When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 1st June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He’s rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she’s got other plans…

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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.

This book is damn cute.

When Dimple Met Rishi is, in many ways, a pretty standard contemporary YA novel, with hilarious hijinks, serious issues and scenarios, and sometimes dramatic but realistic portrayal of a heterosexual teen relationship. But it’s also so much more than that.

It’s not conventional, it’s not the standard, it’s actually telling a story that is not often told; the lives of two Indian-American teenagers, fighting for their place in a society which is fighting against them, whether it be the colour of their skin, their class, or their gender.

Dimple is a talented coder, whose dream is to win a competition that would have her present an app idea to a top revolutionary in the techie world, and we see her struggle in a world of rich white kids who get ahead of her for reasons that shouldn’t matter when it comes to succeeding in the industry.
Rishi comes from tradition, a religious family who only wants what’s best for him, and that’s an arranged marriage with a girl he barely knows. We see the difference in generations, especially on a topic that’s considered really controversial in the Western world and are offered a different perspective which I really enjoyed.

I loved Dimple and Rishi’s back and forth and the way they worked together despite their initial meeting and how caring and respectful they were of each other. And it was actually nice to see a contemporary love interest that wasn’t a dick disguised as an unobtainable mystery (nice one Rishi!).

This book comes out pretty soon, so if you’re looking out for a summery contemporary that’s not a complete U turn from the formula you already love, but still a turn into a new, diverse direction, then When Dimple Met Rishi should be on you TBR!

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Release by Patrick Ness

Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: 4th May 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

IMG_20170531_192954_896With the events of just one day in a small town boy’s life, Release is definitely a story that speaks volumes as much as a trilogy might.

A Patrick Ness book is always one that can be eaten up in a day or two. With cliff hangars, plot twists and hilarious and realistic dialogue, I often struggle to put the book down. Release is no exception, and has firmly earned it’s placed in my little Patrick Ness collection that dominates my shelf.

Adam Thorn experiences a lot in one particular day in his life. Being gay while coming from a family of evangelical Christians, life hasn’t always been an open and honest conversation. But, he has friends, prospects, and a string of love interests that may or may not have lingered a bit longer than they should have. Seeing Adam grow in just one day is incredible; realising he is worth so much more than he thought and learning to love himself despite the subtle (but also explicit) disappointment that exudes from his family life. It was powerful see him go from a boy to a man in just one day, and carrying on into the next step of his life.

While all this good stuff was happening however, there was another plot running through at the same time. It had it’s own separate passages and was not directly linked (if at all) to Adam’s story. I didn’t really understand it’s significance, and I found it easy to skip those few pages to get back to Adam’s chapter. I assume it had something to do with the book’s overall theme but *shrug*, I dunno. It was also magical realism which threw me off a little, considering the rest of the novel was clearly contemporary. But again. I dunno.

MORE PATRICK NESS BOOKS PLEASE.

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Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) By Kiersten White

Publisher: Corgi Children’s (Penguin Random House)
Release Date: 6th July 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Lada Dracul has no allies and no throne. After failing to seize the crown she believes is hers, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting her what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed, the sultan she might have been in love with, brings little comfort to her thorny heart. She left him before he could leave her.

Lada needs her brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople as his reluctant spy. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself, but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

I received an eARC of Now I Rise from Penguin Random House via Netgalley in an exchange for an honest review.

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So when I first read And I Darken, I wasn’t really sure how to rate it. I could not put it down, I ate up every word, I loved all the characters. But at the same time, the story had infuriated me. This can be in any case where you find a character that makes bad decisions. I didn’t like where things were going, and even though I had fallen in love with everything else, I still gave it four stars out of bitterness.

But this time? This time I could not do it.

Who am I kidding? Giving this series four stars when it takes all of my attention and forces me to keep the book open? No, I don’t know why I was holding myself back just because the decisions of one character were pissing me off. To make the one star drop even more unnecessary, the character with the bad decisions is my favourite character, so he can make as many bad decisions as he wants; I’m still gonna love him. Even if I am suuuuper disappointed in his actions.

