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Mini Reviews: A Million Junes & When Dimple Met Rishi

million junes

Title: A Million Junes
Author: Emily Henry
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
Format: eARC*

Emily Henry’s sophomore novel is a magical twist on Romeo and Juliet, about the weight of family legacies. I enjoyed her writing style in her debut novel The Love That Split the World (even if I didn’t love the problematic portrayal of First Nations peoples and cultures), and that remained true in this novel. Emily Henry’s writing is incredibly readable, but is still lush with sparks of magic and clear characterization. Her characters, especially June (“Jack”) and Saul, felt so believable, and their interactions were a joy to read.

The romance almost bordered on insta-love, with the added urgency of the family feud keeping them apart. While I enjoyed the scenes in which Jack and Saul saw moments from their respective relatives’ pasts, I didn’t love the magic system at play. Personally, I found the magic in A Million Junes to be very reminiscent of the magic in The Love That Split the World. It’s not exactly the same, but a very similar concept: traveling in time with a love interest to uncover some hidden truth. I found the story compelling and enjoyed the reading experience, but the magic being similarly really stuck out to me.

All that being said, I think Henry did a phenomenal job of capturing the weight of family that we all carry. Jack is grieving for her father, and defined by a feud and curse that has haunted her family and Saul’s for generations. There were moments when I was in tears from how perfectly Henry described grief, and Jack’s struggle with mourning the father she knew while learning the truth about him and her family. I truly loved the family story at the heart of this novel, and this is one of very few magical realism novels have really worked for me. I would highly recommend A Million Junes if you’re into magical realism and family legacies, even if you didn’t love Henry’s debut novel.

Rating: 4 stars

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

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when dimple met rishi

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
Format: eARC*

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so I fully expected to fall in love with this story. While I definitely enjoyed it, somehow this didn’t quite live up to my expectations. This book is billed as an arranged marriage YA, and it’s simultaneously so much more yet exactly that. Dimple and Rishi meet at a summer coding camp, but only Rishi knows that their parents are trying to arrange a marriage for them.

I think this book took a lot of directions that I wasn’t expecting, from Dimple finding out about the potential arrangement very early, to their relationship dynamics over the course of the novel. Despite a very rocky start, Dimple and Rishi manage to end up in a rather intense (dare I say almost insta-love?) relationship over the six week long camp. The pacing coupled with Rishi being almost too perfect, actually had me questioning whether I even shipped them. I’m not sure that I did, which sucks, because I was fully expecting to.

Dimple was probably my favorite aspect of this novel. She’s this fierce girl who wants a STEM career, and to be the best at what she does. Dimple is focused on her own future and her passion for coding, and resents that her parents expect her to fall in line and find an ideal Indian husband. Dimple and Rishi have very different perspectives on their families and culture, and I loved seeing that play out. I adored Dimple’s family, especially her relationship with her mother. This own voices book really explores the idea of being true to yourself in the face of others’ expectations, and it was ultimately a contemporary with a lot of heart.

Rating: 4 stars

* I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

 

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Meeting Authors

As a reader, there is something so incredibly special about meeting one of your favorite authors. This person created a book or world or character that you loved, and you finally get the chance to see them and…well, honestly most of the time you freeze up and say something like “omghiyourbookisamazingthanks” and then stare awkwardly while they finish signing your book.

Totally not speaking from experience or anything.

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several of my all-time favorite authors. There are rarely bookish events near where I live, so meeting an author usually involves hours of travel. One of my best friends is from Houston, so I’ve managed to coincide visits with author tours. I also attended BEA 2016, and was able to attend signings for a few others. I thought I’d share five authors I’ve met, and also include five that I’m dying to meet one day.

Authors I’ve met:

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  1. Maggie Stiefvater. I met Maggie during her book tour for The Raven King in Houston, and this will go down as one of the best bookish moments of my life. She gave an amazing speech for the event, and we got to talk about our love for Ronan. We also laughed about how she’s made my name popular again. Basically, the entire experience was incredible and I felt overwhelmingly happy.

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  1. Leigh Bardugo. Meeting Leigh was honestly the highlight of my BEA 2016 experience. I couldn’t get an actual ticket to her signing, but the staff let me sneak in at the very end of the line. And you guys, she is amazing. We chatted about my French last name and her publicist’s French last name, and how she should write a detective novel about us. Do you ever build someone up in your head as being almost unbearably cool, and then you meet them and they’re somehow even cooler? Yeah, that was me meeting Leigh Bardugo.

