Review: The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A Chakraborty

I ended up binge reading this entire series in the span of 4 days so the events of each book have blurred over for me. I will say that overall, this series was a solid five stars and has risen its way to become one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. Easily Top 5. The writing is beautiful, the characters are very well developed and the world Chakraborty creates is fantastic (literally and figuratively).

Chakraborty has said that she wrote this series for her fellow Muslim fantasy geeks (hehe that’s me) and it shows. I think any fantasy lover would appreciate the world she crafted but it was extra special to me because of all the references to Islamic folklore. I grew up with djinn stories, passed down over generations from family members or through my own extensive research (sometimes to the point where I would scare myself to insomnia), so this world felt almost personal to me.

**I’m reviewing all three books here. If you haven’t read the first book and don’t want to be spoiled for the later ones, don’t read past the first review.

The City of Brass (Daevabad #1) by S.A Chakraborty

Rating

Synopsis

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

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“Greatness takes time, Banu Nahida. Often the mightiest things have the humblest beginnings.”

This is actually my second time reviewing this book because I had read an ARC of the first one before it released and I did not fully appreciated it then. If anyone cares to read my review from four years ago, here it is.

City of Brass starts off slow. Because the world itself is so intricate with so many tribes and centuries of history, sometimes it feels like it’s too much. I have had to read certain paragraphs of explanations multiple times because I couldn’t grasp the dumps of information. But after you get used to the general sense of the world, the history lessons feel less like history lessons and more like conversations that are meant to be there.

We’re introduced to Nahri, an Egyptian woman with the power of healing, a power she uses for her schemes as a thief and a con artist. It took me a long time to love Nahri, among the two POVs, hers was the weaker one for me. Nahri in the beginning almost acts as a stand in for the reader because she is also finding out about this djinn world with us, she’s reacting to the world instead of being a part of the world. The first couple of chapters with her is mostly Darayavahoush, the Daeva warrior she accidentally summoned, explaining the djinn world and the history to her.

And then we have Ali, our second POV. Ali is the prince of Daevabad, the second son of king Ghassan. He is a soldier and a scholar, self-righteous, pious, and wants things to be better for the kingdom’s shafit citizens (those who have both djinn and human blood). Through Ali, we get to know about the current state of politics in Daevabad, what the city is like now and how the citizens of the different tribes are treated. This, in a way, juxtaposes what Dara has been teaching Nahri about the history of Daevabad from his time centuries ago. With Ali, we’re also immediately thrust in the middle of action because the book starts with him smuggling money from the treasury to an underground shafit organization.

The book picks up once Nahri and Dara get to Daevabad. It’s not action packed but it’s not really supposed to be, there are a lot of action scenes, but it mostly shines in characterization and world building.

Something I really appreciate about these books is how prejudice is portrayed and how you can very slowly see the characters gradually shift their views. Ali being a pious Muslim man has a deep-seated distaste for the Daevas, the tribe of djinn who worship fire. Dara, who has been trained as a soldier for the Nahids (the most powerful Daeva family) to do their bidding holds an enormous hatred for shafits and for the other djinn tribes. Most djinn (Daevas included) think less of the shafit because of their human blood. These feelings don’t go away but we do get to witness small changes in the characters when they start to question these deep rooted beliefs they’ve held all their lives.

The Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad #2) by S.A Chakraborty

Rating

Synopsis

S. A. Chakraborty continues the sweeping adventure begun in  The City of Brass conjuring a world where djinn summon flames with the snap of a finger and waters run deep with old magic; where blood can be dangerous as any spell, and a clever con artist from Cairo will alter the fate of a kingdom.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

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“I’m tired of everyone in this city feeding on vengeance. I’m tired of teaching our children to hate and fear other children because their parents are our enemies. And I’m sick and tired of acting like the only way to save our people is to cut down all who might oppose us, as if our enemies won’t return the favor the instant power shifts.”

As I’ve said earlier, the events of the books have kind of blurred for me. As far as middle books go, I thought Kingdom of Copper was fantastic in continuing the story from the first and setting up the events in the final. The book also did a great job expanding the universe from the first book.

The book takes place about five years after the events of the first one. Nahri is now married to Muntadhir, the future king of Daevabad. Ali is in exile but has found a djinn village to be a part of and they love him because wherever he goes, water springs mysteriously appear (a miracle to the formerly barren wastelands). And Dara, who everyone thought of as dead, was pulled back to life by Banu Manizheh. Although the five year time skip surprised me at first, it was a smart move since a) djinn have a longer lifespan anyway and b) it allowed for a lot of character growth and off the screen development so we could pretty much jump straight into action.

This was the book where Nahri won me over. She has been working as a healer for the past couple of years now. She’s a lot more sure of herself, more mature and a whole lot more powerful. She went from being my least favorite MC in the first book to my favorite character in this book. The least favorite character mantle was taken up by Dara who just frustrated me to the core in this one. I will say though that everything Dara did made sense from a character analysis perspective but frustrating nonetheless.

