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!

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – A Review

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – A Review

TITLE: Defy the Night

AUTHOR: Brigid Kemmerer

PAGE EXTENT: 496

PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury

GENRE: YA Fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

A spark of rebellion is all it takes to DEFY THE NIGHT.

In a kingdom where sickness stalks the streets and only the richest can afford a cure, King Harristan and his brother Prince Corrick are forced to rule with an iron fist.

Tessa Cade is a masked outlaw marked for death, but she likes it that way. Together with the mysterious, handsome Weston, she robs from the rich to help the poor, distributing food and medicine to those who need it most. 

As it becomes clear that the only way to save her people is to assassinate the King, Tessa must face a deadly mission that will take her to the dark heart of the kingdom . and force her to work with the very people she intended to destroy.

From New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer comes a brand-new blockbuster fantasy series about a corrupt kingdom, a star-crossed romance and a girl who will do anything for justice.

Having read and loved A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and fallen in love with Brigid’s easy-to-read, flowy writing style, I was super pumped for Defy the Night and jumped into the book with a ton of expectations and oh boy, did it not disappoint! Brigid just KNOWS how to suck you into the story right from the very first page and will make sure you want more when you’re done!

Defy the Night follows Tessa Cade, an orphaned apothecary, who steals Moonflower petals, the only known cure for the mysterious fever raging through Kandala (NO. THIS IS IN NO WAY RELATED TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. LET’S NOT GO THERE, PLEASE.🥲) and distributes them to the needy, with the help of the mysterious, broody Weston Lark. After a disastrous turn of events, Tessa ends up in the royal palace and ends up getting caught! Uh oh! The King and his Justice are known to be ruthless rulers who don’t hold back when it comes to torturing and executing smugglers. So, what happens when Tessa ends up in this predicament? Read the book to find out! Be warned, some gasp-worthy curveballs coming your way! 😨

What started out as your regular YA fantasy story evolved into something that is bound to keep you HOOKED throughout! Ahh I love how Brigid makes her stories so compulsively readable! As you’re drawn into the world of court politics, rebellions, smuggling and a raging disease, you end up with this NEED to know what happens next and before you realize it, you’re done with the book and you want the next book right away! UGH, THE AGONY. One of my favorite things about this book was how it gave me a weird sense of closure in its own right, but also left me craving for more!

This novel is narrated in dual perspective and I loved how it gave us a glimpse into the situation from both sides. Tessa’s narrative throws light on the problems faced by the people and Prince Corrick’s gives us an insight into court politics and how the situation looks from the eyes of the ruling class. This goes on to portray how nothing in the world is black and white, good or bad, but different shades of gray. Everyone is right in their own way and you can’t help rooting for them throughout. I’m all for books with fleshed-out characters and this books delivers them in plenty!

I fell in love with a few side characters in this book and I am excited to see where their stories go. Tessa’s friendship with Karri could have been explored a bit more, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Book 2! Quint provided the extremely necessary comic relief to an otherwise serious plot and I was constantly looking forward to that breath of fresh air! Brigid, more Quint please! 🤗

What’s a YA fantasy without some swoon-worthy romance? I am not a fan of the insta-love trope and I was so glad the romance felt realistic and well-balanced with the rest of the plot. Brigid throws the swoony scenes into the mix at exactly the right places and those definitely had me giggling and blushing, hehe!

This would have been a 5-star read for me if not for a minor issue I ended up having with this story. Being a fantasy story set in a fictional world, in one corner of my mind, I expected there to be a magic system woven into the stellar world-building and fast-paced plot but it read more like a medieval fantasy set in an alternate universe, with no magical elements whatsoever. THAT would have made this the perfect YA book for me!

Nevertheless, this is one addictive book! If you’re in the mood for a book with nasty court politics, broody bois, a strong and well-meaning protagonist with a strong sense of conviction, and a fast-paced plot, go ahead and pick this one up right away! 💯

Which is your favorite YA fantasy novel? Let me know in the comments and let’s see if we have any common favs!

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland- A Review (clearly one of the most genre-bending books I’ve ever read!)

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland- A Review (clearly one of the most genre-bending books I’ve ever read!)

TITLE: House of Hollow

AUTHOR: Krystal Sutherland

PAGE EXTENT: 304

PUBLISHER: Hot Key Books (HarperCollins India)

GENRE: YA Gothic Thriller, Magical Realism

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

The Hollow sisters – Vivi, Grey and Iris – are as seductively glamorous as they are mysterious.

They have black eyes and hair as white as milk. The Hollow sisters don’t have friends – they don’t need them. They move through the corridors like sharks, the other little fish parting around them, whispering behind their backs.

And everyone knows who the Hollow sisters are. Because one day the three Hollow sisters simply disappeared. And when they came back, one month later, with no memory of where they had been, it was as if nothing had changed.

Almost nothing, Apart from, for example, the little scar that had appeared in the hollow of their throats … and a whispering sense that something is not quite right about them, despite (or maybe because of) the terrible passion to be with them that they can exert on anybody at will…

A thrilling, twisting, novel that is as seductive and glamorous as the Hollow sisters themselves….

