BOOK REVIEW : WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU

Author: Marisa Kanter
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository.
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Romance; Contemporary; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: April 7th 2020.


synopsis

Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.


review

“Because engaging with adults who think YA is for them? It’s exhausting.”

I almost took this comment by the protagonist personally. Because this book clearly conveys the message that YA is not meant for me. Since I’m and adult and all.

Okay, do I think that YA is meant for me? No. But do I still enjoy this genre? Yes. And although I am a huge consumer of YA books; these days, I do find it harder to relate to teenage characters from YA books. But I still feel that the author went at it in the wrong angle with the messaging of this book. While YA is marketed towards teenagers primarily, a large chunk of its readers do comprise of adults. And the messaging of the book would definitely alienate its adult readers.

The story follows Halle Levitt, a YA blogger who plans to be follow on the footsteps of her grandmother and be a Publicist in the future.

A significant portion of the story is centered around an online controversy about a YA book that Halle loves and hyped in her blog. The fictional author of the book referring to Halle’s review says in an interview that her book should not be boxed into a category, and should be enjoyed by people of all age and not only teenagers.

Outrage and hurt ensues. Halle is upset. Her teenager followers are upset.

But here is the thing. The fictional author with the supposed offensive comment? She did not say anything that I felt justified all that outrage. She did not insult her teenage readers but rather just requested that her book not be boxed within a certain age-group.

This book not only was disparaging towards adult readers of YA but I felt that it also carried a problematic message towards teenage readers too. I mean, teenage readers will one day become adult readers. So, you are basically saying that they can only read certain books for a small scope of time and then they are thrown out of the YA club? Hmm.

Anyways, let’s put aside me being an adult reader of YA. I do think that the outrage would have made more sense if the author had made a more insulting comment towards its teenagers. On the other hand, I did find this whole plotline a very interesting reflection of real life scenarios of this age where  a comment is taken out of context made a huge deal of in social media. Even if it was done unwillingly on the part of the author.

Believe it or not, if this plotline was the only problem I had with the book, I still would come out of this read a happy reader. That did not happen.

The book started on a promising note. I liked Halle’s family dynamics. I also found the details about the blogging very interesting. Halle incorporates her cupcake making skills into her YA reviewing. Being a blogger myself, the time and effort she invests into her blog struck a chord with me.

I liked her at the beginning too. I empathized with her lack of social skills due to moving around a lot with her parents who are Oscar nominated documentary filmmakers. I found the equation between her online persona Kels and Nash cute. I also really liked Nash. He was adorable. But when she meets Nash in real life, things start to go downhill.

The story suffers from the usual curse that books with this double-identity plots suffer from. It is stretched too thin. I could understand and empathize with Halle suffering from an identity crisis and not disclosing her online identity to Nash at the beginning.

But then her attitude gets worse. One day she is nice to Nash and his friends, the next day she is rude. Then suddenly she is ghosting her online friends. Her behavior and her lies got on my nerves. At one point, she starts dating Nash. And she still continues to feel insecure about him liking her online persona more. Umm, you two are the same person! And then she has the audacity to blame him for lying to you? I seriously got secondhand embarrassment for her.

The only character I could relate to by the end was Ollie, Halle’s younger brother who kept saying things from my mind. But Halle, sadly, was far too gone. I just wanted to shake her till I could bring some sense into her.

Honestly, these characters and this universe had a lot of potential.  But by stretching the lies too thin, the author lost her protagonist’s likeability and my patience as a reader.


ratings

★★

 

WEBTOON REVIEW : CHEESE IN THE TRAP

Author: Sun Kki
Links
: LINE (You can read the webtoon here) |  Goodreads
Publisher: Naver
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance; Webtoon; Manhwa; Graphic Novel;


synopsis

 


Having returned to college after a year long break, Hong Sul, a hard-working over-achiever, inadvertently got on the wrong side of a suspiciously perfect senior named Yoo Jung.

From then on her life took a turn for the worse and Sul was almost certain it was all Yoo Jung’s doing.

So why is he suddenly acting so friendly a year later?

