contemporary romance

REVIEW: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Best friends Charlie, Taylor and Jamie are heading to SupaCon! Charlie is a blogger and actress promoting her first film at SupaCon and it’s her chance to show the fans she’s completely over her breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When she meets super famous online personality Alyssa, Charlie begins to think her long-time crush isn’t as one sided as she thought. Taylor’s more reserved than Charlie. Her brain is wired differently making social situations often terrifying and a fear of change makes her constantly re-evaluate what she wants from her best guy friend Jamie. But when she enters a fan contest to meet her favourite author, Taylor begins to rethink her lifelong goal of always playing it safe.

Queens of Geek is a super quick read, I flew through it. It’s all set during one weekend at a fan convention called SupaCon so there are a lot of geeky references to comics, cosplay and fandom in general. It’s kind of a love letter to fandom, and how people can find safety and comfort in fandom and the TV shows/films/books that people can bond over. It’s a nice looking into the world of comic cons and how they can be very overwhelming but also be a place to meet likeminded people and make new friends.

The story is told in alternate perspectives, Taylor and Charlie’s. Taylor has anxiety and Asperger’s and it’s insightful hearing her explain how she feels in certain situations and about life in general. She’s almost constantly struggling but still loves her friends and her fandom. Taylor is bisexual and has had a past relationship with a boy and during her time at SupaCon gets to know Alyssa. Their romance is really sweet and they both talk about how their past relationships have affected them and what they’re looking for going forward.

The amount of communication between Taylor, Jamie, Charlie, and Alyssa (and all combinations of thereof) was extraordinary. Any misunderstandings are more likely to last a couple of paragraphs than a couple of chapters. It’s both great to see a solid group of friends or a potential love interest be so open about their thoughts, feelings and fears with one another, but also a bit disconcerting as it’s something that is (unfortunately) so unusual in fiction, and often in real life as well. So often one character gave an encouraging speech to another character that it felt unrealistic.

Queens of Geek is definitely a character driven book. There’s not really any plot twists or big moments, instead it highlights various important diverse topics like sexuality, mental health, body image and unhealthy relationships. All these topics are handled well but the story sometimes felt like it had been put on the backburner in order for a character to say their piece about a certain topic.

Queens of Geek is a cute, quick read with some great characters who really support one another. Jamie, Charlie and Taylor have a solid friendship and each of their personalities shines through. However, it’s not a memorable read for me as it felt like it was trying so often to tick as many important, diversity boxes as possible that it didn’t end up grounded in reality. 3/5.

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READ THE WORLD – Singapore: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend Nicholas Young, she has no idea what she’s going to face. She’s looking forward to spending time with Nick’s family until she’s faced with private jets, expensive cars and luxury mansions. Rachel is thrown into a world of extravagance and dynastic superiority and nothing could prepare her for Eleanor – Nick’s formidable mother with very strong feelings about who’s the right, or wrong, girl for her son.

Crazy Rich Asians is a lot of fun. It’s over the top and ridiculous a lot of the time but the way it’s written pulls you into these characters lives and their antics. While Rachel and Nick and their relationship is at the heart of this story, you meet a lot of other characters and each chapter is from a different character’s perspective. This makes it interesting as you have Rachel, who’s American born Chinese and while she has a good education and career, is not used to the lavish lifestyle and the way all these people who have grown up in and live in Singapore think about money. It gives you both the outsider and the insider perspective.

I really sympathised with Rachel a lot. While Nick is lovely he’s also very naïve about the wealth he comes from and does nothing to forewarn Rachel about what the world he grew up in is like or talk to his parents about how serious he is about her. Rachel’s left floundering for a lot of the story as she must contend with spiteful and jealous people, mostly women, who believe she’s just after Nick’s fortune.

A lot of the other characters, on the other hand, are unlikable. They’re rude, thoughtless and self-serving but that’s what everyone is like in this upper-class society is painted as. It was heard to connect with a lot of them because so many of them were nasty but were apparently being that way for the sake of the family. Eleanor especially was an interesting yet seemingly heartless woman.

Crazy Rich Asians does have a lot to say on class, immigrants, different types of Asians – those who are from mainland China, those who were educated in England or Australia, and those who have stayed in Singapore for most of their lives. Characters all have different relationships with money and many of them are so far removed from the “real world” that their outbursts over having the right designers or private jet is often unbelievable.

The ending of Crazy Rich Asians does seem a bit rushed, especially after a good portion of the book was building up to one moment. However, it is the first book in a trilogy so perhaps the messy ending is made a bit neater in the sequel. A sequel I’m not sure if I’m desperate to read, as a lot of these characters were just not relatable or even nice people – I don’t think I can survive in their world for long periods of time. 3/5.