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  1. Adam Silvera. Another highlight of BEA 2016 was meeting Adam Silvera. His signing line took nearly an hour, but that’s because Adam took the time to have an actual conversation and write a long note in everyone’s ARC. He was so genuine and funny in person, and I left the signing line feeling as if I just had a nice chat with a friend.
  1. Stephanie Perkins. My love for Anna and the French Kiss is eternal, and I was able to meet Stephanie during her book tour for Isla and the Happily Ever After. Even though I managed to spoil the book for everyone (it was my first bookish event and I didn’t realize that everyone else hadn’t read the book yet I’M STILL EMBARASSED), she was SO NICE. She even complemented my fresh Taylor Swift haircut, and we bonded over which of her male characters would actually make the best boyfriend.
  1. Tahereh Mafi. BEA 2016 strikes again! I met Tahereh during her signing for Futhermore ARCs, and I still can’t get over how sweet she was. She took the time to have a chat with everyone, and made you feel as though she was just as excited to meet you. Also, Tahereh Mafi is quite possibly the most stylish person I’ve ever met. Just putting that out there.

 

Authors I’d Love to Meet:

  1. Laini Taylor. I absolutely loved the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and Strange the Dreamer, so it’s no surprise that Laini Taylor is on this list. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch her on tour for her next book…whenever that will be!
  1. Sarah Dessen. Sarah Dessen is one of very few authors whose books helped to shape me as a person. I’ve read all of her novels, and they remain my go-to comfort reads. I’ve got my fingers crossed that her book tour for Once and For All will come close enough for me to attend. If so, I have my very old and much loved copy of This Lullaby I’d love for her to sign.
  1. Emery Lord. Y’all, this one is actually happening and I’m so excited! Emery is going on tour for The Names They Gave Us this summer, and one of the events is at my local independent bookstore. I really appreciate and value Emery’s voice, both in her books and on social media (seriously, you need to follow her), so I’m very much looking forward to meeting her in June.
  1. Holly Black. I love Holly Black’s books. I probably don’t talk about them enough on my blog and BookTube channel, but The Curse Workers trilogy and The Darkest Part of the Forest are books that I adore and reread often. Her sequel to The Darkest Part of the Forest, called The Cruel Prince, comes out in January 2018 – so here’s hoping for that book tour!
  1. J.K. Rowling. I mean, duh.

Which authors are on your bookish bucket list to meet?

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*Tap Tap* …is this thing on?

Well hello there, long time no see. I admittedly fell off the blogging bandwagon late last year, due to all kinds of personal stuff. Also…I just needed a break. Blogging doesn’t come as naturally as YouTube does, so I’m always concerned that I’m not being creative enough, not diversifying my content, simply shouting into the void. So I took some time off.

I also decided to switch from Blogger to WordPress, and can already tell it was a change for the better. I’m still getting used to WordPress, so things like my blog design and layout will improve over time. For now, I want to focus on creating content that makes me happy. Most of said content will remain bookish, as this was originally created as a book blog in conjunction with my YouTube channel, but I’ll also incorporate more aspects of my life and interests. Fandom Friday shall return, but I also want to include some of my personal experiences. Where I’m going, what I’m watching, things I love and hate, but most of all, the books I read.

Be on the look out for new posts each week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday! Videos are uploaded onto my YouTube channel every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and I’ll cross post those videos here.

Alright, that’s it for the announcements…see you Thursday!

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Fandom Friday: An Introduction

Today kicks off a new series – Fandom Friday! Every Friday, I’ll discuss some aspect of fandom, be it my own personal experiences or fandom in general. I’m planning to alternate weekly posts between this blog and my YouTube channel, because certain topics are better suited to written or video formats. So ever Friday, either here or on my channel, I’ll be chatting all things fandom!

I’m excited to begin this series! Fandom has always been a big part of my life, ever since I was 13 and discovered the Harry Potter online community. This was back in the heyday of Live Journal, and I was quickly introduced to fan fiction, online RPG, and the amazing sense of community. Granted this all began back when I was in junior high, and the slightest hint that you were involved in anything fandom related was enough to warrant merciless teasing and being called a nerd, the most horrifying thing a teen could ever be accused of . Needless to say, I kept my fandom involvement to myself, and for years never spoke of my online interests to anyone in my everyday life.

