Thursday, June 20, 2019

There's Something About Sweetie

You guys. I can not even begin to express how happy I am Sandhya Menon's books are being published and given to the world. I love them all so much for a variety of reasons. There's Something About Sweetie is another stellar contemporary romance with depth, nuance, and variety. And there IS something about Sweetie. It's impossible not to love her. 

Ashish Patel's heart is broken, and he's lost his mojo. The world is no longer a place to play and enjoy. His game is off both on the basketball court and with girls. Frustrated and annoyed at his parents for being smug and thinking they can do a better job finding him a girlfriend, he challenges them to do it. He will date who they set him up with and prove once and for all that they are wrong about knowing him and what he wants. The girl his mother chooses is Sweetie Nair. Sweetie is a stellar student, a good Indian daughter, and a phenomenal track star whose prowess in running shoes is going to win her a full scholarship to college. She is also fat. Her mother will not consent to setting her up with Ashish for this reason. Once Sweetie loses some weight, she can have a boyfriend. Infuriated and hurt, Sweetie takes matters into her own hands and contacts Ashish. After Sweetie completely annihilates him in a race and blinds him with her fierce determination and smile, Ashish is willing to go along with whatever is necessary to see her again. Once his parents find out about them meeting, what is necessary is a series of dates arranged and sanctioned by his parents and a contract promising they will tell Sweetie's parents about their relationship prior to the fourth date. Ashish loves spending time with Sweetie (even if it involves the temple and trips to visit his eccentric great aunt) but fears his heart is still compromised even if every other part of him is super into her. Sweetie just wants to prove to her mother it is possible to be happily fulfilled and fat at the same time. However, the more time she spends with Ashish, the less their relationship becomes about proving something to her mother. Figuring out exactly what they want from each other teaches them both a lot about themselves and their relationships with those they care for most. 

Sweetie is amazing. There is no getting around the fact that this book may the most appropriately titled Menon book yet. Her personality jumps off the page. She may also be the most idealistic female lead Menon has written yet. She is deeply empathetic and therefore compassionate and can see the many sides to people's motivations and actions. She is loving, forgiving, smart, and funny. That doesn't mean she is perfect, but her flaws don't exactly jump out at you either. She is easy to like and root for from page one. Ashish is a hot mess. Readers of When Dimple Met Rishi may barely recognize him as the same person he was then. And it's because he is not. Celia sort of wrecked him in a lot of ways. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Because Ashish grows  and learns a lot about himself as a result. He is still slightly cocky and full of energy, but he grows to appreciate his culture and family a lot more. He learns how to be still and appreciate it at times. The scenes with the Ashish and Sweetie together are so wonderful. They really have a connection that is both physical attraction and understanding of each other. It's an excellent romance where both leads have issues but are also so great together that you just want to smoosh their faces together, but also knock at least one of them (usually Ashish) upside the head at the same time for being an unseeing moron. It's good stuff. 

Like any good romance, it's not just a romance though. It's a story about character and growth. A lot of that is tied in with the secondary characters, particularly the parents. One thing I love about Menon's books is how she delves into parent child relationships. All three of her novels so far hit hard on the tensions inherent in relationships between mothers and their teen daughters. Each of those has been different and carried different issues with it. In Sweetie's case, her mother is naturally thin. Sweetie is not. Her mom makes her run every day after school and severely monitors Sweetie's diet despite the fact that Sweetie is a phenomenally successful athlete who already gets plenty of exercise. To Sweetie, fat isn't a bad word.  It's a descriptive one. She knows she's fat. And yes, people concern trolling her weight in the comments section of articles about her athletic prowess online bothers her, but she isn't letting anyone else define her by just that. This is where she finds the motivation to approach Ashish. She is deeply hurt that her mother, who should love her no matter what, seems to be embarrassed by her. Her mother seems to believe Sweetie is somehow lacking and can't be her full self until she loses some untold amount of weight. Sweetie isn't lacking anything and just wants to be loved for who she is. In this book, we also get to see a lot of Ashish's parents (who are EXCELLENT). Ahsish's mother might be one of my favorite YA adults ever. His father is a bit more distant and seems less reasonable, but that is because teenage sons and their fathers also have complicated relationships (especially when you add in the cultural conflict of one of them being first generation American). We see a lot more of them in this book then we did in Rishi's story, and it's great. A lot of Ashish's insecurities come from his constantly comparing himself to his brother and thinking his parents are doing the same thing and finding him less than. Seeing him work through that and realizing what he has in his parents is heart-warming.

