Diverse Books, YA Books

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le – Book Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

This is a cute fun story of two teens who despite being from rival family restaurants end up secretly dating after they are paired together to write reviews for local restaurants. I really liked both Linh and Bao. I also really liked their friends and how they supported and helped each other.

Although this has a cute romance there are also some more serious discussions that happen in the book too. Discussing the difficulties of growing up in a country that isn’t safe to live in, becoming a refugee and then having to start over in a completely new place. The racism that they face and this is something that both Bao and Linh also have to deal with.

Some of the things that Bao and Linh have to deal with this throughout this book was so relatable as a child of immigrant parents. Choosing between doing what you love and what will pay the bills and can they both be the same thing. Pursuing your passion which may disappoint your family or living up to their expectations. Surviving the gossip of the community and reducing yourself so that you aren’t the next target or living life on your own terms. I loved seeing these discussed in the story.

The first half is a little slow but the story picks up a lot in the second half and we learn that there could be more to the family rivalry than just rival restaurants and this added layer just made the story even more interesting. Linh and Bao both have their own individual arcs too in learning more about themselves and what they truly want from life and if they’re willing to take the risk to fight for it. I loved that their arcs wasn’t solely their romance.

But their relationship and how it slowly built was absolutely adorable. They helped each other in their lowest moments and also pushed each other to fight for their dreams. Bao especially stole my heart because he was so sweet, kind and thoughtful. Linh’s passion for art was so wonderful to see and how her teacher encouraged her to pursue it. How she really spoke through her art and showed the emotions through her it. I could picture it in my head.

I cannot forget to mention the food. All the food. The Vietnamese food was described throughout the book and was a big part of the story and it left my mouth watering. I loved how food was such a big part of both their lives and how it’s more than just food. It brings the community together and it is comfort and more.

Overall this was a great read and one that will stay with me for a long time.

Book Recommendations, Muslim Shelf Space

Why You Should Read Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

I recently reread this book and I really loved it as much as I did the first time I read it and I think I appreciated it more this time.

This book discusses sexual assault and having to deal with the aftermath of this especially if the person who assaulted you is a beloved member of your community.

You can read my review here about why I loved this book so much.

So here are some reasons why you should read Saints and Misfits:

Well, first and foremost the sequel will be out on May 25th and will feature a big fat Muslim wedding and a love story and will have cameos from Adam and Zayneb from Love From A to Z! Check out the hashtag #CelebrateMisfitInLove to see everyone sharing their wedding aesthetics and more!

Muslim Representation

We see so many Muslims in this book, from the Imam of a masjid to the young adults and teens. We see how Muslims aren’t monolith and how some practice more than others and that each one of them has their own difficulties and struggles that they deal with. We see how teens and youth are often active members of the community how the Masjid is more than a place of worship. It’s a place where the young and old alike can meet and find a safe place. I just loved seeing it all.

Janna is a relatable Muslim teen living in the West

I felt her struggles on a deep personal level. She wants to fit in at school but also follow her religious practices. Sometimes they collide and you can’t do both and it can be difficult to manage that. The expectations and pressures from both sides can feel like a lot for a teen. She had a crush on a classmate but didn’t want to date but still had these feelings and now she has to manage and navigate this amongst people who won’t necessarily understand her completely.

Discussions of Rape Culture and Victim Blaming

We meet Janna just after she survives a sexual assault by a monster known as Farooq. As he is in a position of power in the community she finds it difficult to tell anyone what happens and he constantly inserts himself in her life. He tries to convince her she wanted it and it was her fault. She has a lot of fears and struggles to come to terms with what happened and becomes angry about her situation and being unable to do anything about it. The complicated feelings she goes through and feeling unsafe in places she should be safe felt very real. These are discussions that are important to be had especially amongst youth who are often told by society that the victim is at fault and the abuser can often get away with little or no consequence especially if they are in a position of power.

Female Friendships

I loved seeing all the women that Janna is surrounded by! Her best friend Tats was such a wonderful character and truly looked out for Janna. I also loved Sausan who is a badass niqabi and has her own youtube channel. I loved the slow friendship that started to develop between Janna and Sarah and how your own assumptions about a person can be so wrong once you get to know them. I really loved Sarah especially and I cannot wait to see her in Misfit in Love.

Sibling Dynamic

I loved seeing how real the relationship between Janna and her older brother, Muhammad was! The bickering and sniping at each other and yet always being there for each other. The making sacrifices for each other and being the only one the other can turn to for help. How Muhammad relied on Janna for help in being able to meet Sarah in a halal way. It was just fun to see them!

Nuah the Cinnamon Roll

Look, he is the sweetest and I was SCFREAMING at Janna to see what was right in front of her the whole time. A practicing young man who respects women is kind and caring and funny and seems to understand Janna really well. He was adorable and I cannot wait to see him Misfit in Love!

So these are some of the reasons why you should read Saints and Misfits and of course pick up the sequel after!

Diverse Books, YA Books

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon – ARC Review

I was sent this arc by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I love all the books in the Dimpleverse and you can read my review of Dimple here and of Sweetie here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny-tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.

Samir Jha might have a few . . . quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.

Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions (aka boyfriends) she’s made, she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy, Samir—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer. As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget. 

This book was hilarious and sweet and there was so, much, angst! I loved it! I had already started shipping Pinky and Samir in There’s Something About Sweetie so when this was announced I was so excited!

