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!

YEAR WRAP-UP : PICKS OF 2019

Hello, all! We only have two days till 2019 ends. Time to look back at the year. I definitely had a lovely first half in terms of my reads. The second half of 2019 was disappointing as hell. Here are my picks of the year!


debut.png

I haven’t read as many debut authors as I’d have liked. But these three stood up to me.

My reviews –

Miracle Creek | Bringing Down the Duke | Where the Forest Meets the Stars

debut

This year, I discovered some really great authors that have been there for some time now. I particularly fell for Mhairi McFarlane and Ellen O’Connell, both of whom have been writing for a long time.

My reviews –

Don’t You Forget About Me | Starfish | A Curious Beginning | Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold | Dancing  On Coals

debut

It was hard to narrow down my favorites of the year to five. But I went with my guts. I’m going to do a more comprehensive list tomorrow.

My reviews –

Ninth House | Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold | Bringing Down the Duke | The Beantown Girls | The First Girl Child

 

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 : HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS

I’ve spent eight years wishing I’d fall out of love with Derek Knightley. Blowing out birthday candles, chasing after shooting stars, making it rain spare change into mall fountains—every time it’s the same wish: forget about Derek.

But the day he walks back into my life, I realize there are two things time has yet to soften: my feelings for him and his chiseled jawline.

It’s infuriating that my heart still races when he walks into a room. I refuse to fall prey to old unrequited love, so I decide the less I’m around him, the better. Avoidance is key.

Unfortunately, Derek isn’t going to make it easy. As a teenager, I would have crawled on my hands and knees to attract his attention. Now I can’t seem to escape it.

I’m not sure why he’s bothering. He’s not just out of my league—he’s out of my tax bracket. As the sole heir to the Knightley Company, he’s as close to American royalty as you can get. As for me, I’m just a part-time princess at Knightley’s flagship magical theme park.

I spend my days playing make-believe, but Derek has no use for fairytales. His unwavering confidence makes it clear he thinks I’ll surrender in the end.

He’s just biding his time.
Making me sweat.

His Royal Highness always gets what he wants.
And he wants me.


review

Nope. I just couldn’t get on board with this one. And it’s extra sad because I actually like the author!

Look, if I ever had a crush on a guy ten years older than me when I was just out of high school – which I’m sure I had – I would be super creeped out if that guy actually showed an interest in me.

But the heroine here is still holding out on her crush from 8 years ago. On a guy who was 10 years older than her and happened to be her mentor in a professional mentoring program. In the blurb, this crush is referred  to as love. It gave me the mistaken impression that these two must have had a strong connection. But no. They had only a few coffee meetings, and one long meeting where she unloaded her problems on him. And then she decided to e-mail her 28-year old mentor when she was merely 18, that they should get to know each other.

And guess what he did? He didn’t reply. The gall!

So she not only blames him for not returning her affections 8 years later, she also blames him for not having replied to her mail. The ridiculousness of it all! If I were in her place, I’d be gladder than ever that nobody replied to my mail, because I’d send such a dumb email only when I was drunk or high.

And that’s not even it. The heroine actually tells him all this when they meet in the present time and holds him responsible for breaking her heart a lifetime ago. First of all, who does that?! Second of all, who does that?! Her entitled behavior is not only immature but also delusional. This is just not normal. And I hate that the author normalized it. I even found the hero annoying for letting her get away with it.

As if this absolutely immature and ridiculously entitled behavior wasn’t enough, the heroine is also happy playing a fake princess in a theme park. The owner, who happens to be the grandfather of the hero – repeatedly offers her a better position. But she keeps refusing. Again, who does that?!

The whole theme park setting was another thing that just left me baffled. Maybe it’s because I have very little knowledge about how things work in these places, that I found it all very ridiculous how playing a prince and princess was given so much importance. I’d also expected the title of the book ‘His Royal Highness’ to be a little more literal. If not a real royal prince, then maybe a figurative royal figure of a city? I don’t know. I’d expected anything except what the story offered. And I’d probably have found the intentional misleading title cuter, if the story had meat in it.


 

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!