This book contains a large cast of secondary characters and all of them are great. Both Ashish and Sweetie have tight friend groups with diverse personalities and backgrounds. How in such a short book Menon wrote all of these characters that feel like real people with depth and an interesting, fun plot is a marvel. I said this in my review about From Twinkle, With Love, but she remains consistent, so it bears repeating. Menon writes teens authentically. This is part of the reason I want so many of my peers to read her books. Hey fellow moms, read this and see things from their perspectives and maybe chill on a few things. Anyways, I love all the friends. But I mostly want to talk about Celia. It would have been really easy for her to be turned into the evil nemesis in this story despite the fact that if readers have read When Dimple Met Rishi, they already know her. But she's just Celia. Celia who still has a lot to learn and ways to grow. She is young. She made mistakes, and by the end she owns them. A lot of her actions are fueled by fear of the unknown and not really knowing what to do with herself. I really liked how the whole concept of a former relationship and its effects were touched on. There was a bit of drama in the end over it, but it made sense to me how that happened and I like the way it was resolved. 

Bottom line: Read this. Read all of Menon's books. And know there is another one coming to look forward to. It comes out next year, is called 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, features two characters introduced in this book, and has a fake dating plot.  (I am so excited!!!!)

Friday, June 14, 2019

Future Favorite Friday June-19

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

In April I read and fell in love with Celine Kiernan's Begone the Raggedy Witches. I can not wait to read the sequel. (And pretty much anything else Celine Kiernan wants to write ever.)

The old queen and her raggedy witches have fled Witches Borough, and Mup’s family has moved into the cold, newly empty castle. But the queen’s legacy lingers in the fear and mistrust of her former subjects and in the memories that live in the castle’s very walls. While Mup’s mam tries to restore balance to a formerly oppressed world, Mup herself tries to settle into her strange new home with her dad, Tipper, and Crow. When an enchanted snow blankets the castle, Mup’s family is cut off from the rest of the kingdom, and the painful memories of the old queen’s victims begin to take form, thanks to a ghost whose power may be too much for even Mup and Mam to handle. Celine Kiernan weaves a timely and essential truth into the second book of her trilogy: that dismantling oppression means honoring the pains of the past, and perhaps the most potent magic of all is encouraging joy and hope wherever possible.

Release: September 3, 2019 from Candlewick Press

Laura Ruby has a new YA book coming out this year!!!! It is historical fiction and sounds amazing. It also has one of the best titles to come along in quite some time. 

When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s why Frankie's not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket.

Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.

And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she's able to carve out will be enough.

Release: October 1, 2019 by Balzer & Bray

I confess to being equal parts scared and excited for this next one. I love Little Women, and I love Virginia Kantra. There is always a bit of apprehension that goes with reading a reworking of an old favorite, but I have grown to trust in Kantra's writing. I pre-ordered this as soon as I could.

The March sisters--reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy and shy Beth--have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook-slash-secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned--the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you ever wanted isn't all it's cracked up to be...

When their mother's illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they'll rediscover what really matters.

One thing's for sure--they'll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.

Release: December 3, 2019 by Berkley Books

What are some upcoming releases you're looking forward to?

Monday, June 3, 2019

May 2019 Stats

This is late because I've been busy and traveling.

I DNFed a lot of books in May. I'm not worried though because I also loved a lot of books in May. I think I just unluckily picked up several duds in a row.

May Favorites:

May in Numbers:
New Reads: 10
Rereads: 2

MG: 5
YA: 2
Adult: 3

Fiction: 12
Non-Fiction: 0
Realistic Fiction: 9
Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 3

June is going to be another "Read the Books I Own" Month. I don't have a picture of the shelf because that didn't happen before I left but it hasn't changed much! Just minus the library books.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

TTT: Favorite Books Published in the Last 10 Years

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Favorites Books Published in the Last 10 Years (One for Each Year)











Thursday, May 23, 2019

Shorter Musings: The Bridge Home, Genesis Begins Again, Soof, Stand on the Sky

Here are some shorter musings on some recent MG realistic fiction reads.

