Paati vs UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders) by Meera Ganapathi – A Review

Paati vs UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders) by Meera Ganapathi – A Review

TITLE: Paati vs UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders)

AUTHOR: Meera Ganapathi

PAGE EXTENT: 152

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Middle Grade

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

All Inju wants is a quiet, boring holiday at the most boring house in Mumbai, but life at Parijat Retirement Colony is not the same any more.

A thief is on the loose, and Paati has decided to become an UNCLE! But when the uncles of UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders) act not so cooperative, Inju takes charge.

Joining forces with a lady whose papads were stolen, the skinny building watchman and Paati, Inju forms PAATI (The People’s Association against Thieves International).

Can this motley crew of detectives crack the code?

Are you in the mood for a fun, fast-paced whodunnit mystery involving a sassy grandma and a bunch of sharing-good-morning-messages-on-WhatsApp-groups grandpas that will make you laugh your socks off? You’re looking at the right book! 

Inju is visiting his Paati(Tamil for grandmother) over the summer and wants a boring staycation at Parijat Retirement Colony but his plans get thwarted when robberies begin and he gets caught up in an investigation to nab the culprit. What follows is sleuthing loaded with oodles of action and some laugh-out-loud shenanigans! 

While the book is all fun and frolic, it makes young readers aware of the misogyny that’s rampant in the Indian society today. If there’s a book that screams SMASH THE PATRIARCHY but for younger readers, it’s this one! It also throws light on bullying in a way that’s not too harsh on young minds.

Meera Ganapathi’s witty and quirky writing style is bound to keep you hooked from cover to cover! It’s a cute little book with hilarious illustrations that you can gobble up in one sitting!

Keeping my fingers crossed that this book is the first one in a series as I can’t wait to solve more mysteries with Inju and Paati!

Thanks to Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 🥰

Have you read any Middle Grade mysteries with young detectives? Let me know in the comments below!

Listen to your Heart: The London Adventure by Ruskin Bond – A Review

Listen to your Heart: The London Adventure by Ruskin Bond – A Review

TITLE: Listen to your Heart: The London Adventure

AUTHOR: Ruskin Bond

PAGE EXTENT: 104

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Memoir

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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

‘I followed my heart instead of my head. It is something I have done all my life.’

Shortly before his eighteenth birthday, Ruskin embarks on a literary journey and reaches England after charting unknown waters. Greeted by the uncertainties of a new city, he muses over his loneliness, switches jobs, falls in love, befriends the ocean and relentlessly chases a big dream!

What follows next is the metamorphosis of a journal entry into a novel as we time-travel to the fascinating events that led to the making of his iconic book, The Room on the Roof.

Capturing memorable experiences from young Ruskin’s life, Listen to Your Heart is an inspiration for aspiring young writers, a meditation on embracing fears, seizing every opportunity but most importantly living one’s dreams.

Having read Ruskin Bond’s short stories and excerpts during my school days, I wanted to read his memoir and get a glimpse of his early days and how he became one of the best authors we have today! 

Listen to Your Heart is a short, heartfelt memoir by Ruskin Bond which is the fifth and final book in the series offering us an insight into Ruskin’s childhood and adolescence. 

Peppered with beautiful artwork on almost every other page, reading this book was an experience in itself! Ruskin describes his adolescent period in England during which he had to flit from one job to another, all while penning his first novel, The Room on the Roof. And let’s not forget the feelings of the heart, which is a whole other ball game altogether! 

Ruskin goes on to describe how the world of publishing is in no way a bed of roses and is brimming with obstacles at every stage, but come what may, never stop writing! Through his ordeal, he shows young budding authors how perseverance and sheer will ensure that you have your name on the cover of a book someday. A huge shout-out to the illustrator Mihir Joglekar for making the story come alive on the page!

If there’s one take-away from this book, it’s literally the title: LISTEN TO YOUR HEART, things will fall into place one day!

Thanks to Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 🥰

Have you read books by Ruskin Bond before? If yes, let me know in the comments! If not, what are you waiting for?

Ritu Weds Chandi by Ameya Narvankar – A Review(this picture book is a MUST-HAVE!)

Ritu Weds Chandi by Ameya Narvankar – A Review(this picture book is a MUST-HAVE!)

