Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon – A Review (another rant-review hehe :P)

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon – A Review (another rant-review hehe :P)

TITLE: Today Tonight Tomorrow

AUTHOR: Rachel Lynn Solomon

PAGE EXTENT: 384

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster

GENRE: YA Contemporary, #ownvoices Jewish rep

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from Simon & Schuster India in exchange for an honest review.

The Hating Game meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by way of Morgan Matson in this unforgettable romantic comedy about two rival overachievers whose relationship completely transforms over the course of twenty-four hours.

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.

Did I move Seattle from #6 to #2 on my priority list of cities to pursue my Post Graduate Residency in the US after reading this book? Did I get an intense urge to go to Seattle right away after reading this book? Did I giggle into the night and blush like a tomato while reading this book? YES. YES. AND YES.

Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been academic rivals in highschool right from their freshman year, both intent on staying one step ahead of the other. So, what happens when Neil is named Valedictorian? Rowan doesn’t want to give up. She wants to beat him one last time in the city-wide Scavenger hunt, Howl that’s conducted every year as a farewell gift by the junior years! What follows is a fast-paced, fun-filled, thrilling race across Seattle all set over the course of one day!

The fact that there was great character development in this book in 24 HOURS was what BLEW my mind! I am awed by how Rachel managed to give us two of the best well fleshed-out characters in YA! This goes on to say how all of us have multiple layers, a myriad of problems, but the world only sees what we choose to show.

The banter between Rowan and Neil was something I was constantly looking forward to in the book! It was super-snarky, super-hilarious and had me howling with laughter time and again! As we progress with the story, we begin to see Rowan and Neil open up to each other and trust each other with their vulnerabilities and tucked-away secrets. Enemies-to-lovers is probably my favorite YA trope of all time, because what’s better than knowing somebody’s weaknesses and shortcomings but still choosing to love them all the same!?!? This was seamlessly executed with UTTER PERFECTION. * chef’s kiss*

Being an #ownvoices book for Jewish rep, I love how this book gave us an insight into Jewish family dynamics, Jewish traditions (the Shabbat dinner is one of my favorite scenes in this book), while also addressing issues such an anti-Semitism and erasure of cultures. I love discovering new cultures and traditions and this book had me intrigued! The casual queer rep was something that made me happy as well.

If there’s one thing I want everybody to take away from his book, it’s that ANYBODY CAN READ ANY BOOK, irrespective of age or gender. Rowan is into romance novels and is afraid to accept it because of how trashed the genre is, and Neil is obsessed with a Middle Grade series right from his childhood and has reread the series multiple times! Life’s all about breaking stereotypes, innit?

I’m someone who has a thing for people who are amazing at what they do, and Neil is now on my list of Top 10 Favourite Book Boyfriends of all time! He is such a cinnamon roll. There were multiple instances where I wanted to jump right in and give him a nice, warm hug. Fictional characters like Neil are what give me sky-high expectations of my future(currently non-existent) boyfriend and I’m SO NOT ashamed of it! 😂

Not only did this book make me go all giggly and pink, it also made me watch city tour videos of Seattle on YouTube! I LOVE the fact that this book is a love letter to this amazing city and how Seattle forms the foundation on which this rom-com is built. Rachel has perfectly infused the essence of Seattle into this story and i can’t help but gush about how I’m falling in love with this city! Remember the old saying, “Books help you travel to far away places without leaving the comfort of your chair”? That’s EXACTLY what this book did and more!

I have this horrible habit of turning my reviews into a rant every single time and if you’ve read all the way up till here, I guess it’s pretty obvious at this point that I’m basically shoving the book in your face and forcing you to read it, because THAT’S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO!

If you’re in the mood for a super-adorable, fluffy rom-com which also doubles as a thriller and has some of the best character growth in YA, and if you want to read late into the night and giggle and blush and sniffle and go awww a thousand times, this is the book you should be picking up next! Believe me, you’re in for a wild, wild ride through Seattle(emotionally too)!!!

Do you have any YA contemporary recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean – A Review (more of a rant :P)

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean – A Review (more of a rant :P)

TITLE: Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow

AUTHOR: Benjamin Dean

PAGE EXTENT: 352

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster UK

GENRE: Middle Grade, LGBTQIA+ Fiction

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from Simon & Schuster India in exchange for an honest review.

The rainbow-filled, JOYOUS debut from a hugely exciting new talent. Perfect for 9+ readers and fans of Lisa Thompson, Elle McNicoll and Onjali Rauf’s bestselling THE BOY AT THE BACK OF THE CLASS.

