instance is as teenager highschooler as you can get. He is also the most hilarious character I’ve read in a long time and made me laugh out loud too many times. Sasha also won me over with her no-nonsense attitude. But it was Jamie who melted my heart – just as he did Nina’s – at every opportunity he got. He’s just the sweetest and most adorable hero, his personality perfectly complementary to that of Nina’s sarcastic and reticent nature. Theirs is a friends-to-lovers romance. It’s a slow burn and I enjoyed it very much.

If I had to talk of any issues I had with the story, it would be how little the character of Nina’s dad was explored, his history unexplained, and how some plot points were not wrapped up neatly. This made for an ending which wasn’t tight and has me wishing for a sequel. But ultimately, the story and the characters resonated with me, despite some minor flaws. The writing was impeccable and the storytelling was solid, albeit a little loose. My love for Emma Mills’ writing has only increased, as has my love for her habit of leaving references to her other stories in every book, like Easter eggs to be spotted by her regular readers. Anyways, I definitely plan to revisit this story and this world in the near future.


ratings
★★★★★

BOOK REVIEW: THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

A dazzling, multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple—still madly in love after forty years—recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built.

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt—given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before—we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us. In painting this luminous portrait of a family’s becoming, Lombardo joins the ranks of writers such as Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, and Jonathan Franzen as visionary chroniclers of our modern lives.


review
I have a hard time as it is to make my reviews short. Even when the books are short and sweet, with only a couple of main characters, and spanning a few months. The Most Fun We Ever Had is a 532 page book, about 6 main characters and spanning half a century. A piece of cake, right?

So, yeah. I’ll just diverge from my usual approach of writing reviews, to ensure that I don’t end up writing a novella myself while reviewing the book. Here I go.

Story

The novel is centered on a dysfunctional family. The story alternates between past and present. The past chronicles the whole history of the family, from the first meeting of Marilyn and David – the parents – to all the important events that shape up their family. This is a character-driven story. It’s the characters’ complex decisions and actions that take the story forward. I found parts of it gripping, and others hard to get by.

Characters

There’s only one word for describing each of the characters here – flawed. They have all at one point or another behaved selfishly, done terrible things and hurt others. I found David and Marilyn to be careless and irresponsible more than once. Wendy, the eldest sister, is the brashest and doesn’t hold back from punches. But she’s been dealt the worst among them all. And that made me dislike her the least among the characters. I found Liza horrible for the way she treated her boyfriend suffering from depression. Grace also annoyed me with her lies and immaturity

But it was Violet that I despised. This is a character who’s the most selfish and inconsiderate throughout the book. The way she treats Jonah – the son who she had given up for adoption right after his birth 15 years ago, and is again now back in her life – is just awful. Her insecurities about him hurting her family of a husband and two sons drive her to do some horrible things. The author does her best to redeem her in the end, but it didn’t work for me. In fact, it was only Jonah who I cared about and probably read the whole book for. If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably have DNF’d it.

Writing

Even though I wasn’t a fan of the characters, I did like the very realistic portrayal of sisterhood. The complicated feelings between sisters – love, loyalty, jealousy, entitlement, and above all forgiveness – are all very convincingly conveyed in the story. The writing was engaging but it wasn’t perfect by any stretch. The story touches upon some very serious issues like infidelity, mental health, alcohol abuse, grief. But the author treats them with very little respect and only uses them as plot devices or an afterthought.  And that was a big let down.

I find it commendable how the book is unapologetic about how realistic and humane its characters and their actions are. It’s not perfect. Real life hardly ever is. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, does it?

P.S. I failed in my attempt to keep it concise. But I know myself well enough to be happy that the review wasn’t even bigger.


ratings

★★★☆☆

TOP TEN TUESDAY : FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2019

I was going to do a similar post on my own about this anyway, but since it gels with the weekly TOP TEN TUESDAY, all the better! What better way to wrap up the year? I’ll talk about my favorite releases from 2019 here only.