TITLE: Ritu Weds Chandni

AUTHOR: Ameya Narvankar

PAGE EXTENT: 36

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Picture Book, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Ayesha is excited to attend her cousin Ritu’s wedding. She can barely wait to dance at the baraat! But not everyone is happy that Ritu is marrying her girlfriend, Chandni.

Some have even vowed to stop the celebrations. Will Ayesha be able to save her cousin’s big day?

Centering Ayesha’s love for her cousin as much as it showcases Ritu and Chandni’s love for each other, this warm-hearted story celebrates the power of young voices to stand up against prejudice and bigotry.

If I can sum up this entire review in one sentence, it would be this: I WANT EVERY SINGLE KID TO READ THIS GEM OF A PICTURE BOOK.

When I saw this book doing the rounds on Bookstagram, I was pretty intrigued. Being a queer man myself, I wanted to know what the hype was all about! And boy, did it not disappoint! 

Ayesha is excited for the wedding of her cousin, Ritu didi, who is marrying her girlfriend, Chandni didi in a lavish Indian ceremony(believe me when I tell you, the adorable illustrations of the wedding in this book gave me a mountain of hopes!) What happens at the wedding? Read the book to find out, and don’t forget to admire the GORGEOUS illustrations while you’re at it! 

The author, through this picture book, has highlighted a very important fact about same-sex couples: it’s totally normal in the eyes of children and is not construed as abnormal at all. It’s the influence of the homophobic society that warps these innocent minds.

If I could describe this book in one word, it’s ESSENTIAL. I hope every library and bookstore has copies on display so every child who happens to see the beautiful cover ends up picking it up and reading it from end to end in one sitting! And a huge shout-out to the author for some of the best art I’ve come across!

In a world where queerphobia persists to a great extent, books like these remind me how there are some amazing people who are doing their bit to show just how diverse and beautiful the LGBTQ+ community is. What better way to do that than instill the right thoughts in young minds, so that they grow up to be amazing humans! 

Thanks to Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 🥰

Have you read any picture books that you love? Let me know in the comments!

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – Why This Book is the Perfect Match For You!

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – Why This Book is the Perfect Match For You!

TITLE: A Match Made in Mehendi

AUTHOR: Nandini Bajpai

PAGE EXTENT: 320

PUBLISHER: Hachette India

GENRE: YA Contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a finished paperback copy with some goodies from the author!

For fans of Eleanor & Park and When Dimple Met Rishi, comes a lighthearted novel about tradition, high school social hierarchy, matchmaking, and swiping right (or left!).

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole — matchmakers — with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.” 

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course. 

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

“The root of family is love. The root of all love is friendship.”

This book was indeed a breath of fresh air! Do you happen to be in a stubborn reading slump that just doesn’t want to leave? Are you tired of dense fantasy reads and want to grab something light and breezy? Then this book is the perfect match for you! (Haha see what I did there? 👀😉)

Simi Sangha comes from a long line of “vicholes” or match-makers, but she has absolutely no interest in match-making whatsoever. Give her a set of paints, brushes, an easel and a canvas and she is good to go! When she accidentally ends up making a terrific match, her mom begins to assume she has the “gift” too. Reluctantly, with the help of her best buddy Noah and her tech-savvy brother Navdeep, she comes up with a match-making app to help people find their dates at her school! What follows is a fun-filled, frolicky tale of mehendi and crushes and hot boys and school wars and mouth-watering Indian food!

Simi’s idea of using colour-coded icons on the app was so cute I was super jealous I didn’t get to try out the app! I’m a sucker for great friendships in books and the camaraderie between Simi and Noah reminded me of some of my real-life friendships and I couldn’t help but smile!

Nandini Bajpai has managed to perfectly capture the Indian family dynamics in this book. Indian parents’ obsession with their kids taking up engineering, medicine or law was so dang relatable! This book also shows how Indian parents can sometimes involve themselves way too much in their children’s lives but again, we know that only comes from a place of concern. This can all be very doting and annoying at the same time and I’m still in the process of figuring out which one it is haha!

Simi is a stellar artist and wants to create a masterpiece around mehendi! Yes, you heard it right! Every time Simi drew temporary henna tattoos for her friends, I was going, “OHMYGOSH I NEED ONE OF THESE TOO!” I am pretty sure I’m going to try it out one day and y’all will be the first to see!