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
I really don't know what to rate this. This is well-written and for such a short, easy read packs quite the emotional wallop. This is a contemporary story of two sisters in India who run away from their abusive father and have to survive on the streets of a big city. They are homeless and spend their days scavenging through trash for anything that might bring a little money. They meet two young boys, and the four children quickly form a family. They will do anything to protect each other. The story is told through the point of view of Viji, the younger sister. This might have blown me away, but for one major spoiler. That element that packs the emotional wallop. I think the author had the best of intentions with what she was doing and much of that is done so well. But at the same time I'm...uncomfortable enough with this element to not feel confident in recommending it. I feel she could have gone a different direction and it would have been way less problematic. Upon further reflection, I may need to revisit this, but that is my stance now. I don't think you get cookies for having good intentions but landing in the swamp of problematic tropes anyways. In my Goodreads review I go into a further explanation behind a spoiler cut. If you are curious, it is here.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams
Genesis is a heroine with a lot going on in her life. Her father gambles and drinks too much, so her family is constantly being evicted from their houses. She wishes she were different in many ways including having lighter skin and straighter hair like her mom. When her family has to move one more time, and Genesis finds herself starting over yet again, she vows to make some changes. Some of the changes like finding her voice and making friends are good. But some of the changes are dangerous. Williams created a believable and sympathetic character in Genesis that audiences will truly feel for as they follow her journey.

Soof  by Sarah Weeks
It's possible you have to be fan of the first book (So B. It) to be a fan of this one. I've never read So B. It (I'm not sure why or how I missed that one as I generally read and enjoy Sarah Weeks's books.) Anyway, I found myself having a hard time liking anyone who was a character in that first book or understanding any of their motivations. There were a lot of things that appeared to happen for plot conveniences and not because they actually made any sense. Aurora is a gem though. I loved her voice and wanted to kidnap her.

Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow
The writing here is excellent because it's Erin Bow, and she is an excellent writer. I came away with the impression that it was also well researched and as factually accurate as Bow could make it writing from the perspective of an outsider of the culture. (I know she spent some time in Mongolia prior to writing this.) I fell just short of being able to love it, which is mostly because I am not the right reader for this book. I don't like nature. I hate birds. I also had some questions about character motivation and general characterization of the adults. I do fully intend to add it to all my MG lists and book talk it to the 5th-7th graders. The ones who love realistic fiction and nature will eat this book up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Begone the Raggedy Witches

Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan is a 2018 release that wasn't on my radar at all until I saw it reviewed by several friends in a short span of time. The reviews were all stellar, and the reviewers of such similar reading tastes to mine that I bought the book since my library didn't have it. Well, I finally got around to reading it, and I have zero regrets and a lot of love for this amazing new MG fantasy trilogy.

"Fear is a very effective weapon," said Fírinne softly. "And the queen uses it to its fullest capacity. Eventually we become anything she wants us to be, just so she'll leave us alone. But I don't want to live like that anymore. I don't want to go on forgetting that in my youth I danced colour up out of the ground and sang the stars ashiver, just for the joy of it." 

Mup has always lived a fairly well ordered life because she follows her Aunty's rules to the letter. What Aunty says to do, must be done. Aunty always said Mup was to tell her the instant she ever saw a witch hanging about. On the night Aunty dies, the witches arrive in full force. They are there to take Mup's Mam. Mup bravely fights them off with the help of Aunty's spirit. When it becomes clear that someone has taken Mup's father, Mam, Mup, and Mup's little brother Tipper break all of Aunty's rules to try to get him back. Venturing into the world from where the raggedy witches come, Aunty, and Mup's mother come from, they are determined to succeed in their quest even as Aunty's fading spirit whispers dire warnings in their ears. However, they aren't entirely sure who took him. Was it the witches? Was it any number of political rebels ready to put Mup's Mam on the throne in place of her cruel, tyrannical mother who is the current queen? In a strange world where magic abounds, everyone wants something, her Mam does not act entirely herself, and her brother can turn himself into a dog, Mup must find the courage to do what is right and stand by her convictions.