Fast forward a decade or so, and things have definitely changed. Fandom has become a normal part of popular culture, and there are more platforms to espouse the wonders of fandom than ever. Tumblr, podcasts, Archive of Our Own – these are a few of the major players and probably the best sources for those just getting started in any particular fandom. The advent of major comic conventions that have become star-studded affairs has helped to make fandom culture more normalized, and these days TV shows/movies/books are able to achieve massive levels of success by understanding the value of fandom. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sold over 4 million print copies in its first week. Marvel movies regularly dominate the box office. Popular YA series skyrocket onto the NYT Bestsellers List before being adapted into successful (well, sometimes) TV shows or movies. Fandom plays a huge role in this.

As I said, I got into the fandom game relatively young, via Harry Potter online RPGs (seriously. It’s still not something I’m overly proud of) and fan fiction. There’s been endless debate over fan fiction and whether it’s plagiarism, and you’ll find plenty of Creative Writing professors more than willing to dismiss it as a joke. But you’ll find none of that here! I still remember the early days of fanfiction.net, and the epic HP fic repository that was Fiction Alley. Fan fic and the fandom community soothed the agony of waiting years between Harry Potter books, a much-needed alternative to obsessively checking MuggleNet every day for news.

While I started in the Harry Potter fandom and still consider myself very much a part of it, I’ve been in plenty of fandoms over the years. Usually my stay in any one particular fandom is brief, because I don’t have the attention span or desire to be active in more than one or two fandoms at a time (look, fandom can be draining, ok? I’m talking time, resources, and emotions). Some of my biggest fandoms have been Teen Wolf, The 100, The Hunger Games, The Raven Cycle, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and of course Harry Potter.

Fandom Friday will cover a wide range of topics, and I’m hoping this will be a great way to get a bit more personal on this blog and my channel. If you have any recommendations of things you’d like to see me discuss, let me know in the comments!

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ARC Review: Our Chemical Hearts

Title: Our Chemical Hearts
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Source: ARC*
Goodreads | Book Depository

“Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.”

This book is billed as “John Green meets Rainbow Rowell” and honestly, that should have been enough to trigger alarm bells in my head. It’s not a secret that I’m no fan of John Green’s books, and the comparison that is all-too frequently applied to YA contemporaries these days usually signals that I’m about to be underwhelmed.

Enter Henry, our basic white boy protagonist, unexceptional save for his interest in the school newspaper and his quirky band of family and friends. His posse includes an Australian best friend (because, sure), a feminist lesbian other best friend (#diversity), and a brilliant older sister who’s always around to conveniently dole out advice on life and love (probably a former MPDG herself).

Yes, you can already tell that I’m salty about this book and I’ll be honest, it’s not gonna let up.

Enter Grace, who wears boys’ clothes and uses a cane, but still manages to capture Henry’s affections. Lucky Grace. But don’t worry, Grace isn’t some Manic Pixie Dream Girl! She’s more of a Manic Pixie Depressed Girl, because she’s like super broken and Henry can totally fix her with his love. Henry then proceeds to fall in love with, and become obsessed to the point of STALKING, Grace even though she is clearly going through Stuff and is not in a good place. Henry even acknowledges at one point that Grace probably needs some help, and then does NOTHING but keep pursuing her. I just…sigh.

The way that Grace’s situation was dealt with, or rather not dealt with, was so disappointing. I can’t site the specific example I want to because it’s major spoilers, but there’s no reason why the adults in her life wouldn’t have stepped in at some point. Several moments in this book made me deeply uncomfortable, and I will admit that things ended up being much more serious (and honestly, messed up) than I had ever expected. The ending, or at least what Sutherland tried to say, was probably the strongest part of this story. Unfortunately it was pretty much lost in the 300-something pages of this underwhelming contemporary that tried way too hard.

This is my biggest gripe with Our Chemical Hearts – it tries too hard. Nothing about this book felt natural, from the characters to premise or even the reading experience itself. Our Chemical Hearts read like a desperate, overzealous attempt at writing a book worthy of a John Green comparison. It may have been too successful, because this felt like yet another reiteration of the same basic, tired John Green storyline. White boy becomes obsessed with a MPDG and drags his crew of quirky friends along for the ride while learning some valuable life lessons. This is a story I’m no longer interested in reading.