REVIEW: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah has everything figured out. She’s on her way to study computing and coding at Stanford and has no interest in her mother’s attempts to find her the “Ideal Indian Husband.” When the opportunity to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers arises, her family must know what her principles and goals are really… right? Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when he hears from his parents that his potential future wife will be heading to the same summer program as he is – he’s totally on board. But when the two of them end up meeting, it doesn’t go the way either of them thought possible.

One of the things I was worried about going into this book, was that Dimple and Rishi wouldn’t be on equal footing because he knew something she didn’t and there was the risk for it to become a bit creepy and manipulative. I’m so happy that wasn’t the case. The first time they meet, right at the very beginning of the book, Dimple learns what’s been going on, so they are on the same page from pretty much the outset. This allowed their potential relationship to develop on their own terms, spending time with one another as friends (or more than friends) and actually getting to know each other in an organic way.

Dimple is a great character. She’s headstrong, focused and smart, though she can appear to be a bit selfish but that’s mostly down to her belief that she can’t have it all – that it’s impossible to have both a successful career and a fulfilling and loving relationship. Rishi on the other hand, is so soppy and romantic, wanting to please his parents and being a huge follower of tradition, that it’s almost a surprise when he shows some backbone. I think that’s the interesting thing about Rishi, he grew on me as the book progressed. He’s not just someone looking for love, he’s caring, smart and protective. Dimple and Rishi look like opposites on paper, but their personalities end up complimenting each other.

Dimple’s friendship with her roommate Celia is wonderful. They are a friendship of today, meeting on the internet and arranging to room together before they’ve even met face to face! There’s a quote that I absolutely loved that came from a conversation between Dimple and Celia; “But I still want to be your friend. I think we should still stick together and be each other’s moral support. But maybe it’s okay if we’re not friends with each other’s friends.” I thought it was brilliant because it’s true. You can be friends with someone but not really be friends with their friends, and it’s quite a mature way of looking at relationships and recognising their differences.

When Dimple Met Rishi is a sweet, delightful story. It’s a bit predictable in the romance but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It’s a rom-com in book form and it embraces all the usual clichés that come with that. That being said, the characters and their relationships are wonderful and you fully root for them by the end of it. When Dimple Met Rishi is a fun quick-read, but it probably won’t be that much of a memorable one for me. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

When Andie’s dad is caught up in a political scandal, all her summer plans are thrown into chaos. No more summer internship, instead she finds herself with a summer job as a dog walker. She’s not used to not having everything planned out but having everything be unexpected for once could mean a chance for love and new experiences.

The Unexpected Everything is a delightful book. At over 500 pages I was worried it would take me a while to read but in the end, I read it in just one day. I got pulled in by Andie’s story and all her friends, and by the fact there was so many dogs. Honestly if you like dogs, this book is for you as its not only the characters that are interesting and a lot of fun but the many dogs Andie ends up walking are too.

Andie is the kind of character that normally would rub me up the wrong way as she’s often quite selfish and likes everyone and everything to fit in her own plans, but much of the story is about her growing as a person and seeing how she is seen by other people. Andie doesn’t like letting people get close to her or even tell people she’s in a relationship with anything of real substance about herself – this all comes to ahead when she meets Clark. The romance between Andie and dog owner Clark is sweet and has your usual lack of communication confusion but the story has a lot of charm and Andie and Clark both have their flaws and still compliment each other that I was rooting for them.

I really liked Andie’s friendship group, their summer adventures and how The Unexpected Everything showed that some relationships can be quite overwhelming and we all need are space from those we care about. I also really liked how Andie’s relationship with her dad was so believable, they’d not had anything to do with each other for so long so suddenly being around each other led to an interesting dynamic.

The Unexpected Everything is the perfect summer read. It’s fun, has moments of humour and lots of characters you want to be happy. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Doris Day Vintage Film Club by Fiona Harper

FullSizeRender (9)Thanks to her grandmother, Claire Bixby grew up watching Doris Day films and fell in love with the world on the screen – the sunny, colourful world where happy endings always happen. But Claire’s been lacking any romance in her life for quite a while. That is until Nic comes into her travel agency looking to book the perfect holiday. Pity it’s for two! But as Nic and Claire get closer and the sparks start to fly, Claire begins to question everything Doris taught her about romance.

Claire’s a pretty relatable character and even though she still believes in happily ever after’s, she’s not naïve and she’s willing to work for what she wants. Nic is a bit frustrating at times. It’s been ages since I’ve read a romance novel where it’s the man who is the source of the miscommunication and keeps digging himself a hole. So often it’s the woman who keeps making mistakes but this time it’s Nic that doesn’t seem to know when to stop talking.