Okay. Before I begin this review, I will tell you how reading this book will go: you will pick it up with a lot of expectations(because duh, everybody seems to love this book), you will fall head over heels in love with the intoxicatingly beautiful writing style that will suck you into the wormhole that’s this book, turn pages at the speed of light as you read your way through this haunting beauty, and then you encounter that BANGER of a plot twist which will leave you gasping, you’ll close the book to collect your thoughts for a moment and you’ll continue to read frantically until you’re done! Please pick this one up when you have a lot of time on your hands because it will grasp you in its shimmering claws and not let you go! 🖤

Three sisters: Grey, Vivi and Iris disappeared to God-knows-where and returned a few days later with no memory whatsoever and with their eyes and hair changed and a moon-shaped scar on their necks. Now, ten years later, the eldest sister Grey, who also happens to be a fashion mogul, disappears once again and it’s up to Vivi and Iris to unravel the mystery and figure out what’s going on, and there’s a mysterious stalker on the prowl. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because it’s best if you go in unawares!

Set in London, this book has a gothic, dark vibe that will immediately transport you into this richly imagined contemporary fantasy with a hint of magical realism that is so luscious and addictive you will crave for more as you make your way through! Believe me when I say this: this book is the epitome of “unputdownable”.

The Hollow Sisters will mesmerize you from the very beginning. Grey is a big shot fashion designer with her own couture line, House of Hollow; Vivi is a band member with a zany vibe(piercings, tattoos and whatnot) who also happens to be queer(yay!) and Iris gives you major Elle Fanning vibes! Weird things happen around these sisters and weirder things begin to happen when Grey goes missing. They team up with Grey’s current boyfriend, Tyler Yang(one of the hottest book boyfriends ever) as they embark on a quest to find Grey and bring her back! On this quest, they find answers not only to Grey’s current disappearance but also about what happened to them years ago. Brace yourself for some mind-blowing revelations! 🤯😱

Krystal has managed to effortlessly blend many genres into this one! Is it a mystery thriller? Is it a fantasy? Is it magical realism? Is it gothic contemporary? Is it horror? Figure that out for yourself haha. Krystal leaves the book open-ended and I honestly feel that’s one of the best parts of this book!

I think I have given you enough information to pique your interest hehe. And if you still have doubts about picking this one up, all you have to do is read the first page and the book does the rest for you!

What are some of the most genre-bending unique books you’ve read? Let me know in the comments below!

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer – A Review (YOU. ARE. NOT. PREPARED.)

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer – A Review (YOU. ARE. NOT. PREPARED.)

TITLE: The Darkness Outside Us

AUTHOR: Eliot Schrefer

PAGE EXTENT: 397

PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)

GENRE: YA Dystopian Sci-Fi, LGBTQ+ Fiction

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from Katherine Tegen Books in exchange for an honest review.

They Both Die at the End meets The Loneliest Girl in the Universe in this mind-bending sci-fi mystery and tender love story about two boys aboard a spaceship sent on a rescue mission, from two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer.

Two boys, alone in space. Sworn enemies sent on the same rescue mission.

Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed—not when he’s rescuing his own sister.

In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust each other . . . especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.

It’s no surprise that we’ve all read books that have put us in reading slumps, some in great ways, others in not-so-great ways. But have you ever read a book that gives you a GODDAMN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS and makes you question everything you’ve known about life and existence in general? AND IT MINDFUCKS YOU SO BAD YOU END UP THINKING ABOUT IT FOR DAYS ON END? Well, THIS is that book for me.

When I first came across this book on Instagram and saw that cute gays-in-space vibe happening on the cover, I wanted to get my hands on a copy immediately and enjoy a book set in space where two boys do cute stuff and make out (and everything else) in space. I WAS WRONG. SO BLOODY WRONG.

Ambrose Cusk wakes up on a spaceship with absolutely no memory of how he ended up there and meets the broody, no-nonsense Kodiak Celius who ALSO has no memory whatsoever except the fact that they are on a rescue mission to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, after Ambrose’s sister activated a distress beacon at the colony. At this point, you might ask me HOW a book with just two men on a spaceship can be any degree of interesting because there is nothing to do on a spaceship but exist, HOLD THAT THOUGHT. Because if there is one book that makes THAT VERY THING super interesting, it’s this one.

This book might have a slow start but after a point in the book, it’s just cannonball after cannonball of mindfuckery that will leave you gasping and confused and shocked and stunned and astonished and petrified and everything in between! NOTHING is what it seems and believe me, YOU ARE IN FOR ONE HELL OF A RIDE!

And of course, there is some swoony and steamy romance but the idea of love between the two characters was what took me by surprise! After the torment meted out at Ambrose and Kodiak, and after everything they have been through together, the love that blossoms in the face of adversity is something you’ll never forget! I honestly think Eliot has mastered the art of making his characters fall in love and making the readers fall in love with them falling in love! 😭 Before you know it, you’ll end up loving these two munchkins in a metal piece hurtling through the vast expanse of space and there will be a “space” for these two in your heart forever!

