book review

BLOG TOUR: Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Adib Khorram (August 28, 2018)

I let Dad hold me, like that tiny potato-sack version of myself, sleeping on his chest when I was a baby.

“You’re okay,” he murmured.

“No. I’m not.”

“I know.” He rubbed my back up and down. “It’s okay not to be okay.”

This book has been on the top of my TBR for months. So when Penguin Teen contacted me about being a part of the official blog, I jumped at the chance. DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY has everything: a diverse main character, an accurate description and portrayal of mental illness, and realistic family dynamics.


The 411: The son of a Persian woman and a Caucasian man, Darius has never felt like he belonged. He doesn’t speak Farsi. He’s not athletic or fit enough to please his seemingly alpha-male father. The only thing he appears to have in common with him is their daily ritual of taking their medication for depression. Darius would rather master the perfect pot of tea than be the captain of the football team and because of this, he feels even more isolated from his family, his school, and his community.  When his maternal grandfather’s health begins to decline, Darius’ family makes the  trip to Iran to visit before he passes. It’s there where he meets, Sohrab, the teenage neighbor to his grandparents. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.


DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY tackles a bunch of big issues: the stigma of mental illness, racism, fatphobia, sexual identity…and they’re all covered with a subtlety that feels perfected over the years vs. a debut novel. Sometimes books need to hit you over the head with the message and sometimes the strength of the moral is in the quiet. And that’s where DARIUS lives.

Darius’ struggle with the feeling of not belonging felt overwhelmingly real and personal. I am not biracial, but an international adoptee who grew up in a largely white area and has often felt the sting of not belonging or being in between. Sohrab and Darius’ friendship melted my little heart. I loved seeing Darius feel a part of something for the first time. A place where he intrinsically fit in just because of the person he is. I hope everyone finds their Sohrab. And I hope that everyone has their moment when they are Darioush to someone.

DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY is such a feel-good novel that I have a feeling will touch hearts everywhere. I’m incredibly excited to see where Khorram goes from here. We need more Dariuses in our lives.


Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he’s not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100 yard Freestyle (SCY) under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri. This is his first novel.

Thank you Penguin Teen for my copy of DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY and the bag of Earl Grey Tea—it was the perfect accompaniment to this heartwarming novel.

MOVIE + BOOK REVIEW: To All the Boys I Loved Before, Jenny Han

It’s been a while, friends. Work is busier than ever and my free time is now mostly spent catching up on my z’s and conquering my towering stacks of unread books. But last Friday (after a 12 hr workday), I knew I had to do something else before I turned in for the night: watch the TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE movie on Netflix.

And it was so perfect, I really have no complaints at all.

I’m super late to the party and only read the trilogy within the past year—but I loved it immediately. An Asian protagonist, love triangles galore, healthy family dynamics…what is there not to love?

A little 411 for those out of the loop: TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE centers on Lara Jean Covey, a teen who writes secret love letters to her crushes but doesn’t send them. Until they mysteriously get sent. Among the recipients include the boy-next-door, Josh, who also happens to be her sister’s boyfriend and Peter Kavinsky, the most popular guy in school.

Ok. So I am a complete sucker for the “childhood friends to lovers” trope. I will read and watch  everything and anything that includes this plot line. When it comes to love triangles, I rarely side with the wildcard or bad boy/girl. I am almost always exclusively on Team Good Girl/Guy or Team Best Friend. (See my love for Dawson Leery and Jem Carstairs) And I will admit to starting this series completely on Team Josh. Even midway through the first book I was still firmly Team Josh. But then something wonderfully unexpected happened to make me switch sides. And that wonderful thing is Peter Kavinsky.

Oh Peter. Peter K. P. Kavinsky. You perfect human being.

I love me some angst and heartache so book two and three both made me cry. And Netflix, if you don’t pick up the rest of the series, I will storm your headquarters…or write some very impassioned tweets. Ok, maybe I’ll just shake my fists.

<—— LOOK AT THOSE CUTIES. I NEED THEIR ENTIRE LOVE STORY, PLEASE.