While being lighthearted and joyful, this book also highlighted issues such an bullying, outing and plagiarism and also showed us how all of these are so very wrong, by teaching the perpetrators a lesson they’ll never forget! 😤

So if you’re in the mood for a quick, cute read full of high school shenanigans and annoying Indian aunties and uncles and a cute romance(or maybe two), what are you waiting for? Pick this one up right away!

Have you read any Desi rom-coms that made you giggle into the night? Let me know in the comments below!

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera – A Review

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera – A Review

TITLE: Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

AUTHOR: Kaela Rivera

PAGE EXTENT: 352

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins

GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐️

SOURCE: Received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author in exchange for an honest review.

When a powerful desert spirit kidnaps her sister, Cece Rios must learn forbidden magic to get her back, in this own voices middle grade fantasy perfect for fans of The Storm Runner and Aru Shah and the End of Time

Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous, especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits roam the desert and threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime.

When her older sister, Juana, is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura, Cece is determined to bring Juana back. To get into Devil’s Alley, though, she’ll have to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas. Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote has a soft spot for humans and agrees to help her on her journey.

With him at her side, Cece sets out to reunite her family—and maybe even change what it means to be a bruja along the way.

“But maybe I’m strong enough to know it’s okay not to be strong enough to do it alone.”

Have you ever read a book that’s so good you can’t help but think about it for days? And you struggle to articulate your thoughts into a well-written review because there are so many thoughts swirling through your mind and you want to pen it all down but you’re at a loss for words? This was that book for me. I would give this book a thousand stars if I could.

Cece Rios is a 12-year-old from the town of Tierra del Sol. After a major mishap when Cece was younger, she is treated differently by the people of her town. But when Cece’s older sister Juana is kidnapped by the dark criatura El Sombreron, Cece realises that the only way to get Juana back is to venture into Devil’s Alley and the only way to do it is to resort to something extremely feared and dangerous: brujeria. Or witchcraft. The brujxs are people who control criaturas and that is a very very dangerous territory, let alone for a 12-year-old. So what happens when Cece joins hands with Coyote, an infamous criatura and embarks on a quest to get Juana back? Read the book to find out more! And trust me, you will instantly fall in love with this book!

This is a contemporary fantasy richly steeped in Mexican culture and mythology written with a perfection very few happen to achieve! Be prepared to meet a myriad of mythological beings such as El Sombreron, El Cucuy, La Chupacabra, La Llorona, Tzitzimitl and many more! One of the reasons I love #ownvoices books: when someone from the community writes about their community, not only does it attain a stellar level of accuracy, it also embodies their struggles, their culture, their cuisine and all the amazing things that make up their community, well, their community! #ownvoices books Stan forever!

There is not a SINGLE boring moment in this book. With crisp writing and fighting scenes that will keep you hooked, Kaela has made sure the reader will be glued to the book from cover to cover, be it a young reader or a slightly older one, like me!

Cece, as a protagonist, is one of the most fearless and brave characters I have come across in Middle Grade! She is the embodiment of fierce love for your family, loving them with all their flaws; sheer grit and determination and most importantly, the lengths you go to for the people you love. Having a strong female POC protagonist will show all young girls who pick this book up how they can achieve anything in life with sheer will power and motivation!

It’s not a surprise anymore that Middle Grade is my ultimate favorite genre out there! But WHY? FRIENDSHIPS. I am a sucker for strong and true friendships in books and Middle Grade delivers them in truckloads! The friendship between Cece and Coyote in this book is probably one of the best I’ve come across so far and there were so many cute friendship moments that had me in tears from time to time! Kaela, can I please call dibs on an ARC of Book 2? 🥺💕

Not only does this story offer you an action-paced, adventurous plot, it also highlights an issue which we face in real life. Society is super quick to judge someone without even getting to know them and places so many stereotypes that at one point, they become impossible to get rid of! The criaturas are feared and hated and considered abominations but they are such cute munchkins and fluff balls that will end up occupying every corner of your heart! 😭💖

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is definitely on the list of my Top 10 Best Middle Grade Reads of All Time and if you still haven’t read this battle of good vs evil, you’re missing out on so so much! I have so many thoughts about this book but I don’t want my review to end up being an essay so I’m going to put a stop here. Please pick this one up and we can rant about it all day long!

