Book Review | Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

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♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡  s t a r s

Norah is seventeen years old, and she hasn’t really stepped outside of her house since she was thirteen except for the occasional visit to her therapist. She has agoraphobia, anxiety and OCD, and there are too many things in the outside world that can cause harm – so she stays inside the four walls of her home, her safe haven, where she reads, watches movies, and builds forts and miniature structures from edibles. When the new boy next door starts making an effort to talk to her, Norah feels the pull to step out of her comfort zone. He’s charming, he’s cute, and has a smile that sends tingles down her spine, but Norah, despite wanting to, is terrified of letting him in.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is as beautiful as the title sounds and the cover looks. Written with fluidity and grace, Gornall weaves words like a mastermind, conveying emotion by employing just the right vocabulary, just the right tone. It’s poetic and lyrical, without ever feeling purple. There’s something incredibly challenging about writing a book set almost entirely within the four walls of one girl’s house, but Gornall’s writing never lets you notice this until you pause, think, and admire the feat. When we think of masterful world-building, we think about fantasy universes with their own continents, governments, schools, magic systems – but the world-building in this book is confined to a house… and it’s just as good as the world-building in the best of fantasy novels. That may seem like a hyperbolic statement to you, but I don’t think it is. The author focuses on micro-details and makes it work- from the texture of Norah’s bedsheets to the contents of her refrigerator, the feel of her hallway and the aura around her windows, everything is precise, polished, and wonderfully done.

But the writing style and the world-building are just two facets of this beautiful tale. Its empathetic portrayal of the relationship between a mother and her daughter, between a young girl and her mentor, her therapist, between a girl and a boy, and this girl and herself – each and every relationship is given the perfect weight, resulting in a wholesome, balanced story that never gets boring, never does too much. Make no mistake – this is not a book about romance, it’s not one about Norah’s therapy, and it’s not a book about her relationships. It’s not a book that uses mental illness as a plot point in any plot mentioned above; it’s a book about a girl with disabilities who’s living her day-to-day life, maneuvering through family, romance and therapy as best as she can. This is what we need in contemporaries. Books that place the person at the forefront, while never ignoring, glamorizing or romanticizing their mental illness.

What makes the story lift and soar are the characters, but most specifically Norah. She’s everything I love in a character – in a human being, in fact. She’s shy and introspective, she doesn’t say much but when she does, she’s smart and funny. Her incredibly empathetic nature, her genuine regard for other people before herself, and her strength and vulnerability make her such a beautiful character. Her voice in moments when she’s vulnerable beyond anything she’s ever known, as well as when she’s navigating daily life, to her desires and hopes and dreams – everything feels so authentic. I felt like I was reading about a friend, and I teared up multiple times, just because I felt so deeply for her. Not pity. NEVER pity, but empathy. This is an empathetic book, not a sympathetic one, and I think it’s meant to be that way.

Luke, also, was such a beautifully constructed character. When he was introduced, I was apprehensive because too often have I seen the trope where falling in love cures mental illnesses, but that apprehension need not have been there. I loved the slow-burn of Luke’s relationship with Norah, because it gave time for Norah to ease into an unfamiliar situation, and acquaint herself with feeling how she felt, and what it would mean for her. I loved Luke’s attitude; instead of giving her unwanted advice, instead of trying to change any part of her life, he sought to learn and understand. He’s not perfect; he makes mistakes, and sometimes I wanted to smack him, but he’s such an incredibly kind, soft person who tries his best to understand, falters along the way, but is determined to learn and straighten himself up. He was given complexities and dilemmas of his own outside of this relationship, and sure, I would have liked to learn more about his family, but I don’t say that as a flaw in the book – it’s actually a compliment, believe it or not.

Because, for the life of me, I did not want it to end. It read like a movie, something playing in front of my eyes, with characters that I loved, adored and wanted to stay with for much, much longer. I wanted it to go on, and I would have happily read on for a couple hundred more pages. Not because it was too short; no, it was the perfect length. I’ve just become so invested in these characters’ lives that I’m craving more, and I don’t think I’ve ever said this for a contemporary stand-alone before. Any stand-alone, in fact.

If you’ve been following my reading and my reviewing for a while now, you’d know that I don’t give out five-star ratings easily. Very rarely do I come across books that I can’t find a flaw in, that I can start over right after finishing them gladly, but this is one of those rarities. It flung itself in my ‘favorites’ list, and I didn’t even realize it until after I’d turned the last page, but here I am: enamored, gushing, and wanting – no – needing more.

TRIGGER WARNING

Anxiety-inducing scenes, some suicidal ideations, and self-harm.

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ARC Review | When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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♡ ♡ ♡  .  5   S T A R S

Dimple Shah has issues with her parents, more specifically her mother. Dimple’s a career woman with a passion for education and coding; she can’t stand putting on makeup or dressing up, and she couldn’t care less about finding an I.I.H – the Ideal Indian Husband. The problem is that her traditionally cultural mother doesn’t understand this, and if it were up to her, Dimple would be married to a suitable, nice boy by now. When Dimple gets the chance to go to San Francisco for the summer to attend a coding camp, she encounters a nasty surprise: Rishi. He was sent by his and her parents who’d promised Rishi that they’d get married after they’d met. But their first meeting doesn’t go quite as planned. Now, they have to spend a summer together – Rishi, a hopeless romantic is smitten by her, and Dimple, frustrated and annoyed, needs to achieve her coding goals and possibly get by without murdering Rishi or her parents.

When Dimple Met Rishi is the perfect example of what a Bollywood movie on paper looks like. It’s heartfelt, it’s fun, it’s fast-paced, and at times it’s so melodramatic that it’s ridiculous – but mostly in a good way. Part rom-com, part coming-of-age story, Menon’s woven a story that will capture the hearts of hopeless romantics like Rishi, as well as the more ‘practical’ ones who put their career goals before their love lives. It offers well-integrated insight into Indian culture, includes Hindi dialogue seamlessly into the narrative with food and Bollywood references that any person who’s familiar with the culture will immediately spot and grin at, while those who are unfamiliar will learn, and may want to know more. But make no mistake, When Dimple Met Rishi is not about Indian culture – that’s just there.

