Diverse Books, YA Books

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon – ARC Review

Thank you Hodder Books for sending me and ARC in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as I heard about a Desi Beauty and the Beast retelling I knew I had to read it! And it did not disappoint! This has become my favourite Beauty and the Beast retelling!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

This book was such a wonderful read and one I could not put down. Even when I wasn’t reading it my thoughts kept going back to Jaya and Grey. I loved that Sandhya kept true to the story but also included some really interesting twists to them and throughout the book I was reading thinking is it truly magic? Or not? It made the story even more intriguing to not really be certain either way so we can make up our own minds.

One of the things that I loved was that it was set in a boarding school rather than the beasts castle as it took away the whole kidnapping and keeping Beauty hostage part of the story which I absolutely hated because Stockholm syndrome anyone?! With it being in a boarding school and Jaya having actively decided herself to go and attend the school it took away that issue. And the boarding school gave it a fresh take on the story too as there are other characters and their stories which are interwoven into Jaya and Grey’s.

I loved Grey from the moment we meet him because unlike other Beasts, he isn’t a jerk. He isn’t cursed because he was a horrible person. He is really closed off and doesn’t like interacting with anyone and that is mostly down to him being aware of the curse since he was a kid. He is called a misanthrope, who is someone who avoids human society, and honestly I think we can all relate to that! He is actually a pretty great person but because of his curse he feels like he shouldn’t bother thinking about the future or making friends. Despite him not wanting to make friends, he still does have some pretty great people in his life who do call him a friend and that was so lovely to see.

Jaya was someone who I initially wasn’t particularly fond of, she was condescending and judgemental towards anyone who had a different opinion to her when it came to her conservative view of how a young woman should behave or be allowed to do. She doesn’t approve of her sister wanting to study mechanics because it isn’t something appropriate for a princess. She does however have such a wonderful character arc that made me end up really rooting for her and really loving her. We learn that there’s more to her than we initially see.

The rest of the characters we meet, Grey’s friends and Jaya’s sister and even the “popular couple” have more depth to them than we initially think they would. Their friends are wonderful and I loved seeing that there was a great group of friends who were supportive and accepted each other for who they were. I also loved seeing Jaya’s relationship with her sister and how they are always there for each other and how much Jaya tries to protect and keep her sister safe.

I also loved seeing Indian culture incorporated into the story and how it’s an important part of Jaya’s life but also how some parts of the culture have certain expectations for women and expect women to stay in their place and how Jaya learns to deal with that inner battle of being who she is expected to be by her parents and society but also being true to herself. It also touches on the British Empire and colonialism and how the effects of that still affect people living in India today.

This whole story and the slow burn romance had me feeling all happy and gooey inside and I just loved this book so much. I saw a brown girl be the book nerd princess and my inner child just loved it so much! I really loved how the ending showed how much they have grown together and because of each other. And I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in this series.

Diverse Books, YA Books

The Chosen by Taran Marathu – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodder Children’s Books and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Having loved the Summoner books by Taran Matharu I was so excited when he announced his new series The Contender especially as it was set in a world with dinosaurs! And this book did not disappoint!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Throughout history, people have vanished with no explanation. A group of teenagers are about to discover why.
Cade is settling into a new boarding school, contemplating his future, when he finds himself transported to another realm. He soon discovers their new world is populated with lost remnants from the past: prehistoric creatures, ancient relics, and stranger still — people. Overwhelmed by his new surroundings, Cade has little time to adjust, for soon he and his fellow classmates are forced to become contenders in a brutal game, controlled by mysterious overlords.
But who are these beings and why did they choose these teens? Cade must prepare for battle . . . because hiding is not an option.

The Chosen opens with Cade already in this alternate world faced with a creature he’s never seen before so right from the beginning we’re thrown into the action. I really liked that as it made me even more intrigued about the story and how Cade ended up there.

We get the backstory of Cade and his classmates throughout the book through Cade so we slowly get an idea of why the characters behave the way they do with each other. It was interesting to see the dynamics between them all and how they had to try and get a long because of the situation they were in. They have conflicts and don’t always agree on things but I wish we had gotten to see more of that in the story.

The story is fast paced and lots happen throughout the book. They have to face dinosaurs and lots of other creatures. I really loved how immersive it was and how he weaved real history and fiction together, the history nerd in me totally loved all mentions of historical facts! The history is actually an important aspect of the story too and one of the reasons that Cade is chosen to be taken to this world.

I really liked Cade and how he thinks before taking action, it’s unusual for a teenage boy to think before he barrels into things so that was nice to see. I really liked seeing the own voices rep as Cade is half Indian and how his culture and family dynamics are. We also see the racism and discrimination he receives from some of the other boys because of it. He is looked down upon because of his lower social class and everyone assumes he is guilt because of how he looks and that he isn’t rich. I liked that he does battle with these emotions and how it makes him feel despite being a top student his opportunities are taken from him. I really hope we get to see more own voices rep in books.

Another character I really liked was Quintus, who Cade meets in this world, he helps Cade and the others and even teaches them how to use some weapons. He has hearing difficulties and we see how he is unable to communicate with others and how that makes him feel isolated and lonely. Cade also meets a group of teenage girls while on this world and they also help him and I loved seeing them flip stereotypes that girls aren’t as capable as boys.

Throughout the whole story we are left to wonder why Cade and the others have been sent to this world. There is a lot of intrigue and mystery and it made me want to read just one more chapter. The ending of the book was so intense and kept me on the edge of my feet. They have to face these terrifying creatures and there are some things that happen that I was not expecting at all which left me reeling. We only get an idea of why Cade has been sent to this world right at the end which of course is then left on a cliffhanger and I just want to know what will happen next!

This book is full of action and intrigue and unlike any other book I’ve read. If you love dinosaurs and history then I highly recommend you pick up The Chosen! I am already dying to know what will happen in the next book!