Book Review: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Book: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Published May 2018 by Simon Pulse|336 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

I didn’t like this one as much as I thought.  I’ve been on a contemporary kick lately, but this one didn’t work for me.  Which makes me sad, because I really enjoyed When Dimple Met Rishi, and I thought I’d really enjoy this one.

A big part of why I didn’t like this book was the format.  Twinkle writes letter to her favorite female filmmakers, which was cute.  But with the e-mails from her secret admirer and the texts added in as well, I had a hard time getting into the book.  In the midst of the letters, you’d see emails and texts, and then it would go back to the letters, and it was just irritating.  To the point that even though I went through this book pretty fast, it made me not care about what was going on.  And it took me out of Twinkle’s story, which didn’t help.

Then again, I thought Twinkle was absolutely terrible…so…yeah.  She really becomes self-centered, and she is terrible to Sahil, because he’s not his twin brother.  It’s clear he has feelings for her, and she does reciprocate those feelings, though maybe not initially.  She’s terrible to her best friend, and upset that her best friend has ditched her for the popular crowd, but doesn’t consider that maybe she’s part of the problem too.  She does find friendship and love in unexpected places, and at one point, it sounded like a complete set-up.  It wasn’t, and that was a relief, but I did expect Victoria to be up to something.

I was glad that Twinkle realized her part in things, and that her best friend apologized for how she treated Twinkle.  And the same with Hannah, but at the same, it was too late.  I mean, it did follow a progression, and Twinkle does take some time to realize things, but it was hard for me to actually care.

There were some funny moments in this book, and while it’s not set in the same world as When Dimple Met Rishi, it was written in the same vein- funny, guys you will probably swoon over, and heroine who knows what she wants.  It is weird, though, because some of the things I hated about Twinkle were things I loved about Dimple, but chances are, if you don’t like Dimple (the character) you probably won’t like Twinkle.  Unless you’re weird like I am.

I didn’t particularly about the romance in this one, which turns out to be a love square.  I didn’t particularly care about Neil being interested in Twinkle, and for some reason, I thought the emails were from Sahil.  They’re not, of course, but I was confused about how obvious it was that they were from him.  I was so, so wrong on that, and I don’t know why I didn’t connect it before.  I did find myself skimming over the texts and emails so maybe that’s why I didn’t connect everything.

At any rate, this book wasn’t for me.  Her books do sound really cool, so this one isn’t going to stop me from picking up her books in the future but I may be more hesitant going forward.

2 stars.  From Twinkle, With Love was okay, and I had a hard time getting into the book.  It was light-hearted and fun, but formatting and a heroine that was frustrating to read made it hard to like the book.

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Book Review: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Book: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Published October 2013 by Harry N Abrams|256 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

I liked this one!  For me, it’s one of those books that’s hovering between middle grade and YA- there is something about it that is a little bit more YA, but I could easily see it as an older middle grade book.

I thought Tara was interesting, and I liked seeing her balance both her Indian and her Jewish identities.  There were a couple of things that really stood out to me.  One was a comment from one of her classmates about how she’s not really Jewish because her mom converted to Judaism, and the other was someone assuming she was Muslim because she was from India.  She was easy to relate to, and I really liked her relationships with both her family and her friends.

Adult me’s reaction is that if someone says they’re Jewish, then they’re Jewish…and I’m pretty sure teenage me would felt the same way.  But I also grew up Catholic, and my knowledge of other religions is pretty limited, so maybe I’m missing something here.  I just liked seeing her struggle with her identity, and how she struggled with her faith.  She is full of questions, and for some reason, I really liked that about her.

I did like Sheila and I really, one of the other characters in the book.  It seems like she gets whatever she wants, but she also has some issues she needs to work on.  I felt a little bad for her, but I also wish we saw more of her backstory, because I am curious about why she did some of the things she did.

Something else I wish we saw was more of her mom’s experience as an immigrant.  Tara and her mom are very different, and her mom seems wary of Tara connecting with her Indian culture.  There does seem to be a little bit of a disconnect at times, but they are also very different.  Still, at least a little about her experience immigrating to the US would have been nice, and I think it would have added something different to her relationship with Tara.  But she was still an interesting character.