Which is one of the things that makes the book so special, in my mind. So often, South Asian cultures are reduced to stereotypes – even, to some extent, by authors from the same background. Which is not me saying that their experiences are less. They’re not, but just that it can be incredibly alienating for readers to find the same type of narratives everywhere they turn. This particular book doesn’t do that; it’s about a young girl, living her life, doing what she loves, having her issues, falling in love. These stories far outweigh the negative ones, and we rarely get to see them in books. There is infinite value in books like these because they serve to diversify, not other.

There is also infinite value in Soft Boys – I’ve said this time and time again, but I’m sick and tired of the bad boy trope. I need me some soft boys in YA lit – guys who are just nice, and do nice things, and think nice thoughts, who respect other people and thus get respect back. Rishi Patel is the ultimate soft boy, and I love him. He’s such a kind, thoughtful person who does little things to make people happy; there are facets to his personality that everyone can relate to. His respect and love for his parents was something that immediately clicked with me, while his struggle with needing to be the perfect son and wanting a career in something that might not make him bags of money is something that I feel a lot of South Asian kids would relate to. Soft, but not without his own flaws and complexities, and I really loved how Menon executed his character.

On the flip side, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Dimple. I admired her initially – gutsy, outspoken, strong-willed and feisty, but as time wore on, her initial charm wore off – particularly when it comes to her behavior around Rishi. There is a scene near the beginning of their meeting where she forces him to drink alcohol at a party, after he repeatedly refuses. She pushes him into situations that are uncomfortable for him more than a few times; she crosses the line more than a few times, and even though I didn’t mind her individually, her behavior was frustrating and frankly, a little shocking. Some may say that this ‘flaw’ is what makes Dimple’s character complex, but I would disagree. Not to give anything away, but these things are never challenged. They just are, and Rishi goes along with them. If the genders were flipped, perhaps more people would notice that it is not okay for someone to constantly push and shove someone else into literal submission.

When you don’t like the main character, other things start to pop up. For one, the insta-love is an issue. I can’t say much about that at risk of spoilers, but falling so madly and deeply in love within a few weeks? Not buying it. On top of that, the romance was a little too cheesy for my taste, but some people enjoy the thrill of first-love cheese, so that’s entirely subjective. I also felt that the ending was rushed, and way too melodramatic – the ending was one I’ve seen in one too many Bollywood movies, and I felt that Menon could’ve done something different, something more interesting.

But ultimately, despite all the flaws, When Dimple Met Rishi is a good addition to your summer reading list; it is fun, it’s flirty, you’ll devour it because it’s addictive. And by the turn of the last page, you’ll definitely want more – come to me for some Bollywood recs; you’ll need them!

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ARC Review | The Djinn Falls in Love ed. by Mahvesh Murad, Jared Shurin

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♡ ♡ ♡  .  5  S T A R S

“Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud.  And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire.” (Quran 15:26-27)

As a Muslim, lore for me has been rather different than the lore you might have grown up with. Of course there are no such things as vampires, werewolves, tooth-fairies, or poltergeists, but Jinn? Jinn are real. Some in Pakistan say they dwell at the tops of trees, some use them as a means to caution children to not play outside past sunset. Don’t pick up random things on the street – they might belong to the Jinn, and they’ll get mad if you steal from them, and they’ll never leave you alone. I can’t speak for much, but I can speak for Pakistan – there, Jinn are often the stuff of nightmares. They change their face, they latch onto you and make you do unthinkable things. Not unlike demons in exorcism movies, actually.

But then there are those that say that Jinn are just like men; they can be categorized plainly as good or bad. There are Jinn who are good Muslims, just like there are men who are good Muslims. They pray five times a day, they spend their lives in loyalty and devotion to Allah, and they live side-by-side to men. Hell, there might be one sitting right next to you while you read this, but he’s a good Jinn. He won’t bother you.

Sometimes I forget how diverse of a religion Islam is. From the 22 million Muslims living in China to the millions upon millions living in South Asia, from the Middle East to Africa to Europe and North America. Islam is followed by nearly 25% of the world’s population, scattered all over the globe. Religion, much like everything else, is saturated by culture – hence, much of the lore is saturated by the culture of the person reading it, the setting, the practices, the history. Like I said, Jinn in Pakistan are usually seen as nightmarish beings, but in other places, they’re seen as magical superior beings who have powers that men do not, while in other places, they’re seen as common entities that you just don’t happen to see – like the air around you.

The Djinn Falls in Love was a reminder of the diversity of Islam, and the Muslims that practice it. And, in some cases, the people who don’t practice Islam at all, yet they encounter Jinn anyway. This is the epitome of a diverse book; each and every story teaches you something different about the part of the world it is set in, something different about a culture that you might not have been familiar with. From futuristic dystopian Bangladesh to the outskirts of rural Pakistan to the rainy streets of New York City and even something set in outer space. From Jinn who are separated half-brothers, to business partners, to taxi drivers, to lovers, to best friends, to horrors who will possess your soul. The collection presents the Jinn in a vast, creative manner that will leave you itching to find out more about an entity that has the ability to manifest itself in any way that it chooses.

There’s a story in this collection for everyone. If you enjoy angsty paranormal romances, “Majnun” by Helene Wecker might appeal to you – the story of a young man, now an exorcist, who had a female Jinn for a lover. If you enjoy spiritual tales about brotherhood, “The Congregation” by Kamila Shamsie may make you weep. Fancy some fantasy with traditional Middle Eastern royalty and magic rings and portals? Check out “Hurrem and the Djinn” by Claire North. Space stories tinged with a shade of horror? “Duende 2077” by Jamal Mahjoub. There is something in this collection that will appeal to you, regardless of your genre preference or technical literature preferences.

But despite hosting stories from heavy-weights in the industry like Kamila Shamsie (who is perhaps the most prominent contemporary Pakistani writer of our time), Nnedi Okorafor (author of Binti), Helene Wecker (the critically acclaimed writer who penned The Golem and the Jinni), and Neil Gaiman (who is the master of fantasy and lore), the stories that really stand out are others’.

Perhaps my favorite short story of all-time (note, I said all-time, not just in this collection) was “Reap” by Sami Shah, involving a team at a base flying US drones near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’re preparing to bomb the region, waiting on orders, but spend their time surveilling the four or five houses in that region. And one night, they see something terrifying – a little girl, resident of one of these houses, is doing unimaginable things, inhuman things. I read this story a while ago, and I’m still reeling from its impact. It’s spine-chillingly horrifying, the stuff of nightmares, given the vivid imagery and the dense writing – a Jinn story in true Pakistani fashion. But more than that, it offers some of the most subtly wonderful political commentary I have ever read in any book, let alone a short story. About the senselessness of performing warfare, dropping bombs on rural areas while sitting behind a console, drinking coffee and joking around with your friends. How it might feel if a predator came after you just as you send a different sort of predator to someone else- a predator you don’t understand, can’t see, and can’t reach. It’s an incredible, incredible story that I would suggest everyone read, even if they read nothing else from the book at all.