!Muchísimas gracias por escribir este libro estupendo, Kaela!

Have you read any Middle Grade fantasy books? Let me know in the comments and we shall discuss!

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga – A Review (a hard-hitting Middle Grade read!)

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga – A Review (a hard-hitting Middle Grade read!)

TITLE: The Shape of Thunder

AUTHOR: Jasmine Warga

PAGE EXTENT: 288

PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)

GENRE: Middle Grade

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from HarperCollins India in exchange for an honest review.

Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year. Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did. On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note.She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever—and stop him. In spite of herself, Cora wants to believe. And so the two former friends begin working together to open a wormhole in the fabric of the universe. But as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of time travel to save their siblings, they learn that the magic of their friendship may actually be the key to saving themselves. The Shape of Thunder is a deeply moving story, told with exceptional grace, about friendship and loss—and how believing in impossible things can help us heal.

I have seen a lot of people dismiss Middle Grade novels and I honestly wonder just how much they’re missing out on! Books like these repeatedly remind me why Middle Grade is my favorite genre and also how it’s one of the most powerful genres out there!

The Shape of Thunder is a poignant tale of two friends reeling in the aftermath of a school shooting where the brother of one killed the sister of the other. Once the thickest of friends, Cora and Quinn are no longer on talking terms after Quinn’s brother, Parker shot Cora’s sister Mabel. Quinn, in the hopes of mending their friendship, decides to build a time travel machine to set things right. What follows is a heartwarming tale of grief, heart, family and the sheer magic of HOPE. ✨

This is my first Jasmine Warga book and needless to say, I’ll be picking up every one of her books henceforth! Her writing style is smooth, fresh, unique and so full of warmth. It shows you how you can repair the past just by hoping for it to happen, however impossible it may seem.

Cora shut herself off from Quinn after the shooting and it touched me how she slowly began warming up to Quinn once again as they embark on an impossible quest to get Cora’s sister back. Cora wants to discover more about her Lebanese heritage and her innocent curiosity reminded me so much of the 6th grade me hehe. 🙈

One of my favorite characters in this tear-jerker of a tale definitely has to be Cora’s grandmother. She is a fierce, no-nonsense woman who has her own way of loving her granddaughter. This shows how love can have many forms and shapes and there is no set definition for love. She is a doting granny in her own right and she plays an active role in shaping Cora’s character growth in this story! Yay to more awesome grannies in books!

At one point, I loved how this was going along a sci-fi tangent and I ended up having high hopes for the ending. This would have been a solid 5-star read for me if not for the very normal ending. Somewhere along the way, I started to hope for the impossible along with Quinn and I would have LOVED it if the impossible had just become, well, POSSIBLE.

Nevertheless, this is one powerful Middle Grade novel that deals with hard-hitting topics such as grief, separation, loss of a loved one, shattered friendships and more in the most nuanced way possible.

Kudos to Jasmine for writing this beauty of a book! 💫

What are some of the most hard-hitting books you’ve read? Let me know in the comments!

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell – A Review

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell – A Review

TITLE: The Good Thieves

AUTHOR: Katherine Rundell

PAGE EXTENT: 352

PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury

GENRE: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from Bloomsbury India in exchange for an honest review.

Fresh off the boat from England, Vita Marlowe has a job to do. Her beloved grandfather Jack has been cheated out of his home and possessions by a notorious conman with Mafia connections. Seeing Jack’s spirit is broken, Vita is desperate to make him happy again, so she devises a plan to outwit his enemies and recover his home. 

She finds a young pickpocket, working the streets of the city. And, nearby, two boys with highly unusual skills and secrets of their own are about to be pulled into her lawless, death-defying plan.

Katherine Rundell’s fifth novel is a heist as never seen before – the story of a group of children who will do anything to right a wrong.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction. I am a huge fan of Middle Grade(well, it’s my favorite genre out there). A historical fiction Middle Grade novel set in 1920s New York City featuring children on a heist? I KNEW I had to get my hands on this one! Having heard a lot about Katherine Rundell’s books, I dove into this with a lot of expectations and it definitely colored me impressed! I’m pretty sure you can see me reading her other books in the future.