I also loved the added layers to the side characters, especially Muntadhir, Jamshid and Zaynab.

The Empire of Gold (Daevabad #3) by S.A Chakraborty

Rating

Synopsis

The final chapter in the Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt. 

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“If you rule by violence, you should expect to be removed by violence.”

The last book wasn’t really what I was expecting but it was a satisfying ending. I thought it ended well with the most immediate strings wrapped up but also a lot of room left up to interpretation. I don’t know if Chakraborty is ever planning on writing more stories in this world but if she did, there’s definitely a lot of room to explore more.

Like I said in the beginning, I read these books in about five days (that’s quick for me) so entertainment wise, they were gripping. I couldn’t put Empire of Gold down. I needed to know how the book was going to end, I needed to know what was going to happen to these characters. And because of that, I couldn’t give the book less than five stars despite some of my complaints about the ending.

I don’t really think I can review this one without spoilers. So the following will contain spoilers so be forewarned. Overall, it was a fantastic read and well worth my time and I highly recommend.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

I’m gonna start by talking about what I think the book was lacking. After finishing the book, my first thoughts were that I wanted more. And yes that had to do with the fact that I just wanted to spend more time with these characters but also that, I think there should have been more. Especially more POVs. I think this book really missed out on showing a lot of the political intrigue that I loved in the first two books by a) having Ali not be in Daevabad when he was usually our window into the politics and b) by not having perspectives from any of the characters who were dealing with the politics (and the aftermath of what Manizheh had done when she invaded). Dara is the only one of the three POVs in Daevabad for a majority of the book and he’s not a politician so we don’t really get a lot of insight from him, only what he hears from Manizeh and Muntadhir. Not having more of an insight of Daevabad when it’s the conclusion of the Daevabad trilogy wasn’t what I wanted.

I wanted more of Daevabad, of how the Zaynab got the shafit and the djinn working together, of how Muntadhir was able to plan the attack against Kaveh, the inner conflict the Daevas must have felt when Manizheh – their beloved Banu Nahida – just slaughtered so many innocent Geziris for the throne. I wanted more.

But for the record, I loved what we did get. Especially Nahri’s POV. Nahri shines in this book. Most of my favorite scenes were her scenes and I was rooting for her from start to finish.

More random thoughts:

  • Gotta say I wasn’t a huge fan of Ali’s subplot of going to the marids, marids just confused me in general
  • though Ali showing up with the hundreds of ships with the marid’s help was pretty frikkin cool
  • I liked how Ali was improving and questioning the prejudices he had though I do think he could have gone further with it
  • Zaynab and Aqisa were a team that I didn’t know I needed until it happened (also I ship them hard)
  • Jamshid and Muntadhir getting the happy ending they deserved!! But also, would’ve loved to see the whole “I killed your father because your parents invaded the kingdom and killed my dad along with hundreds of innocents” conversation between those two
  • The Egyptian shafit cook in the kitchen being Nahri’s grandfather made me BAWL
  • Also so happy to know Nahri is actually half-Egyptian since that was such a big part of her identity
  • Nahri made the peris mad, is this maybe a setup for a future book series??
  • Love the idea of Ali and Nahri making a new representative government from scratch
  • I actually really like Ali and Nahri as a couple, to me their relationship makes a lot more sense than Nahri’s and Dara’s did. Ali and Nahri are comfortable with each other, they both have a mutual thirst for knowledge and they are always trying to save other people
  • Dara’s whole character arc was beautifully done and I love that he was the one who ended up killing Manizheh
  • That ending with the Qahtani siblings gave me life!!
  • The fact that the book ended with “Nahri always smiled at her marks” had me smiling from ear to ear

I am sad to leave this world. And very excited to see the next world Chakraborty builds.

Review: “Queen of Air and Darkness” by Cassandra Clare

13541056Rating
4.5 stars

Warning: the following contains spoilers for previous books of Cassandra Clare including The Mortal Instruments series, The Infernal Devices trilogy, all the short stories, and the first two 

What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks.

Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.

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“As we all have an infinite capacity to make mistakes, we all have an infinite capacity for forgiveness.”

OH MY GOSH SO MANY FEELINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK I CANNOT CONTAIN IT!!! Leave it to Cassandra Clare to always hook me with her books. At this point, I’m a Shadowhunter reader for life, as long as she keeps writing, I will keep reading, I’m too invested in these people to turn my back now. Leave it to Cassandra Clare to give me yet another heartbreaking and page turning story. I could not put this book down but that’s not surprising seeing that this is my favorite Clare trilogy to date.

The book starts back up pretty much right after the events of Lord of Shadows in the Council Hall. The first few chapters are quite somber in the wake of Livvy and Robert’s deaths. All the characters have their own little ways to deal with their deaths which is a part of the catalyst that starts off this book. There isn’t much I can say about this book without spoiling it because at this point, I just want to rant about this book, not actually review it.

Arrow

SPOILERS SPOILERS LOTS OF SPOILERS Don’t read past this unless you want to be spoiled!