My name’s Archie Albright, and I know two things for certain:

1. My mum and dad kind of hate each other, and they’re not doing a great job of pretending that they don’t anymore.

2. They’re both keeping a secret from me, but I can’t figure out what.

Things aren’t going great for Archie Albright. His dad’s acting weird, his mum too, and all he wants is for everything to go back to normal, to three months before when his parents were happy and still lived together. When Archie sees a colourful, crumpled flyer fall out of Dad’s pocket, he thinks he may have found the answer. Only problem? The answer might just lie at the end of the rainbow, an adventure away. 

Together with his best friends, Bell and Seb, Archie sets off on a heartwarming and unforgettable journey to try and fix his family, even if he has to break a few rules to do it…

FAIR WARNING: THIS REVIEW IS ALL ABOUT MY SCREAMING IN GAY ABOUT HOW AMAZING THIS BOOK IS AND WHY YOU SHOULD PICK IT UP! PROCEED WITH CAUTION! 🌈🌈

Have you ever read a book and this warm feeling takes over you and you just want to hug the book tight to your chest and rant about the book to anyone and everyone you see? CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE A THROW PILLOW WITH THIS BOOK COVER ON IT BECAUSE I WANT TO CUDDLE THIS BOOK SO BAD?

Archie Albright is a 12-year-old biracial middle-schooler from England who knows something’s not right between his parents because they have been acting all weird and distant and are constantly fighting and bickering. Archie ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and hears something he isn’t supposed to: his dad is gay. This comes as a shocker to him and he makes it his mission to find out more and help his dad out! And what does he do? HE GOES TO THE LONDON PRIDE PARADE!

THIS BOOK WAS PURE JOY. There is not a single boring moment in this book and the fast-paced plot had me racing through the book in one sitting! Archie’s honest, sarcastic, witty voice had me giggling from time to time and I couldn’t help but wonder how Benjamin hit bulls-eye with this narration by perfectly getting into the mind of a middle-schooler!

“Adults really are dim, Bell said quietly, grabbing a consoler as I fired up the console. “I can’t believe we leave them in charge of things.”

SAME GURL. SAME. I CAN’T EITHER!

And if you have read my earlier reviews of Middle Grade books, you’ll notice how I’ve stressed upon the fact that Middle Grade books showcase FRIENDSHIP AT ITS BEST! Archie and his two best friends, the ever-so-cautious, rule-abiding Seb and the diving-headlong-into-adventure, excuse-me-what-are-rules Bell, form the PERFECT TRIO! Amazing friendships are what draw me to Middle grade and this book gave me EXACTLY what I wanted, not in spoons, but in SPADES!

I love Middle Grade. I love queer fiction. If you ask me, this book is a match made in heaven! Benjamin’s descriptions of the London Pride Parade made me SUPER DUPER jealous of Archie! I spent a good half hour Googling the London Pride Parade after reading this book and I now have the Parade on my bucket list! Thanks, Benjamin! 😂😒❤️

The ending was emotional to the T. I was smiling and sniffling and giggling and wiping my eyes all at once and trust me, YOU NEED THIS BOOK IN YOUR LIFE. PERIOD.

If you have a Middle Grader in your life and you want to introduce them to the LGBTQIA+ community, this book is what you should be gifting them! It should come as no surprise that this book is brimming with queer side characters! Drag queens, a lesbian couple, a non-binary person, well you get the point. And the best part? The reader goes on a journey of discovery with Archie as he learns more about the queer community at the Parade and doesn’t feel info-dumpy one bit. In short, this book is the PERFECT info-tainment you could get your hands on! And since the queer community is something everybody should be aware of, I low-key hope this book gets on the Required Reading list at schools because this book is ESSENTIAL.

Okay, rant over. I’m telling you once again: PICK UP THIS BOOK! IT’S SUPER DUPER CUTE AND SUPER DUPER GAY AND HAS ONE OF THE BEST COVERS EVER! (Yes, I’m a sucker for covers too, if it isn’t obvious already hehe).

What are you waiting for? Get your hands on a copy of this book, read it in one sitting, and UNLEASH THE GAY! 🏳️‍🌈

Have you any Middle Grade queer books? Let me know in the comments below!

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf – A Review

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf – A Review

TITLE: The Girl and the Ghost

AUTHOR: Hanna Alkaf

PAGE EXTENT: 280

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins India

GENRE: Middle Grade, #ownvoices

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.25

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.

TW: bullying, dysfunctional families, death

Nobody is ever really ready for goodbye. But sometimes you need to bid farewell to the things holding you back so that you can move forward.

THIS BOOK MADE ME SOB. And NOT the happy kind. The next time somebody dismisses Middle Grade books as “childish” or “too silly” I will make it my mission to make them read this book. I am someone who gets emotional while reading books and sheds a tear or two, but very few books have made me UGLY CRY, and this book is one of those.

The Girl and the Ghost follows Suraya, a Malaysian Muslim girl, who inherits a pelesit from her grandmother, who also happens to be a witch. Suraya has been perceived to be eccentric and weird by the society around her and she has never had a lot of friends. When the pelesit extends an arm of friendship, Suraya pounces on the opportunity and befriends the pelesit.