Another favorite was “Bring Your Own Spoon” by Saad Z. Hossain, which is a futuristic dystopian story set in Bangladesh, where the city of Dhaka is divided into zones. Hanu lives in one of these zones, where food is scarce and poverty is rampant. One day, Hanu and a Jinn named Imbidor arrive at an agreement; they’ll establish their own restaurant for the people living in what they call The Fringe. Despite being a short story, “Bring Your Own Spoon” is nothing short of a masterpiece, with beautifully crafted characters, an incredibly developed dystopian world and a plot that you’ll keep up with as if you’re watching an especially enticing movie. It’s imaginative, it’s different, and it’s captivating.

But despite having some standouts, many of the stories fell flat for me – some that I felt were trying to do too much with too little, some where the lore didn’t seem as established as in others, and some that just didn’t appeal to me with their thematic elements. All-in-all, despite some cold stories, it’s a worthy addition to your bookshelf, and a book that anybody who advocates for diversity in literature needs to pick up. It is truly diverse, in the very sense of the word.

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Adult Books for YA Readers

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Hello, everyone! Today I come to you with a different type of blog post. Since I’m the master procrastinator, I’m putting off the nine reviews that I have pending to post this. And that’s because I’ve noticed something about myself recently: whenever I’m in a reading rut, the only books that can get me moving are from the adult genre.

Now bear with me – this is not me saying that adult books are generally superior which is why they can get me out, and keep me out, of a slump but rather it’s me emphasizing the importance of reading at different wavelengths. YA books are so fun, for me. I love reading them; I love the tropes, I love the youthful feel of them, I love that there is a strong online community surrounding them, but sometimes, it’s good to change it up. It’s good to venture into the adult genre and read something that you wouldn’t usually pick up.

But, how to do that? Adult fiction is such a vast genre – where do you start? How do you even begin to look around the hundreds and thousands of books that are released every single month to find something that’ll fit with you. The genre can be intimidating; the scope is larger, the books are longer, and there just isn’t the community to help you launch into it and widen your scope.

Now, I’m not going to pretend like I’m some established reader of the adult genre, but I do like to read at least a couple adult books every month. But I’d like to make this post anyway, to shed some light on books that you might be too intimidated to try, or books that you haven’t heard of because adult books simply don’t get the spotlight in your usual circle. These are books that will appeal to a large audience, which makes them really good “transition” reads, if you will.

Note: these are not all my favorite adult books – these are just books that I think are good transition books, and have a wide age appeal.

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I F  Y O U  E N J O Y

S C I E N C E  F I C T I O N

D A R K  M A T T E R  B Y  B L A K E  C R O U C H

post insertS Y N O P S I S – Dark Matter follows the story of Jason, a physicist living a content life; he made some difficult decisions in the past, choosing to give up a large portion of his ambition and career to make way for a healthy family, but he is happy now. When Jason leaves his house one night, a man in a mask abducts him, asks Jason if he’s happy with his life before knocking him out cold. When he wakes up, Jason finds himself in an unfamiliar room surrounded by people in hazmat suits- all strangers, yet they seem to know him. Soon enough, Jason realizes that he hasn’t woken up in a different area. He has woken up in an entirely different world, a world where he hadn’t abandoned his career. A world where his wife is not his wife anymore, where his son does not exist, and a certain group of people are adamant on extracting information from him that he doesn’t even know…

This is a fairly recent adult read for me, but it was one that I fell in love with. It was near the top of my best books of 2016 list, because even after I finished it, I could not stop thinking about it. From the fast-paced, easy-to-follow writing style to the deeply sympathetic characters, to the sheer mind-fuckery of the plot (without it being too science-y either, so you could follow along pretty easily). Despite it exploring themes relating to infinity and parallel universes, it’s really a deeply moving love story at its core – about one man’s love for his wife and son, and the fact that he would do anything to find his way back to them, even if that means making impossibly difficult choices. I think it’s such a fun, fast-paced, enjoyable read that moves a lot like a movie in front of your eyes, and it just takes the science fiction genre to incredible new heights. If it helps, it was optioned for adaptation before it was released!

It’s quite perfect for fans of Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Grey, and anyone who loves Interstellar, Inception and Doctor Who.

I F  Y O U  E N J O Y

H I G H  S C H O O L  T H R I L L E R S

E V E R Y T H I N G  Y O U  W A N T  M E  T O  B E  B Y  M I N D Y  M E J I A

post insert LEFTS Y N O P S I S – Hattie Hoffman is a senior in high school, and she’s admired by many – she has a stable boyfriend, lovely parents, and a dazzling personality that everyone is charmed by. But Hattie has a secret; she was involved in an online relationship with a man that was the only person Hattie related to in her small-town life, surrounded by people who have different ambitions. She’s an actor, and she’s spent her entire life playing parts, both on the stage and in her relationships, but with this one person, she can be herself. But before she can achieve her dream of moving to New York and becoming an actress, her body is found floating in the river, brutally stabbed. During the investigation, the town’s secrets begin to emerge.

This is another book that I read very recently, and I’m so glad that I requested it off Netgalley because I never would have read it otherwise. This, to me, is a perfect transition book because it rests precariously between the two genres’ target ages. The main character, Hattie (despite being dead) is a senior in high school, and a lot of the themes and characters are about coming-of-age, finding yourself in a cruel environment, etcetera. But it does feature a relationship between her and her English teacher, dealt with in an extremely sensitive and honest way without any glamorization or justification, which I really appreciated. I say it’s the perfect balance because the other main character is the teacher in question, and his perspective deals with the very adult themes of a broken marriage, a midlife crisis, etcetera. They come together brilliantly to form a dynamic, engaging, un-putdownable read.

This book is perfect if you enjoyed We Were Liars by E. Lockhart; Wink Poppy Midnight by Genevieve Tcholke; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and if you watch Riverdale (I haven’t seen this but feel it’s of a similar nature), and Pretty Little Liars.