I also liked the glossary at the end, which was helpful because there were a lot of phrases and words I wasn’t familiar with.  It was nice to actually see what they meant, instead of forgetting to google it later, or trying to figure out what it meant.  I like it when books include a glossary, and that Freedman recognized that not everyone is going to be familiar with some of the phrases we see throughout the book.

3 stars.  I liked it, and I especially liked Tara.  But while I liked it, I didn’t love it.  I thought a couple of things could have used some more backstory, but overall, I’d still recommend it.

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Narrated by Sneha Mathan & Vikas Adam

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, narrated by Sneha Mathan & Vikas Adam

Published May 2017 by Dreamscape Media|Length: 10 hours, 45 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Now that Dimple Shah has graduated, she’s ready for a break from her family – especially from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the Ideal Indian Husband. Ugh. But Dimple knows that her mother must respect that she isn’t interested in doing that right now – otherwise she wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers, right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic, so when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him – during which he’ll have to woo her – he’s totally onboard. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself. Although their parents hadn’t planned suggesting the arrangement so soon, when their kids signed up for the same summer program, they figured why not?

I really liked When Dimple Met Rishi!  It’s a cute rom-com, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.  Well, listening in this case.

Actually, let’s start off with When Dimple Met Rishi as an audio book.  Usually I talk about that part last, for some reason, but since I’ve already mentioned that I listened to it, I might as well talk about it now.

I really liked it as an audio book, and I have the slightest feeling that had I read it, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much.  I could picture Rishi and Dimple really well, and while I’ve never listened to anything narrated by either Mathan or Adams, I thought they did pretty well narrating both Dimple and Rishi respectively.  In particular, I really liked Mathan’s narration of Dimple’s chapters and she really captured who Dimple is as a person.  It’s not that Adams didn’t do the same for Rishi, because he did.  I just don’t think he did it to the degree that Mathan did with Dimple.

I think part of it is that I liked Dimple a lot more than Rishi.  Dimple is definitely spirited and determined and she knows what she wants.  Is she whiny and stuck-up?  Sure, but hopefully that will change as she gets olders.  She and Rishi do balance each other out, since Rishi is a loyal, hopeless romantic who wants everyone around him to be happy.  He’s more of a people-pleaser than Dimple ever will be, though I did find him a little more boring and unmemorable.

I admit that at first, I thought Rishi was a little pathetic.  He was really into the idea of an arranged marriage, and like I said, he’s a hopeless romantic.  He, especially at the beginning, was a lot more interested in Dimple, and things were definitely one-sided.  It’s mostly because Rishi knew, and Dimple didn’t, that they were a possible match. We do see why Rishi acts the way he does, and I slowly started to change my mind because of that.

There is one other reason why I changed my mind about Rishi.  It’s not fair to him that I saw him as a pathetic, hopeless romantic.  If the tables were turned, and if it were Dimple acting that way, would I have the same reaction?  No, probably not, because a big part of my reaction to Rishi at first was because Rishi’s a guy, and it’s not fair that I’m deciding how he should and should not act.  And as the book goes on, we do see why Rishi acts the way he does.  I think part of it is who he is, and I’m glad I changed my mind about Rishi.

It’s definitely your typical romantic-comedy, and there are actual obstacles to their relationship that aren’t related to random miscommunications.  Dimple’s hurtful and dishonest, and Rishi, while overprotective at first, does care about her.  She cares about him as well, and I liked that Dimple had no problem saying that she was at a different place in their relationship.  I liked that she needed more time and that marriage wasn’t something she was thinking about, even though Rishi seemed more ready for it.

Was marriage something her mom wanted for her?  Of course, but her mom also wanted her to be happy, and that was more important than Dimple getting married.

This book also has a lot of funny moments as well.  I laughed quite a few times, and I was frequently smiling as well. I think it really came across in the audio as well, because the tone of voice that both narrators used made a lot of moments really amusing and light and fun.

