I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest Review

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina ForestI Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Pages: 272

Available Through The Book Depository: I Wanna Be Where You Are

Cover Illustration/Design: Alex Cabal and Cassie Gonzales

Summary: When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast—two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: I Wanna Be Where You Are is a sweet YA Romance that follows dedicated ballet dancer Chloe who goes on a road trip to follow her dreams! There’s not only a road trip, but playlists, also a cute enemies-to-lovers romance that turns into something more! Forest has delivered a must-read YA that features a wonderful journey about growth, is filled with a great cast of characters and a page-turning story!

I’ve had I Wanna Be Where You Are on my TBR for quite a bit and I’m just so happy to have finally read Forest’s lovely debut! Its such a wholesome story and I have been meaning to pick up more YA Contemporaries by Black authors. It balances fun, humor, and more serious topics so perfectly, overall this is just a very cute YA Rom-Com everyone should read. After turning the final page on Chloe and Eli’s story I know I’ll have to pick up Now That I’ve Found You (her newest release) ASAP, she’s become one of my new favorite authors.

Chloe Pierce, a dedicated ballet dancer, dreams of attending the prestigious Avery Johnson Academy (named after one of her idols/inspirations) and an audition is right around the corner. The only problem is, her mother would never let her attend.

Ever since Chloe’s father died when she was young, her mother has become very protective and yet, Chloe knows she can’t let this chance slip away. Now she’s joined by her neighbor Eli who she can’t stand and his dog Geezer on a road trip to not only get to the audition, but also getting Eli to his father’s house for an important university visit.

Luckily the perfect opportunity arises when Chloe’s mom and boyfriend Jean-Marc are headed on a quick spring vacation! But, along the way some unfortunate obstacles get in the way of Chloe’s first audition in DC, now she’s traveling cross-country from Washington D.C. to Raleigh and Atlanta. She’s even reconnecting with her childhood friend Eli and they are learning much more about each other than they expect!

Forest brilliantly sets up the mystery surrounding Chloe and Eli’s past, it leaves you wanting to know more about how they went their separate ways. They grew up together, but there’s a rift between them still. It’s wonderful getting to see them not only reconnect, but work out their past hurt.

Chloe’s journey throughout the book was beautiful to read and Forest delves into the obstacles (both internal and external) that Chloe faces as she learns to not only navigate her freedom, but also her choices! Same goes for Eli as we learn he’s a very talented artist and finds the courage to be honest with his parents about his dreams. At its heat, this novel explores the reach and power of art, from Chloe’s ballet to Eli’s sketches, Forest delves into why these passions mean so much to each of them. I loved hearing about both of their journeys as to why they want to continue pursuing art!!

Each moment of this road trip teaches them not only more about themselves, but each other as they rekindle their past friendships and become much more closer, realizing they may have newfound feelings for each other. There’s all these little pieces they are learning to understand and appreciate about one another, which makes the development so wholesome and adorable!

Forest splendidly delivers such driven protagonists who are inspired to follow their dreams, no matter the cost! Its the kind of story that leaves you feeling so connected with the main character and wholly invested at every moment, knowing it’ll be a joyful experience, your eager to follow them every step of the way!

If you are a fan of road trips, this is a perfect read! Although it is set during Spring Break, it reads like a perfect summer contemporary!

Through a first-person POV, Chloe’s voice instantly pulls you into the story. The deep emotion, passion, enthusiasm, and mystery are given such meaningful depth through Chloe in the entirety of the book. You sense her anxieties, melancholy, but above all its Black joy at its heart.

Forest uses flashbacks and the past to layer in many different meaningful messages and ideas, from fate even exploring philosophy, that gives an explanation for the things that comes our way or that happens throughout our lives! For example, Chloe and Eli’s childhood friend Trey moving away allowed for Chloe to meet Reina (her best friend). Chloe even questions whether things would have turned out differently for her and her ballet had it not been for all the little hurdles along the way.

Featuring a majority Black cast, also Dominican rep (Reina), this novel is a wonderful YA Contemporary about celebrating Black joy, love, and its an absolute-page turner.

My only gripe is that there were moments early on I could predict what would happen and then it was pretty easy for me to see how major points of the plot would play out. Other than that although it just felt like a 4-star read, I absolutely adored it!!

I Wanna Be Where You Are is the kind of heartwarming contemporary that captivates you from the very first page! So full of joy, a splendid cast of characters, a page-turning story, even a journey about independence, Forest’s debut navigates all that and so much more! This YA Contemporary all about Black love and joy, will leave you delighted to see what Forest writes next!

In today’s review I’ll also be shouting out a fellow blogger review! 📚🎉

I recommend WOC Read’s Review!! This review beautifully delves into how ballet is explored in the novel and perfectly sums up what you can expect in the story! This quote also stuck out to me when reading it“Chloe and Eli’s relationship is such a sweet portrayal of black teens that we don’t often see.”

Love In Focus Vol. 3 by Yoko Nogiri {Manga Review}

Love In Focus Vol. 3 by Yoko NogiriLove In Focus Vol. 3 by Yoko Nogiri (Love In Focus #3)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Love In Focus Vol. 3

Cover Illustration: Yoko Nogiri

Summary: Swept along by Kei’s suggestion to give dating a try, Mako struggles to see where she really fits in. Meanwhile, Mitsuru has become distant, and in her attempts to get back the friendship they had, Mako discovers his hidden past. Mako, Kei, and Mitsuru now have to confront their own feelings, and they might get a little lost before they find their true answers…

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Love In Focus comes to an end in this 3rd volume! When Mako first arrived to photography club’s boarding house, she never expected to find a new  muse. Kei, and Mitsuru are navigating their complicated feelings and confronting their past as Mako tries to better understand where her heart is leading her. Balancing the romantic and quiet slice of life moments, this series is ends on a satisfying note!

You know when you finally reach the end of a series and it feels like it ended too soon? That’s exactly how I felt with Love In Focus. Even though it follows typical romance tropes, there’s just something about how it was all executed that had me falling in love with this series. Maybe it was the likable cast, picturesque art style, or layered emotional depth to the characters? Possibly a combo of all of these?

Either way, Love In Focus is a series I’ll always have such positive memories of (despite my critiques) because its a soft, quiet contemporary romance that just captivated me! Its really sweet and I loved following these characters!

This is also the first full manga series I’ve ever completed and although it feels like such an accomplishment I never thought I’d reach the end of Mako’s journey so soon…

Mako decides to confront her childhood friend Kei, even though she’s still conflicted about Mitsuru too. He decides they should have a trial period for their relationship as she’s still swept up in her uncertainty to see how it works out.

However, this also gives Mako time to reflect more on her relationships (both romantic/platonic) between Mitsuru and Kei. While Mako is new to relationships, it is kind of frustrating at points to see her rely so heavily on others opinions about how the relationship should work. It felt like (with Vol. 2) her presence as a character is there, but her development was left to the side just a bit.

Vol. 3 is essentially filled with internal and emotional development to push the story forward, keeping the reader in suspense / wonder as to who Mako will choose! I liked that this volume really filled in the gaps for the mysterious Mitsuru and what led him to end his modeling career.