It doesn’t escape my mind just HOW MUCH RESEARCH has gone into this book! Writing a sci-fi novel is no mean feat. It’s fiction yes, but everything has to be factually and scientifically right and kudos to Eliot on that one! There was a sentence in the book where it said ‘vein’ instead of ‘artery’ for checking one’s pulse but I won’t let that one small error make me change my rating(which is a hundred stars I guess?😂)

And have you ever seen character growth in an OS? Well, the OS that runs the spaceship has “some” character growth. Good or bad? Read the book and decide for yourself because I’m still in the process of figuring it out too! 🙈

Well, in short, this book was definitely OUT OF THIS WORLD! (Dad joke alert 🚨) Sorry I just had to. 😂👊🏾

So, what in the Solar System are you waiting for? Give yourself a dose of high-octane sci-fi thriller that is bound to give you some tachycardia and a ton of gasps!

Have you read any Science Fiction books that you love? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy – A Review

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy – A Review

TITLE: Pumpkin

AUTHOR: Julie Murphy

PAGE EXTENT: 336

PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)

GENRE: LGBTQ+ Fiction (YA Contemporary)

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Return to the beloved world of Julie Murphy’s #1 New York Times bestselling Dumplin’—now a popular Netflix feature film starring Jennifer Anistonin this fabulously joyful, final companion novel about drag, prom, and embracing your inner Queen.

Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape getting accidentally shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . .

“No matter how hard I try – and I’ve tried plenty – it’s everywhere. The way I walk. The way I talk. I didn’t wake up and pray to be a walking gay billboard.”

OHMYGOSH. Not once did I think I would relate to this book on a WHOLE NEW LEVEL. I mean, yes, it has a gay protagonist who is sassy and flamboyant but I didn’t think Waylon would be THIS relatable! This is my first Julie Murphy book and I’m so glad I picked it up!

Waylon is one of my favorite queer characters in YA. And oh boy, isn’t he SO DAMN HILARIOUS! I found myself bursting into fits of laughter from time to time thanks to Waylon’s sarcasm and crackling sense of humor! WAY TO GO QUEEEEEN! 💃🏾💃🏾💃🏾

Oops. I just realized I didn’t say what the book is about. Waylon is a fat gay senior from Clover City, Texas who plans to make it big in Austin along with his sister Clementine(who also happens to be gay and in love with her girlfriend Hannah). But when Clementine plans to move to Georgia for college without Waylon’s knowledge, Waylon suddenly feels clueless and shoots a video in drag on a whim. When the video goes viral at school, somebody nominates Waylon for Prom Queen and Hannah for Prom King as a sick joke but instead of backing down, they decide to run for the spot instead! What follows is a warm, fuzzy tale brimming with queer characters, a super hot dude, a sassy grandma and a whole lot of drag! 🌈🦄

“I’m in drag. Because drag is more than makeup and gowns and bodysuits and tucking and sequins and wigs. Drag is about what you exude. Drag is a choice.”

This is the first time I’m reading a book that discusses the art of drag and needless to say, it piqued my curiosity! I ended up Googling and reading the history of drag and added all available drag shows to my Netflix list right away! Waylon has one of the best character arcs in YA and I couldn’t help but fall in love with how wholesome his character is!

I have read a ton of books with gay protagonists but this was the first time I read a book with a fat gay protagonist and I was hit with some hard revelations. There is a lot of toxicity in the gay community and it’s usually the ones with chiseled abs and perfect muscled bodies who receive all the hype. Why does one have to be the textbook definition of perfect in order to survive being gay? What does ‘perfect’ even mean? Why can’t someone just be gay and comfortable with their bodies? Waylon’s journey from being insecure about his body to owning it like a queen and being comfortable with it serves as an inspiration to so many fat queer kids around the world! Julie, thank you so much for showing us how there is no definition of perfect but it’s one that you define for yourself!

Though the slowburn romance between Waylon and Tucker was adorable and fun to read and made me go all giggly and blush, the friendship between Hannah and Waylon that bloomed over the course of the story was the highlight for me! As they run for Prom King and Queen respectively, they begin to open up to each other and towards the end, it leaves you with a sense of satisfaction!

Oh wait, how did I forget this!? Waylon’s grandmother is a WHOLE MOOD. Have you ever seen a grandmother who dresses up and paints her nails and puts on makeup TO GET HER SINK REPAIRED by her grandkids? Well, Waylon’s granny does. She has to be my favorite side character in this book! And the rainbow prom dress you see on the cover? Yes. This goddess made it. Give me a granny like Waylon’s and I’ll die a happy man. 😌

“When the world isn’t selling what you’re looking to buy, you just have to take it upon yourself to cut your own pattern.”

It didn’t escape my notice how well homophobia was handled in this story! And the tasks assigned to the nominees were so much fun!

I could honestly go on and on and on about how much and why I love this gem of a book! But it’s best if you discover it for yourself! If you’re wondering if you should have read the first two books in order to be able to read this one, fret not! I haven’t read the first two either and I had no problems whatsoever. What are you waiting for? Waylon and his sass and his fancy heels are waiting for you!

Have you read any books with plus-sized MCs? Let me know in the comments below!

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!