Audiobook Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi
by Sandhya Menon
Published by: Simon Pulse
Form: Audiobook
Big Themes: Arranged Marriage, College Life, Love, Friendship, Indian Culture, Coding, Comics

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

My thoughts: This book was such a fun surprise!! It was such a fun, sweet love story. The story alternated between Dimple and Rishi’s point-of-view, which I really enjoyed. You get to see what each character is thinking and feeling as they get to know each other, and it made you so invested in seeing their love story work.

I loved how Dimple and Rishi grew and changed over the course of the story. Each character had a fear that they had to overcome in order to be truly happy. The parallel structure of their stories was a nice touch by the author.

I am a sucker for characters with passionate interests. So Dimple’s obsession with coding, and Rishi’s love of comics made the story all the more lovable.

Rishi is a great example of healthy masculinity. He is compassionate, honest, loyal, and strong. We need more male leads like him!

I also really loved a particular moment between Dimple and her mother towards the very end of the book. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was so sweet!

HR sealofapprovalOverall: Five stars! Highly recommend! If you want a happy, feel good read–this is your book! Better for older teens due to some sexual situations.

Series Review: A Court of Mist and Fury (Book 2)

ACOMAFSome spoilers in this review because I want to discuss some of the key topics in this series: relationships and abuse. Trigger warning, but I think this series does a nice job with the topic.

A Court of Mist and Fury (Book Two)
by Sarah J. Maas
Published by: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Form: Kobo eBook
Big Themes: Magic, War, Love, Relationships, Trauma, Abuse, Recovery, Sacrifice

Summary from Goodreads (Book 2): Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

My thoughts:
Again this series has a huge following with abundant fan art and Etsy merchandise. I’d heard so much about the series–and had to see what all the fuss was about. However, I’d also heard that the second book in the series, not the first, is is the best in the series. (And yes, it’s very much necessary to read ACOWAR first in order to appreciate book two.)

In the first book, the author sets up a romance that ultimately becomes an unhealthy relationship. The author is forcing the reader to question and consider how relationships are portrayed in fiction.

Sarah J. Maas is flipping expectations and stereotypes:

“You think I don’t know how stories get written–how this story will be written? … I am the dark lord, who stole away the bride of spring. I am a demon, and a nightmare, and I will meet a bad end. He is a golden prince–the hero who will get to keep you as his reward for not dying.”

The golden prince, Tamlin, is controlling and abusive. In the first book, he is portrayed as protective, generous, and handsome with a hint of danger. But these traits evolved in book two–protective became controlling; generosity stemmed from misogyny; and that hint of danger became actual violent outbursts.

The dark lord and demon, who we disliked in book one, morphs into someone who deeply understands the value of freedom and the depths of emotion. Rhysand, the bat-winged lord of the Night Court, is an ally and supporter of the women around him. Not only is he comfortable with powerful women, but he encourages them to take center stage.

This flip was not something I was anticipating, and it was executed beautifully. We witness the slow and painful realization by the main character, Feyre, that something isn’t right about her relationship. Part of the book’s exhaustive 600+ is giving Feyre the time she needs to heal after both emotional and physical abuse. And by the book’s end, Feyre has discovered what true love is and should be–an equal partnership of mutual respect.

I realized how badly I’d been treated before, if my standards had become so low. If the freedom I’d been granted felt like a privilege and not an inherent right.

This novel forces readers to consider heavy issues, such as abuse, trauma, and recovery. I went into this series expecting a fantastical world and love triangle romance. But what I got was a heroine who battles PTSD to discover her own inner strength and redefine her self-worth. I had some issues with Feyre in book one, but I am certainly a big fan by the end of book two.

Side note: The settings in this book are stunning. I love the world-building and descriptions of the various courts.

Overall: This book was a pleasant surprise compared to the first book. It twisted the story away from our conventional expectations and explored difficult topics such as abuse, recovery, and identity. Definitely worth reading if you are a fantasy/romance fan.

For mature teens–sex, violence, language, sensitive topics.

I am currently over half way through book three, A Court of Wings and Ruin. Look for a review of the final book in this trilogy soon!