Another highlight was seeing how Mitsuru not only confronted his past, but finally accepted his feelings for Mako. Kei on the other hand had this selfishness to him as we realize how desperate he is to get Mako to love him. But, it was nice for him to finally accept and even make some changes of his own (learning to move on and confronting his father). Mako herself definitely goes on an emotional journey as well as she tries to better understand how she truly feels.

No spoilers, but I loved how the story came full-circle in a way through the ‘Bonus Short.’

With each volume, I loved that there was always a new element given the spotlight whether it was the characters, writing, or art. With this final volume, the art was beautifully done. Kind of reflecting back to Vol. 1, the way it uses blank space to highlight the passage of time or reflection of emotion has been brilliantly presented throughout the whole series. In a way, that’s kind of the focus of the series and the art reflects that. Whether its been from a focus on a character’s expression, the single panel of scenery that builds the emotional depth of a scene? I loved it with each volume and it was presented in a way unlike any other manga series I’d read before.

There’s always been a subtlety to the emotions of Mako, Kei and Mitsuru too that really adds a whole other layer to them as characters! The art also has some clever, artistic style choices to reflect certain panels as if they were seen through a camera lens.

The paneling is also fantastic! It varies across each page and never feels like it has wasted space. Page 113 which features Mako headed towards a shrine is especially unique and stood out to me!

Though this series will always be memorable to me and easily one of my favorites, I think this volume was definitely rushed and also slow at the same time. While I was unsure at the end of Vol. 2, this last volume makes it more obvious as to who Mako wants to be with. So it felt like Kei was given more backstory in order to stretch out more of his past with Mako. Again, he continued to be my least favorite character at least when it comes to the last couple volumes.

I also felt like Mitsuru’s development happened within the span of like a page? And although he is my favorite character in the series, once we realize how Mako really impacted him I knew everything else was just wrapping up Kei’s story before we finally get to see what happens with Mako and Mitsuru!

Because this last volume is so focused on the main cast, the side characters did feel kind of forgettable too. But overall though, this series just wrapped up on a great note and yet, I’m still sad its over.

I loved following Mako on her journey as a growing photographer and reminising back to the first volume, this series beautifully explores the passion and impact art can have on us. Its also a beautiful series about love and growth!

Love In Focus is wonderful manga series I’m glad I took the time to read! These characters, their emotional journeys, and the beautiful art that expresses it will definitely stay with me! Although it feels like I could tons read more books with Mako and the guys, the series really does wrap up wonderfully 💖

Love In Focus Vol. 3 wonderfully concludes Mako, Kei, and Mitsuru’s journeys! The emotional growth of our main cast, metaphorical artwork, and gripping romantic story makes this volume such a page turner! The Love In Focus Series presents romance through a more quiet, emotional, slice of life narrative that really connects you to its characters! Definitely an underrated manga series that I highly recommend picking up!

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Vol. 4 by Izumi Tsubaki {Manga Review}

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun by Izumi Tsubaki Vol. 4Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Vol. 4 by Izumi Tsubaki (Monthly Girls’ #4)

Publisher: Yen Press

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Pages: 160

Available Through The Book Depository: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Volume 4

Summary: When Chiyo tells Nozaki she wants to see more drama in his manga, he rises to the task…by trying to pull bizarre pranks on her? And when a failed attempt at cozying up to his editor leaves Nozaki with a girls’ dating sim in hand, he gets schooled in melodrama, otome-style! But Nozaki’s not the one with more drama in his life. Chiyo gets a crash course on the Nozaki family when she discovers there’s another Nozaki-kun…and he’s just as eccentric as his big brother! With two Nozakis in the picture and the usual cast of lovable weirdos getting up to no good, will Chiyo be fed up with drama when the all-important, romance-boosting, summer festival arrives?!

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun continues to be one of the funniest manga series out there! Tsubaki brilliantly subverts romance tropes as our protagonist  Chiyo, alongside Nozaki and the rest of the crew get into hilarious and ridiculous situations! This volume delves more into the fun dynamics between the lovable cast, especially the guys!

I’ve really missed this series and now that its finally on Netflix, I just felt more motivated to continue it. Monthly Girls’ essentially follows Chiyo who is in love with her classmate Umetarou Nozaki, but through hilarious misunderstandings, she ends up becoming his assistant as a manga creator! From there, we meet an ensemble cast of characters that are all unique and funny in their own ways, from shy heartthrob Mikoshiba, Chiyo’s best friend Seo, to basketball player Waka, “prince” Kashima, and drama club director Hori!

The dynamic and friendship between the characters is such an essential part of this series and seeing all the funny scenarios that go one between each 4-panel page just makes this series an absolute blast! They’re all such wonderful dorks and I love them so much!!

While Chiyo isn’t as prominent in this volume, we get a lot of great moments from the guys’ perspectives Nozaki, Mikoshiba, Waka, and Hori!

Nozaki is trying to come up with more surprising plot points/twists for his story and gets Chiyo involved at every moment. Alongside that, one of my favorite Nozaki and Chiyo moments was when he mentioned how much he enjoyed walking with her 💞!!

I know this series will most likely use the “possible” but never realized romantic story line between Chiyo and Nozaki, but I still love the development of their friendship and dynamic so much!!

Now, I never knew Nozaki had a brother so, getting to meet him was a lot of fun and in this volume especially we delve more into Nozaki’s past with his family and the early years of him being a manga creator.

The Nozaki sleepover was filled with lots of really funny moments, same as the one where their playing a video game. And as with all past volumes, any Mikoshiba scene continues to be my favorite.

Overall what Monthly Girls’ does incredibly well is bring so many different characters with such unique personalities and no matter what, make any interaction interesting and filled with humor. With that said, I love the spring/summer festival pages nearing the end, where everyone is there together–also those last 2 pages of Nozaki/Chiyo were hilarious, but also kinda sweet!

Compared to Vol. 3, it felt like there were more clear storylines in this one which I appreciated, which made the plot connect more seamlessly.

Maybe its because I’ve watched more of the anime, but Nozaki felt more serious and agitated during particular moments in this on compared to past volumes and the anime… but, maybe I’m just reading into it too much 😂?

Nozaki though continues to be unaware in the most obvious of situations and its just hilarious, especially when the others end up helping on his manga. One of my favorite moments was when Nozaki decided he, Chiyo & Mikoshiba try to find each other without cellphones, also the box chapter!!

My only critiques is that because this volume is longer compared to the previous ones the pacing can feel a bit slow in minor parts. Also, I felt like the flashback moments with Ken (Nozaki’s editor) kind of slowed the story down. However, I think its because personally, I’m not too invested in that particular storyline (but it works very well in the anime, due to the comedic timing).

Monthly Girls Nozak-kun Vol. 4 brilliantly explores the stellar chemistry and dynamic between the main cast! The plot continues to subvert romantic tropes, expectations, and delivers fun new situations for our favorite characters to get into! Can’t wait to continue with Vol. 5!

Future Nostalgia {Book Tag}

Future Nostalgia Book TagToday, I’m doing the Future Nostalgia Book Tag, I was tagged by my wonderful friend Alicia over at A Kernel Of Nonsense and the tag was originally created by Natalie over at The Fine Art Of Reading!

Its been close to 2 years since I did a book tag, and not having a book review to share this week (I’m still making my way through A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder), I thought this would be a fun post to share! There’s also not a lot of opportunities to highlight backlist books too often on my blog, so expect lots of past releases!

