Just Visiting – Dahlia Adler | 5 Stars

Book | Just Visiting

Genre(s)|Young Adult / Contemporary

Date of Publication| November 17th, 2015

My Rating | 5 STARS

Cover:

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REVIEW:

Book(s) – Just Visiting

Feels– ALL THE BEST FRIENDSHIP FEELS.

Tears – None (Was a blissfully happy book!)

I received an e-ARC of this book from the author but this did not affect the review in any way.

Hey guys,

Apologies in advance for all the squealing and fangirling you might read in this review. Because Just Visiting is not just a good book, it is a great book. And for me it holds a special importance because I finally saw my culture and my people represented as something other than comedic relief sidekicks, nerds or weirdoes. Here’s the short synopsis of the book I took from Goodreads:

Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.

Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn’t go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won’t stand out for being Mexican.

One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective… only to learn she’s set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they’ve sworn to leave.

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don’t know about each other’s pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they’ll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.

So, this book. Wow.

When I started it, I thought the description about the characters and the girls’ lives and stuff was unneeded and we could’ve just jumped directly into the plot and moved forward. But I soon realized that there wasn’t any direct plot. There are two distinct types of books, I’ve come to realize: Plot & Character. This one was a Characters book.

This book explored the extensive character development of Victoria Reyes, our Mexican protagonist and best friend to Raegan Forrester, poor white girl and other protagonist and best friend to aforementioned Victoria – both of whom want to get out of Charytan, their small town. The book takes a look at the smaller journeys in life, the literal ones that shape one’s lives. Rae and Vic visit colleges, it’s their senior year and they’ve got to make hard choices and do what their heart tells them to do.

Now, here’s all the squealing and fangirling. Rae and Vic were perfectly believable as seventeen year old teenage girls and that was my favourite bit of the entire book. One of my problems is when writers portray us as calm, cool, politely-speaking people because to be honest, I’m the completely opposite. And I connected on so many levels with the two MCs, who also threw in the occasional jab at the stereotypes and the ‘normal’ way of life propagated and built by the society we live in.

“The Sun Also Rises? Spoiler alert: it’s more of Papa Reyes’s favourite genre – White Man Lit.” – Raegan, Just Visiting.

“No one ever calls the guy slutty.” – Victoria, Just Visiting.

The book is unafraid and touches upon several key issues such as poverty, education and some others I don’t want to mention as they’ll give away key plot points. But it does it very well and not in a preachy or info-dump kinda way.

Now, the Indian stuff I’m so excited about.

MUCH EXCITE

MUCH EXCITE

This book, as I mentioned, has a vast array of diverse characters but being an Indian fangirl in Mumbai, what I adored was the fact that the hero, the ‘hot’ male character wasn’t a white jock / popular kid but a nerdy American-Indian guy who was visiting colleges checking out pre-med courses. [Indian guy, had to be pre-med or engineering, you can’t stray too far from the masses.]

Devarajan Shah, or Dev as he goes by in the book is such a cutie. And very gorgeous too. I loved the fact that the book did not make fun of his interest in comic books; in fact it was his USP! From nerdy t-shirts, to him mentioning Indian food* which had me drooling when I was reading it at night, I loved every aspect of Dev. He wasn’t flawless, and that was pretty darn cool. He made mistakes and then made the effort to fix them.

There were two guys I mashed and thought of as Dev in my head. The one in the red is Ranbir Kapooor, the one in the purple is Imran Khan.

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Both are Bollywood actors and very good-looking and I imagine a mixture between the two to be Dev. Hope these pictures help you picture the brilliant being that “Dev fucking Shah” is. [I made an effort to search for pictures where they’re wearing kinda nerdy t-shirts and look like eighteen year olds, so please appreciate, thanks.]

“How do you feel about khandvi and samosas?” – Dev, Just Visiting.

*For the record, samosas are amazing and I love them. If any of you ever come to Mumbai, feel free to drop by and have some. I can’t cook for nuts but I’ll buy you some delicious ones. I thought it might go the conventional Gujju way and offer Dhoklas and Theplas, but I like the touch of diversity and culture here too.

I also loved Victoria’s interests – fashion, where I’m from, unless you’re really good, it’s not a good choice to pursue but I did relate immensely to the part where she has to make choices – to do what she wants, what her family thinks, her friend, what society thinks etc.

The book is very positive: from the stand on slut-shaming, to the diversity being brought out to the forefront, it is a wonderful book. And I think you should give it a go. If only to meet Dev. Yeah, it’s the first time I’ve seen an Indian book boyfriend and you’re gonna be hearing about it – a lot. I was so happy, and a Gujju too, one who eats the spicy food I do, watches and reads similar stuff, was probably brought up with the same values and knows the same things I do about my country.

Thank you, Dahlia Adler for creating Dev. Someone said it, we need diverse books so people like me (POC and LGBTQ+) can see ourselves represented in books. It is so important.

Five stars for this book, and a B, because I’m still under a hangover.

Until next time,

Nia Carnelio.