Book Review: Illuminae

IlluminaeIlluminae
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Form: Hardback
Big Themes: Space Travel, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Hacking, Disease, Truth/Lies, Survival, Bravery

Summary from Goodreads:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

What I Loved:
Format. The format of the story is NOT a gimmick. This story could ONLY be told through this collection of documents. A traditional format just wouldn’t work. That’s all I can say without giving away key plot points!
Fast-Pace. Despite the book’s chunky size, this story moves at a breakneck pace. The book is nearly impossible to put down.
High stakes and shocking twists. These authors raise the stakes to an almost impossible level. Just when you think things have gotten as bad as they can get–things get worse.

Overall:
Highly recommend this book! You should go in knowing as little about the story as possible. But what an emotional roller coaster! A masterful work of sci-fi storytelling! The format wasn’t a gimmick, but purposeful and perfectly suited to the the story it was telling. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

Book Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

Published by: Balzer + Bray
Form: Hardback
Big Themes: Racism, Family, Friendship, Community, Police Brutality, Code Switching, Interracial Relationships

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

What I Loved:
Strong characters. Starr, Big Mav, Khalil, Seven, Devante. These characters all show incredible strength throughout the novel. I also love how they are well-rounded characters with passions and goals. Big Mav is passionate about helping his community, loves gardening, and fiercely protects his family. For people who are not part of the black community, it is so important to see black people in this light–not the stereotypes we see in media or news.
Thoughtfulness of plot. Each scene was purposeful and captured something essential to the story of Starr but also the story of all black people living in America today. From code-switching to interracial relationships, this book tried to offer a glimpse at the various ways race impacts everyday life.
Bravery. Angie Thomas tackled a hot topic despite the tension, emotion, and opinions that came with it. Black Lives Matter needed this book. It’s a much needed glimpse into what black America is facing in our country on a regular basis. This book should be required reading for all white people, but especially those who don’t have an understand of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Overall:
Five big, beautiful stars. Don’t understand the #blacklivesmatter movement? Know someone who doesn’t get it? This book. Should be required reading for all white people. #weneeddiversebooks

Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Disreputable History Frankie LBThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
by E. Lockhart
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Form: Purchased Paperback
Big Themes: Secret Societies, Pranks, Societal Structure, Popularity, Identity, Growing Up, Falling in Love, Girl Power/Feminism

Summary:
Frankie, girl genius and underestimated by all, attends an elite boarding school and infiltrates an elite boy-only secret society.

Review in a Nutshell:

This book.  Blew me away.  I know I’m late to the E. Lockhart game.  I am eager to read We Were Liars.

If you want a girl power read, this is your book.  If you want a book that will challenge how you look at the world.  This is your book.

I think the biggest reason this book resonated with me is its ideas about power.  How people obtain power.  How people diminish other’s power.  How you can empower yourself.  I loved watching Frankie figure out the world around her as some sort of social experiment.

HR sealofapprovalOverall:
Five big shining stars.  I know this was a short review, but I read this book over the summer and neglected to post it.  The messages of this book have stayed with me long after reading, and this is one I highly recommend.

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

12000020Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published by: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Form: Purchased Hardback
Big Themes: Identity, Growing Up, Friendship, Family, LBGT
Recommended for: Ages 14 and up (for language, alcohol use, and violence)

Summary:
Ari doesn’t really have any friends.  He has a mom who is a teacher, a dad who won’t open up, and a brother in prison that no one will talk about.  One summer at the pool, a boy named Dante offers to teach him how to swim, and from that point on, Ari’s life will never be the same.

What I Loved:

Characterization: Both Ari and Dante are characters I fell in love with.  I’m not one for realistic fiction, but what I’m learning is: if the author pulls off great characters, then bring on the realism.

Imagery: Some of the imagery was poignant and lovely.  Particularly, around one pivotal scene involving rain.  I would give examples, but I had to loan this book to a friend.  So if you want some beautiful imagery, you’ll just have to go read it for yourself.

Diversity: If you’re looking for diverse books, this is a must read.  (Hispanic and LBGT)

Family: Probably one of my favorite aspects of this book were Dante and Ari’s families.  If you want a book full of loving, supportive parents, who are real, flawed, but beautiful individuals–this is your book.

HR sealofapprovalOverall:
Five big shining stars.  This book will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.  I am so happy that such a book exists.  If you are hesitant to read LBGT titles, I highly recommend this one as your first.  It’s a beautiful story, rooted in friendship and family.  I recommend it so highly that I’m giving it the Hughes Reviews Seal of Approval.  And bonus points for a gorgeous cover.