Doing a TTT after what feels ages. It’s good to be slowing finding my blogging foot back.


The Beantown Girls | Jane Healey

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this gem of a book. Three friends join as volunteers in Red Cross Clubmobile girls during World War II. My favorite thing about this book is probably the female friendships. But it’s also about courage and love.

You can find my review here.

 

Have You Seen Luis Velez? | Catherine Ryan Hyde

Another ARC that I loved. An uplifting and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a black teenager living with his white mother and her family from her second marriage to a white guy. He finally finds a sense of belonging when he meets his ninety-two year old neighbor, and sets out on a mission to help her. It’s wonderfully written and impossible to dislike.

You can find my review here.

 

The Bride Test | Helen Hoang

A beautiful love story between two very different individuals. I liked this one a lot more than its predecessor. It could be because both the main characters are Asian, or that they are equally flawed. Or it could be just because they’re both adorable and fleshed out really well.

You can find my review here.

 

The Place in Dalhousie | Melina Marchetta

This particular story is about Jimmy Haller coming home, Rosie – the mother of his child, and Rosie’s step mother Martha. It’s about how these people figure out their lives and their complicated relationships. And Melina Marchetta can write about dysfunctional families like nobody else.

You can find my review here.

 

Love From A to Z | S. K. Ali

This book explores many themes that I hold close to my heart –  Islam, migrant condition workers in the middle east, feminism, and love. And the author does full justice to it.

You can find my review here.

 

Lovely War | Julie Berry

This book is narrated by Greek Gods and intertwines two love stories set in World War I. Really, what’s not to love?

You can find my review here.

 

Daisy Jones & the Six | Taylor Jenkins Reid

A book narrated in forms of interviews where the characters look back on the rise and fall of an iconic band. This book was too real and raw for my heart. Taylor Jenkins Reid sure knows how to write strong women.

You can find my review here.

 

The First Girl Child | Amy Harmon

 A book about Nordic kings, runes, curses and magic. It’s a masterpiece, is what it is. If you haven’t read Amy Harmon, you’ve made a mistake. Easily my top 3 of the year.

You can find my review here.

 

Ninth House | Leigh Bardugo

The best writing of the year for me. There are a lot of polarizing reviews on this. Yes, the beginning does not make it easy, nor do the triggers. But the story only gets better from there.  I absolutely loved the writing, the plot and the characters in this world about ghosts, magic, portals and whatnot.

You can find my review here.

 

Bringing Down the Duke | Evie Dunmore

Hands down my most favorite romance of the year. This book almost reads like a modern romance, with its incorporation of the suffrage movement. What’s not to like about this book? Sizzling chemistry. Just the perfect amount of angst. Women fighting for their rights. A progressive hero. Relatable heroine. Compelling backdrops.

You can find my review here.


So, these are my favorites of 2019. I can’t wait to read the lists of everyone else and see if there are any matches!

QOTW – QUOTE(S) OF THE WEEK : MURDERER WORK ETHICS, SURVIVOR PRIORITY & DEVIL IN WAITING

Hello all! So this is a segment I did for a while and then just paused for no real reason. Well, no more of that crap. I’m back and I’ll try to make this a regular thing again.

I won’t deny that a certain book has played a huge part in me wanting to restart this weekly segment. It’s Ninth House. This is a really well written book with some really witty one liners and deep dialogue. I’ve seen a lot of people dismiss the book as slow; but for me, I looked forward to every line because I anticipated a gem in all of them. I wasn’t disappointed in many cases. Here’s some of them.


 “It was one thing to
be a murderer, quite another to work for
one”

“I let you die. To save myself, I let you die.
That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.”

“Do you know what my mother said?” Turner asked. “She told me there’s no doorway the devil doesn’t know. He’s always waiting to stick his foot in. I never really believed her until tonight”

 

 


 

I chose the first quote because it made me laugh. It so perfectly encapsulates in it the essence of the character that Alex Stern is.

I chose the second quote for similar reasons. Alex is a survivor and it’s been ingrained in her that survival comes foremost. And when you’re here to survive, everything and everyone else comes second.