November 9 – Colleen Hoover | 2 Stars

Book | November 9

Genre(s)| New Adult / Contemporary / Romance

Date of Publication| November 10th, 2015

My Rating | 2 STARS

Cover:

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REVIEW:

Book(s) – November 9

Feels– NONE I AM DEAD INSIDE

Tears – None (I might’ve cried, because it was so bad)

Hey guys,

I thought I had other books to review and the 250 words review I left on Goodreads for November 9 would suffice, but I wanted to post it on my blog and so here we are.

I’ve read few Colleen Hoover books – Hopeless, Losing Cinderella, Never Never: Part One, Confess and now, November 9 and I don’t know why I continue reading her stuff if none of her books are ones I like. I suppose it’s to do with the fact that nearly everyone who reads them praises them to the high heavens and then I’m intrigued enough to check them out.

CoHo’s books are bloody fucking confusing okay. Here are my tips to enjoy a Colleen Hoover novel:

1. Leave logic & reason behind, like far behind.
2. Forget that you’re a feminist and don’t like weak heroines who need guys to tell them how beautiful they are.
3. Learn to love the overused trope: girl meets boy – boy tells girl she’s the bomb – girl falls in love – pretentious plot line (meeting once a year) and finally, after huge but not really plot point reveal and acceptance, the happily ever after.

Also, is it just me or did this book go to great lengths to defend it? From defending romance novels (no one’s attacking you, chill) to insta-love (“Ours is legit.”) to the writer within the book, this book was a damn fucked up read. This book literally had Benton speaking for Colleen Hoover and the way she replied to criticism. Every time Benton said something about writing, I could see Hoover writing it as a backhanded slap to reviewers who’d dissed the insta-love, the romance in her books. And I’m sorry, but I don’t agree to replying to criticism in a freaking book okay? It’s sneaky, and rude and frankly, bloody annoying. And it goes on throughout the book.

But that’s not to say she doesn’t have a good (semblance of a) plot. The fire, scars, and then last reveal – cool, cool. But not the stuff I’m interested in. Good thing she manages to make her books snappy and quick, and they manage to hook you on the first page -with the fucked up characters, the drab heroine and the alpha-but-not-really hero. Sigh.

And pardon me, but I’d liked to draw a few comparisons here:

SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

If you’ve read Confess, then apart from the confessions-to-paintings aspect, there was nothing respectable about the novel. November 9 boasts of a similar construct. Meeting once a year is very cool. But here’s what I didn’t get, why did the heroes have to have prior connections to the girl? Even in Confess, the guy knew the girl’s dying ex. And the painting hanging on her wall is his, given to her by dying boyfriend who said it was his. And in November 9, (MAJOR SPOILERS) Ben is the guy causes her burns leading to scars leading to insecurity leading to how he helps her realize her beauty and blah blah blah.

END OF SPOILERS.

Fallon and Ben were literal copy characters of previous Hoover novels. Simply with new names, new professions and new quirks stitched on to them. HOW IS THIS SO POPULAR? Could someone please explain the appeal of reading basically the same novel over and over again?

I read her books to get me out of a mini-slump and they reminded me why I was in one. And I’m not even mentioning the white-all-around characters, the death for plot’s sake, the completely ridiculously written Fallon who was so pathetic that I was cringing. Thank the lord for all the feminist, educated female writers I know of. There are ten of them for one of Fallon.

Two stars from my addled brain which was fuming with all the characterizations and an E for this one.

If you like your books chirpy but without an essence of truth, logic or remotely anything intelligent, November 9 is the one for you.

Until the next one,

Nia Carnelio.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids – Sarah Ockler | 4 Stars

Book | The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Genre(s)| Young Adult / Contemporary / Romance

Date of Publication| June 2nd,  2015

My Rating | 4 Amazing Stars

Cover:

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REVIEW:

Book(s) – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Feels– SO MANY FEELS – The good ones

Tears – None

 -I read this for free from Pulseit but this did not affect the review in any way-

Oh, this book. This gorgeous book – with that stunningly pretty cover and a wonderful, POC, protagonist and a sensible male character.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is the story of Elyse, and how she discovers herself, how she copes with adversity and deals with things in her life. And boy, does she deal with them.

Here’s the summary of the book to help you out (taken from Goodreads):

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .

I absolutely loved the plot and the storyline of the book –from flashes of Elyse’s past to the present, where she slowly falls for Christian. There is immense character development happening in the book, in a very paced way and that makes it very enjoyable to read.

Another aspect of the book I’d like to point out is the vast array of supporting characters it had who really brought out the novel – from Kirby – Elyse’s friend and Lemon, Kirby’s eccentric and amazingly insightful mother, Vanessa, the feminist who is one of my favourite female characters, especially because she starts out as the girl who Christian hooks up with and generally, these girls don’t go down well with the readers, and finally, Sebastian Kane- Christian’s younger brother. Well-developed sibling relationships are important to me and this book made me so happy with the way it portrayed Christian and Seb’s relationship. SO VERY CUTE. And Sebastian Kane is a gem of a character who needs to be appreciated as the cute little boy that he is.