FUTURE NOSTALGIA: A Book With A Strong Female Character

The Tiger's Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

There’s so many books I’ve read that feature strong female characters and it was very hard to narrow this down. But, with the way this SFF title literally starts with these characters births well into adulthood, Arsenault Rivera explores many deep layers to both of these women’s lives, their worlds, and how their relationship grows!

I’m picking: The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

Shizuka & Shefali are easily one of my favorite f/f couples of all time and this book had me smiling, crying, and just SO connected to their journeys, they became a part of my bookish heart.

When I think of “Strong Female Character” my mind immediately went to this series. The female characters are the stars of this series and Arsenault Rivera crafts their stories with so much care!

DON’T START NOW: A Book With A Major Glow Up

Analee, In Real Life by Janelle MilanesI interpreted this question to mean a book where a character goes through a lot of development in order to overcome a fear or obstacle.

I’m picking: Analee, In Real Life by Janelle Milanes

Analee is basically me okay? She’s incredibly anxious, shy and escapes to her favorite fictional worlds (through video games & books). She’s gotten used to her loneliness and finds it difficult to make friends. But, when she gets partnered with popular guy Seb, she slowly starts to come out of her shell. Also did I mention it has one the best Fake Dating tropes I’ve ever read? Analee starts a fake relationship with Seb, but there’s a mutual agreement that they’ll both help each other to win back people important to them!

As their fake relationship continues, this book is really one about growth and how both of them rethink their pasts to become better versions of themselves.

COOL: A Book With Awkward Moments Or Set In Summer

Truly Madly Royally y Debbie RigaudThis question really had me thinking, not because I couldn’t think of a summer book, but because there were so many to pick! I went back and forth on this one, but decided on a royal romance!

I’m picking: Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Zora is part of a summer pre-college program and finds herself meeting a random boy in the university library. But, what she quickly learns is that this guy, Owen, is a prince! Its a character-driven book with a light and adorable romance!

PHYSICAL: A Book With A Steamy Romance

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Out of all the books on this list, this is the only one that’s an adult title. As I continue to venture out into more genres/categories, I’ve continuously heard phenomenal things about this book and series as a whole.

I’m picking: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This book has been on my TBR for so long and I feel like everyone else has probably read it at this point except for me. I remember reading the first chapter or so and really want to finish it at some point before the 3rd book releases. From what I read, I remember loving it, so I’m looking forward to finishing up Hoang’s debut and gush about it alongside everyone else!

LEVITATING: A Book With “Moon” Or “Star” In The Title

when-the-moon-was-ours-anna-marie-mclemore

When I saw this question only one book came to mind at that moment!

I’m picking: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

One of the main characters in this lovely magical realism tale is Sam, he paints and hangs up moons and his best friend is our other main character Miel. The 2 of them are inseparable and the way Anna-Marie writes their friendship, relationship, and individual stories is just incredibly beautiful. I’m currently rereading it for my #QuietReadathon and I’m loving it even more when I read it the first time! Anna-Marie writes the best magical realism I’ve ever read and I highly recommend picking up their books if you haven’t already.

PRETTY PLEASE: A Book With Characters Who Support Each Other

Satoko And Nada Vol. 1While there’s many books I can list that feature supportive characters, especially in YA, I’m mixing it up and recommending a phenomenal manga series that I feel the YA/Book Community has SERIOUSLY slept on!

I’m picking: Satoko And Nada by Yupechika

This wholesome contemporary series follows the adventures of 2  exchange students who come to the US to continue their university studies. Satoko is from Japan, while Nada is from Saudi Arabia. They immediately become best friends when they decide to become roommates and its very much a slice of life series! Are you looking for a supportive female friendship, College set YA that doesn’t lean heavily towards romance, and is lighthearted and fun, while at the same time is about learning and the bonds of friendship? READ THIS SERIES!

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama Vol. 1

HALLUCINATE: A Book With A Fun Or Whimsical Setting

I just had to highlight another manga in this tag! 💞 This is probably my favorite manga series right now. It follows a young girl named Coco who lives in a world of magic, while only those who can learn its secret can become witches. Her dream is to become a witch and she is soon forced to embark on a journey alongside other witches to begin her training!

I’m picking: Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama

The artwork is absolutely phenomenal, evoking the style of an old fairytale or storybook, it’s a series with a lot of lore and a unique setting! If there were to be any fun or whimsical settings, I’d definitely pick the world of Witch Hat!

LOVE AGAIN: A Book Where The MC Proves Themselves Wrong

wintersong-by-s-jae-jonesThis is probably the question I had the most trouble deciding on, because I feel that can apply to so many. But there was one in particular that’s stayed with me for a long time and I felt her journey is one of proving that she does have potential and can be so much more.

I’m picking: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

I have such fond memories of this book and I fell completely in love with it. Leisl is a musical prodigy who creates such beautiful compositions and longs for the chance to find her place in the world. She’s always felt invisible, but who there’s one person in particular who sees what she can’t The Goblin King. Throughout the book she learns of the power that’s been within her all along.

BREAK MY HEART: A Book Where A Character Is Afraid Of Happiness

Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina MorenoThere’s so many books featuring inspiring main characters who learn to seek out the happiness they deserve. However there’s one in particular that just resonated with me on such a deep level. Its a story about finding your way and much more!

I’m picking: Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Rosa fears her family’s curse and what may go wrong if she falls in love. She’s put off major decisions and dreams because her family and her close-knit community means so much to her. But there’s so many pillars in her life that continue to uplift her and inspire, as it also allows her to seek out her happiness.

GOOD IN BED: A Book With Characters Who Are Terrible At Communicating

i hear the sunspot limit 1 by yuki fumino

This book probably surprised me the most, as its a continuation of another favorite manga series. I of course plan on reading the next book, but after a lot of reflection it was bad communication that made it disappointing.

I’m picking: I Hear The Sunspot: Limit 1 by Yuki Fumino

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic contemporary manga series and I honestly am so grateful for it because, I Hear The Sunspot inspired me to get back into manga again. It follows college students Kouhei (whose hard of hearing) and Taichi, a more outgoing kind of person compared to Kouehi. When they become friends and Taichi becomes his note taker, we begin to see that they have feelings for each other. That’s all I can really say without spoiling, but its such a good series. Anyways, the continuation definitely felt like a much needed addition to their story, but I just felt their relationship went kind of backwards with their lack of communication…(However I still think this series is very underrated, so I’m linking Vol. 1 above if your interested 💖)

BOYS WILL BE BOYS: A Book With Themes Of Feminism / Equality

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

I wanted to highlight a book that’s been on my TBR and based on the summary this definitely feels like a book that’ll feature themes of Feminism/Equality.

I picked: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

17-year old Jo Kuan is by night, the writer of a newspaper advice column and uses it to comment and address of societal ills during the 1800’s, under the use of the pseudonym! This summary alone sounds like Jo will discuss issues of race and gender around that time and challenge them, which I am here for! Hoping to finally pick this one up, it sounds fantastic!