As feared, the new Inquisitor is not someone sympathetic to Julian and Emma’s case, he isn’t sympathetic period. Horace Dearborn, leader of the Cohort, becomes Inquisitor in the wake of Robert’s death. That puts him, Zara (UGHHH I HAAAATE HER SO MUCH) and Manuel in charge of the Clave.

Julian, who I was afraid was going to go completely crazy and try to raise Livvy from the dead, goes to Magnus and turns his frikkin emotions off *insert side eye here*. The poor boy’s got no chill. So for half of the book, we have a Julian who’s basically a robot. And if you thought Julian with feelings was ruthless? Wow Robot Julian really one ups him.

And then the different storylines start of our main characters. Horace finds out about Julian and Emma being in love and sends them on what pretty much is a suicide mission: to retrieve the Black Book from the Unseelie King and bring it back to Idris. Ty decides he is going to try and raise Livvy from the dead with Kit’s help and Kit reluctantly agrees. Helen and Aline are back home and are now trying to run the Los Angeles Institute while Helen tries to get along with the kids. Drusilla is lonely and is always trying to be taken seriously by her older siblings and their friends but is usually left with Tavvy to babysit. And you have the threesome: Mark, Cristina and Kieran who are all just really confused about their feelings. Like really confused.

So Emma and Robot Julian are now in Faerie with a map that shows them where the Unseelie Court is. And then comes the idiot Dane Larkspear who was one of the guys sent to kill Julian and Emma but is instead killed by Robot Julian who under normal circumstances probably wouldn’t have killed him. I don’t know though, both Julians are pretty brutal when it comes to people who threaten their families. They keep going but do they end up in the Unseelie Court? No. Julian takes the two of them to the Seelie Court because he wanted to make a deal with the Seelie Queen.

That was really where you see how different emotionless Julian is with the real Julian because Julian would never have kept such a dire plan from Emma. And she says the same to him.

Thule

The focus on alternative dimensions kind of took me by surprise. I liked being in Thule and seeing how the world would have turned out if Clary hadn’t killed Sebastian during the Dark War. But I also thought the mention of several alternative dimensions opened too many doorways for this world. I always commend Cassandra Clare for expanding the Shadowhunter world so well and bringing up alternative dimensions could end up going very wrong.

I’m guessing The Wicked Powers series (focused on Kit and Ty) will involve alternative dimensions somehow.

Mark, Kieran and Cristina

“The sky was a road and the stars made pathways; the moon was a watchtower, a lighthouse that led you home.”

I understand Mark being in love with Kieran through their shared history and after everything they have done for each other. I also understand Mark and Cristina being in love, they have had their moments. Cristina was the first person Mark connected with after he came back home from the Wild Hunt. Kieran and Cristina I’m still not sure about, to me it seems like it’s more that they’re attracted to each other and not that they are in love with each other.

Helen and Aline

“But even if they fit differently now, they still fit like sisters.”

Oh I felt so bad for Helen for most of the book. She’s finally home and trying to take care of the kids but the kids are lashing out because she’s not Julian. Helen was trying so hard with the kids but it’s understandable why they were weary of their older sister at first.

I absolutely loved Aline and how she always stood up for Helen. We don’t know much about her yet except for the fact that she is Helen’s wife but I loved whenever she was in the scene.

Thule Livvy

“I whisper your name, Ty. I whisper the most important thing:
I love you. I love you. I love you.”

OH MY GOSH this broke my heart!!!! Especially since it’s kind of the opposite in Thule and Livvy is the only one of them who’s survived. Like I said before, I liked spending time in Thule with Livvy. I missed her! Is that weird to say about a character? Thule Livvy helped heal Julian’s heart a little bit as well otherwise he would have blamed himself for her death for the rest of his life.

Kit

“Making promises you can’t keep is worse than making no promises at all.”

I SO CALLED IT! The minute they started talking about the First Heir in Faerie, I knew Kit was the descendant. And he’s got fairy magic!

Kit as a character I’m not really attached to yet. I like him but I don’t love him. I did understand him in this book not being able to say no to Ty and going along with his plan. Especially since Kit was hoping the plan will fall through.

Tessa was so excited when he agreed to go live with her! I’m happy for her but also heartbroken for Ty who’s lost both Livvy and Kit now. But we know the fifth series is about him and Ty so maybe they will both be in a Scholomance together?

Julian and Emma

“Sometimes when you start a war, you want to make pancakes.”

I love these two characters individually. Julian is great, I love him when he’s with his siblings and his family dynamic. Julian is probably the male Shadowhunter MC I started liking the quickest (yes, even over Will. It took me two and a half books to start loving Will). I also love how savvy Julian is with others, I love clever characters who outsmart their opponents and Julian is it.

I thought his plan for Livia’s Watch was genius (I started tearing up when he announced the name of the rebellion). It was also nice to see him take charge even among heroes like the original TMI characters, and it was also great to see them take Julian seriously.

“Faith isn’t never having any doubts; it’s having what you need to overcome them.”