Over time, the friendship between Suraya and Pink (the expression of horror on the pelesit’s face when she names him Pink was GOLD ) mutates into something toxic and dark. What started out as friendship between Suraya and Pink morphed into obsession and jealousy when Suraya made a new (human) friend in a Japanese girl Jing Wei. Read the book to find out the rest!

Hanna perfectly conveys this message through her book: no matter how long the duration of the friendship, it has the possibility of turning toxic at any point and how we sometimes put up with it because we love the friend with all our heart and don’t want to let them go, so much that we give ourselves excuses to preserve the friendship. This right here is a very important message and Middle Grade books are the perfect medium to convey the same to young readers. Kudos to Hanna for writing this riveting tale!

The child’s song wrapped the ghost in a tender weave of comfort and belonging and glorious wonder, sweet and innocent and intoxicating.

Hanna’s writing style is BEAUTIFUL. Lush, lyrical and smooth, Hanna’s writing draws you in from the very first page and doesn’t let you leave until you close the book, sobbing. Her writing is like biting into fresh Pandan cake, you just want more and more!

“Carries around a Chanel wallet that she says is real.” Jing snorted. “Someone should tell her Chanel isn’t spelled with two l’s.”

The light humor provided by the chirpy, bubbly, ever-so-excited Jing lends comic relief to an otherwise serious story and balances out the different elements. I love to read about strong female friendships in books and I was super glad and happy when Suraya made a friend. And what do friends do? Stick with us through thick and thin and do not leave our side, no matter what! And that’s PRECISELY what Jing did! Believe me when I say this, this book is staying with you for a long, long time.

This book takes you on a journey to the Malaysian countryside. Vibrant descriptions of green paddy fields, Malaysian cuisine, Malaysian lingo and the whole vibe in general transport you to the kampungs of Malaysia and you can’t help but want to travel to Malaysia to witness this scenic beauty for yourself! This bittersweet, poignant story is richly inspired by Malaysian folklore and features spirits from Malaysian mythology: polongs, bajangs, langsuirs to name a few. This book is Malaysian at heart and I love the fact that Middle Grade readers get to learn about different cultures early on, thanks to amazing #ownvoices books like this one.

If you’re in the mood for an atmospheric, heart-warming, touching and thought-provoking tale, go ahead and pick up this one! Gentle reminder: keep a tissue box handy!

Have you read any #ownvoices Middle Grade books? Let me know in the comments and we can discuss!

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy – A Review

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy – A Review

TITLE: The Best at It

AUTHOR: Maulik Pancholy

PAGE EXTENT: 336

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins India

GENRE: Middle Grade, LGBTQIA+ fiction, #ownvoices

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From actor Maulik Pancholy comes an incredibly charming, heartfelt middle grade debut about Rahul Kapoor, a gay Indian American boy coming into his own in a small town in the Midwest.

Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at. And become the BEST at it.

Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge. . . . But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?

Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about friendship, family, and the courage it takes to live your truth.

Eleven years ago, while I was in Middle School, I had quite a rough time figuring out my sexuality. I knew I was different from the other dudes around me, but couldn’t really put a finger on it. I used to enjoy hanging out with the girls in class for the simple reason that I didn’t feel like a fish out of water around them. I was made fun of and mocked at for my evidently effeminate mannerisms and I tried so hard to blend in with the other boys in class, even to the extent of pretending to be interested in basketball (I am not interested in sports whatsoever) and IF THERE IS ONE THING I WISH I HAD WITH ME BACK THEN, IT IS THIS BOOK.

The Best at It follows Rahul, a 12-year-old gay Indian-American middle-schooler from Greenville, Indiana, who is trying to figure out his forte, all while coming to terms with his sexuality. After a heartfelt conversation with his grandfather, Bhai (more on him in a while) Rahul decides that he wants to excel at something and along with his bestie(aka hype queen) Chelsea, tries a variety of activities to figure out what his jam his, some with disastrous consequences as well! And yes, not to mention navigating puberty, first-time crushes and Middle School.

If you take a look at my bio on Instagram, you’d notice that I love Middle Grade/Queer/#ownvoices books and when I discovered that this one is Middle Grade AND Queer AND #ownvoices, I knew this was right up my alley! Little did I know this cute, charming Middle Grade book would take me all the way back to middle school on one déjà vu-filled rollercoaster ride! It’s not frequently that we come across protagonists we relate to on a whole new level, but Rahul’s story reminded me so much of my own that I couldn’t stop flipping the pages and I devoured this book in one sitting!

I love how this book is so Indian AND American at the same time! Nandita Auntie from the Auntie Squad is SUCH A MOOD. I was constantly looking forward to the Auntie Squad scenes and Rahul’s depictions of theirs, and it was all so annoying and endearing at the same time! Maulik perfectly manages to capture the essence of Indian families, along with a Western twist!