Mup is such a delightful heroine. She begins her begins the book as a sheltered, rule-following, and seemingly meek little girl. As danger upon danger meets her, Mup discovers a core of strength and defiance in herself that serves her well. She has strong convictions about what is right and what is wrong. As much as she loves both Mam and Aunty, she is willing to defy them both in order to do what she believes is right. Through Mup's eyes, Aunty is able to see the mistakes she made and the things she could have done better for the people she left behind when she escaped her sister's cruel world. Mup is a tether to Mam keeping her grounded as she has to navigate the world she left as a child and the full force of her magic for the first time. Mup also has to contend with magical powers she was unaware she possessed. After all, her father is Nigerian, and she grew up in Ireland. Who knew she could make lightning with her hands? She had no idea she could even do magic until they entered the world her grandmother rules. Upon arriving in this strange world, Mup immediately meets Crow. Crow is Mup's catalyst for defiance and rebellion. She has a deep sense of empathy and feels strongly for his plight. The more she learns about him, the more determined she becomes to help him too. Crow is broken, angry, and mostly abandoned. His father was arrested. His mother severed all ties with him. His uncle cares for him, but also lives a life of fear and desperation always trying to keep one step ahead of the queen's witches. And Crow is determined to defy the witches at every turn. Together, Mup and Crow are a scared but sassy and defiant team ready to take on whatever evil they have to face in order to save those they love.

Kiernan's prose is excellent in every way. She has a gift for story telling and weaves her words like magic. I don't know enough comprehensively about Irish folklore to know if this is based on any specific portion. It does have the feel of being imbued with old and lasting stories though. Then there is the political intrigue portion which Kiernan balances phenomenally well. It is exactly the right amount for the intended audience. Kiernan is exploring some extremely important and necessary themes. When does one submit and when does one rebel? Is it better to be safe or stand for what is right? If you don't speak up when you see wrong being done, who will? All of these questions are explored while also keeping to a quick paced, adventure filled plot that is full of action and conflict.

I highly recommend this to lovers of fantasy, mythology, and well-told stories of any age.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Future Favorite Friday May-19

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

Thanhha Lai has a YA novel coming out!!!! I don't feel like there is much to add to my excitement here.

In the final days of the Viet Nam War, twelve-year-old Hang took her brother, Linh, to the airport, desperate for them to be brought to America. In a split second, Linh was taken—and Hang was left behind. Six years later, she endures a horrifying escape from Viet Nam and arrives in Texas as a refugee, where LeeRoy, a city boy with rodeo dreams, helps her find the brother she thought she’d lost. But Hang’s heart is shattered all over again when she learns that Linh doesn’t remember her at all. The distance between them feels greater than ever—but she’ll do anything to bridge the gap

Release Dat: September 3, 2019 from Harper Collins

The cover of this one attracted me first. Then I read the synopsis and was instantly in love.

Headstrong Anya is the daughter of the only Jewish family in her village. When her family's livelihood is threatened by a bigoted magistrate, Anya is lured in by a friendly family of Fools, who promise her money in exchange for helping them capture the last dragon in Kievan Rus. This seems easy enough—until she finds out that the scary old dragon isn't as old—or as scary—as everyone thought. Now Anya is faced with a choice: save the dragon, or save her family. 

Release Date: September 24, 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I just read my first Jenny Colgan novel, The Bookshop on the Corner, two weeks ago. Imagine my delight when I quite accidentally discovered a sequel was coming out next month.

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where honking horns and shouting football fans keep them awake all night. If she doesn’t find a way out soon, Zoe knows it’s just a matter of time before she has a complete meltdown. On a whim, she answers an ad for a nanny job in the Scottish Highlands, which is about as far away from the urban crush of London as possible. It sounds heavenly!

The job description asks for someone capable of caring for three “gifted children”, two of which behave feral wolverines. The children’s widowed father is a wreck, and the kids run wild in a huge tumbledown castle on the heather-strewn banks of Loch Ness. Still, the peaceful, picturesque location is everything London is not—and Zoe rises to the challenges of the job.

With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

Release Date: June 25, 2019

What upcoming releases are you looking forward to?

Friday, May 3, 2019

Shorter Musings YA Realistic

Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA realistic fiction reads.