4 stars.  So, I didn’t love it, but I did really like it.  I think it’s great as an audio book, but I think it’s worth reading in any format.  It’s light-hearted and fun, and I definitely recommend it.

Book Review: Love, Hate And Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Book: Love, Hate And Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Published January 2018 by Soho Teen|281 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

I liked Love, Hate & Other Filters!  I really felt for Maya, and she’s likable and sympathetic.

I really loved how she wanted to go to film school, even though it’s not what her parents would have wanted (or chosen) for her.  You really see her struggle with her identity as an Indian-American teen, and I really liked her relationship with her aunt.

One thing I thought was interesting was her mom’s focus on Maya getting married.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like almost every single book focusing on Asian-American, Middle Eastern or Muslim characters has a mom who has this single-handed focus on getting her teenage daughter married.  I know arranged marriage is a custom (please forgive me if I phrased that wrong.  Also, please let me know the correct way if I did get wrong) in some cultures, but she did seem more focused on that than what was going on with her daughter, especially after a horrific event happens a few hundred miles away.

And while her parents did struggle with the idea of her going to New York, I can understand why they would change their mind.  Still, I can’t imaging being disowned because of a decision to do it anyway.  Part of me feels like that is something that happens, and I hope they come around.  They do love her, and they do worry about her, but I am having a hard time with understanding why they’d disown her, and why they weren’t more supportive.  I really do want to understand where they’re coming from, but I’m really struggling with that.

I hated how Maya treated in the aftermath of that event, and how she was lumped into the same group as the perceived perpetrator, just because he had the same last name.  I get that people were scared, and that took over, and people were acting in a completely different way then they were before.  Who wouldn’t be scared, after something like that?  But how people reacted wasn’t a surprise at all, and I felt like it highlighted really well how people treat those who are Muslim.  The Islamaphobia was handled really well, and I wouldn’t expect anything else.  Love, Hate & Other Filters is #ownvoices, and it felt very much like Maya was going through something Ahmed had experienced.

I did like seeing the chapters following the perpetrator of the attack.  They didn’t make sense at first- actually, they didn’t make sense until we actually see the crime, and then they started to make sense.  They gave some insight into that person’s thoughts, but even though they were different, I don’t know how much they actually added to the book. They did show that terrorism has no religion, and that anyone can be a terrorist, so there is that.

A lot of this book is romance, and I didn’t particularly care for it.  There are two possible love interests for Maya, and I didn’t care for either of them.  Not only that, but she dates one guy, only for it to not work out in the end?  It didn’t make any sense to me.

One last thing that didn’t make sense: Maya’s religion.  I know the blurb says Maya is Muslim, and I went into the book expecting that to be part of the book in some way.  But Maya never says she’s Muslim, she never prays…she never acknowledges that she’s Muslim.  I know everyone has their own relationship with religion, but I never got the sense that it was important to her.  I don’t know if it’s shame, or if she didn’t really believe in it but sort of adhered to it because of her parents.  I’m just confused about how the summary of the book mentions Maya is Muslim, but we never see any mention or acknowledgement of it.

3 stars.  The romance was superficial and boring, and I felt like some of the labels for the book didn’t actually match what we see in the book (namely religion).  I do think the hate crimes we see in the book, and the way Maya was treated after the terrorist attack were well done.  It just wasn’t enough to give the book a higher rating.

Book Review: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Book: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Published March 2009 by Margaret K McElderry|256 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Samar — a.k.a. Sam — has never known much about her Indian heritage. Her mom has deliberately kept Sam away from her old-fashioned family. It’s never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a really cute but demanding boyfriend.But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam’s house, and he turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam isn’t sure what to do, until a girl at school calls her a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside. That decides it: Why shouldn’t Sam get to know her family? What is her mom so afraid of? Then some boys attack her uncle, shouting, “Go back home, Osama!” and Sam realizes she could be in danger — and also discovers how dangerous ignorance can be. Sam will need all her smarts and savvy to try to bridge two worlds and make them both her own.