“Do you think it’s strange we always end up in boys’ bathrooms doing each other’s makeup?” She puckers her lips.

“Absolutely not,” I saw with a smile. “Being different is what makes us fun, remember?”

Rahul’s best friend, Chelsea, is probably the BEST HYPE QUEEN of all time. Chelsea is that one friend who sticks with you through thick and thin and never ever leaves your side, no matter what. Give me a Chelsea and I’ll die a happy man.

In fact, he’s the one who insisted I cann him “Bhai”.

When I asked him why, he said, “Because you should always be able to tell me anything that’s on your mind, as though I’m your older brother.”

Rahul’s relationship with his grandfather, Bhai was one of my favorite aspects about this book! If there is one book that allows its side characters to shine, it’s this one! Rahul and his grandfather share an amicable relationship right from the very first page and trust me on this, their super-adorable bonding sessions will make your face crack a smile every single time!

Mental health rep in Middle Grade is not something I have come across often, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE how Maulik has hit the right chords when it comes to depiction of mental health disorders. As someone living with anxiety and obsessive compulsive tendencies for quite some time now, I could resonate with Rahul throughout the book and had a lot of OHMYGOSH THIS IS HOW IT STARTED FOR ME TOO moments!

While Rahul’s story is full of hilarious shenanigans and marriage-obsessed Indian aunties, it also manages to address a few serious issues such as bullying, homophobia (internalized as well), discrimination, stereotypes, outing, mental health disorders and racism, all while making it suitable and understandable for Middle Grade readers.

There are a ton of other things I want to say; honestly, my mind is brimming with thoughts on this book right now, but this is a review and not an essay and to keep it short: PICK UP THIS HILARIOUS, CHARMING, BUT ALSO A TEARJERKER OF A BOOK! And if nobody has told this to you yet, IT IS OKAY TO BE A NERD! NERDS ARE FUN! I am a nerd, Rahul is a nerd and we’re all proud to be NERDS!

And Maulik, in case you’re reading this, please consider this a petition to write a sequel to this ADORKABLE story, but set in the future, maybe Rahul’s junior year of high-school! With some cute, fluffy romantic moments! * wink wink* And I am pretty sure you’d be the best at writing the sequel too! (excuse my lame puns haha)

Do you love reading Middle Grade books too? Hit me up in the comments and let’s discuss! And while you’re at it, send some recommendations my way! Hehe!

7 Reasons Why You Should Pick up This #OWNVOICES BIPOC Fantasy Right Away!

7 Reasons Why You Should Pick up This #OWNVOICES BIPOC Fantasy Right Away!

Roseanne A. Brown's 'A Song of Wraiths and Ruin' is buoyed by infectious  energy

1. BREATH-TAKING BACKDROPSolstasia afeshiya! This gripping YA fantasy is set against the backdrop of Solstasia, a week-long festival that is celebrated once in 50 years and ushers in a new era! What better setting for a tale where the two protagonists are on a quest to kill each other?

2. SOLID WORLD BUILDING – The world building is PERFECT! Not only is the world building on point, it doesn’t feel info-dumpy at all. ASOWAR in set in the city of Ziran, the capital of Sonande, which heavily draws inspiration from West Africa. The magic system, alignments of the citizens, long-lost and forbidden magic, sorcerers and the myths in this tale are perfectly woven into the plot and they make you want to jump right into the pages and discover more about this world!

3. WELL-EXECUTED ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACK REP – As someone who has had anxiety and panic attacks, I think it’s safe to say that Roseanne has done justice to the representation. The scenes are well-written and perfectly portray how one feels during an attack. There is also a trigger warning issued at the beginning which I feel is absolutely necessary and all in all, well done!

4. PLOT TWISTS GALORE – I, for one, am a sucker for plot twists! The plot seemed sluggish over the first 150 pages but be warned, that’s the calm before the storm! The author throws a volley of plot twists at you and they will leave you gasping! A new plot twist springs up even before you’ve had time to get over the previous one! And believe me, these plot twists are maaaaaad.

5. WELL-FLESHED-OUT CHARACTERS – The characters in this book have amazing arcs and you can’t help but fall in love with them! Karina, on one hand, is a princess with a carefree attitude and is one hell of a rule breaker while on the other, Malik is my honey sugar plum😭 His love for his sisters, Leila and Nadia shines through the pages and you can’t help but notice how he makes huge sacrifices for his family and puts their needs above his own. He is a GEM. He’s now on my Top 5 Book Boyfriends of All Time! The side characters have their own spotlights in this story and I loved the casual queer rep too!

6. THIS BOOK NORMALISES MEN CRYING. Roseanne, welcome to my list of auto-buy authors. I’m going to read everything you write. Period.