The Doris Day Vintage Film Club is a sweet read with some lovely friendships between women. Really it’s these friendships that are the highlight of the book. Those who attend the Doris Day Vintage Film Club are all ages and from all backgrounds so you wouldn’t normally expect to see them together. It’s nice to see women become friends over a mutual passion and who like to help each other out.

The Doris Day Vintage Film Club is a nice story. There’s nothing too memorable about it but it’s still a sweet read with nice characters and it manages to not be too predictable. And if one thing is for certain, The Doris Day Vintage Film Club has made me want to watch Doris Day’s filmography. 3/5.

REVIEW: When We Collided by Emery Lord

FullSizeRender (7)Seventeen-year-old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, all his life, and the only thing that changed was his father is no longer alive. Along with his two older siblings he must now take responsibility for his family. Enter new girl Vivi, the next big change in his life. Vivi loves life, she’s gorgeous and funny and she transform’s Jonah’s family and changes his life. But there are always consequences when worlds collide.

When We Collided is a fast-paced contemporary YA novel with some larger than life characters. Vivi fills up every moment with as much fun as she can give it. She loves with all her heart and immediately feels a connection to Jonah and his family. Jonah is quieter as he has to look after his younger siblings as well as hiding the fact that his mother isn’t really coping with her husband’s death. Jonah’s family feels like a very real and relatable family, they are all dealing with grief in different ways and sometimes they clash over it but that doesn’t mean they love each other any less.

The main problem I had with When We Collided was with Vivi. She was almost obnoxiously happy and it was really grating and annoying to read. She would want to do crazy thing with Jonah and his family and didn’t always seem to grasp that he has a lot more responsibilities than her and while he obviously needed time to himself or to have fun sometimes, she seemed to want him to be as happy as she was. As the story progresses you find why Vivi is that way and while I did have some sympathy for her I didn’t find myself empathising with her.

So because I wasn’t a fan of Vivi, I didn’t really like her and Jonah’s romance. It felt very rushed and was almost all-consuming for both of them. They clearly both have problems and aren’t 100% themselves so while they do help each other to extent, they are really not right for each other in that moment. Vivi is frequently controlling and jealous and while Jonah has his moments of suggesting how Vivi should act, he instantly gives in to Vivi’s wishes all the time.

The setting of When We Collided is pretty great as Verona Cove is a beautiful seaside town so there’s long walks on the beach, a lot of sun and beach parties. The town is almost a secondary character and so is food. Seriously there’s a lot of talk of food in When We Collided, mainly because Jonah wants to be a chef and works at his dad’s restaurant and the way food is described is almost mouth-watering.

When We Collided has the perfect summer setting and at its heart has broken characters that may help each other but somethings aren’t so easy to fix. It’s a nice book, a quick read but not that memorable. 3/5.

REVIEW: #scandal by Sarah Ockler

FullSizeRender (69)Lucy has liked Cole ever since she first met him but unfortunately she never said anything and he’s been dating her best friend Ellie for years. On Prom night, Ellie is sick so Lucy says she’ll do the BFF thing and go with Cole. Things unravel when at the after party she and Cole kiss and the picture ends up on her Facebook. And not just that picture, but loads of pictures from that night of her classmates doing stupid things, being drunk, kissing people they shouldn’t end up on her Facebook. Lucy has no idea how it happened but now her best friend hates her and she’s public enemy number one at school.

#scandal is a great look at how we and especially young people use social media, it also looks at bulling and the different kinds of bullying and how it affects people even when they try their hardest not to let it. I did love the bit with the principal talked about how on her Facebook everyone’s constantly posting photos and videos of their babies and children doing things – I can certainly relate to that.

Lucy is a bit of a frustrating character as she doesn’t seem to realise the gravity of the situation that someone has put her in. Also she doesn’t trust easily (something which I can understand) but when the vast majority of the school population hates you and there’s just a few people who are standing by you then you’ve got to have a little faith in them.

The relationship between Cole, Ellie and Lucy is frustrating at times because while Lucy has a lot of problems going on due to the photos on Facebook, the drama between her, her best friend and her best friend’s boyfriend could have been sorted out so quick and easily if they’d just communicate. Each of them had the moments where they could tell the truth and explain how they felt but they all kept messing it up. Miscommunication is one of my biggest pet peeves in novels and in life.

#scandal is a very fast-paced and quick read that’s got a fair few surprises (some I figured out and some I didn’t). There’s humour, romance, drama, some relatable characters and some annoying ones and it’s a very typical high school book with all the tropes you’d expect but they’re not boring. 4/5.