Book review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Dimple Shah just wants to go to a summer coding camp and meet her idol, Jenny Lindt. Her parents want her to put some more effort into her appearance so that she can find the Ideal Indian Husband. When her parents suddenly let up on their crazy demands and actually allow her to attend the program, Dimple thinks that they’re finally starting to see things her way.

Then she gets to the camp and meets Rishi Patel. Rishi’s parents are friends with Dimple’s parents, and everyone involved thinks that Dimple and Rishi would make a perfect pair. Everyone, that is, but Dimple herself. Dimple resists Rishi at every turn… until she realizes that she might actually be falling for him.

There were aspects of this book that I loved and aspects that I really didn’t. I think maybe bullet points would make this easiest.

I liked:

  • Rishi! What a good guy. He was so devoted to his family, so connected to his traditions, and so selfless.
  • That this YA novel takes place after high school graduation. So few YA novels venture into that time period between high school and college.
  • Reading a diverse book. I read this specifically for my Monthly Motif (prompt: Diversify Your Reading) and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book featuring Indian American leads before. Bonus points for #ownvoices.
  • Sex-positive YA! I didn’t expect that in a book where the parents factor so strongly into the relationship.

I disliked:

  • How cliched everything was. I could easily predict just about everything that happened.
  • The pacing. It took me much longer than it should have to read this book because I would just put it down when I got to a lull in the action.
  • How rude Dimple was to Rishi. It wasn’t his fault that Dimple’s parents were so focused on marriage, and as far as eighteen-year-old boys go, he was pretty great.
  • How little the actual coding camp figured into the book. I felt like we got more pages on Dimple dancing (and definitely more pages of Dimple berating Rishi) than we did of her doing actual work at the camp.

This is another book that I think I would have liked more an actual Young Adult™ than I do as a real, Certified Adult™.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

#mm18: diversify your reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I can’t believe I read

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  Today’s theme is books I can’t believe I read which honestly seems a bit mean… So rather than rattling off titles and posting covers, I’m following in the footsteps of blind items and describing the books rather than naming them.

  1. A book about a group of women who are all sleeping with each other’s husbands. While their lives are falling apart, they do things like break for a leisurely dinner or a stroll through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
  2. A celebrity memoir that focuses more on the embarrassing details of said celebrity’s children than anything else. Was a chapter dedicated to her teen daughter’s bra size really necessary?
  3. A book about a strong, independent woman who hooks up with her boss – except the woman is neither strong nor independent, her boss acts like a literal child, and the author tried to write erotica but the sex scenes came across as very clinical and cold.
  4. An erotic novel which was basically just the main character reading the author’s other works and getting turned on by them. I mean, yikes.
  5. A musician romance! But it’s really just about a rockstar going to rehab and having a lot of sex with his counselor.
  6. A book about a girl who is legitimately named Starshine, who laments the fact that every single man in New York City is in love with her.
  7. A cookbook that’s advertised as having “no rules,” that actually is just a book of rules? The biggest rule being to throw away everything in your kitchen because it’s trash. All of your food.  Your dishes and utensils. Even your cookware. Literally everything.
  8. A romance in which a girl and her brother-in-law start having sex – and then randomly get married because how else could you even end this trainwreck of a book?
  9. A Pride and Prejudice retelling in which both characters are in relationships with other people and have hate sex because why not.
  10. A book about middle-aged white men who are never satisfied with their awesome lives, or, basically, every day in the waiting room of the wealthy suburban doctor’s office I work in.

Book review: These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

After indirectly causing her best friend’s death, Dara left town to get away from the constant reminders of what she did. Now, fifteen months later, she’s back for her senior year of high school. Though she can rattle off a whole list of reasons that she’s back, the truth is that she thinks she deserves every whisper behind her back, every snide comment, and every pointed glare in the hallways.  Nothing anybody could say about her could possibly be worse than what she did to Aubrey, so she might as well face it.

Can Dara learn to forgive herself and move forward with her life?

One of the things I do when I’m bored is to scroll through upcoming releases from my favorite publishers on Edelweiss. (I know, my life is so exciting.) When I saw this book pop up in HarperTeen’s catalog, I immediately wanted to read it. It took me a few months, but I ended up buying it for myself for Christmas. I’d never read a YA book like this before and I loved the title and premise.

It took me a little while to get into this one, but starting around page 50 or so, I couldn’t bring myself to put it down! The book focuses a lot on the aftermath of Aubrey’s death, weaving it in almost seamlessly with flashbacks of the year before she died. Pre-accident, Dara was bold, outgoing, almost larger-than-life. Post-accident, Dara is depressed, withdrawn, afraid to so much as touch another person for fear of hurting them. The accident changed her interactions with her family, her friends, her classmates, and even strangers on the street.  Although she was never legally implicated in Aubrey’s death, Dara fully blames herself for what happened.

The story is both heartbreaking and uplifting, with a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Monthly Motif: January Update

January 2018 Monthly Motif: Diversify Your Reading

Honestly, I probably did better with this prompt than I’ll do with the whole rest of the year.

Books read:

  • Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings, the story of a young transgender girl growing up in a world that didn’t always accept her.
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, the story of two Indian-American teenagers who are encouraged by their parents to date.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, the story of police brutality told through the eyes of the black victim and his white classmate who witnesses everything.
  • The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson, the story of a teenage boy who finds himself living in a hospital after his entire family dies in a car accident, and the boy who is admitted to the hospital after his classmates set him on fire for being gay.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a memoir about growing up black in America.

Books not read:

  • At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson, an LGBT romance that also deals with mental illness. (I’m hoping I’ll get around to this one in February. I just didn’t have time in January!)

