Book Review — From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Twinkle Mehra is an aspiring filmmaker, looking for her big break. So when it comes in the form of her all-time crush, Neil Roy’s geeky brother, Sahil Roy, she decides to give it a go. Their school is hosting the Midsummer Night, an event that would present her with the golden opportunity to screen her film. All her life, Twinkle has felt sidelined and now, she is ready to be in the spotlight for a change. As Sahil and Twinkle work together, there builds an undeniable attraction between the two. But Twinkle is determined to not let go of her hopes of being Neil’s girlfriend; thereby putting her friendship with Sahil in jeopardy. With fame and authority clouding her mind, Twinkle risks losing herself entirely.

After having read and loved When Dimple Met Rishi, I was certain that I would love this book too. But that wasn’t the case. No doubt, it was a fun read; it’s just that I didn’t really like Twinkle. The author’s writing style is colloquial and fits so well with the tone of a sixteen year old that you won’t realize it hasn’t been written by a teenager. I find it really commendable when authors are able to adapt their writing style to the characters and cultures they are writing about. The plot explores several themes like social exclusion, familial discord, high school hierarchy etc. This is an epistolary novel, where the story is told through Twinkle’s diary entries addressed to female filmmakers who are her inspiration. That’s something I really liked. It was interesting to see what she took away from the works of a particular filmmaker.

The reason why I didn’t like Twinkle’s character as much is that she came off as a person who complained a lot. She’s either constantly whining about having lost her bestfriend or she’s swooning over Neil (even when things were happening between her and Sahil) and the fact that the popular kids don’t give her the time of the day. I understand where she’s coming from and I’m not being insensitive to her problems. But when there’s a 300 odd paged novel with a protagonist who is mature enough to want to make quality films, you’d expect the focus to be a little less on her complaints. Thankfully, Neil Roy – who is good looking, desirable, great at academics and athletic – isn’t our MC.  Sahil, who has been foreshadowed by his twin brother, Neil is a very supportive, patient and understanding character. He stood by Twinkle’s side even when I was (mentally) yelling at her. I also wasn’t particularly happy with Maddie. She simply doesn’t know the definition of being a bestfriend; abandoning Twinkle and not giving a damn about her feelings. On the whole, this book was moderately fun to read, if you don’t count the times I got annoyed with the characters. I hope Sandhya Menon’s next novel, When Ashish Met Sweetie is just as good as When Dimple Met Rishi. 

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An entertaining read about high schoolers and the things that drive them.

Thank you Sandhya Menon for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

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Book Review — When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

When Dimple Met Rishi tells the story of two individuals brought together by the age-old Indian custom of arranged marriage. Rishi Patel’s parents set him up with Dimple Shah, and ever the dutiful son, he agrees to head to Insomnia Con to meet her. On the other hand, Dimple is the least bit interested in getting married. All that’s on her mind is to win the ultimate web development championship at Insomnia Con and meet her idol, Jenny Lindt. So when her parents agree to send her for the summer program, she can’t believe her luck! Little does she know her parents’ ulterior motive. As is bound to happen, when Dimple and Rishi meet, a whole lot of drama ensues.

This book is 40% cheesy and a 110% hilarious! I had such a good time reading it. There were a couple of instances when the narrative became a little too romanticized, and not very realistic. But it didn’t bother me enough to dislike the book. In all sincerity, I feel that the depiction of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) is not cliched or heavily influenced by Bollywood films. The fact that the author uses cultural motifs frequently made me like this book more (better rep and all). You can very well understand the mentality of an Indian who has grown up abroad, having to juggle between two cultures. The story is told from the perspective of the two characters in alternating chapters. Sandhya Menon’s writing style is casual and inviting, imbued with Hindi phrases for an authentic touch. She has nailed down the humour so much so that I couldn’t stop laughing/ grinning for a majority of the novel. It gives you all the feels.

This book could easily have been very stereotypical, but what I really liked is that the author starts out with certain stereotypes and over the course of the book, bulldozes through them; thereby sending across a different message. Rishi and Dimple’s characters are quite contrasting depending on the situation. She is always at loggerheads with her mother about what she wants out of life. And so I was surprised to see that she couldn’t hold her own in a social scenario. When she gets bullied, Rishi is the one who gets all riled up. Sometimes (especially towards the end) I found Dimple to be unreasonable. That said, their relationship is not one of insta-love. It goes through many phases. Since the setting of this book is a college, there’s a good deal of rivalry and tension. Dimple and Celia’s friendship was just as fun to read about as Rishi and his brother, Ashish’s equation. On the whole, I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading more of Sandhya Menon’s works. If you’re in the mood for a YA romance, you should definitely pick it up.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A hilarious Indian chick lit, that explores stereotypes and then squashes them to give you the heartwarming story of two individuals fighting to achieve their dreams.