 


review

So I’m on a reading spree of Webtoons and Mangas these days. So, for those who don’t know – Webtoons are digital graphic novels/comics in Korea. Sort of like Mangas (Japanese graphic novels/comics) and Manhwas (Korean graphic novels/comics), except you read it online. Interestingly, for reasons beyond my grasp, the volumes are called seasons and chapters are episodes. The webtoon has a total of 4 seasons, and 301 episodes.

A little backstory at first. Cheese in the Trap is perhaps the most popular webtoon till now. So popular in fact that it has both a movie and a drama adaptation. But none of them are as good as the webtoon. The drama aired back when the webtoon had not been completed, and although it had a promising start, it went haywire at the end. (The ending was so horrible that the  backlash was also of massive proportions. I watched the drama and the backlash was truly justified.)

Story

Junior year starts off on a weird note for Seol. A department senior she is wary of is suddenly being very friendly and wants to hang out with her. Jung Yoo is the popular senior that everyone wants to be close with. He’s handsome, rich and polite. A model student, he also happens to be the top of the department, and consequently the original contender for a scholarship that ultimately Seol got. He’s the one person girls want and guys want to be. He’s also extremely generous, always being the one paying for drinks and dinners.

But Seol has seen a side of him unlike anybody else. We see through flashbacks, their first meeting which got them off on a wrong foot, the eventual mishaps that keep happening to Seol. From stalkers to sabotage by jealous classmates, nothing went smooth for Seol in her sophomore year, so much so that she wanted to take a gap-year. While Seol has no evidence that Jung was behind it, her instincts tell her that it was him. Are her instincts right or is it just paranoia?

Narration

The narration of the story does wonders in making it even more compelling. Initially, we only see Seol’s point of view. The juxtaposition of the present timeline and her past is very fascinating. At first, we only see things from her perspective. It’s also interesting because we see Jung being the good Samaritan to Seol in the present time, but then we see his cold side in the past. We are left as confused as Seol. But then we see the same flashbacks from the perspective of other characters and the narrative totally changes. It’s even more fascinating in the later stages of the story when we slowly start to see things from Jung’s eyes.

Characters

The characters are the USP of the story. I have never read such complex, layered set of characters together. Characters that start off as minor or insignificant later turn out to become pivotal to the story. And there are many of them. A number of characters from Jung and Seol’s department play major parts.

The main characters are Seol, Jung and Inho. Make no mistake, this is no love triangle. Inho and his sister Inha are two orphans who were taken in by Jung’s father when they were young. Although, they were friends, somethings happened to sour them. Now, Inho and Jung can’t bear each other’s presence. And Inha has become a gold-digger of sorts, leeching off others.


Inho starts getting close to Seol after he returns to the city and sees her closeness with Jung. He’s childish, short-tempered and impulsive. But he has a good heart. His friendship with Seol was one of my favorite things to read. He has his demons, a broken that put a stop to his hopes of being a pianist. But he’s loyal to fault and protective of Seol.

Seol is an interesting protagonist. When we start off, she’s quiet, reticent and unassertive. She easily lets others walk over her. She also has been neglected by her parents in favor of a younger brother. She is smart, determined, observant and hard-working. But as the story progresses, we see her become assertive and and feisty if not a little manipulative thanks to Jung’s influence.

Jung is the most complex character I’ve ever read. He’s a mystery for 90% of the story. One moment, he makes you go ‘Aww’, and the next moment he creeps you out. You will love him but also be wary of him. I thought for a long time that he might be a sociopath. But as the story progressed, it became even more difficult to catalogue him into a box.

 


The characters that I genuinely adored are Bora and Eun Taek, who are the besties of Seol. They are better friends to her than she is to them. The best part about this webtoon is that the characters are all people we see around us. Even Inha who gives an initial impression of being a manipulative gold digger, has layers and layers of complexity. The depth in the delineation of all the characters – major and minor – makes it one of the best work of fiction I’ve read.

 

Setting

Although the story is set on Korea, it’s as relatable as it can get. Anyone who’s gone to college will be able to connect with the characters and the scenarios. Be it the group assignments, the part-time jobs, the competition or the obnoxious senior who always leeches off others’ hard work or the nerd who feels bitter and unappreciated. We’ve all seen it. While Seol gets a little too much of her end of the short stick, it never for a moment feels over the top.