Some of these reviews are already up and some are queued to post soon. If you participated in the Monthly Motif reading challenge this month, what were your choices for this prompt?

Book review: Axl by Riley Rollins

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Film student Holly has a brilliant idea for her senior project – a documentary of her small hometown, a place ravaged by drugs, alcohol, and gangs. While filming in the local junkyard, Holly stumbles across a deal going down between two rival motorcycle clubs. When the guys from each side notice her hiding in the back of a beat-up pickup truck with a video camera, they assume the worst and all hell breaks loose.  Bullets start flying, a war begins, and Holly is caught in the middle. Axl, VP of the Sons of Chaos MC, is the only one who believes Holly’s story and takes her under his wing to protect her.

Mild spoilers for the first ~20% ahead.

To be honest, I only read this book because I wanted to get this guy’s face off my TBR page. This is a terrible cover and it does not fit at all with the way Axl is described in the book (6′5″ with model good looks). I don’t really like MC books to begin with but this one was inside another book I own (Havok) and so I felt obligated to read it.

I’m glad that it was only 200 or so pages because I don’t think that I could have put up with this for one second longer.  The first time I almost DNFed was around page 2 when Axl’s misogyny first shows. Then I almost DNFed around page 25 or so, when Holly walks in on Axl getting a blowjob from another woman. About three pages later, Holly has seemingly forgotten about this and gives Axl a blowjob. I almost threw my Kindle across the room. I was about to give it all up by page 35ish when Axl is in bed with yet another woman.

I powered through to get it off my shelf.  This book is terrible.  Do not recommend.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆

#killingthetbr: 9 months on shelf

Book review: Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Change happens through understanding, and one of my biggest hopes is that our next generation of kids will grow up in a world with more compassion.

Jazz Jennings began transitioning from male to female at the age of five. She was lucky enough to have accepting parents who wanted nothing more than for her to feel safe, loved, and happy, and this is her story.  At the time of publication, Jazz was only fifteen years old.

I’m not going to get into the writing (it’s at the level you’d expect from a teenager) or the medical issues brought up in the book (someone more experienced in dealing with anxiety and depression is welcome to do that), but I do want to talk about how this book made me feel.

On the one hand, it made me so sad. Jazz has lived a good life.  That much isn’t even debatable. She’s lucky to have grown up in a liberal family, to have lived in a more or less accepting community, and to have attended schools that focused on making her feel welcome. But living a good life doesn’t mean that everything has been sunshine and rainbows for her.

I think that it’s easy for people to say things like, “I don’t mind transgender people but I don’t want to share a bathroom with one.” This is a mentality that I don’t really understand, which is a story for a different day, but the point I’m trying to get at is that nobody really thinks of the consequences of that mentality. Like an eight-year-old kid who isn’t allowed to use the boys or girls restroom, who’s been told that there are two bathrooms they’re allowed to use in the entire building, one of which doesn’t lock and the other in a part of the building they’re never in. Nobody thinks about this little kid who ends up wetting their pants on a regular basis because adults are uncomfortable.  Not the kids they’d share the bathroom with, but the adults.

Also sad is all of the struggles Jazz went through with sports. She loves playing soccer, but it was a battle to get there. She was allowed to play on co-ed rec teams, but not single-gendered travel teams. While rec teams allowed her to play a game she loved, she knew that she wasn’t getting the same level of coaching and experience that she’d get on a travel team. Again, because it made some adults uncomfortable. The kids rarely cared.

But what made me happy was that Jazz has spent so much of her life advocating for transgender rights. That she’s had the opportunity to meet people like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who’ve accepted her for who she is. It made me happy to see her family supporting her – her parents, her grandparents, her brothers, and her sister – and although there was certainly an adjustment period for some of them, they never stopped loving her and never wanted anything but the best for her.

What made me happy was that Jazz is really, aside from all the advocacy work, just a normal teenage girl. She worries about relationships and fights with her friends. She tries to balance homework with extracurriculars. Sure, sometimes she has to fly to California to meet with Oprah or give a keynote speech at a big conference, but, all things considered, she’s a teen like any other. This gives me hope for a new, more accepting generation.

The moral of the story? Spread love, not hate.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mm18: diversify your reading

Book review: Prince Player by B.B. Hamel

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Stranded in Polovia after being mugged, Hazel takes a job as a maid for the royal family in hopes of earning enough money to fly back home to the States. When she unexpectedly walks in on a half-naked Prince Nolan, she expects his wrath, not a marriage proposal.  It turns out that Nolan, otherwise known as Prince Player, needs to clean up his reputation if he doesn’t want to lose his title of crown prince. A wife and children is just the way to do that in his traditional country, and he likes Hazel’s look and her sass.  Their marriage will be a business transaction and nothing more, entirely fixated on his public image and creating an heir.  But what happens when Nolan and Hazel end up liking each other more than they’d expected?

I could instantly tell that this was going to be better than Best Friend With Benefits, the last BB Hamel book that I read. Nolan and Hazel had a lot of chemistry (and the book actually follows the plot summary in its blurb), so I ended up flying through this one in a matter of about two hours. It’s the kind of mindless, smutty fun that I expect when I pick up one of BB’s books.

On the more negative side, I can tell that I’ve read far too many of her books (nine so far) because I can just about predict everything that will happen. Her books can be very formulaic, especially within the same subgenre. There are a lot of similarities between Prince Player and Royal Rock. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because I did enjoy Royal Rock, but it is something that makes me glad BB’s books are all on Kindle Unlimited.

While I did enjoy reading this mostly lighthearted royal romance, I think I’ll take a little break before reading another of BB’s books. I think they’re best enjoyed with some time in between.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