Book Review — Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Twin sisters – Cather and Wren – have always stood by each other, whether it was their passion for the Simon Snow book series or coping with their family drama. But when they move to college, the sisters’ opposite personalities drive a wedge between them. Surprisingly, Cath who is not used to forming friendships easily, gets accustomed to her roommate Reagan fairly well. On the other hand, Wren’s new friendships begin to take up all of her spare time. Cath channels her loneliness and feelings of betrayal onto the fan-fiction that the sisters had been writing together. She gives Simon the reality that couldn’t be hers. Somehow, writing becomes her door to the outside world. She joins fiction writing class with an ambition to write to her heart’s content; she becomes writing buddies with a boy from her class and gradually grows close to her roommates boyfriend – all this while taking supreme control over the fanfic and attracting thousands of fans for her own book. What does it mean to be a fangirl? This novel throws light on exactly that. That and the drama which ensues in Cath’s life.

A friend told me that I had to read this before reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell and that is what pushed me to open the book which had been sitting on my shelf for months. Fangirl has been written so realistically, you can as well imagine being the protagonist. Rowell’s writing style is extremely agreeable and easygoing. She makes you feel like you know all the characters personally and weaves most of them to be very endearing. Initially, I thought that Cath had Agoraphobia (a fear of venturing out into situations and places with large crowds from which escape may not be easily possible) but we learn later that it is nothing major. She displays traits of low self esteem and introversion. Her preoccupation with a fictional world results in her withdrawal from social settings. But she blossoms into a more confident person after meeting Reagan, Nick and Levi. Whether good/bad, her experiences with these people help her get out of the shell she had made for herself. Wren’s detachment from Cath and the fan-fiction they were writing is inevitable because of the nature she has. She is a person who lives in the moment, at parties and gatherings than through fiction. Levi, Reagan’s boyfriend, is shown to be an optimist. But I found his character to be a little superficial. Cath herself repeatedly emphasizes the fact that he is always smiling, even when facing goons at a party. That sort of dilutes the essence of happiness for me. How can someone be smiling all the time? Their mother left them at an early age. And so they have been living with their father. The bond they share with him is a friendly and affectionate one.

The storyline is really good, nothing too extravagant but very grounded. We witness how the sisters deal with different issues in varying ways. Moreover we learn how fans create a totally different world by situating the objects of their praise at an apex and then producing merchandise, alternate endings, costumes and fan clubs. What I didn’t like much about the book were the snippets of Simon Snow stories that were included at the end of each chapter. While I absolutely love epistolary novels, I didn’t like reading Simon Snow because I didn’t know the whole story. So I couldn’t wrap my mind around why the tidbits had been incorporated. That being said, I really enjoyed Fangirl and I look forward to reading Carry On. It is definitely a feel-good book and I recommend it to everyone.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

– Meera

Book Review — Plum Lovin by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin is a short novel in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich which is centered around Stephanie’s attempts to take over Annie Hart’s business as a relationship expert while Diesel protects Annie from an irrational goon with supernatural powers. Annie, wanted for murder, is on the run and staying out of the radar. Stephanie is under orders to capture her at all costs. Only Diesel knows where she is and he drags Stephanie into helping Annie with the promise that he’ll hand Annie over after everything has been sorted. So bounty hunter turned match maker, Stephanie wades through multiple relationship drama while dealing with her own problems, hoping to solve them all.

Not having read any Janet Evanovich book before, I didn’t know what to expect. This book seemed to be more of a romance genre than mystery/detective. It starts off with Stephanie talking about her boy problems and how she is confused or juggling between three men in her life. She has been assigned the task of capturing Annie Hart for murder but somehow gets sidetracked into managing Annie’s match maker job. A good majority of the novel is spent in finding ideal matches for Annie’s clients and Stephanie herself getting drawn in by Diesel’s charm and classy nature. We are made to believe that she is pushing him away but its clearly evident that she is somewhat besotted with him.

I didn’t like it much because a lot of it wasn’t believable. And I am not even referring to the supernatural powers that Diesel and other “unmentionables” have. The power to inflict a rash, while being extremely out of the box, is surely not worth the hype. The writing style is good and easy to process. I just wish there was more content and the characters were more grounded. I don’t think I will be reading any more books from this series cause I couldn’t connect with the protagonist in this one. I highly doubt I’ll be able to understand her antics in other books. If you are into books that are tethered to the love angles between most of the characters, then this one’s for you.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry

Echo and Noah are two very different people, who’d never have thought that they would begin to like each other. Whoever said that opposites attract, certainly knew a thing or two about relationships. A void of sorts brings Echo and Noah closer. For Echo it’s a part of her memory that she can’t seem to recall. A night that shattered her and ultimately led to the breakup of her family. Reeling from the loss, she finds solace in Noah.  Noah may be the stoner bad boy in the eyes of everyone but only Echo and his two bestfriends Isaiah and Beth know the truth about him. There was an ambitious good boy within him, who gave up the battle against pain and suffering. Noah lost that part of himself in an incident which drove his family apart.  All it took was one instance for both of their normal life to spiral out of control. They not only lost loved ones but also the qualities that made them who they were. And now they are left with nothing but questions piled one on top of another and each other’s company..to try and get some answers.