Romance


The evolution of Jung and Seol’s relationship starts from an uncomfortable friendship, to awkward dating phase to a slower and deeper understanding of each other. I won’t deny that there were some instances that I felt that there were toxic elements in their relationship. But those were sort of addressed.  And I liked that while their relationship is a major storyline, it is not always at the forefront. It always comes down to the growth of Seol, Jung, Inho and all the other characters. I also like that there was no tangible love triangle, even though there were shipping wars.

A special mention for Eun Taek and Bora, who have the most adorable romance!

Art

Art is an important component of any graphic fiction. The art is beautiful here too. While it can be a little cartoonist with the expressions at first, but it gets better as the webtoon progresses. The maturity of the characters is visible through the art too as much as the story. I also like how each character has its own features. I’ve read mangas where most characters are drawn with same features, just different hairstyles. But every character has their own unique style. And I appreciated that.

Ending

There are so many arcs in the story which make you want to pull your hair in frustration. But they always culminate on a satisfying note. The ending of the whole story was also very satisfying. Almost every character gets a satisfying resolution.

Hello! Still with me?

I won’t be surprised if you skimmed through my review. It’s LONG, I know. But we’re talking about a 300-episode long webtoon here! All I can say is whoever starts it will have a hard time leaving it incomplete. It’s addictive as hell. Strongly recommended.


ratings

★★

ARC REVIEW : CHASING LUCKY

Author: Jean Bennett
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: May 5th 2020.


synopsis

In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.

Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…


review

This is the second Jean Bennett book I read. It’s also the second book with ‘Lucky’ on its title (the other being Lucky Caller). Incidentally both made it to the list of my favorite YAs of the year so far.

There is so much to love about this book! Josie is moving back to her hometown with her flighty single mother. It’s supposed to be only for a year, as she keeps reminding her mother, before her grandmother returns from a trip to Nepal. But Josie has plans of her own that her mother doesn’t know her. She wants to graduate her high school and move to LA to be apprentice to her famous photographer father. Her life has been a blur of one city after another, when at 12 years of age, her mother took her and left town after a fight with her grandmother. So she wants stability for once, even if it means breaking her mother’s heart. But she didn’t foresee Lucky.

Lucky was Josie’s best friend until she suddenly left town. Now he’s a mystery with danger written all over him. Josie goes through wariness, annoyance, guilt, and fascination towards him. I, however, was fascinated from the start, and became more and more besotted with each page. Much of the book is spent on Josie and us getting to see the layers of his character get peeled slowly. And that kept me glued to the pages all along. Josie can be a little impulsive and selfish, but her heart is in the right place. And I adored her. But Lucky is the real scene stealer for me. He has my heart, okay?

Now, what else did I love about the book? Josie’s relationships with her mother and cousin Evie, for starters. Lack of communication runs in the family. There is love between Josie and her mother, but the latter’s unwillingness to communicate has turned Josie bitter. Evie has her own problems – a toxic relationship with the town’s golden boy. But this is a family that simply doesn’t talk with each other. I also loved Lucky’s family, who are polar opposite to Josie’s, but just as lovely. Most of all, though, I loved Josie and Lucky, and their relationship.

If I have a complaint about this book, it’s that it could be longer. I wanted to see certain characters like Josie’s mom and Evie being explored. Their arcs felt unfinished. Also, there is this whole thing about their family being cursed in love, which is mentioned a lot, but not explained enough in my opinion.

Despite these flaws, I loved the writing, the characters and this universe. It’s only a good thing when you don’t want a book to end. But it’s a bad thing when you can’t have a Lucky of your own! Be back bawling.


ratings

★★★★★

 

BOOK REVIEW : YES NO MAYBE SO

Author: Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult ; Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: February 4th 2020.


synopsis

New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have crafted a resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance.

YES
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

NO
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

MAYBE SO
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.


review

This is my first read of a book by both the authors. 3 things exciting me about the book are:

  1. Becky Albertalli, an author I’ve been meaning to read for some time now
  2. The cover
  3. A Muslim protagonist and the backdrop of Ramadan!

