There’s Something About Sandhya Menon’s Books: There’s Something About Sweetie & As Kismet Would Have It Review

Summary (from the publisher): 

51PEpjfmsLL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Between her past three books, Sandhya Menon is becoming one of my go-to YA contemporary authors. For some reason, I’ve picked up her latest release every year in June, so this year I saved There’s Something About Sweetie for that month. In short, There’s Something About Sweetie is my new favorite Sandhya Menon novel! I just fell head over heels in love with Ashish and Sweetie as a couple and as individual characters.

“But with Sweetie time passed in gentle waves. A conversation with her was like a warm hug and a cup of hot coca on a cold day – comforting, familiar, a place you never wanted to leave” (175).

There’s Something About Sweetie is such a sweet  YA rom-com. If Ashish’s father said ‘hanky-panky’ one more time, even I would have expected Sweetie to lose it! The book takes a comedic sort of turns in one of the main protagonist’s lives, as the charming Ashish’s heartbreak over his breakup with his girlfriend Celia drives him to allow his mother and father to choose a girl for him. It seemed to work with Dimple and Rishi, right? When Ashish’s parents try to set him up with Sweetie, Sweetie’s mother declines the relationship because of her daughter’s weight.

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A 2019 FAVORITE & MORE: June Contemporary Mini Reviews

Everyone knows that I love saving contemporaries for the summertime. There’s just something about being transported to a (often summery) realistic place while reading in the pool or on the beach!

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

x510 (1) Rating: 5/5 Stars

Like many, Sarah Dessen has always been an integral part of my YA reading life. When I started reading YA in middle school, her books were among the first I dived into. I admit that some of her books, especially the earlier releases, have blurred together for me—I think that calls for a reread spree! However, one thing that is perfectly crystal clear (much like the lake) is that The Rest of the Story is one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books and one of my best 2019 reads. I quickly fell into this book and really couldn’t part from it for long!

 Sarah Dessen’s books always have some sort of family element, but family is at the heart of The Rest of the Story. When her summer plans unexpectedly change, Emma Saylor finds herself staying at her grandmother’s house with her cousins at North Lake (sidenote: while Emma goes by both names, I’m just going to call her Emma for the sake of this review). I just couldn’t get enough of Emma’s family! I think they each had their own charm, while all helping run their grandmother’s lakeside motel. While Emma learns a lot about her mother’s side of the family, she gets to understand more about her mother’s past through their stories and memories. It was a very smart choice for Sarah Dessen to continue the story on beyond Emma’s three weeks for her family, making the story not so predictable and more expansive. There is a touch of romance, but it definitely wasn’t the focus. I’d argue that Emma spends either equal or less time with her romance interest compared to her family. I think Trinity and Gordon, her cousins, were my two favorite secondary characters.

Overall, there was something just so cozy and atmospheric about The Rest of the Story. I think this book is perfect for readers who like books exploring family dynamics and how learning about one’s pasts can help them understand their present- and themselves. Like all of Sarah’s books, The Rest of the Story had the perfect amount of summer contemporary charm. There’s its lakeside setting, romance, family, self-discovery, and much more. Sarah Dessen nicely balanced all these elements to give me one of my favorite summer contemporaries. I really hope she  keeps coming out with more, and her books are definitely worth the wait.

Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Emma Mills’ Famous in a Small Town was a must-read on my summer TBR. As true 35526663Fangirl Fury fashion, I put off reading this January 2019 release until the summer because your girl must have summer contemporaries to read during the season. I was nervous going into Famous in a Small Town because a few readers that I follow said that this was their least favorite Emma Mills’ book. As someone who has read two of Emma Mills’ books (This Adventure Ends and First & Then) and has yet to read Foolish Hearts , Famous in a Small Town is currently my second favorite book of hers.

An important element I’ve come to realize when reading Emma Mills’ books is that her stories are much more character-driven than what the synopsis may suggest about the plot. For example, Small Town Hearts’ synopsis revolves around Sophie’s determination to get her high school’s marching band to the upcoming Rose Parade with a little help from her town’s country music star, Megan Pleasant. While Sophie is determined to get Megan to help them, this book is much more about her friend group’s summer before their senior year and all the dynamics and feelings between them. Although the official synopsis does allude to a romance interest for Sophie, this book focused more on that relationship than I would have predicted.

I enjoyed Famous in a Small Town so much because of Sophie, her friends and their realness. While I did want more from the small town star element, I didn’t mind reading about Sophie’s everyday happenings, from her friends’ summer jobs to their billboard-inspired group chats. This is something that I’ve noticed about all the Emma Mills’ books I’ve read, but her characters and their conversations just feel so real. They’re not afraid to make jokes or comments to one another and there is always just such an easiness among them. I do admit though that one of the reasons I did not give this book a full five stars is that Sophie’s best friend, Brit, annoyed me to no end. I think best friends can get away with saying some rather honest things to one another, but some of her comments and actions were just uncalled for (especially considering the reveal about Sophie that I was not expecting until right before it was revealed).