I F  Y O U  E N J O Y

P S Y C H O L O G I C A L  D R A M A S

T H E  S E C R E T  H I S T O R Y  B Y  D O N N A  T A R T T

the secret historyI’m not going to write a synopsis for this because it’s a book that I believe should be gone into blind. It’s my favorite book of all-time, and if you know me, you’d know that I don’t say that lightly because I’m a tough critic and a tough rater. But I read this four years ago, and trust me when I say that I still haven’t stopped thinking about it. There’s just something about Donna Tartt’s writing that draws you in so completely and gets you lost in the words and pages. Each character is tremendously developed, despite them all being anti-heroes and really despicable people.

I know for a fact that this is a double-edged sword, because all the characters are college students. The setting is a Midwestern college campus with looming forests, romantic dormitories, etcetera, and if that appeals to you at all, you would really enjoy it. But it’s more sinister than any college novel you’ve ever read. It’s kind of a mystery in reverse – you know a murder happens, you know who does it, and you know who dies, but you don’t know why. There’s a special kind of intrigue about the fact that it’s a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit, and Donna Tartt executes it so perfectly. There is just the right amount of action and tension leading up to the murder, and the psychological aftermath after that is delicious in and of itself. There’s some talk about classics and cult-like things as well, and lots of secrets that come out like bombshells, and I honestly just cannot recommend this book enough.

This would be a perfect fit for you if you enjoy psychological thrillers and dramas – if you enjoyed Vicious by V.E. Schwab and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (for its characterization), you might love this too. I’ve also said this time and time again, but I low-key think that The Raven Cycle is a rip-off of this book; the characters, the atmosphere, and even the setting is very similar.

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H I S T O R I C A L  F I C T I O N

A L L  T H E  L I G H T  W E  C A N N O T  S E E  B Y  A N T H O N Y  D O E R R

all the lightS Y N O P S I S – Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and at twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s great-uncle lives. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I read this book a while ago, but I remember that I was astounded by its simple yet beautiful prose, its deeply moving characterization, and the fast-pace of it despite it being a rather lengthy book. This, quite like Everything You Want Me to Be is a really great transition book because both characters are young teens, leading extremely difficult lives in increasingly tumultuous times. I also really love that All the Light We Cannot See strays far from the Jewish-Nazi romance, which I think is just a really disgusting trope – it focuses on the independent lives of a German boy and a French girl without falling into overused, tired, offensive tropes. It’s deeply impactful, and I’d highly recommend it – don’t be daunted by the size; you’ll fly through it!

This is perfect for fans of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, of course. I don’t have very many other recommendations or comparisons because historical fiction isn’t really a genre I usually reach out for.

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 H A R D  H I T T I N G  C O N T E M P O R A R I E S

N I N E T E E N  M I N U T E S  B Y  J O D I  P I C O U L T

19 minsS Y N O P S I S – Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens–until the day its complacency is shattered by an act of violence. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened before her very own eyes- or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show–destroying the closest of friendships and families.

The synopsis found on Goodreads skirts around the issue – it’s about a school shooting. But it’s not just about a school shooting, it’s about the aftermath, the legal side of it as well as the emotional side of it. I read it a while ago, but if I recall correctly, it focuses on several different perspectives, including the perspective of an ex-friend of the killer who witnessed the shooting, the prosecutor (who is also the mother of this ex-friend), the mother of the shooter, and several others. There’s always the precarious question of why this happened, could it have been prevented, and how do people move on from it? I especially appreciated that Picoult included the shooter’s mother’s perspective – it just adds yet another layer to an already impactful, moving novel.

If you’ve read The Hate List by Jennifer Brown (another book I’d highly recommend, and it’s YA), Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and enjoyed watching One Tree Hill, you may really enjoy this book too.

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 H I G H  F A N T A S Y

T H E  N A M E  O F  T H E  W I N D  B Y  P A T R I C K  R O T H F U S S

name of the windS Y N O P S I S – This is the tale of a magically gifted young man named Kvothe who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. It follows the intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king. From magic schools to dimly-lit taverns, The Name of the Wind is richly woven, creative and unputdownable.

If you’ve been around for a bit, you’ve probably heard of this book, and rightly so. Despite having not read its sequel (I’m still waiting on the third installment so I can finally binge), but The Name of the Wind is one of those fantasies that you need to read. The main character is endlessly fascinating – his life story, his current persona, everything about him screams bad-ass, and I love reading stories with bad-ass main characters. It involves magic schools and classes and a really sweet romance in the teen years, which makes it yet another great transition read because it focuses on themes of growing up and coming-of-age. It’s just a fantastic read, all-in-all, and I’d highly recommend it as a stepping stone if you’re interested in getting into adult high fantasy.

This is perfect if you enjoy Game of Thrones, if you’ve read and loved The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, and even though it has very little similarities, and is just infinitely better, infinitely more intricate than Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, something tells me you’d enjoy it if you enjoy that series.

So there it is – if you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment below, and I might make this a series. There are so many other fantastic adult books out there that have double-appeal, and I cannot stress enough the importance of reading a wide variety of books, so I’d love to make more posts like this. Until then, thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

Review | Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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FTC DISCLOSURE

♡   S T A R

Libby Strout is fat – she was once called “America’s Fattest Teen” after an unfortunate incident in her past. Libby’s just trying to live her life after her mother passed away, but kids in high school are cruel, and nobody wants to look past Libby’s weight and really get to know her for who she is. And then there’s Jack Masselin – he’s popular, he’s attractive, but he has the reputation of the school douche because people think he’s too egotistical and arrogant to remember who they are. In fact, Jack has prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness. He can’t recognize and recall people’s faces – not his family’s, not his friends’, not anybody’s. When Libby and Jack’s paths collide, they form an unlikely bond.

As a fat person, media can be alienating. When I turn on the TV or go to the movies, everyone on screen looks a certain way, the way that my parents want me to look, the way that society wants me to look, and I’m constantly reminded that no matter what I do, what successes I have in life, my fatness will remain the focal point for many people. The stark lack of representation fat people have in the media- past crass stereotypes and being the butt of cheap jokes- is a slap in the face. And I’ve learned to turn the cheek, for the most part, but when a book like Holding Up the Universe comes along, promising representation, promising a narrative that I can see myself in, I foolishly lean forward.