7. #OWNVOICES – Last, but definitely not the least, this is an #ownvoices BIPOC fantasy novel that is based on West African culture, mythology and folklore! Brimming with #browngirlmagic and #blackboyjoy, this is the perfect novel if you’re looking for #ownvoices titles! I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important it is for readers to pick up #ownvoices novels and support authors from marginalised communities!

I hope I have convinced you enough to pick up this beauty of a book. If you happen to read it, hit me up and let’s discuss! I CANNOT wait to read the conclusion to the duology, A Psalm of Storms and Silence! And not to mention, the covers is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

Have you read any #ownvoices fantasy novels? If yes, did you love them? Let me know in the comments!

The Secret Life of Debbie G. by Vibha Batra – A Review

The Secret Life of Debbie G. by Vibha Batra – A Review

Amazon.com: The Secret Life of Debbie G. (9789353574659): Batra, Vibha:  Books

TITLE: The Secret Life of Debbie G

AUTHOR: Vibha Batra

ILLUSTRATOR: Kalyani Ganapathy

PAGE EXTENT: 296

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins India

GENRE: YA Contemporary Graphic Novel

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Secret Life of Debbie G is the story of a sixteen-year-old who becomes an online sensation overnight. Except, it’s her online persona that hits big time. Set in contemporary times, where the number of likes/ comments/ shares/ DMs/ followers determine a teenager’s sense of self-worth, the story takes a close look at how social media influences their behaviour and affects their emotional health. Equal parts poignant and fun, this is a bittersweet coming-of-age story.

TW: Divorce, separation, outing, homophobia, bullying, fat shaming, slut shaming

“I’d been angry a long time. At life in general. At my parents in particular. I’d held on to my anger for so long that it had become a part of me. That’s the thing about rage, it consumes you from within, leaves you hollow. It’s like a parasite that needs a host to live off. Once it infects you, it takes over your mind, impairs your judgment slowly but surely, until eventually you can’t tell right from wrong, friend from foe.”

The Secret Life of Debbie G is probably one of the most relatable books I’ve read of late. This coming-of-age graphic novel follows 16-year-old Soundarya (who, for the record, hates her name and prefers to go by Arya. We are soulsisters, gurl.) who hails from a South Indian family and attends a posh school in New Delhi. She is a plus-sized teen who is unapologetic and embraces her curves (Yay for rep!) This heartfelt story is all about how her plan to get back at the bullies and meanies at school makes her an online sensation in an instant, and how things start going downhill! I don’t want to divulge too much of the plot here. Read the book to find out more!

It amazed me how Vibha Batra has effortlessly managed to step into the mind of the current Gen Z teenager with just the right dose of modern phrases and lingo! Considering how the illustrations are the mainstay of a graphic novel, Kalyani Ganapathy’s illustration style paired with Vibha’s quirky writing made this a joyful and quick reading experience! Arya’s deadpan sarcasm had me giggling!

Arya’s maternal grandparents are your typical judgmental Indian grandparents and had me rolling my eyes multiple times. Vibha has managed to perfectly capture Indian family dynamics, while also dealing with issues such as divorce, separation, remarriage and most importantly, finding love all over again.

Arya’s relationship with her mother, Aishwarya is one of my favorite mother-daughter relationships in YA. Aishwarya, a divorcee, is portrayed as a strong, broad-minded, independent woman with a modern outlook who wants to bring out the best in the people around her. The sub-plot of her falling in love all over again and marrying her new-found love interest shows how such events have to be normalized and how the stigma following the same has to be erased from the society we are a part of.

Nickster and Rucksack (a.k.a Nikhil and Rukhsar) are super endearing and I was constantly looking forward to their hilarious banter with Arya throughout the book! Rukhsar, a budding TV star and Nikhil, who has found a new partner (not talking more about this here because hey, spoilers), are Arya’s two besties and they own storylines highlight some of the evils prevalent in our society.

Most importantly, this book conveys how social media and want for online fame(followers, likes, comments etc.) can have an adverse effect on one’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, and also shows how we might go to extreme lengths for popularity and fame and how things can come crumbling down. In short, the perils of social media and what becoming prey to social media might make us do.

Batra doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of life and addresses a myriad of sensitive issues in this book, viz. slut-shaming, fat-shaming, divorce, bullying, outing, homophobia to name a few.

This would have been a solid 5-star read for me, if not for the abrupt ending and the absence of a trigger warning. Since this book deals with sensitive issues, I would have appreciated a trigger warning in the beginning. Being someone who has dealt with outing and extreme homophobia, I found those scenes a bit triggering. Trigger warnings are extremely important in books that deal with sensitive topics.

The ending was very abrupt and seemed choppy to me. Had the book been wrapped up on a better note, with some healing time, it would have been the perfect graphic novel for me.

If you’re in the mood for a quick read and want to roll your eyes at judgmental uncles and aunties and relate to how everything was about looking and doing ‘cool’ stuff back in school, pick this one up. Trust me, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride!