Now I Rise continues from And I Darken, the story of Lada and Radu Dracul, the children of a weak king whose land is taken from him as they are taken to be raised by Sultan Murad in the Ottoman Empire. In the second installation, they have parted ways as Radu become the right hand man of newly appointed Sultan Mehmed II and Lada gathers together an army to take back the kingdom that is rightfully hers.

coverI am in no way a history buff. I barely listened in history class and gave it up at fourteen as quickly as I could, but I’m definitely starting to find a new found love of historical fiction, especially ones that actually take from historical events rather that just have a court with women in pretty dresses and romance drama. While this story is not wholly accurate and still called fiction, it’s still really hard to not google ‘Constantinople’ and spoil myself. I had an idea of what would happen, but it’s nice to know that my lack of history knowledge is finally paying off.

I love Radu and Lada in so many different ways. First there’s Lada, a headstrong, rage-fueled solider who is mot definitely going to become a tyrant. She’s blood thirsty and cruel but also incredible. I would not cross her, and I want her to succeed so badly. Then there’s Radu, my sweet summer child, the softest man in the Ottoman Empire who just wants love and appreciation and honestly? Now I Rise we finally get to see him as a protector of people who love him just as much as he loves them. I’ve never been infatuated with someone before, and it’s clear that the events from the first novel are still deeply ingrained in Radu… hence earlier when I talked about a fave character making bad decisions. I love him, but sometimes I just wanna bang his head against the wall. YOU HAVE LOVE, RIGHT THERE READY FOR YOU. But what I do know that un-loving someone is hard, and I really hope book three turns out the way I want it to, without looking at Wikipedia impatiently.

I could never decide whose story I liked best because I loved them in different ways. I loved Lada’s story; her soldiers who are loyal but also have the best banter, her cruelness and determination, the way she does not understand other women and yet they are of utmost importance to her, her realization that allies may not be allies at all.

I loved Radu’s story; his loyalty slowly breaking away from Mehmed, his realization that good and evil are not black and white, his innocence shattering. NAZIRA AND CYRIAN TOO. What powerhouses.

If you’ve been umming and ahhhing about And I Darken, please give it a go. And if you’re still on the fence afterwards, then know that this will be the book that will get you utterly obsessed with this trilogy.

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Always & Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 4th May 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
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Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

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Unfortunately, I do not think Always and Forever, Lara Jean lives up to it’s predecessors.

While all three books in the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy definitely exude this feeling of living on a pink, fluffy cloud that smells like bubblegum and cake mixture, this last book feels a little different to the others…it doesn’t really have a plot.

Unlike the first two books where there’s the whole fake boyfriend scenario in book one, and then relationship drama and a love triangle in book two, book three just sort of happens. I love Lara Jean and enjoy getting this insight into her life but AAFLJ just came across as diary entries that she was forced to write for a Creative Writing class that she’s not really into.

There’s no conflict, and if there is even a little, it’s no big deal and it’s easily resolved. The word I would call this book is: mild. It’s a chicken korma. I like chicken korma, but it’s not exactly my most adventurous choice of a dish.

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An Amateur’s Guide To Copenhagen

Hello, and welcome to the first in a travel series called An Amateur’s Guide, where I, an amateur traveler, will give you a guide to all the places I’ve been and hopefully share with you some tips and tricks into getting the best out of your trips.

While I may be an amateur (and very poor), I’m determined to visit as many places as possible, meeting new people, and exploring beautiful countries and cities that may not be as far from you as you think. I’m going to be splitting these posts into sections; In & Around, Doing Stuff, Good Views, and Sleeps, but also just talking about how beautiful and amazing each place is.

Let’s begin with Copenhagen, Denmark!

Continue reading “An Amateur’s Guide To Copenhagen”

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Publisher: Feiwal & Friends
Release Date: 16th May 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆
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There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Apparently this year’s running theme is ‘being disappointed by my anticipated reads’. Because boy, am I getting disappointed by my anticipated reads.

I came across The Love Interest and begged every single gatekeeper to give me an early copy. Not only was it LGBT, it also seemed to be a funny self-deprecation at the genre and how many YA novels have the same romance tropes which are tired and clichéd.

When I was ignored, I waited for the Kindle edition and impatiently downloaded it on the release day (for £6.50, for God’s sake). I prepared myself for a full day of reading the whole thing; just me and this book, which I already knew I loved.

Oh. My. God.

This book is bad, which I hate to say about a book that I had such good expectations for. It does not read like a polished, traditionally published novel by a top publisher where editors have fine tooth combed it to perfection. This is a book that was clearly not looked at enough. Not read out loud to understand truly how badly structured and paced this whole thing is.