Vita Marlowe has just landed in New York City with her mum to look after her ailing grandfather. When she finds out that her grandfather was cheated out of his property by a rich businessman, she wants to steal it back! Well, if you’re stealing back something that’s already stolen, it means you’re a ‘good’ thief, right?

Vita cannot do this alone. She teams up with Silk, an orphaned pickpocket; Arkady, a Russian circus performer and Samuel, a trapeze artist as she embarks on a heist to teach that nasty monster a lesson he’ll never forget!

Rundell’s writing style is smooth, easygoing and so very readable. This one was indeed unputdownable and I ended up reading it from cover to cover in one sitting! Fast-paced, well-written action scenes and one formidable villain: this is the recipe for a perfect Middle Grade novel!

By featuring a disabled protagonist(Vita is a polio survivor living with chronic pain and a twisted leg), this novel goes on to show young readers how you can achieve anything on the planet if you put your heart and soul into it, and your disability will not stand in the way! Vita, as a disabled person, knows the extent of her abilities and is mature enough to understand when things are out of her reach as she deftly handles every situation she lands up in. Katherine, thank you so much for making disabled children felt seen and represented through Vita. 🥺💕

Not only does Vita teach us some great values, Silk, Arkady and Samuel each embody an attribute we should all inculcate in our lives! I love me a book that highlights its side characters and gives them closure too, and Katherine has executed this with sheer perfection!

Vita’s love for her grandfather, Jack and his love for Vita’s deceased grandmother show us the power of family and the extent we go to for the ones we love. A book that shows the power of family and friendship and seamlessly blends them together? Sign me up.

If you are looking for a fast-paced race against time that’s a battle of good vs evil and full of kind-hearted souls with a fierce conviction, you know which book to pick up next!

Have you read any historical fiction books? Let me know in the comments!

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon – A Review

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon – A Review

TITLE: Blackout

AUTHORS: Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon

PAGE EXTENT: 272

PUBLISHER: Electric Monkey (HarperCollins India)

GENRE: YA Anthology

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

SOURCE: Received a copy from HarperCollins India in exchange for an honest review.

When a heatwave plunges New York City into darkness, sparks fly for thirteen teenagers caught up in the blackout.

A first meeting.
Long-time friends.
Bitter exes.
And maybe the beginning of something new…

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths, love blossoms, friendship transforms and new possibilities take flight.

Six of today’s biggest stars of the YA world, Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon, bring all the electricity of love to a collection of charming, hilarious and heartbreaking tales that shine the brightest light through the dark.

I LOVE New York City. And I LOVE love stories. A book of SIX LOVE STORIES featuring BLACK TEENS written by SIX POWERFUL BLACK WOMEN who are amazing YA authors, set during a BLACKOUT in NEW YORK CITY? Por favor, take my dinero.

New York City is plunged into a blackout thanks to a massive heatwave. Commotion on the streets. Trains stuck on the tracks. All cabs booked. Everything is in disarray. But for some teens, this is the start of something new. A new dawn. A new hope. And a whole dollop of cuteness for you!

Before reading Blackout, I found out that this book will be having a movie adaptation soon, produced by none other than the Obamas! Not surprisingly, my expectations skyrocketed and not surprisingly again, this one definitely lived up to the hype!

Each story focuses on a classic YA trope: exes-to-lovers, besties-to-lovers, insta-love, a love triangle, to name a few. The authors have infused so much warmth and love and optimism into these stories you’ll end up wanting a love story like this one in your life too! 🥺

While all of the stories were great in their own right, three stories stood out for me.

  1. Tiffany D Jackson’s story has been split into acts and features an amazing exes-to-lovers romance all while talking a long walk across New York City! Karim and Tammi open up to each other while taking a long walk and I mean, a LOOOONG walk which constantly makes you go, JUST KISS ALREADY!
  2. Nic Stone’s is a m/m romance featuring a bisexual teen who is coming to terms with his sexuality. Nic has effortlessly stepped into the shoes of a teenager questioning a lot of things and exploring parts of himself he’s always kept hidden, while stuck in a subway carriage during the blackout. This story sheds light on toxic masculinity, homophobia and queerphobia that’s rampant in sports and normalizes breastfeeding in public too! And an adorable romance, of course!
  3. Ashley Woodfolk’a story is a sapphic romance set in a shelter for aged people where Nella’s grandfather plays matchmaker! I guess I giggled the most while I read this one! The best part? Not one person at the shelter batted an eyelid about two girls falling for each other, exactly how it should be!