I was pleased to discover within the first few pages that the hero is Jewish. And the ethnicity of the both the characters play a large role in how the story plays out.

It’s a very political story. And it has to be because the story hinges on how politics affects the characters. There is a important message here too. That politics is everywhere around us, and everyone has a role to play.

Let’s talk about what what I liked about the book first :

Character evolution
I read a review about how expectations keep being subverted in the book. That couldn’t be truer. In more than one instance, both Jamie and Maya offend each other with their insensitivity and unawareness about the other’s life. James keeps making assumptions about Maya’s fasting in Ramadan, and she makes ill-judgements about his campaign.  There’s also the struggle they go through as minorities which is undermined by others, being nonchalantly told to ‘let it go’. It was beautiful to see both Jamie and Maya grow sensible about how everything they do carry bigger implications.

Realistic themes
Maya starts off political canvassing for selfish reasons after her mother promises her a car in return for this. But when she slowly learns about the intricacies and implications of the policy mandates of each of the candidates, and how it could personally affect her.  How relatable is that? People don’t simply care until they’re directly affected. Maya realizes that in politics it’s always about the lesser of two evils. Then there is the frustration and helplessness they feel because they are not of age to vote; while there are people around them who feel that voting is wasteful because no candidate is perfect. Little things like this rang so true to real life!

Now, on to things I disliked :

Romance
The personal equation between Jamie and Maya is perfectly reflected in that cover image. Their relationship slowly evolves from wary and shy acquaintances to close friends. Jamie is quiet and shy, with stage fright, even though he wants to join politics. Maya is outspoken and bolder, going through a personal crisis when her parents announce separation. While I liked their friendship, I could not grow fond of them as individual characters and the romance. A huge part of me wanted them to remain platonic friends. I don’t know why that is honestly.

Characters
I thought I’d be able to relate to Maya. But the book subverted my expectations with that too. She was a little too much of a teenager for my tolerance level. There was a some serious immaturity and self-righteousness going on there. I know where that is coming from. She’s a teenager, with family crisis. But tried as I might, I could not connect to her.  While I liked Jamie, I could not love him.

Writing
While the story deals with important themes, it could do with a stronger plot. The pacing was sluggish. I particularly struggled through the beginning. With a little better execution, this book could have been one of my favorite reads of the year. But it somehow misses the mark. I think I could not connect to the writing process.

This is honestly an otherwise 3-star read for me. But I am giving it an extra star because of the important message it carries.


ratings

★★★★☆

 

BOOK REVIEW : TWEET CUTE

Author: Emma Lord
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; High School; Romance.
Release Date: January 21st 2020.


synopsis

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.


review

Tweet Cute is a one of those books that you read and go ‘That was cute’. I didn’t really have anything to say about it except that I like it. But that’s not how reviews work, do they? So, here goes nothing.

Story

This is a very cute and modern take on “You’ve got mail” (a movie I love) where the main characters Jack and Pepper exchange texts in an anonymous messaging app for their school. They also feud on twitter through their family business accounts.  Both Pepper and Jack’s families own food joints. Except, Pepper’s mother has turned it into a corporate franchise while Jack’s family has still kept the foodplace his grandparents started a small family affair. Ring a bell? There is a lot of cuteness, with misunderstandings, angst and family drama.

There were many layers to the story.  Both Pepper and Jack have their own demons to fight. At a young age, Pepper has not only had to deal with her parent’s divorce but also uprooting her life when her mother decided to move from Nashville with her to New York to expand the family business. As a result, Pepper is somewhat serious and upright. She has no friends to speak for. Jack, on the other hand, appears cheerful and cocksure. But even he has issues of his own, with a twin brother Ethan who’s much more popular and ambitious than he. They both have low opinions of each other.

Characters

Almost every character had some part to play. Pepper and Jack are likeable characters. Their problems are relatable. Pepper is non-confrontational. She is a worrier and the peace-keeper in the family, especially since her college-going elder sister is not on good terms with their mother. So Pepper takes everything upon herself and wants to keep her mother proud and happy. Even if her mother’s decisions go against her judgements.