I also love Emma, she’s my favorite out of the three Clare female MC’s we’ve had so far. I never liked Clary and I didn’t start loving Tessa until Clockwork Princess. Emma I liked right away from the get go of Lady Midnight. I will say however, in this book especially, it seemed like every decision she made was based on the fact that she loves Julian which got old for me.

“As long as you exist and I exist, I will love you.”

I do ship them and I’m happy that Julian and Emma are together but their relationship was probably my least favorite of the book. Maybe because I got very tired of Julian pining over Emma for the past two books and vice versa.

I was more invested in pretty much every other relationship but theirs in this book. I got tired of their love story especially after Magnus takes the spell off of him, it’s just them pining after one another for pages and pages on. Even Kieran and Cristina, whose relationship kind of just showed up from nowhere, was a more interesting dynamic.

Drusilla 

“Don’t remain silent about what you want, or you may never get it.”

Awww Dru is such an underrated character! She’s old enough to want to be in on the action but young enough where everyone tells her not to. She always ends up babysitting Tavvy and though she loves doing that, she wants to feel more useful. I love that Kit tried to include her in their plans because he saw how lonely she felt.

I don’t think she got the praise that she deserves when she freed Jia and the Rosales brothers from prison. Dru was pretty badass in this book. I also love how she chose to stay back from the fight to be with Tavvy, that shows a lot of character growth in her part. I can’t wait to see what the Wicked Powers has in store for her!

Magnus and Alec

“Be good, my archer boy. Come back to me.”

Reading about Thule Magnus and Alec KILLED me!!! Magnus is my favorite character in this saga and one of my absolute favorites of all time. Alec killing Magnus and then killing himself?? Even in an alternative dimension, WHYYYY CASSANDRA!!!!

Loved the conversation when Julian and Emma were explaining what happened to them and Magnus got very angry at Alec for doing killing himself yelling about what would happen to their children. And Alec being like, we didn’t have children in that world!! 

I was scared for Magnus in this one, we’ve never seen anything this fatal happen to Magnus ever (I guess other than Edom). I didn’t think Clare would kill him off but after Robert and Livvy, I was concerned.

Alec being Consul was unexpected but I’m so glad! He has earned it and he would make a fine leader. This also means we will definitely be getting more Malec in The Wicked Powers series so YES!

“And when one day people look back on me and what my life meant, I don’t want them to say, ‘Alec Lightwood fought in the Dark War’ or even ‘Alec Lightwood was Consul once.’ I want them to think, ‘Alec Lightwood loved one man so much he changed the world for him.’ ”

WE FINALLY GOT A MALEC WEDDING YESSSSS. I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT FOR A DECADE. It was perfect! Jace accompanying Alec. I love that Catarina and Ragnor were fighting to see who gets to accompany Magnus. And the vows!!!! I was full on sobbing the entire time. It was beautiful!

Ending with the Cohort

Am I the only one who kind of wishes that they just let those stupid kids kill themselves? They’re so extra I cannot. Never have I ever wanted to punch a character in the face so hard than I did Zara frikkin Dearborn. I HAAATE HER SO MUCH.

Though I do love the idea of the new Shadowhunter Academy being in Luke’s farm. And the new Council being in New York! Alec will pretty much have to build the Shadowhunter council back up from and I’m sure he’ll do a great job. I’m very excited to see how the new government looks. 

Have you read this? Are you going to? Who is your favorite character in this series?

 

Review: “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green

24233708Rating:
4.5 stars

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

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AART

The book that finally got me out of my massive reading slump, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. Going into this book, I was hesitant. I love Hank Green as a person, I’m an avid follower of the Vlogbrothers and everything they do for charities every year. And of-course I’m a fan of Hank’s brother, John Green’s, books. So when Hank announced his book, I was nervous that I wouldn’t like it. That was all for naught though because An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was absolutely remarkable.

April as a main character is not perfect. She’s a character with a lot of flaws, most of which she will admit to having and it made her that much more relatable. She has commitment issues, she’s reckless, a little impulsive, but she’s lovable despite her flaws.

April May, after a long day at work, encounters this giant statue in the middle of a New York street. She first walks right pass the statue but then decides she would be more appreciative of street art so she gets her best friend Andy to take a video of her fake interviewing the statue she then named Carl. Little did she know, there were hundreds of other Carls who appeared at the exact same time in other cities around the world. Her video quickly goes viral because she is the first to upload a video with Carl and thus starts April May’s adventure.

This was also a very real despite being science fiction. The book talks about the effects of social media and all the positives and negatives that come from it. It talks about the effects of fame and how it can be addictive and lonely and how much it can change a person over time. We get to see April’s rise to fame. April May goes from a person who really isn’t into social media to someone who thinks obsessively about every video and every tweet she sends out. I thought that was relatable to everyone who has ever grown even a small following online, you end up thinking about what kind of posts will get the most likes, what will end up the most popular, etc.