There is a thread of connection, sometimes thin, sometimes very obvious, between every story and every character and all of these kids are a part of a larger intergenerational Black Community in New York City and that made my heart swell with joy! This book succeeded in what it set out to achieve! 💜

We have read a ton of stories featuring Black kids fighting racism, White supremacy, hateful comments etc. but for once, this book portrayed Black teens just BEING TEENS. Brimming with Black Girl Magic and Black Boy Joy, this book is packed with happiness and affection and the beauty of falling in love!

And yes, this took my New York City obsession to a whole new level! 😂

Have you read any YA anthologies? Let me know in the comments!

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean – A Review (a cute, fluffy rom-com!)

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean – A Review (a cute, fluffy rom-com!)

TITLE: Tokyo Ever After

AUTHOR: Emiko Jean

PAGE EXTENT: 336

PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan

GENRE: YA Romance

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from Pan Macmillan India in exchange for an honest review.

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club YA Pick!

A hilarious and heartfelt novel perfect for fans of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Princess Diaries!

Izumi Tanaka has lived an uneventful seventeen years in her small town, keenly aware of all the ways in which her family is different from most of her classmates’. But then Izumi discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity . . . and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. 

Soon she’s traveling overseas to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she’s only dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight. Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself―back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

I’m pretty sure most of us have dreamt of being a princess at least once in our lives. We have imagined ourselves in fancy attire, horse-drawn carriages and the whole princess-y vibe. But what would you do if you found out one day that you’re ACTUALLY a princess? Like, LITERALLY ROYALTY! That’s exactly what happened to our protagonist Izumi Tanaka! She was going about her life in pleasant California when the bomb dropped: she is the illegitimate daughter of the Crown Prince of Japan! 😱👸🏻

As she goes to Japan to discover more about her Japanese culture and royal background, a shocking realization hits her. She was never American enough in America, and she’s not Japanese enough to be in Japan, much less Japanese royalty. Could things get any worse? Of course they can! Add one forbidden romance to the mix and things will definitely go haywire!

Izumi was a very likeable protagonist, and so very hilarious! Like, laugh-out-loud hilarious! Her deadpan sarcasm and crisp sense of humor was definitely one of my favorite aspects of this book! She is very realistic, kind and super duper honest about herself and her abilities. I am super excited for her shenanigans in Book 2 haha!

Japan has been on my travel bucket list since forever. I have always wanted to walk under the beautiful cherry blossom trees and soak up the beauty of the sharp contrast between Japan’s bustling cities and it’s pleasant countryside! And after reading this book, I am CRAVING it! Set in Tokyo and Kyoto, this book will definitely make you want to visit Japan at the earliest! 🌸

While the plot as such isn’t very unique, it’s the writing that took the cake for me! The story does rely on a lot of clichés and basic YA tropes but it’s the fast-paced, quirky writing style that makes this book the piece of joy that it is! If you’re in a reading slump or you’re just out of a dense fantasy and don’t want to read heavy books, this one is the perfect choice for you!

Did I mention that this book has a very well-written forbidden romance featuring a broody book boyfriend? AKIO KOBAYASHI HAS MY HEART. A very caring, concerned, law-abiding boyfriend with a stoic exterior but a very tender heart? CHEF’S KISS. Emiko, please give me more Akio in Book 2! Pretty please!

We have all read slowburn romances. But have you read slowburn friendship? The blossoming of friendship between Izumi and her lady in waiting, Mariko was one of the highlights of this book! Mariko, who initially finds Izumi insufferable, slowly begins to take a liking towards her and it had me smiling from ear to ear.

The Asian Girl Gang(AGG for short) comprising Izumi, Noora, Hansani and Glory, all Asian American girls, was another favorite element for me! I love books featuring high school squads and this one was close to perfect! Makes me want to have an all-girl sassy squad now!

While being extremely fun and cute and giggle-inducing, it didn’t escape my notice how Izumi’s relationship with her father felt very realistic and intricately done. It wasn’t rushed and it took just the right amount of time to develop and that was indeed commendable!