That’s the Future Nostalgia Book Tag! Have you read any of the books I mentioned on this list? What are some books you’d mention for this tag? 💞📚✨

Thanks again to Alicia for tagging me 💞 & hope everyone is taking care of themselves during this time!! 💗

Anna K. by Jenny Lee ARC Review

Anna K. by Jenny LeeAnna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee (Anna K. #1)

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Pages: 400

Available For Preorder Through The Book Depository: Anna K.

Cover Design: Erin Fitzsimmons

Summary: Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

*Received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher* *CW: drug use *

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Anna K. is a YA Contemporary debut that puts a dazzling spin on Anna Karenina! This modern-day retelling, follows a group of wealthy teens as they navigate relationships and the drama that encompasses their lives. Lee builds a realistic and diverse cast of characters, while also layering deeper themes and issues! 

From the very beginning, your introduced to a cast list of over 10 characters and although for me it seemed a bit intimidating at first, once you delve into the world of Anna K., you’ll see why this story just works so well being told from multiple POVs.

Let me tell you I was NOT expecting an ARC of this in the mail (so thanks so much to the publisher)! I’d been really looking forward to reading Anna K. after I’d seen its cover reveal last summer. There was just something about the glamour and intrigue of this modern look at Manhattan society that just had me wondering what was in-store for Anna K. and the rest of the crew!

Another thing, this is a modern-day of Anna Karenina and while I personally have never read it, I felt from what I do know about the story Lee did a fantastic job at really taking influences from the original, while making it completely her own. With the moments I felt aligned closely with Anna Karenina, I never felt taken out of the story either. (*I also recommend reading Jenny Lee’s beautiful author’s note at the end too!).

While Anna K. is our main character, the novel starts off with Lolly S. (17) and Steven K., Anna’s 18-year-old brother. With their anniversary shortly arriving, Lolly is thrilled! But, when she quickly learns Steven had been cheating on her, she’s rightfully furious.

Steven knows the only person who can attempt to reach Lolly is Anna K., but until she arrives we learn about Dustin L., Steven’s tutor, who’s an anxious, bookish kind of guy.

What made his character a nice contrast to others in our main cast, is that he’s not from the upper part of Manhattan society. He kind of acts as the level-headed one who helps out Steven, while also undergoing his own journey when he falls for Kimmie S., Lolly’s younger sister who’s going through some depression after getting injured and having to take a break from her professional ice skating.

The backstory is built mainly in the beginning of the story but there’s a lot of mystery to how it plays an important part in the novel. However, the further you read you better understand the history that all of these characters have and what ties them all together.

With so many POV’s, it was assumed that I might get kind of lost. But let me just say that the more pages that flew by, I absolutely fell in love with this flawed and very real cast! So much appreciation for Lee telling an expansive story through such distinct characters! The 3rd person perspective allowed for many layers/differing sides of these characters to be explored which added a unique depth to the world crafted in Anna K.!

As for other characters we also have Anna K.’s boyfriend Alexander W. & his sister Eleanor, Alexia Vronsky, known in their circle as a player and heartbreaker, and Beatrice D., Vronsky’s cousin.

Anna K. is the one in society who everyone sees as the perfect, flawless socialite of Greenwhich and Manhattan. She’s a skilled equestrian, has her college boyfriend Alexander, and has been fortunate enough to keep out of the internal drama that seems to plague much of her circle…however that’s about to change.

She meets Vronsky on her way to see Lolly and Steven at Grand Central and yet, the two seem to be instantly attracted to each other.

From there you see how threads of these characters connect, revealing their relationships, dynamics and secrets that they keep from each other. Lee really built the setting of upper society into a world of her own through its characters, their status, and the way they navigate their lives.

To me it felt like your not really supposed to agree with a lot of the drama, personalities and societal norms that goes on in their circle. So, I felt that’s what made me really immerse myself into characters worlds and their heads a lot more, because (at least from my perspective) your not really supposed to agree with a lot of what they get tangled up in. I loved that I didn’t always agree with these characters decisions, such as the status and enormous amount of privilege that they carry, seemingly unaware. Not always “liking” some of these characters made me connect to them on a much deeper level when you see how much baggage they carry and their attempts to change over the course of the story!

I won’t spoil what happens, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about Kimmie & Dustin in the beginning (Kimmie’s character, took a bit to get used to). I was surprised at how much their dynamic grew on me and I loved following both of their journeys!

The setting of this novel shows a world of opulence and privilege, where there’s this dual side filled with parties, drugs, and sex as the norm. When looking at it closer, I felt this story was essentially about wealthy teens, given little adult supervision, as they are left to grapple with complicated issues on their own.

From Anna’s perspective, hers is a journey to better understand what she wants out of life and figure out who she wants to become, as she navigates her relationship being with Vronsky, while not feeling ready to tell her distant boyfriend Alexander.

With the fact that Anna has never really involved herself in drama or gossip, there’s this urgency to her story that makes you understand her struggle to come to terms with her complicated love life. Through the worry of gossip, heightened expectations of her in society, and facing truths she isn’t even sure she’s ready to face…your rooting for Anna not only to figure it out, but learn what she’s looking for during this process. You also see how Vronsky changes as he realizes his feelings for Anna (though he has a lot to work on, you can still appreciate his growth).

I felt like Kimmie & Dustin’s relationship had a clear story arc that carries throughout the book which was so beautiful! Their story was one of healing, love, and friendship that gets developed through both perspectives.

There’s so many themes that I felt Lee layered through each of these characters from family to to privilege, love, loneliness, mental health/seeking therapy (beautifully explored through Kimmie’s POV!), and much more! It also challenges racism and double standards.

In regards to family you see these different sister and brother dynamics explored from Anna & Steven, including Kimmie & Lolly, also Dustin & Nicholas! Anna and Steven’s, in my opinion, was the more realistic and heartfelt. Through the obstacles they face, they are both there to uplift, help each other and have so much respect for one another― I can’t wait to see how their strong brother-sister dynamic is explored in future books!

I also felt that Dustin and Nicholas’s brother dynamic was explored so well and throughout the course of the story you see in the little moments they bond or remember when they were younger is what shows their love/care for each other. Throughout the novel, there’s a lot of flashbacks from their POVs that I felt their relationship had so much history to it. There was just something about how Lee layered their stories that made it really come to life.

I also loved how diverse this cast was: It mainly features Korean-American & biracial representation (Anna + her older brother Steven), Dustin, who’s Black, adopted & Jewish, and there’s there’s interracial couples! Anna K. also takes time to explore the Korean culture of the K. family from Anna’s perspective, Steven’s, and their parents.

Now onto more of the specifics that lowered my rating, though this book really left me feeling sad to say goodbye to these characters (& YES, I can’t wait for the sequel): First is the pacing! At first it was moving pretty quickly, but with so many detailed POVs it can’t help but be drawn out at points. I also wished there wasn’t *too much lingering on certain couples and their conflict, because it would have been much stronger to portray more personal, heartfelt development between them. For me personally, I felt the ending was a bit rushed, though I loved how it focused on Anna!

Anna K. is a modern-day retelling that at its core is about a group of teens trying to find happiness in their privileged, drama-filled lives! Featuring a diverse cast of characters, a variety of themes, this is a debut with a lot of hidden depth that subtly weaves itself into its pages! Lee’s retelling of Anna Karenina that hints at more to come!