We’ll start with the writing, which I can only describe as written as bad stage directions. Every single thing is described, things that do not matter to the plot whatsoever. It’s not even purple prose, it’s just listing everything a person does or what a place looks like to the point where we are forced to shut down our imagination because everything is covered. But there’s no creativity; it’s just straight up describing and explaining. Here’s one mind numbing paragraph:

“”If it’s not too much trouble, can you chop up this celery for me?” A gigantic piece of celery is sitting on a wooden chopping board. I walk toward it and pick up the silver knife. I cut off the head, the slice the body into thin slivers.”

Apparently a reader cannot possibly know what chopping celery is, and so is taken through every step the main character goes through in order to fully understand this scene. Now, imagine this throughout the entire book. I felt like I was being talked to like an idiot. The protagonist walks into a room, the character smiles and breathes in and then breathes out. He then walks 30cm to the North West of the room and reaches for a pen, he picks up the pen……and it goes on. There is even a scene where two characters are out for a meal and nothing happens. We just get told that they lift up their forks and put food in their mouth and chew. AM I GOING CRAZY? I KNOW WHAT EATING FOOD IS.

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The dialogue is also just…not dialogue. It doesn’t sound authentic or real. I’m not expecting a book to write speech so accurately that it becomes a transcript, but to have characters talk as if they’re reading from a teleprompter is so bizarre. They don’t pause for breath, they just keep saying ‘oh also,’ and ‘anyway enough about that’ and just keep going. They have answers without thinking about things, like they’ve rehearsed what they’re going to say. And even though the love interests in the novel do sometimes have rehearsed lines, not everyone does! They all sound like robots! The only way I can explain it is if you and a mate got the book and acted a scene out. Hear the dialogue out in the open, and then you’d realise it sounds like a bad amateur play.

The characters? I don’t know. Caden, from the beginning, we are told does not feel like he is a Nice because he doesn’t fit the mould. He says he’s selfish and is out for himself, and I understand it’s supposed to be a commentary on unrealistic characterization and that real people aren’t ‘nice’ or ‘bad’ but more of a mixture of the two with some leaning more one way than the other. I got that. But Caden isn’t much of anything? He says that he thinks a certain way but we don’t actually see it? He’s just a bit of a wet mop. They all are; even Dylan, the ‘bad’ who at first came across as a manic pixie dream boy, but then becomes like that character Summer from 500 Days of Summer. He’s wishy-washy and both of them just stand around and say stock sentences.

The premise, the plot that there’s this place where they create perfect people to be spies and make target’s fall in love with them is…I get it. It’s a sci-fi aspect to the common tropes in YA. You’re supposed to suspend your disbelief, but I physically couldn’t. There’s not enough exposition for this concept to land properly. We’re not given enough. After reading this, and someone asked me to explain exactly what the Love Interest Compound (LIC) is, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. Is it a prison? Is it a nice place? Is it awful? How do they find love interests? How do they raise them? Why do they kill them? Where has all this money come from to spend on giant robots and cool holograms that people can conjure up with a flick of a finger? If they deal in secrets and information from their targets, how has that information not caused world war three? Or the collapse of society? I DON’T KNOW. I felt like it could have been something a lot smoother and polished and clever, but instead there just wasn’t enough. You were in there, and then suddenly you were made to forget about it and plopped into a YA contemporary, where the threat of death is still there but no one is that bothered. It doesn’t feel like a big deal.

I’m so disappointed. If this was a gripping story with humour mixed in with a thoughtful message, it would have been so much easier to look past some of the hammy stuff. But a badly written book is a badly written book, and I hope that the author continues to write and gets better editors.

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The Joys Of Learning A Language (And How You Can Do It Too)

I really love languages.

Vague, I know. But I end up saying it to myself and to other people a lot. I just really like languages. My own language, languages I’m learning, languages that I’m not, dead languages, languages that hardly anyone speaks anymore. I just…*clenches fist*.

While I know I’m not the only one (obviously), I still often feel like the only person who wants to at least try another language. Usually, people just find it to hard. Ok, I get that. Language is woven into every single part of your life and so, to understand a whole other language is to understand a whole other life, a society, a history and culture. But, usually, the rejection of other languages comes from ignorance and the desire for there to only be one language; English.

Yeah, we won’t get into that.