Jack on the other hand, is overshadowed by his brother at everything. While he has great app developing skills – having himself created the app where he anonymously exchanges texts with Pepper – he keeps it hidden. His parents expect him to stay back and continue the family legacy while Ethan can go do whatever he wants. So he keeps his dreams on the down-low.

I really liked the realistic portrayal of both sets of parents. While we don’t see much of Pepper’s father but the mother plays a huge role. She’s sort of the unintended villain for much of the book, with her over-the-top competitiveness – the reason for which is later explained. Neither she nor Jack’s parents are perfect parents. And that makes them more believable.

I also loved the sibling equations in the book. Particularly he competitiveness and insecurities between Ethan and Jack appealed to me a lot. It was very realistic and sort of hilarious in hindsight.

Writing

Emma Lord has done an exemplary job on her debut. The writing is engaging and effortless. It’s really difficult to keep a conflict interesting while keeping characters realistic in fiction. I think what she did well was not make any of the characters stereotypical, and yet kept them believable. I felt like these were real people. The plot is also tight. Every little action is given a reason. There are no loopholes.

The only complaint I have with the writing is that I was not very invested on the romance. I liked the characters individually and together as friends. But the romance part of it felt slightly lackluster. I would have liked a little more time spent on introspection from the characters after  they find the other’s identity. And this is the only reason I am subtracting one star.

Altogether, a strong debut from the author. We need more YAs like this. And when you are invested so much on the characters’ personal growth, a less than satisfactory romance doesn’t really leave that big of a hole in your overall satisfaction with the book.


ratings

★★★★☆

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 MAP FROM HERE TO THERE

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.


review

I wasn’t surprised when I heard some mixed reactions about this book before starting it. Because it would be difficult to attain the perfection that The Start of Me and You did for me. And my excitement for this book was more to do with my wish of revisiting this universe and the group of characters who I came to love.

And ironically, it was the characterization that was one of my main problems with this book. One of my favorite things about the first book was how every character got the chance to shine. But I felt that we don’t get that enough here. For example, I’d been rooting for Paige’s bestie Tessa and Max’s cousin Ryan, because of their flirty equation and Ryan’s obvious interest in her, in the last book. I mean, a main part of that book was how Paige and Max were like Jane and Bingley, while Tessa and Ryan were like Elizabeth and Darcy.

But we find out at the very beginning that Tessa got herself a girlfriend over the Summer. I didn’t know whether to be happy that this was introduced so naturally and not made a big deal of (a big yay for LGBT); or be disappointed that we didn’t get more details about how a character who gave no signs of being homosexual in the first book, just suddenly went through such an important transformation over a span of 2 months and we didn’t get to be a party to this character development.

Speaking of Ryan, a character who we got to see have some major moments in the first book, doesn’t have that big of a role to play. I also felt that we didn’t get enough of Morgan and Kayleigh here. There is a part where Morgan drops a big bomb on Tessa about herself drunkenly, and that’s it. There’s no more discussion on it,

Almost everything takes a backseat in this book to Paige. We spend half the book on Paige overthinking every little thing. While I found that endearing in the first book, this time the author just took it too far. Yes, she’s a teenager. She’s right to be flawed and be indecisive and self-involved. But we already saw her doing this in the previous book and overcome it to a large extent. And when we see her doing the same things again, and regressing on her own, what was all that character growth from the first book for?

It also didn’t help that a whole lot of the plot is reliant on Tessa’s overthinking. She has decided over the Summer that she wants to study script-writing in New York or LA. She’s worried that this will cause friction between her divorced and currently dating parents. She’s worried about how it will impact her relationship with Max. Then when Max tells her he’s also applying to the same areas, she’s worried of the pressure it puts on her. And all that’s fine and realistic. But the main conflict was stretched too thin and at one point, the charm was lost.

For all my complaining, I still loved the friendship between Paige, Tessa, Kayleigh, Morgan and Ryan. Paige and Max were really cute initially (when they weren’t being stupid). Their relationship was also realistic. I loved Paige’s family again too. And I’d have been happier had the ending been satisfactory. But that ending was abrupt with one major plot point still being unresolved.


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

★★★★☆

ARC REVIEW : 100 DAYS OF SUNLIGHT

When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down.