Are you a fan of graphic novels too? If you have any recommendations for me, drop them in the comments!

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam – A Review

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam – A Review

Punching The Air' Tells A Story Of Hope Behind Bars | WFAE

TITLE: Punching the Air

AUTHORS: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

PAGE EXTENT: 400

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins India

GENRE: YA Contemporary (Verse)

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

“All because
we were in the wrong place
we were in the wrong skins
we were in the wrong time
we were in the wrong bodies
we were in the wrong country
we were in the wrong
were in the wrong
in the wrong
the wrong
wrong”

What happens when you are in the wrong place at the wrong time? AND you’re black? You can guess the answer. To end up in prison for a crime you didn’t commit.

Punching the Air is a powerful novel written in verse that follows Amal Shahid, a black Muslim teenager who is sent off to a juvenile facility for a crime he didn’t commit and why? The answer is pretty obvious. He is black. This book heavily draws inspiration from the life of Yusef Salaam, who was also wrongly convicted in the Central Park Jogger Case back in 1989 and is now one of the members of the “Exonerated Five”. (Want to know more about it? You’re just a Google search away.)

Brimming with hard-hitting metaphors and imagery, this novel in verse is narrated from Amal’s perspective and is scattered with illustrations throughout that amplify this novel’s impact. This gut-wrenching novel deals with racism, police brutality, bullying, blind discrimination against the Black community and hate. This book will open your eyes to the unfairness of the situation in the world today and will make you want to stand in solidarity with the Black community!

Amal is an innocent teenager who is in art school and loves painting and poetry. This book goes on to portray how someone who should be enjoying his high school years while pursuing his passion and his crushes (wink wink) is serving a sentence in jail out of sheer injustice and racism.

Does the brutality end once the person is behind bars? Not at all. This novel sheds light on the fact that racism, brutality and bullying are prevalent IN prison as well. GAH WHY IS THE WORLD SO UNFAIR?

“How dare you say such a thing, Amal?
You are not alone in this fight
I’m here with you always
Your struggle in my struggle
Your hurt is my hurt
I’m hurting because you’re hurting, Amal- ”

I was looking forward to the visiting day scenes as these show the heartwarming interaction between Amal and his mother and how powerful and strong a woman Amal’s mother is. A simple hijab-clad woman with a heart of feathers and a will of steel! The friendship that blossomed between Amal and Kadon in prison was bittersweet!

I think this is the perfect time to pick up this book. With the #blacklivesmatter movement and recent incidents of police brutality and racism, there has never been a better time to pick it up! Ibi and Yusef have definitely packed a punch with this one! It might take all of 2 hours to read but it will leave a mark on your soul! You just CANNOT stop thinking about this book and you’ll end up wanting to hug Amal and tell him it’ll all be okay.

“Yusef and I wanted people to know that when you find yourself in dark places, there’s always a light somewhere in that darkness, and even if that light is inside of you, you can illuminate your own darkness by shedding that light on the world.”

PLEASE PICK UP THIS BOOK. This book is a NEED.

In short, Punching the Air punches you in the gut and leaves you gasping for air!

What are some of your favorite novels in verse? Let me know in the comments below!

The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley – A Review

The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley – A Review

Buy The Wild Way Home Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Wild Way Home  Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.in

TITLE: The Wild Way Home

AUTHOR: Sophie Kirtley

PAGE EXTENT: 256

PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

GENRE: Middle Grade

SOURCE: ARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When Charlie’s longed-for brother is born with a serious heart condition, Charlie’s world is turned upside down. Upset and afraid, Charlie flees the hospital and makes for the ancient forest on the edge of town. There Charlie finds a boy floating face-down in the stream, injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off back to the hospital to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It’s become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. For Charlie has unwittingly fled into the Stone Age, with no way to help the boy or return to the present day. Or is there … ?

What follows is a wild, big-hearted adventure as Charlie and the Stone Age boy set out together to find what they have lost – their courage, their hope, their family and their way home.

Fans of Piers Torday, Geraldine McCaughrean and Stig of the Dump will love this wild, wise and heartfelt debut adventure.

“I think about how things aren’t always what they seem; how bad things can sometimes just happen and there’s nothing you can do about it, no matter how hard you try to forget…or how far you run.”

My eyes were wet with happy and sad tears at the same time as I flipped the last page. If there is one middle grade book that’s heartwarming yet brutally honest at the same time, it’s this one.

The Wild Way Home follows Charlie Merriam, our 12-year-old protagonist who has always longed for a younger sibling. When Charlie’s brother Dara is born with a malformed heart, Charlie runs off into the woods nearby only to realize that it’s not the same anymore! Guess why? Charlie has walked right into the Stone Age! Yes, you heard it right! I have read quite a few Middle Grade books that feature characters going away to far flung places, magical lands and hidden cities but this was the first time I read a book set partially in the Stone Age!