The third quote is something that I’ve heard all my life from my family and community, although not along those exact lines. And I believe it when people say that it only takes one bad action, one misstep for your life to crumble down completely. Yeah. Very cheery, I know.

There were a lot of other lines that hit me hard too. I’ll maybe quote them some other time. Heh.


 

BOOK REVIEW : LOVE ON LEXINGTON AVENUE

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor.

There are no good men left in New York City. At least that’s Claire Hayes’s conviction after finding out her late husband was not the man she thought he was. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her cheating husband, Claire sets out to redesign her boring, beige Upper East Side brownstone and make it something all her own. But what starts out as a simple renovation becomes a lot more complicated when she meets her bad-tempered contractor Scott Turner.

Scott bluntly makes it known to Claire that he only took on her house for a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and he doesn’t hesitate to add that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess with a penchant for pink. But when long workdays turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…


review

I did not have high expectations from this one, having disliked the first installment of the series. But sometimes having lower expectations helps. I went in for a typical romance, and I came out quite happy with the book.

Although I’m still not on board with the whole premise of the friendship between the girls, it was easier to suspend my initial disbelief. In case you didn’t know, each of the three books in this series feature three women who met and became friends on the day of the funeral of the man who had cheated on all of them. In this book I could pretend that these three women became friends under believable circumstances.

Claire had it the worst out of the three women. She was married to the cheater. Her husband had gone around saying that they were separated and getting a divorce. This book is about her trying to move on. And she intends to do that by redoing her house. And she enlists the help of Scott for that. He’s totally not her kind of guy. He’s all gruff and unpolished. But they have more in common than they imagined. He was also betrayed by his fiance. And while Claire no longer wants a man in her life, Scott only believes in one-night stands and flings. It was interesting to see their dynamic evolve throughout the book.

There were certain parts in the second half that felt predictable. And that ending was a little too cheesy for me. But I enjoyed the overall story. And in this one, I could actually enjoy the friendship between Claire, Audrey and Naomi. I liked the contrast between the three friends and how Claire could count on the other two in two different types of scenarios. But what this book did the most was make me anticipate the next book about Naomi and her best friend Oliver even more; I’d already been looking forward to it when I read the first book.

But a part of me is wary about my higher expectations for the third installment. Because it’s always better to go blind into a book and enjoy the ride it takes you in, like Love on Lexington Avenue did.


ratings

★★★☆☆

BOOK REVIEW: THE QUEEN OF NOTHING (THE FOLK OF THE AIR #3)

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…


reviewI read this one a while ago. And even though I loved it, I wasn’t content after it ended, not knowing why I wasn’t content. I think I have a clearer idea now.

I will not go into the plot details. Because there were more surprises than I can count. The trilogy didn’t lose its unpredictability even in its final installment. So, I’ll try to keep it as spoiler-free as I can. When we start the story, Jude is still not over the betrayal of Cardan, the man who she helped make faerie prince, and she still has weakness over. The story takes off when Jude’s twin sister Tarryn comes to her for help. And begins the roller-coaster of twists and turns.

Let’s talk about the positives first. I liked the pacing on this one. It was a lot more evenly paced than the previous two in the trilogy. So many things happen in a matter of a few pages. It was a whirlwind! I liked how we start with a flashback to Cardan’s childhood. He’s been the most fascinating character for me in the whole series. And I liked Jude’s evolution. She’s much more smarter and less impulsive. It was her character that I felt for the most in this book.

Now, what did dislike about the book? The fast pacing can have its negatives too. See, there’s fast pacing and then there’s FAST pacing. A lot of character progression was rushed through. For example, as much as I loved the direction the author took with Cardan and Jude, it was done hurriedly. I wanted more scenes of them. I wanted to see a more organic evolution of their relationship. There was so much potential there! These are two characters whose conversations I’d never tire of. But the characters in general here do not seem to converse more than what is necessary to take the plot ahead. And that’s a big problem with me.