ALL THE APPLAUSE FOR THIS BOOK

ALL THE APPLAUSE FOR THIS BOOK

Let’s talk about Elyse for a second, because holy cow, she is a brilliant protagonist. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids has a bit of poetry and verse and all things beautiful because of her. She is such a strong, calm female and the fact that she is a POC makes me so happy. The way her heritage and culture are explored and explained in the book, it has been done very well. I enjoyed learning about T&T and reading about the chocolate, though it did make me hungry at times. Hehe.

As for Christian *swoons*, he is a book boyfriend I’d keep forever. With that handsome face, he also has a wonderful personality and a beautiful heart. He certainly makes the effort to include Elyse but also gives her space to figure it out on her own. The romance between the two of them is slow and just perfect.

The book is beautifully written, with such a poignant feel to it that I was transported into the setting it provided. The book is also very diverse and feministic in its approach and I simply adored that. The way Ockler has created this group of characters who have their flaw, but are so very real – is just fantastic.

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Take a bow, Sarah Ockler, you’ve earned it.

If you’re looking for your next read, sprinkled with diversity and all the avant garde –ness possible with excellent writing and good plot line, look no further, you’ve found it.

Elyse’s story still resonates within me and I loved the book so, so much.

I end my review with my favourite quote from the book:

“Changed me into someone who could save myself.”

Until the next one,

Nia Carnelio.

 

The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh |4 Stars

Book | The Wrath and the Dawn

Genre(s)| Fantasy / Young Adult / Romance

Date of Publication| May 12th, 2015

My Rating | 4 (sort of confused) STARS

Cover:

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REVIEW:

Book(s) – The Wrath and the Dawn

Feels– Some, some very piercing ones

Tears – None

 This book makes you feel a lot of things, some good, some bad, and some really confusing ones. I read this book back at the start of July, when I was bed-rest from my dislocated knee. And I have to say, I really did like it. It captured me flawlessly and I was pretty much hooked, even though the One Thousand Nights fairy-tale isn’t one of my favourites. Let’s give you guys the blurb of the novel (taken from Goodreads):

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

So, firstly we have this feisty, strong female character – Sharzad – who marries the Caliph to find out just why he’s murdering teenage girl brides. Very effective plan, yeah? She claims to have a heart of stone, one that will not break etc. etc. but she quickly falls for the Caliph and he falls for her too. Dandy, right?

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But she had a guy back home – Tariq, who she would’ve married. And there is a reason for the senseless murder of the brides which is slightly apparent from the prologue but that is the crux of the book and I don’t want to reveal any of it.

The world building is pretty good in this book. Or maybe I simply felt at home reading about the Persian-Indian setting with the clothes, accessories and rituals etc. having already seen them around in my country. The plot is quite good too, what the magic the father dabbles in and the stuff Tariq gets up to ‘rescue’ Sharzad. But she seems to be managing splendidly on her own.

What got me thinking after I rated the novel 4 Stars is how very quickly Sharzad’s will accommodated love for the Caliph and how very quickly the two of them began sharing secrets and all it takes is Shazi’s near death. His fascination for stories and his interest in his new bride nearly screws up his entire reign. But they even find time for a nice little outing in the streets.

Here’s what my point is – the book is very well-written, like the quotes alone can make you swoon. But the actual content of the book falls apart fairly quickly after a hard second look. I don’t actually mind that, but I did feel slightly cheated as I had gone on requesting binges for the ARC / finished copy of this book on books for trade and all on Twitter. And we all know how expensive overseas shipping is, yeah. So I am glad I borrowed a friend’s copy for this one.

The book is apparently a series, or a duology. Two books, the second one has been title ‘The Rose and The Dagger’ which is a nice title, but I don’t care too much for the cover. What irks me is that this book left the meat of the plot to the end while the romance developed which is the lingo for –there’s-another-book-you’ve-got-to-read. Sigh.

Overall, the book is perfectly fine, but once you go into how there is very little time for character development, (you blink and they’re in love) it sort of wonder about the Caliph and the Queen. And it’s a love triangle, ugh, I hate those. I do, they’re messy and complicated and wholly unnecessary for all I care. But I have to say, I loved the secondary characters – Despina and Jalal really brought some amazing moments to the story. I loved them.

This book confuses the hell out of me. I swing from loving to not liking it and it just confounds me so much. Like, sometimes I find Shazi a bit immature and stupid for going at things at the head and then I find her fierce, sometimes I find Khalid (the Caliph) broody and moody for no reason and others, very swoony. Just go, read it and make your own call on this one.

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I also have another One Thousand Nights retelling to read and I will most probably pick up The Rose and The Dagger when it comes out, so I’ll let you know how those work out in comparison to this one.

So the rating is 3.9-4 stars, mostly 4 because I did have a book hangover after this one.

All I’m saying is –this book has both good and bad points, if you can handle that, and you like young adult fantasy, go for it. Especially since it a DIVERSE read and we need more of those in the world. A protagonist who is a POC, a story set in Middle-Eastern lands, yep, if you’re looking for a diverse book, pick this one.

Until the next one,

Nia Carnelio

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