We also see how April’s rise to fame affects her relationship with the people around her. Her relationship with her girlfriend Maya is probably the best example of that. It’s also a good juxtaposition to see how the people who knew her before she was the famous April May react to her as opposed to the people who met her after her video went viral.

I am so glad I loved this book. Hank did an incredible job balancing the sci-fi aspects with every day life. The book works well as a stand-alone but there are a few questions left unanswered which paves the way for the sequel.

Mini Review: “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli

31180248Rating:
4 stars

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

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Leah

** NOTE that since this is the sequel to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, it will contain some spoilers from the first book

Leah Burke – she’s spunky, confident, and unrelenting. I loved Leah in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and she did not disappoint in her own book. That said, Leah is not perfect. She’s highly opinionated and at times that can come off as rude and obnoxious. But she also usually calls herself out for her behavior or her friends do.

In Leah on the Offbeat, Leah is trying to figure out her feelings for Abby Suo.  She’s also trying to figure out when and how to tell her friends she’s bisexual – she knows they will be supportive but it’s also a huge step for her and she doesn’t know if she’s ready to take it just yet.

The romance in the book is pretty cute – especially when we know how Leah feels about Abby sooner than she herself does. I think a dual perspective would’ve been better for the book just so we could get a glimpse of what Abby was thinking during some of their  scenes together.

The highlight of the book for me was definitely Simon and Bram. THEY ARE THE ABSOLUTE CUTEST TOGETHER and my heart melted every time those two were together in the book. It was so nice to revisit these two after the first book!

Have you read this book? Are you planning to?

Mini reviews: Warcross, Wonder Woman and Gentleman’s Guide

I’ve read all three of these books a while ago and didn’t want to write individual full reviews so mini reviews it is! All of these had been on my TBR list for a while and fortunately I loved all three of them!two lines

29385546“Warcross” by Marie Lu

4.5 stars

“Every locked door has a key. Every problem has a solution.”

Oh wow, this was a good book. Marie Lu never disappoints! Warcross is the first virtual reality book I’ve read and I have to say, I am a fan. It doesn’t hurt that the protagonist Emika is a hacker and as someone who’s studying computer science, hacking has always been something I’m interested in.

If you’ve read Marie Lu’s Legends trilogy and remember Alaska in Champion, Warcross is an even grander version of that. I wanted her to do a spin-off of that book series just to get to know the Alaskan society more and Marie Lu has answered my calls.

Emika, after a little hack gone wrong, finds herself as a wildcard in this year’s Warcross games. The technology in this book is so well weaved into the story, I was impressed (and also very concerned about where our world is headed).

  • Emika and Hideo were the cutest together
  • There were two huge plot twists, I saw one coming but the second surprised me
  • Seriously, the technology, SO GOOD
  • Emika has rainbow colored hair and it’s mentioned one too many times

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29283884“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee

4 stars

“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”

I loved this book but I was very conflicted while I was rating it. After I finished The Gentleman’s Guide, I just sat there and thought, what the heck did I just read? I went into the book expecting a historical contemporary and it was that but there were elements of other genres thrown in that I wasn’t expecting (like fantasy).

Monty was a complicated character, at times I loved him and at times I wanted to punch his guts. He is bisexual in a society where not being straight was absolutely unacceptable. He is in love with his best friend. He’s also irresponsible, takes his inheritance for granted and gets drunk for a living. He takes his white male privilege for granted, and at time his comments made me want to slap him. But Monty goes through a lot of character development in the book and he learns to get better at listening. He changes for the better and we get to see these changes unfold.

  • Felicity (Monty’s little sister) was my favorite! I loved that girl so much!
  • Percy was also great and I loved him too
  • Monty and Percy ARE SO ADORABLE TOGETHER IT HURTS
  • Felt like there was too much happening sometimes

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29749085“Wonder Woman Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo

5 stars

“You can’t live in fear. You make things happen or they happen to you.”

I had high expectations going into this book after absolutely loving Wonder Woman’s movie and my expectations were met and then some. This was SO GOOD. Yes it has some clichés but it’s a superhero story retelling so it’s bound to have them. That’s not to say Bardugo didn’t put her own little twists and turns into the coming of age story of the infamous Diana Prince.

I’ve said this before but only Leigh Bardugo can introduce five new characters in a book and make me care about every one of them. Even though the book is about Diana growing into her Amazonian self, it’s also about friendship and dedication and doing what’s right. Also I LOVED the diverse casting, that’s not something I see often in superhero retellings (every main character but Diana was a POC).

The story picks up once Diana gets to New York with Alya. Diana starts to question a lot of the racism and prejudice that happens in society. I also love her cluelessness when it comes to technology and confusion to slang and modern film references.

Female superheroes are just empowering. In this book specifically, Diana is Wonder Woman but you have two other strong female characters. Alya is intelligent and brave and fierce. Her best friend Nim is hilarious and loyal and as fierce as Alya.