And I wanted even more glimpses into Cardan’s history and his psyche. I also wouldn’t mind a better insight into his relationship with his mother. I found the conclusion for many of the minor characters to be unsatisfactory too. One certain character, for example, that I hated got an anticlimactic ending. A lot of the smaller plot points felt unexplored too. It’s almost like the the conviction in the storytelling was compromised for making it a thrilling read.

I have no complaints about the story. It’s the storytelling that I believe could’ve been better. This trilogy could’ve easily made it into the list of my all time favorites, with a little more adept storytelling. But the author could have also easily botched up the whole plot and the ending. So I can’t say that I’m not happy with how the story panned. This was merely a case of much higher expectations. That’s why I’m going with 4 stars.


ratings

★★★★☆

How to Deal with a Reader’s Block

Hellooooo. So, I promised myself more than a month ago that I’d resume my blogging right away after a month of sickness and traveling. But ‘lo and behold, I couldn’t keep my promise. Why, you ask? A case of serious reader’s block! I can’t remember the last time I had such it this bad.

Thankfully, I’m beginning to get over the block slowly. So, I thought of doing a post on reader’s block. I’ll speak from my own experience of what I feel might be the reasons for a reader’s block and in what ways we can get out of it.


why

  • A string of DNFs: It’s difficult to pick up a new book when you’ve gone through a number of crappy books at a stretch. That happened to me too. I unfortunately made a series of bad decisions on my ARC requests on Netgalley. I DNF’ed quite a few of them.
  • Addiction to TV shows: So I picked up this addiction for Turkish TV shows – of all things – out of the blue. Right when I was going through a bout of crappy books. Whatta convenient timing. And then to top it off, I found myself rewatching some of my favorite Korean shows. Basically what I did for half of the November month.
  • Addiction to gaming: So, one lazy day, I discovered that my brother hadn’t uninstalled Far Cry 4 from the desktop at our house. And voila! I started playing the game 24/7. I spent nearly 2 weeks on finishing the game!
  • A rough patch: When you’re having a rough patch in life and there are too many things to stress about, it’s certainly not easy to pick up a book let along get engrossed in it. Thankfully, the reader’s block this time wasn’t due to a rough patch.

I should mention that the first 3 things happened to me chronologically to me this time. And that’s why the reader’s block was so serious! I have a one-track mind. Once I get obsessed about something, it’s quite difficult to get me off that. Meh.


cure

  • Rereading favorites: Rereading your favorite books is always a good trick to rediscover your love for reading. Especially when you have read only crappy books in the recent past, it always helps to reread a book that you loved. And although at the beginning of this reader’s block, it was a struggle even getting myself to pick up an old favorite, I made a conscious effort to try reading even a few pages from my favorites when I could. And that’s really helped me regain my enthusiasm!
  • Audiobooks: Audiobooks are also an effective way of countering a reader’s block. You could listen to an audiobook while commuting or doing your chores. It’s helped me in the past to feel keen enough to pick up the book and read it. But this time I couldn’t even muster the time and effort to do that.
  • Watching screen adaptations: Whenever I watch a screen adaptation of a book and find myself enjoying it, I get a strong urge to read the book. Even if I’ve read the book before, I’ll feel nostalgic to revisit the book!
  • Being selective with ARC requests: This last one is more of a preventive measure rather than a cure. I’ve consciously decided to request fewer ARCs from now on.

I recently realized that having such a huge backlist of ARCs made reading feel like a chore over the past few months. And that’s the last thing I wanted when I had decided to start blogging. So I might read fewer books now and post fewer reviews, but at least I won’t be treating this as a chore.

I’ll be honest. This post didn’t come to me easy.  My writing feels a little rusty now and it took some effort to churn this out. But I can’t explain how refreshing it feels now to have written this post!

But I’d love to know how you deal with reader’s block. This whole slump has left me even more appreciative of  book bloggers out there who’ve been churning out book reviews for years now! So please leave comments and let me know about your experiences of a reader’s block.

Happy Reading!