Love In Focus Vol. 2 by Yoko Nogiri {Manga Review}

Love In Focus Vol. 2 by Yoko NogiriLove In Focus Vol. 2 by Yoko Nogiri (Love In Focus #2)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Pages: 176

Available Through The Book Depository: Love In Focus Vol. 2

Summary: After earning Mitsuru’s trust, Mako’s beginning to get the hang of living in Lens Inn with the high school photo club. Behind the scenes, however, Mako’s best friend Kei warns Mitsuru to keep his distance. This ominous message exposes Kei’s feelings for Mako, but Mitsuru is the only one who knows!

Later, when the club members all go on a field trip together, a sudden downpour strands Mako and Mitsuru. What will the two do?! 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Love In Focus Vol. 2 is the continuation to the manga series that follows Mako Mochizuki’s new life in Hokkaido when she joins her childhood friend Kei in a photography club! From the focus on its characters, to the blossoming of both quiet and sweet romantic moments, this volume delves more into the emotional sides of the slowly developing love triangle! 

Love In Focus Volume 1 easily became one of my new favorite manga series in the YA Contemporary Romance/slice of life categories, when I read it last year! There was such an attention to characters, where they felt incredibly real: from our passionate photographer Mako, her easy-going friend Kei, to Mako’s new photography muse Mitsu, including everyone else in their boarding house!

The story itself just hit all the perfect notes for a contemporary that still had underlying elements of romance, without making it feel too rushed and while also bringing the main characters and the atmosphere of Love In Focus to life.

There was even a deep exploration to the beauty and impact that art can bring, alongside the wonderful art-style which brought quite a bit of emotion and metaphorical depth to the story.

At the end of Volume 1 however were left with a surprising twist about Mako’s childhood friend, Kei is in love with her and wants Mitsu to stay away!

Where the first volume introduces us to these characters on a deep, emotional and present level, Volume 2 takes its time to delve more into the emotional sides of the main characters and focuses more on the romance as we delve more into the past, specifically from Kei- not only where his love of photography came from, but how he grew up and later realized he was in love with Mako!

I found what made this volume stand out compared to the previous one, was how it managed to deliver interesting developments to both of Mako’s relationships with Kei and Mitsu, while increasing the romantic tension!

Because I absolutely fell in love with Volume 1, I reread it right before delving into this one and just have to say it wasn’t a disappointment, but more of an underwhelmed feeling when I reached the end of Love In Focus Vol. 2…

With the twist from the previous volume, we learn more about Kei’s past all while we begin to see Mako and Mitsu get closer together from going to class and it all gets even more complicated when the photography club decides to spend Golden Week at a club retreat. I just really wish there was more plot threads in this volume because I’ll probably mention this a lot in the review, but our main trio are what make this series SO good! Their interactions, the dialogue, the subtle expressions, they all shine through Mako, Kei, & Mitsu!

There’s more internal dialogue from both Kei & Mitsu, surrounding their complicated feelings for Mako and trust me, I love emotionally-driven stories, but there was just something about it in this volume that made it feel like a different departure from Vol. 1. With a mix of how romantic tropes felt more obvious to me, Mako taking a bit of step back in the story (development wise until the end at least), and including Kei’s backstory (which actually made me like him less in this volume? Which I was NOT expecting because the characters in this series are just so likeable?) overall I felt the pacing of story too was just a lot slower.

Though this series does continue to be a favorite and I will of course be reading Vol. 3, it would have been a much stronger volume for me personally if it was focused more on plot and character progression (and less of a focus on the past). Where this series really shines (aside from other elements) is through the characters, so I was hoping for more of a focus on the complex layers that make them incredibly compelling to follow.

However, I will say that one of the biggest highlights of this volume was the Mako & Mitsu dynamic (1 of my theories is that they’ll be together in Vol. 3, but we’ll see!! 💖).

Nogiri’s art as with the previous volume, just draws you in and is beautiful in many ways! The characters and their subtle expressions allow them to further develop through the art style, which I find is an incredibly unique and captivating element to this series.

Additionally what I love about the backgrounds is how they influence the emotional depth and atmosphere of a scene― they continue to beautifully showcase a depth to the series that weaves its way into many different layers of the story. The choice of nature backgrounds and specific panels that are highlighted with bigger panel space build a beautiful sense of place and emotion unlike any other manga series I’ve read before!

Nearing the end of the story, we delve more into how Mako’s making sense of the complex emotions that literally give her a cold, while also better understanding how she feels about Kei & Mitsuru. I personally really enjoy the love triangle and romance (and all its subtleties) in general throughout this series because as whole it’s our fascinating main characters and their dynamics that make the interesting development of it, so fun to follow!

The writing itself was something I surprisingly paid even more attention to in this volume and what really stood out to me was how metaphorical it was, adding in the symbolism of the panels (maybe that’s just my interpretation?), but I felt both gave a lot of emotional weight to each of the scenes. There’s also a much slower and quieter pace to the plot that does allow for more time to build on our characters in interesting ways! I’m hoping to see a lot of these great elements develop or carry over into the last volume!

There’s also more of a metaphorical and internal depth to the impact of photography, especially for Mako. Alongside that, it was layered into the story in such a beautiful way through the writing.

“…whether the picture comes out well or not, the photo will still be a precious memory…” (110).

As with the previous volume, this one also leaves you wanting to read the next ASAP! I’m sad that Love In Focus will end with Volume 3 because I’ve really grown attached to Mako and her journey, alongside Kei & Mitsu! ❤ So even though I’m very excited to see what happens next, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up right away because I’m just not ready to say goodbye to these characters!

Love In Focus Vol. 2 delves more into the emotional depth of the characters as it follows Mako and the her new life as part of a school’s photography club! The wonderful cast of characters, gripping story and impactful art continue to make this such a dynamic series! This is a pretty underrated manga series and I recommend checking it out for those of you who love contemporary romance and quiet slice of life stories!

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash Review

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz TashVirtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Pages: 368

Available Through The Book Depository: Virtually Yours

Summary: How bad can one little virtual lie be?

NYU freshman Mariam Vakilian hasn’t dated anyone in five months, not since her high school sweetheart Caleb broke up with her. So when she decides to take advantage of an expiring coupon and try out a new virtual reality dating service, it’s sort of a big deal.

It’s an even bigger deal when it chooses as one of her three matches none other than Caleb himself. That has to be a sign, right?

Except that her other match, Jeremy, just happens to be her new best friend IRL.

Mariam’s heart is telling her one thing, but the app is telling her another. So, which should she trust? Is all fair in modern love?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Virtually Yours is a fun college-set YA Contemporary that also delivers an introspective and character-driven plot! Mariam just wants to get over her high school ex, so when she tries a new VR dating service she’s completely surprised when it matches her with, her ex! This novel explores the complexities and layers to romance, friendships, relationships, told through a delightful narrative voice that immerses you from page 1!

I’m back with a book review and Virtually Yours is one I’m SO looking forward to delving more into, because it was such a wonderful read! I related to it in many ways and I just want to shove it into anyone’s hands who’s looking for a college-set YA Book with a plot that’s both unique and fun + really focuses on its characters and their dynamics!!