I also wish that this book had a tiny bit less focus on the romance, and I felt that the plot/what the synopsis largely discusses didn’t really come together until the very end. The reveal related to this plot was definitely unexpected for me (which I loved!) and I would have loved some more time to explore that. While I do appreciate Emma Mills’ quiet YA-ness (what I use to describe books that aren’t so much about the plot, but character and relationship development), I admit that I did pick up this book because of its suggested plot. I know it may sound that this book may not sound like a 4.5 star read for me, but I did enjoy it a lot. The book for sure would have been a 5 star read if it had more emphasis on the plot and some changed character direction.

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

A few people that I follow in the book community didn’t love Somewhere Only We Know36992163._UY986_SS986_ as much as they had hoped, which made me super nervous going into it. I had been not-so patiently waiting for this one to come in from my local library, since I love The Way You Make Me Feel so much. Thankfully, I really enjoyed Somewhere Only We Know. I love the title and hope Maurene Goo’s books keep getting named after song titles. Its Roman Holiday premise completely sold me, and I loved the K-pop star twist and Hong Kong setting. The book follows K-pop star Lucky’s 24 hour Hong Kong adventure and escape from her stressful life in the spotlight with Jack, who works as an undercover tabloid photographer. Obviously this thought does not affect my rating of the book, but I wish it had a better cover! I feel so much could have been done with the Hong Kong setting and Lucky and Jack could have been set up in a less awkward position.

Somewhere Only We Know is overall such fun and atmospheric read that will give you ALL the food cravings. Maurene Goo transports readers to Hong Kong, making me realize that I seriously need some egg waffles and sticky buns in my foodie life. This book is one of the few instances where I was okay with the insta-love because I really enjoyed Lucky and Jack’s chemistry. I think Jack is sort’ve set up to be a not-so nice guy in the very beginning, since he decides to hang out with Lucky just to get photos for the tabloid. Instead, I never thought as Jack as a bad guy because Maurene Goo gives a lot of dimension to his character. Somewhere Only We Know currently falls as my second favorite Maurene Goo book, with The Way You Make Me Feel as first but ahead of I Believe in Thing Called Love.

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Have you read The Rest of the Story, Somewhere Only We Know or Famous in a Small Town? What summer contemporaries have you read this summer? Share in the comments!

CONTEMPORARY, MYSTERY & FAMILY DRAMA: Past Perfect Life Review

Summary (from the publisher):4195RQ9LmkL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.

But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s-make that Amanda’s-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

 Elizabeth Eulberg was one of my first YA authors, having read Prom & Prejudice and Take a Bow back in middle school. I picked up Prom & Prejudice at one of the greatest elementary school happenings of all time, the Scholastic Book Fair! That being said, I was excited to jump into her upcoming book, Past Perfect Life. I picked this July 2019 release at Book Expo, also getting to meet and chat with Elizabeth Eulberg. We had one of the best conversations ever about Parks & Recreation and The Good Place!

Past Perfect Life follows high school senior Ally Smith, who is doing  typical high school senior things like applying to college. What’s not so typical? As a result of filling out her applications, Ally finds out that she is not really Ally Smith and discovers that the past fifteen years of her life have been a lie.

Past Perfect Life is the perfect read for contemporary fans who love a touch a suspense or mystery in their reading lives. This book really reminded me of The Face on the Milk Carton, which I also happened to read in middle school. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but I feel like the summary for this one is also a tad unspecific for the sake of spoilers. Somewhat like The Face on the Milk Carton, Ally finds out that her biological father kidnapped her from her mother when she was three years old.  Ally must also contend with her newfound family, in that her biological mother wants Ally to move to Florida to live with her step family.

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QUEEN OF MY HEART: Queen of Ruin Review

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For the sake of spoilers, I will not be including an official summary for Queen of Ruin, the sequel to Tracy Banghart’s Grace and Fury.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Tracy Banghart’s Grace and Fury was unexpectedly one of my favorite 2018 reads. I didn’t know much going into this YA dystopian, but I fell in love with this story that focused on sisterhood and had many The Handmaid’s Tale vibes. Grace and Fury follows sisters Nomi and Serina, as Serina trains to be one of the Superior’s Graces, the shining example of the perfect woman. When the rebellious Nomi unexpectedly gets chosen as a Grace, and Serina instead gets sent to prison for Nomi’s secret and a crime she didn’t commit, the two sisters each must figure out their own survival, in hopes of reuniting with one another. That being said, I couldn’t wait to dive into Grace and Fury’s sequel, Queen of Ruin.

I reread Grace and Fury right before reading Queen of Ruin. The beginning of the sequel flows nicely from the first book’s ending. I wouldn’t say a reread of Grace and Fury is necessary to jump into the sequel, but I am glad I did to re-familiarize myself with this world’s terms and people.

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If you thought Nomi and Serina were rebels in the first book, think again when it comes to Queen of Ruin. While Nomi has to adjust to some of the violence, Serina has turned into a full-out female warrior. There’s definitely more action scenes in this installment, which ultimately added to Serina’s changed character and the story’s high stakes. All of the female characters in Queen of Ruin are more than ready to rebel and claim their rights in this world where women aren’t even allowed to read or write.