  • Also, FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! GIMME MORE! Alya and Nim’s relationship is the sweetest!
  • Nim is a fat bisexual South-Asian character and I absolutely loved her!
  • Tyler is also a sweetheart
  • So usually I see plot twists coming but I did not see this one coming

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Have you read any of the books mentioned? Are you planning to?

Review: “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

35504431Rating:
4.5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

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Turtles All the Way Down

Trigger Warnings: OCD (obsessive thought spirals specifically)

Turtles All the Way Down is a hard book to read. It feels very personal in a way only an #ownvoices book can feel. The antagonist in this book is Aza’s own thoughts and Aza goes through a constant struggle of trying not to let her OCD get the better of her but is sometimes forced to comply with her thoughts anyway.

The book does not glorify mental illness. Aza isn’t a great detective because of her mental health issue but the opposite to where her mental wellness often gets in the way of her goals. She is selfish without meaning to be, she is always stuck in her own head so she often overlooks other people’s problems. This isn’t intentional on her part, it’s just something she isn’t aware of for a long time. But she tries to do well and to be well and I was rooting for her the entire book.

One of my favorite things to find in a YA book is female friendships and Aza and her best friend Daisy have a great one. They have their ups and downs but when it comes to it, they try to understand each other and are there for each other when it counts.

The romance is not a big part of the plot and is more of a side story which is different from a typical John Green book and I liked it. Davis is the son of a billionaire who goes missing and there’s a reward for finding him. Aza and Davis used to go to camp together so Aza’s friend Daisy thinks that could help them solve the case. Davis is a sweetheart, he is witty and smart and like all other John Green love interests, deeply philosophical.

Turtles mentions a lot of artwork and artists and incorporates that into the story. I’m not someone who knows a lot about art but I did end up looking up some of the art that are mentioned. Aza describes her thought process by comparing it to a particular art piece of a spiral and how it goes on and on without stopping.

Technology use is also portrayed really well and that’s so rare! The characters used Google Maps to get to places, they texted each other constantly, their phones didn’t suddenly run out of battery. It was relatable and normal.

Mini spoiler for the ending ahead, skip if you hate spoilers!

Ultimately, the mental health portrayal felt real and debilitating but not hopeless and untreatable. Aza gets help from her therapist. She continues to struggle with it her entire life. She has her ups and downs, she gets better and she gets worse. There is no sudden treatment, she doesn’t sporadically “get well” but she learns to deal with it.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite John Green book?

 

Review: “They Both Die At the End” by Adam Silvera

33385229Rating:
4.5 stars

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

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They Both Die at the End quote

A huge thank you to the publisher (HarperTeen) and Edelweiss for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

They Both Die at the End is an Adam Silvera book so of course it broke my heart and I loved every minute of it. The concept of knowing when you’ll die has always seemed interesting to me so I was looking forward to seeing how these characters would deal with knowing they’ll die that day. It’s tragic and hopeful at the same time.

Mateo as a character is very relatable and I could find myself in him. He’s a dreamer who’s been wanting to do a lot in life but always felt paranoid or scared to take that next step. He’s cautious and reluctant to try new things because of the jarring question, what if something goes wrong? But he’s also an all around good person. He cares deeply about others and will always be around for moral support.

Rufus is more bold and adventurous but has a good heart and is loyal till the end. He just lost his family in a car accident a few months ago and has been living in a foster home. He has the most wonderful and supportive group of friends who would go to the ends of the earth for him.

Watching Rufus and Mateo’s relationship growing into something deep and significant is heart warming. They’re both very different and under another circumstance, they wouldn’t have met. I usually hate the “met and fell in love all in one day” trope but it makes sense in this scenario since neither of them have any time left. They are both supportive of one another and become each other’s strength as the day goes by.

Similar to The Sun is Also a Star, TBDatE has small chapters with snippets from all the side and minor characters so we get glimpses of what’s going on in everyone’s heads, not just our two mains. I love stories where we get a full picture and in this world, we get to see how something like DeathCast affects all parties, the ones who are dying and the loved ones they’re leaving behind.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite Adam Silvera book?

Review: “Now I Rise” by Kiersten White

22817331Rating:
5 stars

Warning: The following contains spoilers for the first book in the series And I Darken. 

Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.

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“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge.
Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”

AHHH I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. This book tore me TO PIECES! I liked the sequel even more than And I Darken.

If there were ever such a thing as a character driven stories, this is IT. Lada, Radu and Mehmed are such complex and imperfect characters that I go from wanting to hug them to wanting to strangle them to death. The main three characters have developed into such distinct personalities it’s a marvel of Kiersten White’s writing. She writes historical characters with a twist that’s fresh yet familiar.

Our Radu, Lada and Mehmed are no longer children, though all three of them still have the same goals in mind. From the first book, we know what they value above all else: Lada will always choose Wallachia, Mehmed will always choose Constantinople and Radu will always choose Mehmed. In Now I Rise we see how their desires play out and how their goals affect their decisions – politically and emotionally.