Mariam Vakilian is still grieving over the breakup between her and her ex-boyfriend Caleb Moore, who’d been a couple in high school for 3 years! But, she decides to give virtual dating a try when she uses an almost-expired 40% off coupon for HEAVR which promises its users their perfect match or Happily Ever After!

But when one of her potential matches is Caleb, her first year at university gets a little more complicated! She’s not just handling the complexity of romantic relationships, but friendships as well among many other uni. experiences from figuring out her major/career and forging important friendships!

Mariam Vakilian is easily on my list of favorite college-set contemporary protagonists (alongside Penny from Emergency Contact 💖), there’s such a unique spirit to her character that you can’t help but want to keep on reading! She’s funny, relatable, and just a wonderful character to follow!

With HEAVR giving her an opportunity to move on from Caleb, she feels there’s a possibility that they can maybe get back together and that a spark could still be there! But in order to do that she’ll have to disguise her VR persona! So, she pretends to be someone she isn’t  as she goes on virtual dates and hangouts with Caleb.

What made the dynamic incredibly fascinating was the mystery that unravels as you learn more about Caleb and Mariam’s high school relationship and why they broke up: Interestingly Caleb felt long distance wouldn’t be best for them? (Yet, he still tried out HEAVR).

It isn’t until you begin to piece together the story where you realize that this novel isn’t really about romance (though it is?). Its more about Mariam’s journey to better understand herself as she navigates all these different parts of her life: love, friendships, and relationships in general.

There’s this underlying theme of self as you begin to see that all Mariam really wants is to understand and find a balance to all these parts of her daily life, which I could relate to that a lot!

We see her reconnect with her ex-best friend from high school, take a social welfare class for fun and see how it inspires her potential career path, and just in general, the relationships we maintain as we juggle college life.

As Mariam tries to focus on reconnecting with Caleb, what she doesn’t realize is that her new friend Jeremy, who’s her co-worker at the local gym, could possibly be more than just a friend (and is one of her other matches!). One of my favorite parts of this book was their beautiful friendship (banter & the best hangouts– seeing them connect over music, their holiday phone calls, emails/texts, and having Jeremy invite her to see local musicians play was the cutest 💞).

If your a fan of contemporary romance alongside the “will they get together, will they not?” or the slow-burn friends maybe lovers tropes, then Virutally Yours is a must-read!!😍💖

Jeremy and Mariam’s friendship was one of the absolute highlights of this book! I loved seeing how supportive Jeremy was as he listened to Mariam talk about her complicated HEAVR situation and offer her advice! Its great to see this focus of m/f friendship and have it be such a big part of Mariam’s journey throughout the story! Also the 2 of them just have such beautiful chemistry together layered with their wonderful friendship! Though you know Mariam’s heart is still with Caleb, you can’t help but just ship her with Jeremy!!

Throughout she not only confides in Jeremy, but also her roommate Hedy as she works out her relationship troubles.

This book easily made it onto my all-time favorites list, Mariam’s narrative voice just immerses you and I quickly found myself connecting with the story and its characters.

The exploration of VR technology gave the story a speculative-fiction feel to it too― posing all the questions and complexities that come with how this kind of tech works, even how it can change the foundation of building relationships. Also, as Mariam goes on a couple dates with Caleb, it does bring into the discussion this idea of catfishing (her friends do tell her how wrong that is & it gets cleared up a bit later).

Woven all throughout Virtually Yours are all these different layers that make up Mariam’s life from family (which is such a huge part), her career goals, and how she’s better understanding how to navigate her new friendships/relationship.

I really appreciated how Tash wove into this novel as well, that former acquaintances (from HS) can unexpectedly become such bigger parts of your  friendship circle as you navigate college! That part was so relatable to me and I loved how Tash made it an incredibly layered element of the story (as well as navigating friendships in general).

As I was reading Virtually Yours and I got to a part where Mariam is at a get-together with former high school classmates (Addison, Zoe, Prisha, & ex-best friend Rose), I’d actually been reconnecting with an old high school classmate too! Just being able to relate to that in my own life, was just so heartfelt to me and its something I wish more YA College-set Contemporary books would explore, this idea of reconnecting with people from your past and how the most unexpected people can become the best of friends!

Throughout the novel I also loved seeing Mariam reconnect with her former friend Rose, being able to rebuild their friendship & rely on each other during their first year of college!

Romance and how one navigates it are major themes within this novel, but Tash does such a fantastic job at layering all these different elements of college life/ the college experience in a very relatable way as well alongside the bigger theme of romance!

Its really hard to put more of my thoughts into words because this book was just SO MUCH FUN!! I loved the story, writing, characters, romance, themes, exploration of family & friendship, college life, and dynamics between the characters too!

Virtually Yours is just an absolutely wonderful book and I fell I love with it from the very first page! ❤❤

Something I noticed as I progressed throughout the story is that the pacing is FANTASTIC!! As the story unravels you get so invested in seeing how long Mariam can keep her secret, following all the friends she makes & reconnects with, her family, college classes, etc. The plot is always developing and there’s never a dull moment! ❤

This novel is also wonderfully diverse and inclusive: This is an #OwnVoices featuring Mariam Vakilian and her family who are Iranian/Iranian-American! There’s her ex Caleb Moore who’s Black, Jeremy whose 1/2 Italian & Mexican, & f/f rep. as Mariam’s roommate Hedy has a girlfriend.

If your looking for a fresh college contemporary that explores a new concept of modern love through VR, you need to give this book a read!

Virtually Yours is a wonderful YA Contemporary that needs more hype and is a delight in every single way! Its an incredibly fun read that has great writing, a wonderful cast of characters, and exploration of romance that keeps you turning the page! If your looking for a character-driven and relatable college-set contemporary with a bit of speculative fiction, then Virtually Yours is a must read! Don’t miss out on Sarvenaz Tash’s latest YA!

Its been almost 2 weeks since I posted a review and its great to be back! Sorry for the hiatus, Virtually Yours was the first book I’ve finished in the last few weeks!! 😭📚💖When I’m not on the blog, I’m more active on Twitter if you want to talk anything bookish, etc. if I haven’t posted!

With my short hiatus from the blog I’ve been thinking more about what content to post besides reviews (for when I haven’t read for a while) and I’ve had a tough time deciding what that content would be?  Please let me know what you’d be interested in reading about, also feel free to comment on any other ideas:

  • Literary Listens or more podcast posts
  • Fictional Favorites
  • Book Tags or Bookish Discussions (Even hauls, tags, etc.)

Happy Friday!! 😍📚🎉

Blog Tour: A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai {ARC Review, Q&A & Wallpaper}

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini BajpaiA Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers (The NOVL)

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Pages: 320

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: A Match Made In Mehendi

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

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

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

*Received ARC from festival* 

My Thoughts: Hey everyone, I’m incredibly excited to be part of the blog tour for A Match Made In Mehendi! Its a YA Contemporary I’d really been looking forward to and today I’ll be sharing a list of 5 reasons why you should read it!

1.The Story

Doesn’t the summary just immediately make you want to read? Long line of matchmakers? Two best-friends want to improve their high school status? A match-making app that causes chaos everywhere–don’t you want to pick up this book right now?

Nandini’s debut at its heart though is about pursuing your dreams and better understanding your own goals alongside the expectations others may have of you!