Bad boys in fictional books are like obstacles in life. To understand the true essence of life, they (the obstacles) are a must! I can never get over reading such books. Where a popular jock girl falls for the incredibly dashing bad boy. Ironic but fun 😀
After reading the summary I anticipated a lot, regarding the suspense. But it was nothing too big/drastic. Atleast compared to what I had going on in my mind. The plot is reasonably good. The characters almost realistic. But I wish Echo wasn’t so stubborn at times and looked at things with more clarity than to let her emotions cloud her judgement. Naturally, she makes some mistakes, as would any human, and learns from them. Regardless of how lonely she may think she is, she has got some amazing people standing by her. I found it surprising that in the whole book, I was strangely fond of Isaiah. I don’t know what it was about him, but he seemed like a great person. He’s helpful towards Noah and they share a very close bond. This book portrays realities about friendship and familial relations. And sometimes what meets the eye isn’t the exact truth. You find that you can relate to various instances, because it’s something you and I may have gone through in life.  The story is relatively straightforward and somewhat simple. It was a nice journey.

Rating – 4 stars on 5.

Mia

Book Review — Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella is a book based on the protagonist, Emma Corrigan, and her dire inability to control her tongue. More than often she lands herself in big trouble. One plane ride, drunk and absolutely in no control of her senses, she blurts out every single secret of hers to the passenger sitting beside her. Later, in a more sober state, she is horrified at the blunder she made. As a human, naturally she tries to justify the mistake by thinking that its not as if she would meet that person again. Wishful thinking that was! The Gods seem to have something else in mind for her. When she finds out that the “stranger” is none other than her new boss, she is utterly humiliated. How is she to ever face him, especially when he knows every embarrassing detail that she even hid from her bestfriend?!

I love Sophie Kinsella. Everybody knows what a FAB job she did on the Shopaholic series. What’s not to love about her books?! This one is just as fantastic as all the others. Its a light, girly, rom-com read. Emma Corrigan is a bubbly character with a wee bit of self-esteem issue. As in she is keeps dwelling on her problems and drowning in self pity. But then again, it gets a little hard to switch on the positivity when you think your parents prefer your cousin over you. So its understandable. She is also the kind of person to say a lie than speak the bitter truth just so as to please the other person. So one by one, all that keeps piling up and she is soon entangled in a web of lies. The book was hilarious, down right to the ROFL moments. I couldn’t help laughing out loud a lot throughout the book. You can totally relate to Emma’s thoughts (at times!), they are quite amusing! The author has portrayed her character well as a city girl who loves branded goods and works to have a good social standing among her colleagues. I did pity Emma. A lot. Its not fair how her parents treat her as if she is some third wheel. They totally stab at her sense of belonging, making her feel like an outsider. On purpose or not, they should’ve been more supportive of her.
Then we have the handsome “stranger” who is privy to Emma’s deepest darkest secrets. Jack Harper, being the male lead of this novel, is a gallant and amiable character. He may appear to be all authoritative as the CEO but there is also playful side to him. He is the helping hand that Emma reaches out to.
Overall, its a good book. I liked it. You should read it if you haven’t. 🙂

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

Mia

Book Review – Dear Sister (Sweet Valley High 7) by Francine Pascal.

Identical twins – Jessica and Elizabeth. Both as individualistic as characters of a book ought to be. Where Jessica is the hot shot cheerleader material, Elizabeth is the shy nerd who aces all tests. Due to an unfortunate incident, Elizabeth falls into coma. Now Jessica  can’t help but feel guilty, as she repeatedly blames herself for her sister’s condition.Day after day she sits by her sister’s bed wishing for her betterment. Hoping that she would soon wake up from this unconscious state.
Elizabeth’s boyfriend Todd also repents deeply as he was driving the night of the accident and he was let off easy, unharmed.    Out of the coma or not, Jessica and Todd are in for some surprises.

It was fun to read a chick lit after a long time. Francine Pascal has been one of my favorite authors since a long time. Its another typical teenage, high school read filled with drama, clothes, boys, bullying et cetera.
Jessica is a cheerleader who is so used to being in the spotlight that she finds it difficult to digest the fact that for a change, her sister is getting more attention than her. She is a loving sister but she fails to understand the impact, her actions have on others.Whereas Elizabeth is totally opposite. She is selfless and places others happiness before her own. She has her priorities straightened out and is very ambitious.  Todd is a very kind and considerate boyfriend. His faith in their relationship is astounding and he is determined not to give up on Elizabeth. Its a very small book of only 160 pages and hence I can’t say much without revealing the whole story. So if you are in a mood for a girly, summer read then go ahead!

Rating – 3 stars (on 5)

Mia