If I thought I disliked Mehmed in the first book, I downright hated him in this one. He cares about both Dracul siblings but it’s clear he doesn’t care about either one as much as he cares about being the Sultan who expands the Ottomans towards Constantinople. I never understood his desire to conquer Constantinople, his reasoning is questionable and his means to his goal is even more so.

Lada is more brutal and ruthless as ever. Her and her soldiers are parading through the countryside trying to get to Wallachia’s throne. Lada doesn’t know how to get to the throne, she was never one for politics, all she knows is that she wants it. She finds an unlikely ally in the man who killed her father. Lada was my least favorite out of the three in the first book but became my favorite in this one. Lada never pretends to be someone she isn’t, she is fierce and violent and she gets things done with brutal force. After all the mind games Radu and Mehmed were playing in the book, Lada’s chapters felt honest and refreshing.

Radu is getting on my nerves. I understand he’s in love with Mehmed but there should be a line that you know not to cross. His blind devotion to Mehmed annoyed me for most of the book especially since so many innocent people are now suffering because of it.

And yes the main three are great characters but do you know who took me completely by surprise? Nazira. I’m SO GLAD Nazira had such a strong presence in this book because I was dying to learn more about her after And I Darken. She is kind, caring while being strong and sly, and she’s also crazy smart and resourceful. She’s everything I look for in a character.

Cyprian is also a character I quickly became very fond of. He is generous and opened up his home to Radu and Nazira. He basically provides Radu an opportunity to spy on the Ottomans from the heart of their city. Poor Cyprian deserves better.

Have you read this? Or “And I Darken”?

Series Review: “Shades of Magic” trilogy by V.E Schwab

Oh. My. Gosh. I finally FINALLY read these and this series is freakin’ fantastic! I was going to start beating myself up for reading the trilogy so late but then, I think I did myself a favor since I was able to read all three in a row instead of having to wait years. The Shades of Magic trilogy is everything I hoped: intriguing, complex and simply magical.

I fell in love with this world (or rather, worlds). The concept that there are four different worlds all connected by the constant city of London. And more than that, adored the characters. This series has both a plot driven and character driven story.

This was also my first attempt at a V.E Schwab book and I’m a fan. Her writing is descriptive without being monotone and she has the perfect balance of show vs tell.

On to the reviews! The later books will have spoilers for the previous one so if you haven’t read the entire series, feel free to skip the later books.

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22055262~o~Rating~o~
4.5 stars

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

A Darker Shade of Magic was a thrilling introduction in this fantastic journey. Here, we meet Kell, an Antari – the only one in his world who can travel between the three Londons. He’s the adoptive son of the King and Queen of Red London and brother to prince Rhy. And we also meet Delilah (Lila) Bard, a wanted thief with too many knives and a seeker of adventure.

Schwab is a pro at world building, she doesn’t shove this new world down our throats but transitions us slowly.

My favorite thing about this book is the witty banter between Kell and Lila. I love humor and action in my Fantasy books and this one delivers. I also love a slow romance, no insta love and no love triangles. Their relationship isn’t really a romance, they’re just two people who have crossed each other’s paths and decided to go on a journey together. I appreciated their bond, their friendship.

Rhy, even thought he was absent most of the book, was by far my favorite character. We mostly see him through Kell’s eyes but even then, it’s obvious he is a kind and genuine person.

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20764879~o~Rating~o~
5 stars

“She bent most of the rules. She broke the rest.”

My favorite out the three books, A Gathering of Shadows is the perfect sequel. You know what I love best in Fantasy books? Epic magic duels. I LOVE super powers and I love it even more when we get to see people fight with said super powers. Most of A Gathering of Shadows revolves around the Element Games, a tournament where the best magicians of the three kingdoms come together and the best magician earns the glory of the championship.

Kell and Lila are separated during most of the book and I absolutely loved it. I loved seeing them grow as characters. Kell is having to deal with a level of distrust from the King and Queen because of his previous smuggling habit as well as the knowledge of what he did to Rhy. Lila is getting used to living in a world full of magic and new rules.

All the new characters who were introduced are lovely additions, Alucard especially. He’s hilarious! If I thought I liked Lila and Kell’s banter, I love hers and Alucard’s even more.

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29939230~o~Rating~o~
4.5 stars

“Life isn’t made of choices, it’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.”

I was a pile of crumbling mess after finishing this book. How am I expected to move on now? This one broke my heart and then tried to piece it back together but it was too late because my heart was already shattered, just whyyy.

The plot was on point. The characters were all present and perfect in their own imperfect ways. The fights were wonderful as usual. It was action packed with the occasional humor thrown in.

If you haven’t read the conclusion yet, just know that it’s fantastic and skip these later paragraphs.

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SPOILERS SPOILERS LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!!

(This is not going to be very coherent, I’ll just warn you now)/

AHHHHHH, all these deaths, I CANNOT EVEN! Every side character I loved died?? And I loved all the side characters and they’re all pretty much dead. And the characters who survived are left damaged and heart-broken and it HURTS.

Kell and Rhy’s relationship is so nice! I love their brotherly duo and for a while, it almost seemed like they would beat Heronstairs which is high praise! (They didn’t but almost).