Let’s embark on this journey to Japan with Izumi as she wades through her newly discovered royalty status while putting up with conniving and plotting cousins, a very very forbidden romance, a super hot bodyguard and language struggles! And when you’re done, it will leave you with a sense of satisfaction and a huge smile plastered to your face!

And oh gosh, I’ll NEVER EVER forget the word “ippai”. Thanks for that, Emiko Jean! 😂 Read the book to find out what I’m talking about!

What are some places on YOUR travel bucket list? Let me know in the comments!

Not Here To Be Liked by Michelle Quach – A Powerful One About Intersectional Feminism and Smashing The Patriarchy!

Not Here To Be Liked by Michelle Quach – A Powerful One About Intersectional Feminism and Smashing The Patriarchy!

TITLE: Not Here to be Liked

AUTHOR: Michelle Quach

PAGE EXTENT: 432

PUBLISHER: Usborne Books (HarperCollins India)

GENRE: YA Contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from HarperCollins India in exchange for an honest review.

Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan. Eliza Quan fully expects to be voted the next editor-in-chief of her school paper. She works hard, she respects the facts, and she has the most experience. Len DiMartile is an injured star baseball player who seems to have joined the paper just to have something to do.

Naturally, the staff picks Len to be their next leader. Because while they may respect Eliza, they don’t particularly like her ­- but right now, Eliza is not here to be liked. She’s here to win. But someone does like Eliza. A lot. Shame it’s the boy standing in the way of her becoming editor-in-chief….

Not Here to be Liked is DEFINITELY here to be liked!

As the title suggests, we follow our protagonist Eliza Quan, an Asian-American headstrong teenager whose fuck-store for what people think about her has run out long ago (ELIZA, just HOW do you manage to do that? Give me lessons.😂), who happens to be gunning for the post of editor-in-chief of the Willoughby Bugle, the school newspaper. When ex-jock Len DiMartile pops up out of nowhere, runs for the post and wins the election, Eliza is thrown into a fit of rage. In all her bubbling fury, she pens an essay about the misogyny and sexism that’s rampant in her institution and how Len won the spot not with his accolades or talent but simply because he’s male. And guess what happens? Somebody posts it for the entire school to see! What follows is a massive feminist movement at school that aims to smash the patriarchy into the dumpster!

And worse, what happens with Eliza begins to FALL FOR the very face of the patriarchy himself!?!?! Disaster is about to ensue! Read the book to find out how disaster management happens. 💁🏾‍♂️

Eliza is very unlikeable to begin with but as the story progresses, she begins to grow on you. You end up rooting for her before you realize it! Michelle has succeeded in constructing a very flawed, very realistic protagonist who is by no means perfect and giving her one banger of a character growth! This is probably one of the best character growths I’ve come across in YA!

Everybody who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers romance, especially ones set in high school and this one was executed perfectly, to the extent that I want the romance of my life to be an enemies-to-lovers one too hehe! Eliza and Len bonding over BBB (baseball, boba and books) was everything! 😭💕

I’m pretty sure most of us have read books about feminism but have you read a book that talks about feminism from an Asian perspective? This was a first for me and it goes on to highlight how important intersectional feminism is. It also conveys how there is no set rule book for feminism and how feminism can exist in a myriad of forms.

I, for one, stan books with great and fleshed-out side characters and Michelle has given her side characters their own time to shine! This is one of those rare books where the side characters have amazing arcs as well and the growth in Serena’s and Winona’s characters is something that definitely merits appreciation! Michelle has also addressed performative feminism through Serena’s character but has later given her character so much depth! She is one of my favorites in the book! Winona’s short film shooting sessions with her little brother Doug were something I constantly kept looking forward to because the sibling banter was so adorable and hilare!

Not only does this book focus on feminism from an Asian lens, it also gives us a glimpse into the lives of children of immigrants and the high expectations set by their parents, Asians in particular. Michelle has perfectly managed to capture the Asian family dynamic and Eliza’s mom’s take on feminism was something that pleasantly surprised me!

Additional perks!
🎉An almost-Asian cast!
🎉 Cute and charming book boyfriend!
🎉 Character-driven plot!
🎉 Easy-to-read writing style!
🎉 KISSING, because OF COURSE.

Have you read any books that discuss intersectional feminism? Let me know down below!