Which is exactly what’s wrong with this book. Libby Strout is written to be some sort of strong force in the world that constantly puts her down; as a result, she is a caricature. A battle warrior facing off against the cruel world, with no flaws of her own, with a larger-than-life personality, giving off the message that unless you’re fighting and winning some sort of war every second of your life, are you really doing fatness right? Now, I understand that not all people’s experiences mirror mine, and that’s okay. But when the main character in a book is a fighter archetype, battling against society’s perspectives on fatness, that character has to live up to it.

But Libby is nothing but fat, and that defeats the purpose, no? Niven was trying to give  off the message that fat people are more than just fat (no shit), but she fails astoundingly because Libby’s life revolves around her fatness. Her love life revolves around finding someone who will look past her fatness, someone who’ll have sex with her regardless of her being fat – another thing which blows my mind, because the book starts off with her wanting to lose weight by having sex! Her relationship with her father revolves around how it’s not his fault that she’s fat. Her past is described by how she used to be fatter than she is now, and her future is also about how people will eventually look past her fatness, hopefully, maybe. Fat people are more than their fatness, and for a book about a fat character to contradict the very message it’s trying to pass along is laughably offensive.

Because what are Libby’s goals? I didn’t see any! She was a reader, but that doesn’t really go past anything except her relating her fatness to the character in her favorite book. Is Libby good in school? What are her career goals? What are her hobbies? She likes to dance, alright, but even that one aspect of her not directly related to her fatness is still saturated by it. We are people with lives – every single moment of our lives does not involve our weight.

Something similar happens with Jack’s character, though I can’t speak extensively about it since I don’t have a disability. It seems to give off the stench of “Jack is broken and must be fixed to have a good life.” These narratives written by authors who do not share their characters’ disabilities make me very uncomfortable; I am a firm believer that you can write whatever you’d like to, but there are some narratives that are better left alone if you can’t navigate them in a sensitive way. That coupled with the fact that Jack’s afro was described as a “lion’s mane,” and his hair was the only thing that seemed to indicate that he was black screamed tokenism to me. Where Libby’s outward appearance extended to everything she ever did, Jack’s race was strictly superficial, and as any person of color living as a minority in the US knows, it is never that simple.

So there it is – this book had very many thematic issues that ran deeper than technicalities like characterization and writing style, both of which were actually pretty good. If Niven was writing in her lane, as I say it, I’m sure I’d adore her work – she does have the ability to pull you in and keep you reading, but there was so much thematically wrong with this book that I can’t seem to give credit where it may be due. If you’re looking for good fat rep, just skip this, and maybe read a book by a fat author – like Dumplin’.

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G O O D R E A D S  |  A M A Z O N

ARC Review | Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

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FTC DISCLOSURE

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆  a n d  a  h a l f  s t a r s

Hattie Hoffman is a senior in high school, and she’s admired by many – she has a stable boyfriend, lovely parents, and a dazzling personality that everyone is charmed by. But Hattie has a secret; she was involved in an online relationship with a man that was the only person Hattie related to in her small-town life, surrounded by people who have different ambitions. She’s an actor, and she’s spent her entire life playing parts, both on the stage and in her relationships, but with this one person, she can be herself. But before she can achieve her dream of moving to New York and becoming an actress, her body is found floating in the river, brutally stabbed. During the investigation, the town’s secrets begin to emerge in a story so twisty and turny that you never see what’s coming next.

Thrillers tend to go one of three ways for me; they’re either too predictable and fall flat, or they throw you curveball after curveball, leaving you disoriented, confused and so, indifferent. But then there are the thrillers that are perfectly balanced, where each tidbit of information is revealed at precisely the right moment, so that you’re never bored or left hanging for too long, but also can keep up with everything that’s going on. Everything You Want Me to Be fits into the third category. Mejia is extremely skilled at pacing her story. It’s not a simple tale; there are several subplots given the multiple perspectives: Hattie’s viewpoint showing flashbacks; Peter, the person she had an affair with, who is also her high school English teacher; and the detective who is on her case.  But despite these several intricacies, they are balanced precariously, yet delicately. As aforementioned, every little piece of information, every facet of the characters’ personalities and their darker secrets is released at just the right moment; as a result, you’re constantly curious, and constantly engaged (I read the book in a day!)

Many thrillers tend to rely on twists at the last moment, sudden changes in pacing and narrative that often fall flat and seem cheap; Mejia strays far from that trope. Everything You Want Me to Be is a dense psychological thriller driven by its characters. Each character is flawed and multi-faceted, forcing you to root for them, and sometimes wish for their downfall. Even Hattie; she’s unlikable, in many ways, given her penchant for manipulation and morphing her personality depending on who she is with (do you get the title now?) But despite this, you can’t help but feel for this also-relatable girl who feels stuck and unmotivated in a dreary, small-town life. There are two or three main suspects throughout the novel, but even they have both redeemable and damnable characteristics. The result is a complicated, interesting story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

I touched upon the relationship in this novel before – Hattie’s having an affair with her English teacher, Peter. This is a disturbing trope that is often romanticized in books, but I would argue that this particular book doesn’t glamorize it, but rather shows you just how damaging and problematic these types of relationships are. You feel for Hattie; Peter is the only person she can relate to, but certain things she does raises questions. Peter is clearly more to blame in this scenario – he’s older, he’s in the position of authority, and he’s married, and you do despise him for this, but his inner push-and-pull and his otherwise deeply empathetic nature stops you from assigning him the villainous archetype. This is not a trope discussed a la Pretty Little Liars, where the relationship is long-lasting, romanticized and shown as hashtag-goals; Hattie and Peter are disturbing, and the controversy (if it can be called that) is dealt with sensitively, yet honestly.

I had initially given the book a 4-star rating, but a good month has passed since I read it, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I remember clearly each and everything that came to pass; I still feel for the characters, I still am disturbed by the psychological nature of it, so I’m bumping it up to a 4 and a half star rating. It’s truly fascinating,  and will keep you up late at night, immersed and unable to stop.

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A M A Z O N  |  G O O D R E A D S

Bollywood Movies You Should Watch – Part I

Today, I thought I’d do something different on the blog, and give you recommendations, but not book recommendations. Movies. And Bollywood movies, at that! Bollywood’s been a big part of my life ever since I was a kid; Indian cinema has a huge market in Pakistani audiences because we speak the same language, have extremely similar cultures, similar music styles, similar values and basically the same history. For these reasons, I’ve been exposed to so much Bollywood throughout my life, and there are stellar movies in Indian cinema that aren’t given a chance to shine outside of South Asia.