The tension and angst between Pinky and Samir was just *chefs kisses* and how they slowly started developing feelings for each other but adamantly denied their feelings because this is fake dating and they both important reasons for this so it can’t possibly be real was just amazing!

They both have assumptions about each other which makes them bicker a lot but they slowly realise that maybe there is more to the other person than they first thought. They seem like total opposites but then they actually start to get along really well and see past the outer layers and get to know each other and I just loved watching them slowly take down their barriers with each other.

They both have such wonderful character development. Pinky has a difficult relationship with her parents, especially her mother but it was really great seeing how they both acted out of love but because they didn’t communicate they each misunderstood the other and how they slowly started to understand each other better especially once Pinky starts to learn more about her mother. I really related to Pinky and how her mother holds her to such high standards and doesn’t always believe her and I am so glad we get to see these complicated relationships in the book.

Samir’s relationship with his mother is the opposite of Pinky’s to the point of stifling and that his life revolves around his mother and it was also really interesting to see such opposite relationships with parents. I especially loved how they both helped each other with coming to terms with things they don’t want to admit to themselves and help each other improve their relationships with their parents.

It was so much fun reading how their fake dating slowly gave way to real feelings and it made me just want to read one more chapter because the angst and tension build up was so good! I really loved how they were both true to themselves and had passions in life that were so important to them. It was also great to see how they supported each other in each others passions. Though they both have different approaches in how to deal with things. Pinky is all fire where as Samir is always calm.

I really loved this book and how Sandhya wove some really important issues into the story but also still kept it fun and hilarious with an equal helping of sass and angst. I think everyone should go read this book and all three books in the dimpleverse as they’re all amazing!

Diverse Books, YA Books

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon – Book Review

I thought When Dimple Met Rishi was adorable but this was phenomenal! I absolutely ADORED this book!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

Ashish and Sweetie are my newest OTP! I love love love them! They were so adorable and cute and omg I could not stop grinning as I read this book!

I loved Sweetie so much! She is such a wonderful character and I loved seeing how despite her not being the dress size her parents want her to be, she lives life to the fullest. The body positivity in this book was so wonderful to see. I loved seeing how this harmful and awful obsession with being ‘skinny’ was deconstructed. I really hope that as young girls read this they will see that their dress size does not determine what they can do in life. Sweetie is an athlete and has a wonderful group of friends who fully support her, the female empowerment in the book was so great to see.

“He though, Life can’t get any more perfect than this. But they were young, and it did.”

Ashish was such a great character, he was absolutely adorable with Sweetie and how he does the cutest things to make her feel special and loved. I also loved seeing his friends and how they all are so different yet get along. I also really enjoyed seeing how friends sometimes fight but that they can work through it.

It was so interesting and fun to see how Ashish and Sweetie were falling for each other and yet they were denying it because of their own baggage and wanting to prove a point. They each had their own issues to deal with and I loved seeing how they overcame their own problems.

Again this book is unapologetically desi, from the wonderful parts of desi culture to the not so great parts. I loved how the community supports each other and the wonderful food and clothes. And also how people can be judgemental and base your worth on your looks and dress size. But it was great to see how Sandhya totally obliterated that. I hate that part of desi culture, I have personally seen how much damage it can cause to young girls.

I absolutely adored this book and it has fast become my favourite of Sandhya’s books. It was adorable and cute and the exact type of book I needed to read right now. Bollywood really needs to make this into a film!

Diverse Books, YA Books

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Book Review

I have been meaning to read this book for so long and wow why did I take so long to read it because this book is so cute!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis 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.

I am not a fan of rom coms so I kept putting off reading it but as I recently started to enjoy more contemporary books I thought I would give it a go and I absolutely loved it! This book was adorable and I read it with a huge grin on my face!

First of all this book has the best meet cute ever! Like excuse me but how does Rishi actually think that his…overly enthusiastic hello…would end in any other way. I was cackling! Every time I remember it I crack up!

One of the things that I really loved was seeing the role reversal. In rom coms we generally see the girl as the romantic and the guy focusing on his career, yet Sandhya switched it around and I really loved seeing that! Rishi was the most adorable hopeless romantic and Dimple only cared about starting her career. I loved how Dimple was a programmer and Rishi an artist. It was refreshing to see that gender stereotypes were broken down.

I loved seeing the way Indian culture was unapologetically infused into the story, it really made the story what it is, the way their culture and religious beliefs influenced their decisions and also how some parts of the culture which is actually harmful was discussed and broken down too. Seeing culture so similar to mine in the story, as if it was the norm was so wonderful to see! From their clothes to food to their language and family dynamics. It was amazing!

“This is our life. We get to decide the rules. We get to say what goes and what stays, what matters and what doesn’t.”

Dimple and Rishi were such wonderful characters, not only do we get to see them grow together but also separately. I loved how they both impacted each other, from Dimple helping Rishi see that his parents would still be proud of him even if he chose to pursue his passion over their expectations and Rishi helped Dimple see that she doesn’t have to sacrifice her career to be with him.

I also loved the side characters that we get to see from Dimple’s friend Celia and Rishi’s brother Aashish. I especially loved Aashish! I loved that the girls supported each other and were there for each other. It was also great to see sibling relationship and how they love each other but also how it can be complicated too.

I really loved their story and I hope we can see more of them in future books in the series and see what happens as they get older! This is a Bollywood romance in a book and I loved every single second of it.