The story is incredibly character-driven and you’ll keep turning the page wondering what’ll happen next!

2.The Characters

Simi and her narrative voice just pull you in from page 1! She’s determined, honest, and knows she can be incredibly awkward at the worst of times! I adored her character a lot and felt I related to her in so many ways, and while I’m not a high school student like her it was the journey of finding yourself, expectations, exploration of love and friendship that resonated with me in many ways― and I feel people at any age are still tackling and exploring!

If you love contemporary stories with a dynamic cast, this book will not disappoint! From Noah to Simi’s mother and aunt, her brother, and her high school classmates all come to life as you delve more into their character and overall, I just loved this cast a lot!

3.Pacing

You know when your reading a book and you can’t explain it, but the pages are flying by? That’s what reading A Match Made In Mehendi is like! The plot, its mystery, and questions of what could happen next, swirl around in your mind as you speed through page by page of Simi’s story! If you love stories that pull you in from the very beginning and keep you hooked, you will love Nandini’s debut!

4. Writing

The writing is just so good? I’m not sure there’s any other way to describe it! Not only does Simi’s narrative voice keep you reading, but the way the plot unfolds through her POV just makes you feel incredibly connected to the story and feels incredibly personal because you feel like your right there with her!

5. Atmosphere

This ties into the writing as well! Through Simi, you see she’s confident, focused in her passion as an artist, and although there’s many expectations she’s facing (both internal and external) you see how she is incredibly loyal to herself. The theme of self-discovery alongside her own personal journey make A Match Made In Mehendi such a wonderful story through wholesome and inspiring protagonist like Simi! You can’t help but smile all throughout this book while reading from Simi’s POV!

A Match Made In Mehendi_Blog Tour Banner

To celebrate the release of this lovely debut I’ll also be sharing a mini Q&A with Nandini, where she talks all about A Match Made In Mehendi, plus a free downloadable wallpaper based on the cover! 🌸📚💖

1. Hey Nandini, thanks for joining me on the blog today! To start off this Q&A, what inspired your novel A Match Made In Mehendi?

Nandini: I’ve always been interested in how first and second generation Desi American families have adapted to life in the US. How kids born and/or raised here have view their parents’ traditions and what they choose to change, keep, or leave behind. Teens get such different signals from their peers and parents especially about things like crushes, dating, and assimilating or holding on to traditional values. Arranged marriage is one of those things that has been widely misunderstood and it’s good to lift the curtain on that process a little bit and examine it in a entertaining way through the Desi lens in the American context both for the young people that can see themselves in these characters and for their peers from different backgrounds.

2. Simi’s family believes she has the matchmaker “gift,” but Simi doesn’t want to be involved and focus more on her talent as an artist. From the summary it looks like your novel will delve into quite a variety of themes involving family, art, pursuing one’s dreams, and the passion that comes with art! Could you talk a little bit more about your inspiration behind these themes and which theme you personally, had the most fun exploring?

Nandini: Well, the matchmaking aspect was really fun to develop, honestly. What makes a good match? What makes a good matchmaker? Can the process really be developed into an app? How would that all work? How does a professional matchmaker put people together? How would a teenager view all of this differently from her mother or aunt? I have a background in systems analysis so it was nice to use that part of my brain as well to break down the problem of turning the very amorphous matchmaking process into an algorithm for an app. This theme was really different than any other story I’ve worked on!

3. Any fun or interesting facts you can share about your writing process or development of A Match Made In Mehendi?

Nandini: Initially I had different generations of matchmakers in Simi’s family telling stories of matches they had made scattered through the book. It was a fun challenge to write about couples in the 1920s, the 1940s, the 1980s all in the voices of three generations of women in Simi’s family and how the lessons learned from those matches becomes part of the lore and wisdom of the Shagun Matchmaking Guide – the book handed down in Simi’s family from mother to daughter. The matchmaker log didn’t make the final cut but I do feel that the deep dive into Simi’s family history colors the tone of the book, even though it’s not there any more.

4. In your novel, Simi develops this matchmaking app and it drives different layers of the story! What inspired you to explore Simi’s journey of family, friendship, and art through the inclusion of this unique app?

Nandini: It was really fun to do a close examination of how this generation deals with parental expectations, discovers what they’re really passionate about, and figures out who they might or might not love. This is a world I know, and though there are many other valid experiences that may be quite different, I can only speak from my own personal experience and try and tell one story I feel confident I can. I also think that while books about underrepresented groups that deal with heavier issues are necessary and important it’s really good to have lighthearted books that are about joy and happy things like the search for love. I certainly didn’t have any such books about Indian kids to read when I was growing up and it was so hard to see that nothing had changed when I was looking for books for my own kids. Like Gandhi said, “Be the Change!”

5.Overall, what are you most excited about in regards to your novel and anything in particular your excited for readers to discover in A Match Made In Mehendi?

Nandini: Overall, I’m just excited for the book to finally be out there in the hands of readers, but one of the smaller things that I enjoyed creating and that I hope readers like is the way the Matched! app analyzes profiles and puts people together. It’s kind of like a technical sorting hat that not only figures out where you fit and creates a cute personal match icon for you (the match icons, were SO fun to dream up!), but also finds your top matches and lists their match icons for you, sorted from best to last.

Thanks so much for celebrating Nandini’s A Match Made In Mehendi here on 24hr.YABookBlog! Also, check out my FREE downloadable wallpaper inspired by the novel:

A Match Made In Mehendi Wallpaper

Here’s the other wonderful bloggers, who’ll be joining me on the Blog Tour for A Match Made In Mehendi (from Cake Literary):

Kat @ Pretty Little Library (September 6)

Olivia & Lori @ The Candid Cover (September 9)

Fanna @ Fanna Wants The World To Read (September 10)

Are you looking forward to reading A Match Made In Mehendi?

Love From A To Z by S.K. Ali Review

Love From A To Z by S.K. AliLove From A To Z by S.K. Ali

Publisher: Salaam Reads (Simon Pulse)

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Pages: 352

Available Through The Book Depository: Love From A To Z

Summary: A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Love From A To Z is a marvel! This is a YA Contemporary that explores the introspective parts of ourselves and how life’s marvels and oddities allow us to navigate our world in different ways! S.K. Ali’s thought-provoking story explores family, grief, love, and deeply explores the harsh reality for many that face Islamaphobia. This novel balances the real and romantic, making it a complex and heart-warming contemporary story you don’t want to miss!

Love From A To Z is a novel that I know without a doubt were I to read again, would pick up on even more profound and deep messages that layered themselves into this gem of a story!

Zayneb Malik knows she was born angry. Its through this anger that she learns its for the right reasons, to challenge and speak up against the injustices around her. This includes speaking up against her Islamaphobic high school teacher, Mr. Fencer.

When her decision to speak up gets her suspended, she takes time to reflect and view things from a different perspective while in Doha, Qatar where she stays with her Auntie Nandy.

But as we learn from the very beginning, Love From A To Z is indeed a love story! Next, we are introduced to Adam Chen, who is tied to Zayneb in a very unique way.

What we quickly learn is that these eighteen-year olds carry a “Marvel & Oddities” journal to not only vent, but admire the world around them. Or more specifically, reflect on their own personal worlds that have shaped them in many ways.