Charlie discovers a boy clad in deerskin lying face-down in the river with a wound on his forehead, and this is where the unforgettable friendship between the two begins. This book takes you on a wild journey of grit, survival and loss, at the base of which is the power of family and friendship. This is a tale full of action, adventure, tragedy and definitely packs a punch! Sophie hits you with the right feels and makes you want to jump into the page just you give these characters a warm hug!

I loved the fact that this book features a gender-neutral protagonist. Throughout the book, there is no mention of Charlie’s gender and it’s entirely up to the reader to assume Charlie as male, female or neither. The author emphasizes how gender is not at all a factor when it comes to friendship but the emotional bond between the two people is of utmost importance. The friendship between these two young jellybeans who are separated not by years or centuries, but millennia altogether, is something I will reminisce time and again.

Harby’s broken English was super cute and adorable! I found myself giggling every time I read his broken English. The phrase “make safe” will stick with me for long. This shows how friendship surpasses language barriers as well! Charlie’s confusion and struggle to interpret Harby’s words was fun to read!

It didn’t escape my notice how Sophie has managed to expertly layer the past over the present. Charlie is familiar yet unfamiliar with the forest at the same time. However, I would have loved to read more on the time travelling aspect as such. Since this is a character-driven story more than a plot-driven one, I wouldn’t hold it against the book. For a debut novel, this book speaks volumes about values, friendship, family and grief all with a gripping storyline!

Sophie doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life. If there is one thing this book effortlessly manages to convey, it’s that life is not rainbows and unicorns all the time. Life is not a smooth road, it’s a gravel path full of stones, pot holes and multiple other obstacles and that we do not run away from it, we face it with our chests puffed out and our heads held high.

“Maybe that’s what spirit song is made of – it’s not made of words or even of music – it’s made of the spirits of us creatures who are brave enough to look each other square in the eye and say this is me and this is you and we’re both fierce and we’re both afraid. Equals. As one.”

If you’re in the mood for a tearjerker of a tale that also makes you smile and keeps you on the edge of the couch with anticipation, pick this one up! And if that outright gorgeous cover doesn’t tempt you enough, I don’t know what will!

Have you read books that feature time travel? If yes, do let me know in the comments!

Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron | Book Blitz | TBR and Beyond Tours

Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron | Book Blitz | TBR and Beyond Tours

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020 and I SQUEALED when I received the confirmation email for this Book Blitz!

Click here to check out the rest of the posts on this Book Blitz!

Maya and the Rising Dark cover

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Pages: 304

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Published: September 22nd, 2020

Click on the following links to purchase this book!

Goodreads || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Book Depository || Indigo

In this highly anticipated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.

“But to me, math was about as interesting as watching paint dry, which was actually a thing I had to do for art class once.”

When I read this sentence, I KNEW I would end up loving this book! I could relate to Maya on a whole new level!

Maya and the Rising Dark follows Maya Janine Abeola, a 12-year-old comic nerd from the Chicago South Side who is living a normal life, until things start going topsy-turvy. She starts seeing out-of-the-ordinary things like black lightning, weird dreams and even encounters a pack of werehyenas before she finds out she is a godling! Yes, you heard it right! She is half-god and half-human (much like the Greek demigods)!

When you have a badass heroine, you definitely need a villain! When the Lord of Shadows kidnaps Maya’s father, she sets outs on a journey with her two best friends, Frankie and Eli, and encounters a ton of creatures and has a whirlwind of adventures in the Dark, which is a parallel plane that coexists with the human plane! If you want to get a better idea, think of Upside Down from Stranger Things!

This is a high-stakes, action-packed, nail-biting #ownvoices contemporary fantasy with an all-brown cast, richly steeped in West African Folklore that is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat! Believe me when I say this, THERE IS NOT A SINGLE DULL MOMENT IN THIS BOOK! The story draws you in from the very first page, doesn’t drop you off in between and leaves you craving for more!

I have read quite a few middle grade contemporary fantasies inspired by various mythologies but this was a first for me! I have always wanted to discover more about West African mythology and folklore, and Maya and the Rising Dark helped me with just that! This book is teeming with magical abilities, orishas, darkbringers, aziza and many more characters from West African folklore that you will remember long after you have flipped the last page!

AND OH MY GOD. THIS BOOK IS SO FULL OF EMOTIONS. The relationship between Maya and her father was outright one of the BEST father-daughter relationships I have come across in Middle Grade! Maya’s father, who happens to be the Keeper of the Veil that separates our world from the Dark, trains Maya with the staff! He is honestly such a gem and their dynamic made me all jelly! GIVE ME MORE OF THIS IN BOOK TWO PLEASE.