I did a post a few months ago about “foreign literature,” and the implications of that phrase – that anything non-Western (or Anglo-centered, to be precise) is shunned as “too foreign.” And the literary and non-literary entertainment from non-Anglo regions that are given some attention are 99% those narratives that emphasize our Other-ness, or the negatives in our societies. Slumdog Millionaire was such a mediocre movie, but it’s about the slums, so it’s going to get all the praise, all the accolades and win an Oscar while we’re at it. The films from Pakistan that get recognition are the ones that highlight the negative stereotypes. These things exist – of course they do, but it’s uncomfortable for me to see that my culture (and cultures similar to mine) are only given exposure when a certain type of narrative is being discussed.

Because of this general trend, I really wanted to spotlight some Bollywood movies that are near and dear to my heart, that present South Asian culture as it is without sensationalism, without a harsh emphasis on negative stereotypes but still discusses them from an #OwnVoices gaze rather than the Western-Gaze. Bollywood is fun – it’s vibrant, it has fantastic soundtracks, it has so much talent in acting and music, and I definitely think there’s something in this list for everyone. So with that unnecessarily long introduction, let’s dive into the post!


K A P O O R  A N D  S O N S

Kapoor & Sons was released last year, and it’s an incredible tale encompassing so many important themes – mainly the importance of family. When two brothers’ grandfather is hospitalized, they fly out to India and come home to a dysfunctional system, where their parents are constantly at each others’ throats. The two brothers have beef among them too, and when they both find a friend in the same girl, things are worsened. The performances in this movie are magnificent, from the violent parents to the shy, quiet younger brother to the charming, brooding older one. The music is fun and upbeat, and the story keeps going places you least expect. I cannot recommend this movie enough. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Available on YouTube (from $3.99) | DVD on Amazon | iTunes


K A L  H O  N A A  H O

(No subtitles in the trailer, sorry, but I’ll tell you what it’s about. The movie has subs though!)

Kal Ho Naa Ho was probably the first Bollywood movie that made me cry, and I was a child when I saw it. Ever since it came out in 2003, I’ve watched it every few months – never get tired of it. It’s a story about a girl named Naina, who lives in New York with her widowed mother, her grandmother, her younger brother, and her younger half-sister. Naina has a lot of pent-up anger in her life due to her always-quarrelling mother and grandma, and the trauma of her father having taken his life not so long ago. When a ridiculously bubbly, larger-than-life neighbor named Aman moves into the house next door, he teaches her a thing or two about herself. But Aman has a secret that could destroy lives.

I can’t explain to you how much I love this movie – it’s heartbreaking, it’s entertaining, it has incredibly hilarious moments. It has probably the best love triangle I’ve ever experienced, and you all probably know by now that I despise love triangles. If there’s one Indian movie that I can watch over and over again without getting tired, it’d be this one, hands down.

Available on Netflix | Watch it on YouTube from $2.99 | DVD on Amazon | iTunes


3  I D I O T S

In South Asia, we have an epidemic – parents want their children to go into STEM fields. You can either be a doctor or an engineer – everything else lowers your worth. It’s something I’ve personally never had to deal with, but so many people around me have gone through the pressure associated with these expectations. And even though my parents never forced me to go into a certain field, academics are given an unprecedented importance. If I got a 95%, they’d ask me why I missed one or two questions – not in a mean way, but it’s something that comes naturally in our culture. We’re stuck in a race. Our academic systems are structured like they’re one massive competition, and if you’re not near the top, you fall behind.

3 Idiots was the first movie I saw that tackled this subject head-on. It’s fun and entertaining, and the fact that it’s centered around three university friends gives it that extra umph and relateability, but underneath it all, it packs a strong punch. It emphasizes the importance of learning above grades, even within STEM fields. It centers a dynamic character who values creativity over mechanics, knowledge over academic achievement, learning over memorizing. And it struck a chord so deep within me that it forever changed the way I studied, and it changed many South Asian parents’ perspectives on studying too. So many student suicides in places like India and Pakistan go unnoticed – the pressure is real, and for many people, 3 Idiots told us that we’re not alone, that there’s another way. It’s just really fucking good.

DVD on Amazon | iTunes


Q U E E N

For much of our lives, South Asian women are given the impression that our ultimate purpose is to get married, lol. For upper classes residing in the cities, trends are changing little by little, but for those women in smaller cities or rural areas, dependence on the patriarchy is not a way of life, it’s THE way of life. In comes Queen, a story about a simple young girl from a small city with a traditionally conservative set of values whose fiancée dumps two days before their wedding. She’s heartbroken, and for a while, she thinks her life is over. But in a moment of sheer boldness, she decides she’ll go on their honeymoon… alone.

Now that might not seem like a big deal to a lot of you, but it’s such an unconventional idea in that culture – for a girl to go off alone in a country she’s never been in on a honeymoon where her husband isn’t present, lol. But Queen is all about one woman embracing life, learning to break away from a conservative life and embrace confidence, embrace who she is without ever losing her culture either. It’s a feminist powerhouse of a film with a brilliant main performance, an adventure through Europe, and a character you learn to love with all your heart. It’s so, so, so good.

Watch it on YouTube for $2.99 | Amazon | iTunes


C H A K  D E !  I N D I A

Similar to Queen, this is a movie that’s a feminist powerhouse. It explores patriarchal society and women doing unconventional things without spotlighting oppression, per se. Women’s sports barely gets funding in South Asian countries, because culture dictates that sports is a man’s profession. Chak De! India follows one women’s hockey team’s rise under the tutelage of a former-player-turned coach named Kabir Khan, who was shunned from the Indian hockey scene when he missed the winning shot during the World Cup. Kabir takes it upon himself – if he lost the match so many years ago, he’d do everything in his power to get India to win the World Cup. And he’d do it with a team of fierce, dedicated women – the best of the best.

This is another movie that speaks a lot to me as someone who always wanted to break free from the patriarchal nature of my society. Although I was never sporty, simply watching these fierce women do stuff that society deems unacceptable was inspirational. It’s a fun movie too – not just a typical sports movie because it focuses a lot on friendship and Indian culture on top of teamwork and sports. It’s one that I’d really recommend to everyone, and it’s easily available online for streaming and such.

Watch on YouTube for $1.49 | Amazon | iTunes

So those are all the recommendations I have for today – when I sat down and actually started to compile the list, I realized that I had a shit ton of movies that I really love and think non-Bollywood watchers would enjoy too, so I might make this a series, and divide lists by genre or topic. If you’d be interested in that, please let me know. And if you watch Bollywood movies, leave your recommendations in the comments below!