I liked Shine, Coconut Moon!  I really liked Sam, and I liked seeing her decide to learn more about her family. 9/11 really changed things for a lot of people and I thought Shine, Coconut Moon really showed how much people changed.

Like Sam’s boyfriend.  I hated him, I really did.  How he treated Sam because of her uncle was absolutely horrible, and you’d think he’d give her a chance and try to see things from her perspective.  But he had no interest in doing that, and refused to leave her alone, even when she wanted to have nothing to do with him.  It’s hard to believe that she was ever interested in him, and I was relieved when they were no longer together.

And how things changed with her best friend.  Her best friend is the stereotypical character who doesn’t understand how hard things are for Sam after 9/11.  Her friend does come around, and I wonder if maybe she noticed things but didn’t want to admit it.

This book is very much Sam learning about her heritage.  I thought the summary was confusing- it made it seem like her uncle showing up and him being would be a huge part of the book, but it wasn’t.  His appearance does change things for Sam, and she does meet both him and her grandparents because of it, but it wasn’t as important as the summary would have you believe.

Don’t get me wrong, the way he was treated by people he didn’t even know was horrible, and he doesn’t deserve it.  It’s sad that people saw him a certain way because of how he looked, and that people make assumptions and stereotype.  I wish we didn’t live in a world like that, but unfortunately, we do.

Something I thought was odd was when the book took place.  There were times where it seemed like it happened right after 9/11 and we’re in the months right after.  But towards the end of the book, it seemed like more time had passed.  Maybe I missed something, but the timeline seemed really strange and confusing to me, and it took me out of things a little bit.

I did like seeing Sam expand her worldview, and how she started talking to people that she previously ignored.  It’s too bad some of the other people in her life couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do the same.  It made me angry that people started treating her differently because of her uncle, and that even though they’ve known her for years, they started looking at her with suspicion.

I’m really not sure what else to say about Shine, Coconut Moon.  It’s definitely worth checking out and reading.

3 stars.  Even though I liked Shine, Coconut Moon, I didn’t love it.  I really felt for Samar, and I felt so angry on her behalf.  I definitely recommend it!

Book Review: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Book: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Published August 2016 by Disney Hyperion|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

I’m your protagonist-Reshma Kapoor-and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success-a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

In this wholly unique, wickedly funny debut novel, Rahul Kanakia consciously uses the rules of storytelling-and then breaks them to pieces.

When I first heard about this book, I was pretty intrigued.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and while it is a cool idea, it didn’t work for me.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it does feel like Reshma’s story isn’t a new one.  It definitely falls into the “I must do all of the things I never did before in order to truly live” trope.  Which is fine, but it really didn’t work for me, and it felt really fake.  I mean, I know Reshma is doing it so she can have an easier time writing a book people will want to read, and maybe Reshma herself is why it didn’t work for me.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Reshma, and I feel like a lot of people would see her as unlikeable.  She is ambitious, and will do anything to get into college.  I was really surprised by the lengths she went to in order to get into college, and I kind of wish the book had gone more into that.  What she did isn’t okay, and she really is ruthless and cruel.  There is no redemptive arc for Reshma, and even at the end of the book, she still believes she did the right thing.

I do wonder if her parents business deal played a part in why she did what she did.  Maybe she didn’t want what happened to their business happen to her, and I get that.  But it doesn’t change the fact that she is cold and willing to do to others what someone did to her parents.  She didn’t learn from that at all, and I felt like, even though there were some very real consequences for her actions, she was still determined to lie, cheat and sue in order to get her way.

And as terrible as Reshma was, I kind of liked that she didn’t really learn her lesson or change because of what she did.  Would it have been easy for her to change and learn something?  Of course, but I feel like that would be the predictable thing.  Her not changing was a little bit refreshing, and sometimes, we don’t learn or change, even though we should.

2 stars.  I didn’t like Enter Title Here as much as I thought, and it fell flat.  I didn’t mind Reshma’s ruthlessness, though I think she went overboard in what she did in order to get into college.