What I loved was that there was a unique contrast to how they each used their journals. Adam is more optimistic, recording more of life’s marvels than oddities, which allow him to look at life more positively. His vow to live more, inspires him to look at these aspects of life that make it what it is. Zayneb sticks to more of the “thorns” or oddities in life, but through that it allows her to examine,ready, and prepare herself to take on the world and its wrongs.

However throughout their journey in Love From A To Z, we see these journal titles begin swapping among the two of them when destiny brings them closer together.

The use of 1st person and journal entries allowed me to connect to these wonderful main characters even more and understand them in a more introspective way! I also found that I really connected with Zayneb & Adam on a deeper, more personal level, through the fact that while I was reading I was also writing notes for each chapter, in the book’s format of diary entries.

Zayneb and Adam meet in the airport and on the same plane when their headed to Doha. Adam is taking a break from university and headed back to see his father and little sister Hanna. He’s also carrying a big secret he’s not entirely sure how to cope with himself, and its that he has Multiple Sclerosis. Throughout the novel as he tries to avoid the discussion with his loved ones for as long as possible (considering that’s also what his mother passed away from when he was 9), so Adam also goes on a journey of understanding what he wants from life going forward.

There’s an adoration they have for each other that subtly develops throughout the book and it was so beautiful to read about. I was smiling the entire time when they recognized each other and were attempting to strengthen their newly formed friendship, all while we knew how much they secretly liked each other! Their friendship/romance was easily one of the many highlights of this novel–their chemistry and dynamic was heartwarming to read and I–just loved them a lot!! Zayneb and Adam captured my heart and every time they were in scenes together…my heart couldn’t handle their cuteness!! 💖💖

This novel also explores faith in a beautiful way as we learn both Zayneb and Adam are Muslim. Faith is different for everyone and the way both of these inspiring protagonists see that to further connect them to one another and find this special bond, was heartwarming.

I loved exploring the layers and different facets to faith in this story. Zayneb is a hijabi-Muslim and proud of it. I admired her bravery and courage to correct others and just connect with the reader through her personal thoughts on faith and being Muslim.

Adam is also Muslim, but he converted around the age of 11 after his mother passed away. Faith for him is also a way to have that connection to his mother and find this deep and unique connection with Zayneb.

Going back to Zayneb and Adam as characters, I loved how incredibly real they became and when I reached the last page I was sobbing at how sad I was to be leaving these characters and their story.

Zayneb embraces her anger and its wonderful to read because its through this anger she finds the strength to combat against injustice in many forms. I respect and admire her anger and how its such an outward part of how she presents her values and beliefs on how wrongs should be dealt with. we don’t see that a lot in YA female characters and I respect/admire that a lot.

Compare that to Adam whose a more soft and quiet soul. However, its also through that we see his worries are channeled through a more reserved way of expressing the things he encounters in life.

Through Ali’s writing, not only is it beautiful and introspective, but it also allows the reader to fully understand and connect with our wonderful cast of characters on such deep level, aside from Zayneb and Adam: there’s Aunty Nandy, Zayneb’s parents, older brother and sister, Adam’s father, sister Hanna, the Emma’s, Zayneb’s grandmother (who we never actually meet), and Zayneb’s friends at home.

There’s layers to these characters that get uncovered as we progress through Adam and Zayneb’s journals and I love how Ali layered these different facets to their characters in such a great way.

One example comes that comes to mind is Adam’s sister Hanna! She becomes more of a main character throughout Love From A To Z and we see how she such leaves an impact on both Zayneb and Adam throughout their journeys.

Another quality they both share that is an essential part to their story and character was this element of hiding a facet of who they were. With Zayneb, it was keeping the angry part of her subdued for the sake of “peace” during her trip away and with that, she keeps this hidden from Adam in an attempt to reinvent this fundamental part of herself.

With Adam, it was this fear of uncertainty that he kept his MS hidden to ensure his loved ones wouldn’t have to grieve, especially his father who still struggles with the loss of his wife. From an early age, Adam learned the pain he felt with the loss of his mother had lessened over time because he kept all the vital memories of her, alive in his heart. However, throughout the book Adam learned to confront his fear with the strength of his family, faith, and memories of his mother.

They find that the more they keep these parts of themselves hidden, how increasingly difficult it became for them to come to fully embrace who they were with each other (which led to a certain point where they felt they didn’t really understand one another). That broke my heart because its clear there’s such a deeper connection between them and I turned page after page seeing where their relationship was headed.

An important part of this novel that was incredibly explored was the underlying journey Zayneb and Adam accept as they learn to better understand the vital parts of their personalities that shape who they are and want to become!

Love From A To Z is also wonderfully diverse from the story taking place mainly in Qatar, it centers around our main characters Zayneb who is 1/2 Pakistani and West Indian and Adam who is a Canadian with a Chinese & Finnish background. There’s also many facets and layers to Muslim and Hijabi culture that’s explored as well.

In addition, Love From A To Z also deeply analyzes many themes which makes it such a complex and moving contemporary story. From the exploration of grief, loss, layers of love, and the very present topic of Islamaphobia and the pain felt by those who experience microaggressions because people aren’t willing to look past their close-minded views.

Above all, Love From A To Z is about the marvels and oddities that Adam & Zayneb grasp/hold onto, which influences how they see the world around them and choose to act.

Love From A To Z a thought-provoking, romantic, and immersive YA Contemporary! Unique in every way, the fantastic cast of characters, magnificent writing, deeply explored themes, with two leads that will capture your heart! S.K. Ali’s latest contemporary story is one that will captivate you start to finish!

Book Of The Month YA July Box Review

Hey everyone 24hr.YABookBlog here! (~˘▾˘)~ 💞✨📚 Today on the blog I’m doing my first book box review, for Book Of The Month YA!

With that said, I also have some amazing news: I’m now an affiliate for Book Of The Month YA 😍🎊🎉📚 This is such an incredible opportunity and I’m excited to be sharing this with all of you!

I do have an affiliate link Here if you’d be interested in getting your first box! I do get a commission and you can get your first box for $9.99 if you use the promo code ‘WHOA’ and shipping is always FREE! + another bonus, if you don’t like the current month’s picks, you can roll your credits over to the next month.

I’d already been familiar with Book Of The Month via bookstagram (mainly) and its wonderful to see Book Of The Month having launched a box for readers of YA!

If you’ve never heard of Book Of The Month, its a monthly book box but what makes this one special is that you can pick which book you want (with 5 options each month).

For their July box I decided to pick Symptoms Of A Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra! My tweet below shows what was in this box: Symptoms Of A Heartbreak, a Book Of The Month cookie, and emoji pins!

I’m was really happy with this box and not just because its my first book box! What I noticed as soon as I received it was that I was glad Book Of The Month has kept their boxes very minimal–either with just a book or in this case, with a couple of swag items!

As cool as all those book box unboxings look with the candles, totes, etc. realistically, I don’t think I would use all that stuff on a regular basis! That’s why I’m glad there’s boxes like Book Of The Month YA–its nice to get a couple of items, but with the box ranging from $10-$15 its great that the focus is on the book itself!

Thank you so much for joining me for my first ever bookish unboxing! 😍📚📦

Have you heard of the Book Of The Month book boxes? 📚💌✨