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SUMMER IN SF: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spendinga1yjeqqypnl the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Jenn Bennett’s books- did I mention here before that Serious Moonlight and Starry Eyes are two of my all-time favorite YA contemporaries? And that I have much for love for Alex, Approximately? AND that I am so happy that I have my hands on a ARC of The Lady Rogue??That being said, it was time to read the only published YA book of hers I haven’t read, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart.

Less than 300 pages long, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is the perfect way to escape to summertime San Francisco. We follow eighteen year old and rising high school senior, Beatrix, and her budding romance with graffiti artist, Jack. Beatrix is a very responsible and fairly independent protagonist. I’ve read a few books that take place in San Francisco, but Jenn Bennett really sets the scene between SF’s artistic scene, and yes, its public transportation system (thank you to Stephanie Perkin’s Lola and the Boy Next Door for giving me some prep on BART!). A personal like, but I also loved Beatrix’s summer job as a grocery store cashier. This has been one of my own summer jobs and being that so many teens find themselves working in the same place, it was such a cool and relatable element.

One of my favorite elements of Jenn Bennett’s books is the characters’ maturity. Beatrix is a fairly independent and responsible protagonist, which for better or worse, gave more space for her relationship with Jack to grow. Regarding intimacy, Jenn Bennett does not shy away from intimate scenes and romance. While there wasn’t too much heavy romance in The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, I loved the mature discussions about sex between Beatrix and Jack. As someone who has been reading new adult more and more, I love seeing positive conversations about sex grow in YA.

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TAKE ME TO ALASKA: The Simple Wild Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.71gyLEGAECL

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

New adult books happily took up some of my May reading life. While YA will forever be my favorite and go-to genre, I’ve been reaching for new adult lately for the maturity (yes, romance included) and characters closer to where I am in my own life. K.A. Tucker’s The Simple Wild crossed my TBR radar earlier this year, as many of us bloggers like reading about characters who are also bloggers. Twenty six-year old Calla is uprooted from her comfortable life in Toronto, where she helps run a fashion and lifestyle blog, to the Alaskan wild to get to know her estranged father.

Aside from Calla being a blogger, what really sold me to pick up The Simple Wild was its Alaskan setting. This unique setting is often not done too much, but when it is, I often love those books, like the gem that is Bonnie Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses. The Simple Wild delivers on this setting, as K.A. Tucker transports readers to small town and village life in the fictional Bagnor, Alaska. The remote and nature-filled setting felt really peaceful and quaint (aside from all of Calla’s dreaded mosquitoes of course). This setting really allows Calla to understand her father and perhaps why he never left Alaska. The close knit community also helped welcome Calla into their lifestyle- no lattes with soy milk fortunately or unfortunately included.

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NECESSARY NEW ADULT READS: Off-Campus Series Review

Lately in my book community circle, I’ve seen much love for the first book in Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series, The Deal. Add that to my and everyone else’s undying love for Casey McQuistion’s Red, White, and Royal Blue, which had made me look for more new adult books. While I’ve read new adult, like Jacquelyn Middleton’s books and K.A. Tucker’s The Simple Wild, I haven’t read too much new adult outside RWRB (which I love) and Colleen Hoover (whose books I have grown to dislike for their toxic masculinity).

Enter Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series, following a variety of characters who attend the fictional Ivy-League Briar College. Many of the characters are on the Briar Hockey team, which as an IRL hockey fan (#LGR), I love seeing the sport incorporated into this series.

As a new adult romance series, Elle Kennedy definitely doesn’t shy away from the romance scenes. As a mostly YA reader, the romance was really refreshing and done well. Kennedy dives into the male perspective, since all 4 books are told from both the female and male love interests. Her writing style is really easy to fall into, and each book is perfect for binge reading over the course of a day. While this series doesn’t necessarily contain the the world’s best writing, there is a lot of focus on the romance and relationship development. Most of the characters have some sort of backstory outside the romance that does affect the main relationship to some extent. Nevertheless, the Off-Campus series gives readers characters and relationships that they will absolutely root for. The chemistry between the couples, friends and other characters additionally provides many laugh-out-loud moments.

I have mini reviews for each book in their publication order below.

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The Deal

Rating: 4/5 Stars

After agreeing to tutor him, The Deal follows the evolution of Hannah and Garrett’s relationship as classmates to something more. The Deal has a bit of a stereotypical set up, as the two come from very different worlds. Hannah is a talented music major who sticks with the performing arts crowd and has difficulty attending college nightlife as a result of being raped in high school. The star of the ice hockey team, Garrett is the Briar bad boy, but can’t seem to escape the shadow of his superstar hockey player father. However, that didn’t stop me from being addicted! From the start, Hannah and Garret’s chemistry and humor was spot on. My favorite scene was their first tutoring session:

“There’s a beat, and then his bottom lip quivers. ‘This might be the wrong time to tell you, but…I can’t read’ ” (59).

“This is Garrett’s tutor. You’re annoying me. We’re done in thirty minutes. I’m confident you can keep your pants zipped until then.” (60).

“ ‘How do you feel about Lynyrd Skynyrd? Or do you only like bands where the guys coordinate their outfits?’ ” (62).

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