A Very Arc-ish Readathon: Announcement & TBR

a very arcish readathon

(Feel free to use this graphic in your posts!)

Hello, everyone! Today, I come to you with an announcement for a readathon that I’ll be hosting in April. Us bloggers have the privilege of getting our hands on ARCs – whether those are physical ARCs or digital ARCs through Netgalley and Edelweiss and such. And sometimes, we go overboard and request too many at the same time, or sometimes life gets in the way, throwing off our reading schedules and we fall behind on all those ARCs that we need to get to. I’m way behind on the review copies that I need to read – my ratio is falling behind, and I really need to get my shit together. I thought that I’d spend the month of April clearing out my shelf – and then I thought, why not get others to join in?

W H E N

The readathon runs from 12:01 AM (your time) on April 1st to April 30th, 11:59 PM (your time).

G O A L S  A N D  C H A L L E N G E S

This is a low-pressure, low-key readathon, and so it doesn’t really have any challenges. The only goal is to read as many ARCs as possible; if you’re feeling ambitious, and are trying to catch up on your 80% ratio goal on Netgalley, aim for that. If your goal (like mine) is to just read as many ARCs as possible, and hopefully read everything on your shelf, you can do that. Take it easy – I know reviewing and blogging can be stressful as it is; you don’t need to add more pressure on yourself by adding unnecessary challenges.

H A S H T A G

I’ll be tracking my progress on social media, specifically Twitter, using the hashtag #AVAReadathon. You can join the conversation by using that hashtag; it’ll be fun to engage with other users more readily!

G I V E A W A Y

At the end of the month, I will randomly pick two winners who will both win a pre-order of a book of their choice. This can be a pre-order of an ARC you read and really enjoyed, or it can be anything else – as long as it’s a pre-order. The giveaway is open internationally (as long as The Book Depository ships to you), and if you’re an international participant to whom TBD does not ship, you will be able to choose an eBook pre-order that will be gifted to you.

H O W  T O  E N T E R

You must put up a post on your blog (or Instagram, or Twitter, or Tumblr – literally just anywhere on the Internet) announcing the readathon, and if you’d like, make a TBR. You can link your posts in the linky at the end of this post. Please also link this post in your own posts so that other people who want to participate can easily find this information.

And that’s about it for what the readathon is and the prizes. If you’d like to know more, or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


W H A T  I ‘ L L  B E  R E A D I N G

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A D D  Y O U R  L I N K S

Book Review | Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing follows the generations of two half-sisters, separated by forces out of their control. One sister is sold into slavery, and the other is married off to a powerful British slaver, but each sister’s story lasts for only one chapter. The book follows their children, and their children’s children at various points in time, following their bloodline from Ghana to Alabama to Boston and New York.

Homegoing is not an easy book to read, despite being a short one. It’s not meant to be a comfortable book; it doesn’t exist for leisure, with the intention of making the reader lose herself in the story, or to find comfort in the characters like so much other fiction does. Homegoing is harsh and brutal; its punches land true to their mark, forcing you to look in the past and the present and analyze what’s happening around you. It’s honest, it’s dark, it’s bleak, and it’s infinitely important with its unflinching portrayal of history and the persistence of human cruelty. It holds nothing back, and in a time where minorities in the US – especially African Americans – are expected to maintain idle niceties in the face of severe oppression and persecution, Homegoing is a resonating voice. If I could be in charge of school reading, this would be a book that I would make required reading because it’s so much more than ink on paper. It’s a living, breathing narrative that exists just as much to convey stories as it does to show you the mirror.

It’s a book that covers so much ground – warring villages in Africa, honor, power and culture starting from eighteenth century Ghana, while also tackling race relations in the United States, from slavery to the Civil War to segregation to the struggles faced by the black community in modern day. It shows you that unlike what you may believe, persecution and oppression did not end when slavery did, or segregation did, but its ugliness continues to thrive like a slower, lethal poison.

Homegoing is so many stories within one, with each chapter following a different character. The book spans 300 pages in the hardcover edition, and each character gets 20 pages, give or take a couple, meaning that it follows 15 different characters. Fifteen characters, each at a different point in time, each with a different story – it sometimes reads like a short story collection, but also not really, because somehow Gyasi makes all the different stories connect. Whether it’s through the mention of another character halfway through the chapter, or a flashback to something that happened a couple chapters ago, the stories – despite being different – all flow together. That, in itself, is a triumph.

But what makes this novel so technically striking, apart from its narrative flow, is how well fleshed-out each and every character is. I’ve never been one for generational stories – granted, I haven’t read too many, but the few that I have suffer from one major flaw: the characters’ development is always sacrificed, never fully appreciated and explored. But Homegoing, somehow, manages to rectify that flaw, because each character has a distinct voice, a personality and a being. With each chapter-end, you feel a profound sense of loss because you know that chances are that you’re not seeing this character again in the story. But with that sense of loss comes the more powerful sense of hope with the knowledge that Gyasi’s going to surprise you more, and sweep you in with the tale of another character, a promise of another friend.

Perhaps the only flaw that the book has falls towards the end, which I felt was rushed – perhaps even unnecessary. I won’t say more at the risk of spoilers, but I felt that the very last chapter perhaps should’ve been longer than the others, to give the entire story the closure that it needed. The book spans two centuries, and I would’ve liked to see a longer end than just twenty pages, if you know what I’m saying.

But apart from that very minor flaw, Homegoing truly is an incredibly important read with characters that feel real, a writing style that keeps you captivated and above all, thinking, and stories that will stick with you for a long, long time. It doesn’t matter what your preferred genre is – be it young adult or fantasy or romance – you need to read this book. It’s a powerful debut, a force to be reckoned with, and will be remembered and revered as such for a long, long time – I’m sure of it.

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Top Ten Tuesday | Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish– you basically get a topic every week, and you comprise a list of ten, or however many you’re able, that pertains to the topic of the week. Today’s topic is Top Ten Books on Your Spring TBR.

Some incredible books are coming out this spring, which is new for me because I’m usually most drawn to fall releases (is it just me or do more fantasy novels come out in the fall time)? But even though I’ve been in a reading / blogging slump, I’ve been keeping up with releases on Twitter, and spring promises some really fantastic reads. Side note, can this weather even be called spring? It’s March, and there’s a snow blizzard happening right now outside my doors…

I thought I’d divide my list into two – the first part being the books on Netgalley that I need to get to now that I’m semi-out-of-my-slump, and the other half are new releases that I really want to get my hands on. So without further ado, let’s get started.