There’s so much potential in Our Chemical Hearts. I wonder if switching to Grace’s perspective would have made it more successful, or just not worked at all. Ultimately this was unimpressive and unenjoyable, and I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re a major fan of this type of story.

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️

*I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for a free & honest review.

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Comic Reviews: Ladies of Marvel & DC

I’ve read more comics and graphic novels so far in 2016 than I had in my entire life before January. I resisted reading comics for the longest time because I found them so intimidating, but I finally took the plunge and started reading whatever seemed interesting. Of course, this meant a lot of superhero stories because as was made evident in my Superhero YA video, I love the superhero story arc.

I’ll admit that I’m much more of a Marvel fan than DC, but this month I picked up two DC and two Marvel comics that sounded really exciting, so I’m going to share my reviews with y’all! While I know the larger Marvel universe much better than DC, I was still able to dive into these stories and really enjoy them.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I listed Kamala Khan in my Superhero YA Books I’d Love to Read post, and reading the first volume of her arc as Ms. Marvel only cemented that opinion. Kamala is such a wonderful MC – she’s brash and defiant, but she’s got a heart of gold. However, some better/further explanation of how exactly she acquired her powers and how they work would have really helped (maybe this will come up in future issues). I loved seeing Kamala’s home life alongside her first forays into superhero exploits, and it was so refreshing to see positive Muslim representation in what is usually a boringly WASP medium. I did find that her family members where portrayed a bit stereotypically at times, but hopefully that something that is improved upon in later volumes. I’m definitely going to continue with Kamala as Ms. Marvel, and can’t wait to see what she gets up to next. 

Batgirl, Vol. 1: Batgirl of BurnsideBatgirl, Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Aside from Alicia Silverstone in Batman & Robin, this was my first formal introduction to Batgirl as a character. I loved this modern day millennial take on Batgirl, and the every day life portions of this volume ended up being some of my favorite scenes. I loved the artwork, especially how the female characters are drawn. There’s a brilliant cameo from Dinah/Black Canary, and she totally stole the show from Babs more often than not. While I liked the style of this, I found the actual plot to be somewhat lacking. Individual issue conflicts/story lines were tied up a little too easily, and the overarching plot of volume one had me scratching my head and whispering “wtf.” And once again, it was solved rather simply. I really came to adore Babs, so I’ll likely continue with her arc, but I hope that future issues have story lines that are match the epic art style.

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, MoreCaptain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Going into this trade, the only thing I knew about Captain Marvel was that Kamala Khan (aka Ms Marvel) idolized her. I knew that Carol Danvers was an iconic member of the Avengers and larger Marvel Universe, but I went into this newer arc blind. You don’t get Captain Marvel’s origin story in this volume, but thanks to a child’s drawing in the first few pages I got caught up to speed. I really came to like Captain Marvel throughout this first volume, and she’s a badass pilot who’s not afraid to fly into space and fight a sky full of spaceships on her own. There’s even a cameo from the Guardians of the Galaxy! The art style wasn’t my favorite, but I appreciated that it was bold like Captain Marvel, so it still felt cohesive. The storyline itself felt a bit too “white savior,” especially in the last two or three issues. I might pick up volume two, but this first volume didn’t blow me away.

Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham AcademyGotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boarding schools are one of my all-time favorite settings, so I was predisposed to like Gotham Academy. It’s been highly recommended by several of my favorite YouTubers with comic-focused channels, so I decided to finally pick up volume 1 and see what the fuss was about. First, I have to say that the art is BEAUTIFUL, and the coloring was so amazing that I had to stop and just take it all in before moving on to the next page. I also really liked that we get a cast of characters in this, instead of the usual superhero vs the world. Olive is the main character and narrator, and things were hinted at in this first volume that make me really excited to see what happens to Olive in later issues. Although there wasn’t a lot of closure at the end of this, I liked that we’re clearly setting up for a longer, more involved story arc at Gotham Academy.

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After reading my very first DC comics, I’m definitely intrigued to read more! I think Black Canary will be next on my DC list. Do you have any comic recommendations, Marvel/DC or otherwise? Let me know!