Book Review: Cress

cressCress
by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Form: Purchased Hardback
Big Themes: Rebellion, Survival, Responsibility, Space, Love, Friendship

Reviews of Previous Books in the Series:
Cinder (5 stars)
Scarlet (4 stars) And… I can’t find my review ANYWHERE.  So confused.  Basically, from what I remember, I really liked this book, but parts were really scary and reminded me of a zombie apocalypse.  And I hate zombies.

Summary:
The series continues, but this time adding to the cast of characters: Cress.  A girl who has lived as a hacker and spy for the past seven years from a satellite orbiting Earth.  But her satellite is a prison, and Cress feels no loyalty to those who have trapped her there.  With her hacking skills and knowledge from years of spying, she would make a fine addition to the rebellion against Queen Levana.

Spoiler Free Section:

If you like book series with a wide cast of characters and expansive world-building, Marissa Meyer is delivering.  Her characters are lovable, well-developed, and quirky.  The history and depth of the world she’s created makes this a great escapist novel.  But most of all, her series is FUN.  For me, this book was the perfect read to curl up with after a long day at work.  I caught myself actually smiling and giggling as I read.  Meyer is highly influenced by Star Wars, and it’s fun to spot parallels between the two.  If a grand space adventure with a fun cast of characters sounds like your thing, I urge you to give this series a shot.

If you don’t want the series ruined for you… then I suggest you stop reading.

What I Loved:

Characterization: What I find especially remarkable is how the friendships and relationships between characters is making each character stronger.  Marissa Meyer is doing a beautiful job of using characters to bring out the strengths and flaws of each other.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Thorne’s character until this book.  I felt like he was a bit of a caricature–too perfect, too handsome, and with too many one-liners.  But when paired with Cress, he became more human, more real.  Cress herself was quite naive and idealistic.  But when the two were paired together, it forced realism upon them.  Thorne couldn’t be as perfect as Cress believed him to be, and we saw his flaws.  Cress, seeing the bad in the world along with the good, grew into a character that was stronger as she shed some of her naivete.

Another dynamic that I think worked beautifully in this book is Cinder and Kai.  They started the series on unequal ground.  Kai as emperor and Cinder as the lowest of the low, a cyborg servant.  Despite this, there was still chemistry between them.  As the series has progressed, Cinder has grown not just in strength of character but also in what responsibilities she has undertaken.  In one of the final scenes, where Cinder and Kai have their first real talk since the ball in the first book, the sense of understanding between the two characters is breathtaking.  Both Kai and Cinder feel the weight of responsibility, and it brings depth and beauty to their relationship.

Cohesiveness of Plot and World: With each book, the world and plot get larger and more expansive.  Meyer’s ability to make it all work is impressive.  From the futuristic technology to the plague to the intergalactic war, Meyer has managed to not just have it make sense, but also to interweave these elements.  The addition of bio-warfare was a twist I didn’t see coming and it further tightened the plot.  I admire how Meyer weaves some science into a series of books that would be considered too light and fun to be hardcore sci-fi.

Raising the Stakes: Meyer does one of my favorite things: throws her characters into the worst possible situations.  I looooove this.  Oh look, the whole gang is safe together in space… LET’S SEPARATE THEM.  Cress is going to finally escape her satellite… LET’S CRASH LAND HER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SAHARA WITH NO SHOES AND A BLIND MAN.  Marissa Meyer is AWESOME.  I want the characters in the worst possible situation.  I want to be on the edge of my seat.  I want to see them fighting to get out of it, using their skills and wits.  And please, no magical resolution.  Make them work for it and make the resolution an earned pay off for all that struggle.  Meyer does this 100%.

Humor: If you like witty dialogue and banter…  If you like when each character has their own voice and quirks…  If you like when quirkiness results in humorous interplay between characters… Then you’ll love the humor that Meyer has going on.  One of my favorite bits in Cress was Iko, the robot with the ridiculously girlish personality.  The scenes with Iko provided just the right levity and humor.  Her character is absolutely hilarious.

HR sealofapprovalOverall: Five big beautiful stars and I’m giving this book the official Hughes Reviews Seal of Approval.  That’s how much I loved it.  This is, without a doubt, my favorite book in the Lunar Chronicles series.  It just hit all the right notes for me.  I’m anxiously awaiting the final book, Winter, though I can’t imagine it topping my warm fuzzy feelings for Book 3.

Cress on Goodreads

My post on meeting Marissa Meyer