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T H E  I N E X P L I C A B L E  L O G I C  O F  M Y  L I F E  B Y  B E N J A M I N  A L I R É  

S A È N Z  

I read and adored Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and I read that so long ago that I’m interested to see where this one goes. I’ve actually read around half of it, and I did really enjoy what I read so far (despite there being some problematic issues, that I’ll talk more on when I do a review). I have, however, heard that the problems increase in the second half, which is really such a shame. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life follows the story of Sal, a boy whose mostly been comfortable with his story; he was adopted by a single dad in a Mexican-American family, and he’s white himself. But when tragedy hits his and his best friend, Samantha’s life, Sal begins to question the meaning of life, and is forced to confront grief, loss and the meaning of faith. Sal becomes irritable, angry, almost like he’s on a path to self-destruction.

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T H E  T W E L V E  L I V E S  O F  S A M U E L  H A W L E Y  B Y  H A N N A H  T I N T I

Not gonna lie, I mainly requested this book because it has one stunning cover, but it sounds freaking amazing. It’s a father-daughter story, drawing on themes of loss and family to weave a part-thriller, and part-coming of age story. Samuel Hawley has a past as a criminal, chronicled on his body through twelve scars. He and his daughter move to a small town in Massachusetts to try and live their lives after the mysterious death of his wife, but Sam’s criminal past catches on to him, seeping into his daughter’s life too. It takes place in several different areas of the US, and I’m so drawn to the father-daughter aspect of it that I can’t wait to read it.

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I T  S T A R T E D  W I T H  G O O D B Y E  B Y  C H R I S T I N A  J U N E

Again, another cover-request (I really need to stop doing that), but I got lucky because again, this sounds like something cute and light and entertaining. Tatum is falsely accused of a crime, so she’s stuck under house-arrest under the watchful eye of her stepmother all summer. She spends her time doing community service in the mornings, and working on her secret graphic design business at night – but when family secrets come out, things start to change. I’m guessing there’s a romance aspect to this otherwise family-centered drama, and I’m so excited to get to it.

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M A D  M I S S  M I M I C  B Y  S A R A H  H E N S T R A

I haven’t read a ton of YA historical fiction, mainly because historical fiction rarely is my thing, but this sounds interesting. It follows the story of Leo, who lives in Victorian London as part of a privileged family. Leo has a speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak, but she can mimic others flawlessly. The only person who really takes an interest in her is Mr. Thornfax, but something’s off about him. Set in a backdrop of 1870s London terrorized and reeling from an opium epidemic, Leo must uncover the truth.

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T H E  F A L L  O F  L I S A  B E L L O W  B Y  S U S A N  P E R A B O

This book is a unique sort of look into mystery and crime – when a middle school girl is abducted, another school girl is left behind, who witnessed the crime and now has to cope with what she experienced. It seems like it’ll be a psychological analysis of trauma in adolescents who are reeling from unthinkable experiences, and as someone who’s studied trauma in children in college, I’m interested to see how it’s employed in fiction.

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W H E N  D I M P L E  M E T  R I S H I  B Y  S A N D H Y A  M E N O N

When Dimple Met Rishi is, by far, my most anticipated contemporary of the year, mainly because it follows the story of an entirely-Indian cast in an arranged-marriage type of plot. As a Pakistani, I’ve been exposed to arranged marriage as the norm (despite my parents never encouraging it), and the portrayals of arranged marriage in Western society is like this ancient, barbaric tradition where the bride and groom are forced to marry. It’s not really like that at all in most cases – the parents set two people up, they consent, they marry, no force involved. This book seems to present it in a light manner, and I’m so excited to read it.

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F L A M E  I N  T H E  M I S T  B Y  R E N É E  A H D I E H

With The Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh climbed her way into my auto-buy authors’ list, and if Flame in the Mist is half as good as her previous duology, I’m sure I’ll love it. It’s basically a Mulan retelling, I believe, about an accomplished alchemist named Mariko who’s smart and cunning, but isn’t afforded the leisures that boys are. When she’s on her way to be married in a political alliance, her carriage is ambushed by bandits, and Mariko makes a narrow escape.

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Q U E E N S  O F  G E E K  B Y  J E N  W I L D E

Queens of Geek sounds like such a wonderful, warm tale of love, friendship and just fun. Three friends – Charlie, Taylor and Jamie are going to SupaCon, and they’re sure it’ll be the time of their lives. Charlie’s ex-crush, Alyssa, shows up at the con, and they form a connection that Charlie had always thought was one-sided. Taylor’s the opposite of Charlie; she likes to blend in, and doesn’t like change – so much so that she’s not telling Jamie that her feelings transcend friendship. But SupaCon might be her chance to do something daring, to try something she otherwise would not.

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R A M O N A  B L U E  B Y  J U L I E  M U R P H Y

Ramona Blue follows the story of Ramona Blue, who stands six-feet tall with flaming blue hair. Ramona’s been sure of three things in her life: she likes girls, she loves her family, and she’s destined for something bigger than her small-town life. But certain events don’t let her escape – she’s forced to be the adult in her family, but the return of Freddie, her childhood best friend offers her a distraction. As their connection rekindles, Ramona comes to realize that she might like girls and boys. I know this book got a lot of flack for potentially having problematic language in the past, but the author has come out and said that it’s a book about a girl coming to terms with her bisexuality – and Julie Murphy’s dealt with contemporaries so beautifully in the past, that I’m excited to see what she does.

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A L W A Y S  A N D  F O R E V E R ,  L A R A  J E A N  B Y  J E N N Y  H A N

Next to When Dimple Met Rishi, this is perhaps my most anticipated contemporary of the year. I loved the first book in this series, and while I was iffy about the second one,  I think Jenny Han does such a wonderful job of writing wholesome contemporaries, with the perfect balance between family dynamics, friendships, personal development and romance that no way am I going to give up this trilogy just yet. I’m not going to read the synopsis, because I want to go into it oblivious, but I do hope that there’s no love triangle or turmoil – I would really, really like to see Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s story laid out to its full potential.

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Well, that’s it for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. Let me know what books from the ones above you’re looking forward to, and which ones you’ve already read and enjoyed. As always, thanks for stopping by – and happy reading!

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