American Panda by Gloria Chao
I bumped this up my TBR list after seeing several really favorable reviews for it in a row. I'm so glad I did. This is an excellent story of the child of immigrants trying to find her place in the world. Mei struggles with how to be herself and the perfect, obedient daughter her parents expect her to be. They have already officially disowned her brother. Mei's journey is one of self-discovery, which is interesting since it is advertised as more fluffy and more of a romance that it truly is. (There is a romance, but it is definitely not the central relationship in the book.) I really loved how much this story was about Mei's relationship with her mom and the complications of relating to each other.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
I enjoyed this as the quick, fluffy read it is intended to be. Kasie West is the ultimate at YA romance that is perfect for any age YA reader not wanting sexual content or strong language in their books. Her books are always fun and enjoyable. I wanted to love this one more than I did because of how much I enjoyed Love, Life, and the List. This is a sort of companion novel in the way that romances that center someone introduced in another book are. Lacey is the focus of this story as her acting career gets what she hopes will be her big break. Her love interest is the tutor her father hires to help her get her schoolwork finished while on set. Donovan is quietly nerdy but also hot and funny. Lacey has a strict no dating rule. Donovan has a strict no dating actresses rule. They both fail at wanting to follow their rules. The book's story is rounded out by a mystery going on set that was rather predictable and a little distracting. It was a fun afternoon's read though.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written in first person blank verse poetry as the journal of the main character, The Poet X is an excellent book about growing up, finding your creative voice, trusting your talent, and surviving difficult circumstances while learning to thrive. It is incredibly well done on every level. Xiamora is the daughter of immigrants. Her parents are incredibly strict, and she is struggling with questions of faith and a desire to live her own life outside her mother's stringent rules. There are parts of the book that were incredibly difficult to read as Xiamora's relationship with her mother is incredibly toxic and it bleeds into all her relationships as well as her view of herself. The journey is worth it in every way though.

Royals by Rachel Hawkins
This was so FLUFFY!!! And I thoroughly enjoyed every frothy second of it. Daisy's older sister is marrying the Prince of Scotland (just go with it -doesn't matter), and Daisy finds herself having to live amongst the Royals to protect herself from paparazzi following her around back home. The problem is the royals closest in age to her are hot messes. The younger prince is the hottest mess of them all. And he comes with a stuffy best friend whose sole purpose in life seems to be save him from himself while jumping to conclusions and sneering. Daisy is not impressed. Until she suddenly realizes Miles is kind of hot when he's not sneering. Then they have to fake date for publicity. I mean...
antagonism to love ✅
snarky clever banter between heroine and hero✅
fake dating trope✅
girls having each others backs and sisterly devotion✅
This book is just perfectly made for me. It was so much fun to read. And Daisy is really the best.

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
I was super into the first 1/3 of this. I loved both Jasmine and Chelsea (though Chelsea is more abrasive, she is amazing and a fighter) along with their friends and families. The conflicts both at school and home were well executed and realistic. I just started to lose interest and felt as though it was getting a bit repetitive after a while. It may be the mood of the week, or maybe it needed tighter editing. Whichever is the case, it tempered my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I do love that it is a book I feel I can recommend to younger readers in the YA range who love contemporary social justice stories.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

April 2019 Stats

April was another good month. I'm so happy to have my reading mojo back this year!

April Favorites:

*whisper shouts* Everyone read Spinning Silver. Seriously.

April in Numbers:
New Reads: 9
Rereads: 1

MG: 3
YA: 2
Adult: 5

Fiction: 10
Non-Fiction: 0
Realistic Fiction: 5
Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 5

And onto May! A month that is filled with more stuff than December in terms of events and celebrations. Here's hoping I can find time to read too. May has so many cute looking romcom releases I'm looking forward to. Just perfect for June vacation reading! There is also the obligatory TBR shelf pic. If you are noticing that the shelf has even more books, it's because all my summer book club titles are on there now too.

Have you ready any books that recently that are new favorites? What are you looking forward to reading?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

TTT: Book Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Inspirational/Thought Provoking Book Quotes


Which of these do you like? Do you have a favorite book quote?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

TTT: First Ten Books I Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: First Ten Books I Reviewed

I posted my very first reviews to my LiveJournal. Yeah. I did transfer them over here when I started this blog though, so that is what the links are for. A few of these reviews are featuring my daughter, who wanted to blog too and I called Bit (for Bibliophile in Training). She was six at the time. Y'all. She's in HIGH SCHOOL now.

The Princess of the Midnight Ball

The Chronicles of Prydain

The Ordinary Princess

The Books of Bayern

Book of a Thousand Days

When You Reach Me 

Well, that was a fun trip down memory lane. Also a bit cringe-worthy. I am now visited by an overwhelming need to reread the Chrestomanci Chronicles. I'll have to do that this summer.