 I had a MAJOR déjà vu moment while reading this book! Maya, being a comic nerd, is super excited for her very first Comic Con! This took me right back to 2012 when I was super excited for MY first Comic Con! Honestly, Rena hit me with all the feels in this book!

“Every kid should be so lucky to have friends who believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Friends who accept you exactly the way you are and help you be brave when you didn’t know that you could.”

Friendship plays a pivotal role in this book. This book paints in bold letters that there is POWER AND MAGIC IN FRIENDSHIP. Maya’s two besties, Frankie and Eli, embark on the journey with Maya and stay by her side right up to the end! Frankie is a science geek and Eli is a paranormal buff and their bickering throughout the book had me giggling! Frankie’s science talk reminded me of the seventh-grade me, haha!

This book is not only full of BIPOC characters, there is casual LGBTQ+ representation as well. What better way to normalise LGBTQ+ people than include them in Middle Grade books and instill the right thoughts in the minds of the younger generation of readers? Maya’s school principal Ollie in non-binary and Frankie has two moms! Yay for queer rep!

THIS BOOK IS SUPER IMPORTANT IN THE PRESENT DAY SITUATION. This book is a gift to all the brown kids out there who felt at any point that they aren’t enough. Well, YOU ARE. This book highlights the African-American community in a super-positive sense and I want ALL MIDDLE SCHOOLERS to read this book! I really wish I had books like these back in middle school! A book with a brown heroine and full of brown characters? Count me in ANY DAY! This book is so full of warmth and joy. Rena has managed to capture the right emotions of family, friendship and most importantly, community! Maya’s locality is full of BIPOC families and these brown kids have my entire heart!

I would give this book super-shiny, super-sparkly, super-glittery 4.5 stars!

Phew! This review turned out longer than expected! If you are reading this, thank you so much for staying with me until the end. I hope I have motivated you enough to pick up this book! So, what are you waiting for?

Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.

From a very young age she loved reading stories where kids saved the world, tamed dragons, wielded magic, flew spaceships, became the chosen one. She desperately searched for characters in books who looked like her and was always disappointed to find none, which fueled her early interest in writing.

Before HarperTeen acquired her Young Adult Epic Fantasy, Kingdom of Souls, Rena spent 10 years in the query trends–writing across multiple genres and age groups in the pursuit of publication. In 2017, she entered Pitch Wars, a popular and highly sought-after online mentorship program that included an agent showcase round. Rena’s entry (then titled “The Last Witchdoctor”) received multiple offers of representation. She signed with Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary shortly after, and the manuscript went on to sell in a heated auction.

In addition to the Kingdom of Souls series, Rena also has written a middle grade epic fantasy titled Maya and The Rising Dark debuting in Spring 2020, pitched as Stranger Things meets Percy Jackson, that sold in a pre-empt to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. On a personal note, Rena loves all things science fiction and fantasy, ghosts, and superheroes. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.

Website || Twitter || Instagram || Facebook || Goodreads

Do you love Middle Grade books as well? What are some of your favorite Middle Grade titles inspired by mythology and folklore? Let me know in the comments!

Going Wild by Lisa McMann – A Review

Going Wild by Lisa McMann – A Review

TITLE: Going Wild

AUTHOR: Lisa McMann

PAGE EXTENT: 400

PUBLISHER: Harper Kids

GENRE: Middle Grade

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Charlie Wilde knew her life would change forever when her family moved from the city of Chicago to the suburbs of Arizona…and that was before she found the bracelet. After putting it on, she notices odd things start to happen. Suddenly Charlie seems to have the speed of a cheetah and the strength of an elephant—and that’s just the beginning. She would be thrilled about her transformation if she had any idea how to use the device or control her amazing powers. So Charlie is forced to put her trust in new friends to help her uncover the surprising truth behind the mysterious bracelet.

THIS IS THE SUPERHERO NOVEL I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED IN MY LIFE.

Charlotte Wilde is just your normal middle-schooler who is whining about relocating to dry and hot Arizona from Chicago because her mother landed a good job at the local hospital. She is apprehensive about the move and doesn’t want to leave her best friend Amari. Wait, did I say NORMAL? Well, she was, until she unpacks a parcel with a bracelet that was dropped off at her house just before the move.

The book started off a bit sluggish at first, and before I realized, I was hurtling through the book! The bracelet grants Charlie superpowers such as cheetah speed, elephant strength and starfish healing! And the bracelet just doesn’t come off! Charlie is your perfect neighborhood superhero! She is also a soccer player, and as someone who is extremely challenged as far as sports are concerned, I learnt quite a lot about soccer and the terms associated with the sport hahaha!

This is a super-fun, action-packed read with the right amount of middle school drama! There wasn’t a single boring moment in the book and it had me up reading till 2 AM! The side characters are well-developed and are given the perfect dose of spotlight! McMann surely is no stranger to middle grade fiction and yet again shows her prowess in this one!

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