Rhy and Alucard are so darn adorable! The way Alucard stayed with Rhy when he “died” and then Rhy stayed with Luc when he was almost possessed! Their relationship is so nice and I’m so very glad Luc didn’t die on that ship. My poor Rhy has lost enough people.

I also just love all the little character interactions between everyone. How Lila was basically the first person to trust Rhy on his own. How Kell and Alucard have finally agreed to not hate each other after Alucard told Kell the real reason he left. How Holland was the one to save Lila and while that wasn’t enough for her to like him, she at least tolerated him from there on. Hastra and Kell’s conversations and how he seemed so eager to show Kell how he can grow a plant. Lenox and Lila and how he finally seemed to be comfortable around her. ALL THESE CHARACTERS ARE JUST SO BRILLIANT.

HOLLAND NOOOO! I was so hoping he would end up surviving, that poor man has gone through so much! And he still had the strength and the courage to keep going and fight against evil even though he had so many reasons not to.

The last scene with King Maxim and his iron soldiers was awesome. He literally created his own army just so he wouldn’t have to ask his people to sacrifice themselves. I’m still angry at him for blaming Kell for so long but I have to admire his strength.

Can we have a slow clap for the wonder that is Tieran? That man is the Dumbledore of this trilogy except much more helpful and is actually there for the main characters when they need him.

I so wanted to give this book five stars except it left some unanswered questions that I thought would be resolved by the last book. Schwab was probably just wanting to leave some things ambiguous but I really like closure.

Things I needed in this book:

  1. Kell’s parents!! I NEEDED to know even though apparently Kell didn’t. I need to know who his parents were, why they left him, or whether or not he was kidnapped. Does he have any siblings? Is he even from Red London? Why are his memories erased? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?
  2. Lila’s past! What happened to her eye? Did her parents know what she was and had gotten rid of it? When did it happen? Who are her parents? WHAT IF HER AND KELL ARE SIBLINGS?! Not likely at all, I know, but can we be certain if we don’t know who their parents are?
  3. The king’s letters. He wrote letters to Emira, Kell and Rhy because he knew he was going to die. I wanted to know what was in them. Did he finally apologize to Kell for blaming him for the dark magic stuff? Does he tell Kell what really happened with his parents?
  4. Queen Emira and Kell. I really liked her POV chapters and that she cared about Kell but didn’t know how to express herself but I wanted her to! I know they have the brief scene where she gives Kell the kerchief with the initials KM but I wanted MORE. I wanted a scene where she calls him her son and then they hug it out like the mother/son duo they were always meant to be and life would’ve been perfect!

Have you read this series? Are you planning to? What other Victoria Schwab book would you recommend?

Review: “When Dimple Met Rishi” by Sandhya Menon

28458598~o~Rating~o~
4.5 stars

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Release Date: May 30th, 2017

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~o~Review~o~

I picked this up at ALA Midwinter 2017 which was held in Atlanta this year. A huge thank you to Simon & Schuster for handing these out!

Ahh, this was so freakin’ ADORABLE! This is a Bollywood romance turned into a YA novel. By Bollywood romance, yes I mean the cliches and the overused tropes and the songs and the drama, it was perfect! Now, if you don’t already know this, I. Am. An. ABSOLUTE. Sucker. When it comes to Bollywood romantic comedies. And don’t even get me started if the movie is starring Shah Rukh Khan.

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Not the best gif I could’ve chosen…

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Hehe, that’s not any better.

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Awwww, LOOK

Shounima, you’re not even talking about the book anymore, get a hold of yourself!

Okay, okay, I apologize. On to the story.

Dimple Shah is the only child to her traditional Indian parents; parents whose biggest goal in life is to marry her to a suitable boy now that she has graduated high school. Dimple though has no desire whatsoever to get married. Dimple is a coder and her biggest goal in the book is to win a programming competition and meet Jenny Lindth, her programming role model. She is intelligent, determined, and is always struggling to find the perfect balance between her family’s tradition and western society. I saw a lot of myself in her; I have never been so well represented in a book character before (she’s literally me but much cooler). That’s probably another reason I liked this book so much, I connected with the characters on a much deeper level than I usually do.

Rishi on the other hand is more traditional, he wants to do whatever will make his parents happy and he’s completely on board with an arranged marriage. He is an artist at heart but is pursuing more “practical” goals like going to MIT to become an engineer. I understood where he was coming from, there’s usually a huge pressure in South Asian culture to pursue careers in science and the arts are usually dismissed as silly hobbies that you are supposed to do on the side but not make a career out of.

The book itself can be best described as a romantic comedy and there were lots of funny scenes thrown in there with the romantic ones. I was giggling all through the book because of the sheer cuteness.

The author does add some Hindi dialogues when Dimple and Rishi are talking to their parents which may throw off some non-Hindi speakers. Though you do get the gist of what they’re saying because of the context.

All in all, When Dimple Met Rishi was just plain adorable and I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a fluffy read.