Three Mini Reviews of Some Good (No Great!) Books I’ve Been Reading

Happy weekend! I am having a huge good book streak. I’m really hoping it doesn’t end anytime soon – obviously. I might be losing sleep, but it’s one hundred percent worth it. Here are some favorite YA books that I’ve read in the last few weeks!

Eliza and her MonstersEliza and her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia, blew me away and kept me up late at night. In some ways it felt like Fangirl on steroids. In others, it had its own special and unique magic. In the story, teenage Eliza is the creator of one of the most popular webcomics on the internet. She doesn’t do friends, at least not IRL, and her identity on the internet is a closely guarded secret. Then Wallace, her comic’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school and they develop a relationship through their shared interest. But he thinks that she’s just another fan and doesn’t know how to tell him. Ugh. This writing is beautiful. Like makes you want to cry and throw up at the same time beautiful. And the story is … I said on twitter that it made me feel like a mix between having a crush and the night before a new Harry Potter book comes out. And I stand by that strong endorsement. More people should be reading this book. Aside from being oh so swoony, it also has some of the best descriptions of anxiety I’ve ever read.

When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon, is one of the best YA romantic comedies I’ve ever read. The premise is just too good. Dimple and Rishi are two Indian American teens who have exactly opposite reactions to their parents wanted them to *someday* be in an arranged marriage. Dimple cares way more about going to school and building a career as a web developer than who she’ll marry. That’s why she’s pumped to be spending the summer before she goes to college at a STEM summer program. Rishi cares more about art than computers, but he’s a born romantic and lover of tradition. So when his parents suggest he go to a summer program just to see if he is compatible with a one-day, some-day potential bride he agrees. This book was so sweet, and I loved that both characters had such different and complex reactions to being Indian American.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maureen Goo, also delivered on the romantic comedy front – although I think this one had a little more of the comedy than the romance. Since her mother’s death, Desi Lee has been a high achiever by making intricate plans and sticking to them. That’s how she’s become head of many clubs, a varsity soccer player, and student body president, and that’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But she’s never had a boyfriend, just a series of flailures (flirting-failures). After a particularly bad flail (pants may or may not end up around her ankles), Desi studies the K dramas her Dad loves to make a plan to reclaim her romantic destiny. This book didn’t just have me laughing out loud, it had me crying – because of how hard I was laughing. Don’t get me wrong the romance is there. But I think more of this book is about Desi figuring out who she wants to be and coming to terms with grief that she’s been pushing away for far too long.

What are you all reading these days? Anything good?

 

Top Ten Recommendations for People Who Want Diverse Summer Reads

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Books open us up to new worlds. They help us empathize and identify with people that are different from us. When characters are the same, even in small ways, they make us feel understood and less alone. They are powerful. There are only a few weeks left in summer. Here are ten diverse summer reads. Reading any of them would be a fantastic use of your time.

Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this weekly book meme!

Some Recent BookRiot Articles

Hi friends! I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit. I have a blessed life, but juggling writing, revisions, teaching, blogging for BookRiot, planning my syllabus for the fall…this is boring. You get the point. I’m in over my head, and I’m so so so grateful for your patience and for everyone that’s still reading. While I queue up some good post for next week, here are some of my favorite, recent BookRiot articles. Hope you all are having beautiful ends to your summers – where does the time go?

More soon … I promise. xoxo

 

Author Interview: Betsy Cornwell

VenturessBetsy and I met in college, but even though I had a big friend crush on her I was way too shy to talk to her much. Then I reached out about how much I loved her first book Tides and an online friendship sparked into being. In another life, we are roommates conquering the NYC publishing world together and drinking beers on the weekend at The Way Station. But since she lives with her dreamy family in Ireland, I have to settle for some of the kindest, most supportive emails a friend/aspiring writer could ever ask for. Betsy’s third book Venturess is out today. It is the sequel to the badass, feminist Cinderella retelling Mechanica and my very favorite thing that Betsy’s written so far.  Expect a (glowing!) review soon. But for now, Betsy was kind enough to answer some questions for me…  Continue reading

Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy

Ramona BlueI took a YA lit class in grad school with David Levithan. One of the first things he said was to make the details in our writing as specific as possible. More detailed. More specific examples. These were two phrases, I became accustomed to seeing on my personal essays. It’s one of the lessons that I try to keep in the very front of my brain while writing. It’s also a lesson that no one needs to teach Julie Murphy, apparently. Because Damn! Ramona Blue, the latest book from the author who brought us Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, is one of the most specific, detailed, and unique books I’ve ever read.

As with people in real life, Ramona’s history looms large over her present struggles. She was a small child when Hurricane Katrina dramatically changed her family. She’s been a kind of surrogate parent to her little sister, who is now pregnant. She likes girls. She wants to leave town, but doesn’t know if she can now that her sister needs her more than ever. Continue reading

Author Interview: Lauren Karcz

Gallery of Unfinished GirlsHi friends! Sorry I haven’t been blogging as much. This is pretty much how well I’m balancing teaching, plus writing, plus trying to exercise, and have some kind of life. But I’m completely thrilled to have an interview with Lauren Karcz for you today. Her debut YA The Gallery of Unfinished Girls comes out tomorrow, and I can’t wait to read it.

When developing the story, did you begin with plot, character, or setting?

Characters, for sure. Three of the main characters in Gallery — protagonist Mercedes, her sister Angela, and her best friend Victoria — go way, way back with me. I started writing about them when I was in middle school, and they featured in all kinds of stories, from contemporary romances to mysteries to adventure stories. I carried those girls with me as I grew up, as I became their ages and then surpassed them. I think Mercedes and Victoria were aspirational characters for me at the beginning, but they’ve necessarily evolved over the years. I could always identify with parts of them, and aspire to parts of their personalities, while also acknowledging their flaws. And so I returned to them again and again. Continue reading

Nine Life Lessons from Jane Eyre

160315_BOOKS_Charlotte-Brontë.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge21. Maintain your freedom: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

2. How you feel is more important than looking respectable: “I would always rather be happy than dignified.”  

3. Ugly people have feelings too: “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.

4. Loving yourself is important: “If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”

5. Like it’s really really really important: care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

6. You don’t have to listen to people because they are older: “I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”

7. Something isn’t right just because everyone else is doing it: “Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.”

8. Try not to hold grudges: “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

9. When it comes to flirting, use it or lose it: “Flirting is a woman’s trade, one must keep in practice.”