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down.


review

I really tried to like this book. And I failed.

I could compare my feelings towards this book to that of what I felt after The Fault in Our Stars. Two young teens, both with their own diseases (disabilities in this case), finding solace in each other. And here also, I struggled to connect or relate to either of the two.

Okay. Here’s the first thing that I was not impressed by – Weston suddenly out of nowhere deciding that he would be a friend to Tessa. We see him right off the bat decide to make Tessa see the beautiful things in life, even in her temporary blindness. Okay. But why? They didn’t know each other beforehand, and Tessa was horrible to him from the start. I get the idea that it’s supposed to be because Tessa is the first person who can’t look at him pity for his condition, because she’s blind, and he likes that. But the writer does not expand on these feelings, except maybe a line or two.

Second thing that I didn’t like was how quickly Tessa and Weston grew an attachment. I get that they’re forced by their proximity and in Tessa’s case, isolation from the rest of the world. But I still would’ve liked them to take some more time to build their connection towards each other. But this is not any major issue.

My major issue was not being able to connect Weston and Tessa. Weston came off as a little too self-righteous and self-assured on his decisions when it came to Tessa. That was a turn-off. Tessa, on the other hand, was just unlikable. I get that she has a lot of problems but her character development felt lacking to me. I just couldn’t bring myself to sympathize with her.

I commend the author for touching upon many difficult and serious themes in this book, particularly that of mental health, family, etc. but I think that the quality of the writing needed to be better for these themes to have more of an impact on me. There were some genuinely cute and funny moments. It brings me back to my first point. I wanted to like the book, because it had an important message. But the writing made that difficult.

definitely think that this book would appeal more to younger newer readers. But I’ve read too many YAs in my days to have found anything novel or unpredictable about this book.


ratings

★★★☆☆

Publication Date: 7th August, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  Amazon Goodreads Book Depository

 

BOOK REVIEW : SPIN THE DAWN

 

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.



review

Normally, the word ‘Mulan’ is enough to tempt me to start a book. But then you add ‘Project Runway’ to it? Color me intrigued. Besides Mulan, I could also find elements from stories of ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Spirited Away’. There are other myths explored in this novel, mainly from Chinese origins. I particularly liked the re-imagination of the silk road.

The beginning was promising. I found myself invested in Maia and her family very fast. Her family slowly descends towards its ruins, after she loses her mother, and her brothers to the war. It’s the same war that forces the emperor to marry the enemy’s daughter as a truce. And to please his bride, he arranges a competition for her to choose her master tailor.

Maia’s father is also summoned to participate in the competition or send his son to represent him. But her father is a mere shadow of his former self from a series of emotional loss, and her brother unskilled in the family business. It had long before fallen upon Maia to take on the reins as the main tailor in the family business.

We move to the castle when Maia goes to the castle disguised as her brother, a capital crime. I enjoyed the competition with all the mysteries, the competitors, the politics, and the details of all the dressmaking. I was also torn between feeling sympathy and suspicion towards the princess who’s forced to wed her enemy and does everything in her capacity to delay the wedding. The best part of the book came at the end of the first part where the author totally subverted my expectations by doing the unexpected.

The pace slowed down a lot in the second part, with Maia going on an unimaginable journey in order to collect the materials to make an impossible wedding gown for the future empress. I found my attention wavering from here on. I also could not find myself invested in the romance between Maia and Edan. It’s probably because I just could not find Edan’s whole character arc to be unconvincing from the start. But my loyalty towards Maia remained constant throughout the book. I loved her courage, vulnerabilities and mostly the conviction of following her heart.

Although the pace picked up in the third and final part, and there were some very unpredictable twists, my interest could not be restored to what it was at the beginning.  I also have qualms about how someof the plot unfolded. Some resolutions felt unearned. I’d really like to vent about them but can’t because of the spoilers. But I’m hoping that the second book will give us better explanations to, though. And I’m certainly interested in reading the sequel because of how the book ended.

It’s interesting if you look at my breakdown of rating for the three parts of the book –
5- stars for the first part, 3-stars for the second part, and 4 stars for the third part. Heh.


ratings

★★★★☆