I wanted to talk a bit about my language learning experiences and how you, if you’re interested, can get into the wonderful world of language and how it’s not as hard as you think!

First, take it out of your mind that you have to be ‘gifted’ or have to be talented from a young age at language learning. Yes, there are going to be people who find it easier than you because they were brought up in a bilingual household or moved to another country and was forced to learn the language etc. If you want to learn, are ready to learn, and love the language you’re going to learn then you too can do it!

Next, choose your language! There are so many reasons why someone embarks on this journey; maybe your job needs a multi-lingual person? Maybe you’ve got plans to travel to multiple places and want to at least try when speaking to locals? Maybe you’re packing up and moving to a whole new country (lucky you)? Maybe there is a new part of the family who you want to get to know but they don’t know English? Or, like me, you’re a bit of a language nerd. Most of the time you won’t have a reason, and that means the pick of the litter. What language appeals to you the most? The easiest? The most challenging?

While I’m always trying to learn French and Spanish for practical reasons, the language I’m focusing on and having the most progress I’ve ever had with a language is Norwegian (Bokmal). The reasons why are actually quite simple, and I hope you can implement them into your language learning too!

memrise-appRookie mistake? Using Duolingo. I hear you all shouting ‘WHAT?’ at me while you have Duolingo open and ready. For many it is a treasure trove of language tips and tricks, but for me it’s just trying to remember weirdly worded sentences that you’ll never use. Multiple times I’ve had to translate ‘The dog is in the house’ or ‘I read while I cut oranges’ while I haven’t grasped how to ask for directions or introduce myself yet. If you’re going to use a language learning app, I’d recommend Memrise which was recommended to me by my travel buddy Anna whose Swedish is already coming along very well with the help of this app. Now, I know there’s a Duolingo app for your phone, but I always found it worked better on desktop which, to be honest, isn’t ideal. Memrise not only teaches you relevant things, it tests you over and over so that the translation comes naturally. You can use it anywhere too (hence the purpose of apps), meaning if you’ve got a few spare minutes on the bus or in the dentist waiting room, you can brush up on your vocab. There’s also an option to watch little videos of actual native speakers saying phrases normally, so you can get used to the speed and pronunciation of the sentences you’re learning.

Consuming the entertainment of another culture is also a fantastic and vital way to learn a language. The easiest way to learn a language is to surround yourself with it, and if literally moving to that country isn’t an option, the best way is to watch, listen, and read the language. For Norwegian, I’ve been soaking up the culture through television and music. Watching SKAM has opened me up to slang and with matching it with language apps and standard language learning, I’ve started to understand bits here and there without subtitles (it’s honestly a magical feeling when that happens). I’ve listened to popular radio channels too just to hear speed. I know that dialect changes depending on where you are in Norway which is normal in most languages (English in Newcastle and English in Somerset aren’t the same, for example), but I believe in Norway it’s even more so, and so I’m trying to just conquer the dialects in Oslo and the dialects used predominantly in the media. Music is great too; trying to decipher what the lyrics are is actually just as fun as singing along (and getting it royally wrong). Hearing the language constantly makes my accent and pronunciation more confident, and so I urge you to look for films in the language you’re learning, shows, youtubers from that country, podcasts, anything where you can hear and take it all in.

Learning a language by yourself begins to suck when you have no one to practice on. My dad, a language lover too, has no problems having small chats with me in French and Spanish, but completely shuts down when I talk in Norwegian. So what’s a girl to do?

Pets.

(If you don’t have a pet, skip this paragraph)

I talk to my dog, Barney, a lot. I didn’t realise how much I did until I said “Er du en godt gutte?” and he wagged his tail happily because yes, he is a good boy. I know dogs don’t respond to actual language; I know my dog doesn’t understand Norwegian, but to have someone actually reply to me in their own way that isn’t blank stares is actually really useful. So now, I just chat with him, make sure he’s good and happy, ask him if he wants a treat, and I try to make sure to do it all in Norwegian. So, if you chat to your pet (which I know you all do), see how comfortable you feel talking to them in the language you’re learning until you’re having full blown conversations about politics and the economy with them. Me and Barney haven’t got there yet, but I know he’s interested.

I never realised how much language learning had always been a large factor in why I love education in general. Maybe not the education system, but learning that through a language is a whole new world, culture, and people, living on the same polluted spec of a planet that we live on.

Let me know what languages you’re learning and how you do it if I’ve missed anything!

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