Minor spoilers below for the movie 🙂

But this film? Five sugary sweet stars. Lana Condor. Your career better blow up after this. She is the absolute perfect Lara Jean and was so damn endearing the entire film. In fact, all of the casting in this movie was SPOT. ON. I loved Kitty. I loved Margot. I loved that John Corbett was the dad. And, of course, Noah Centineo as Peter K made my entire year.

As is typical of most book to movie adaptations, it doesn’t precisely follow the narrative but does a pretty damn good job. The most striking difference to me, was the almost complete elimination of love triangle element—but it didn’t bother me a bit. And I LOVE love triangles.

I’m going to jump on the bandwagon with all the Asian Americans who are teary over the representation. One of my favorite new authors, Akemi Dawn Bowman, said this on Twitter recently about POC’s in lit: “They deserve a chance to learn, ON THE PAGE, that they are worthy of being the love interest. That being a person of color does not make them less desirable or beautiful or WHOLE than the people who get to be love interests over and over and over again.” And I felt this down to my core.

Jenny Han, thank you for not letting production companies whitewash Lara Jean and the Song sisters. Thank you for showing the industry that a young, Asian woman can be the focus of a successful film. Seeing this movie as a teenager would’ve meant the world to me—and it still means a lot at 28. Along with the recent release of CRAZY RICH ASIANS, I hope this trend only continues an upward trend.

If you haven’t read these books, they are super quick, adorable reads that will warm your heart. If you have access to Netflix, start streaming/downloading now. I’ve watched the movie three times now and my heart is so full.

REVIEW: The War Outside, Monica Hesse (September 25, 2018)

One of my bookish goals for 2018 was to read more historical fiction—a genre I typically do not pick up. And while 12 of my 272 books read have been historical fiction, I’ve generally been in a state of meh about them. When I read the premise for THE WAR OUTSIDE, I was about 75 percent sure I would enjoy it. I did not think it would knock me off my feet with its lyrical brilliance, vivid storyline, and heart wrenching ending.

Let’s just say, if all historical fiction was like this book, it’d be my most-read genre.


The 411: Welcome to Crystal City, Texas, where supposed “enemies” of the U.S. government are kept in an isolated commune. This particular internment camp houses both German and Japanese families—the only one of its kind. And our two protagonists come from both sides:

For 17-year-old Haruko, arrival in Crystal City is the chance to reunite her mother and sister with her father, who was placed there after being accused suspicious activity at work. German-American Margot and her family originally settled in Iowa (holla!) but were sent to Texas after her father attends a meeting for the American Nazi party, seemingly under completely innocent motives. These two would have no reason to interact, let alone get along. Despite the immense odds and the war outside, Margot and Haruko form an inseparable bond that changes the course of their lives.


The setting is World War II, but this story felt entirely too real. You can’t help but make connections with today’s current political climate. I apologize if this feels too partisan, but there a few things that really stuck out to me:

(Note, these quotations come from an uncorrected proof and may be changed for publication.)

In regards to immigration, this quote in particular broke my heart:

“We decided we would come here and we would learn how many original colonies there were, and who wrote the Declaration of Independence. And for what? So they could decide we would never be American enough for them, and put us in here?”

After the 2016 election, John Oliver begged on his show, Last Week Tonight, to keep reminding ourselves that “this is not normal.” Because for those of us who are not currently or have the potential to be affected by this administration, it would be very easy to stop caring. If you haven’t watched that episode, it’s brilliant and I highly recommend, and this quote from Ken, Haruko’s brother, made me think of his words immediately,

“I don’t want you to ever forget where you are. You are a prisoner here. I don’t care if you have a new friend, or if there’s a school newspaper, of if there are books in the library, or if there are community picnics. Or if there’s a football team everyone comes out to cheer for. At the end of the day you’re a prisoner in the only way that matters. If our family wanted to leave they wouldn’t let you.”

Now let’s get to the friendship between Haruko and Margot: it’s beautiful. Their friendship is deep, transcends cultural barriers, and does not define their relationship along platonic or romantic lines. I know that this kind of storytelling is infuriating for some, but I always enjoy it when a writer lets a bond speak for itself without definition. My personal interpretation is that their relationship had romantic undertones in the small (and big) ways they defended each other, talked about the other, and in those rare little confessions of how they were feeling.

I wish I could speak about the ending because it also made my poor little heart burst. It didn’t so much as make my jaw drop, but restore some of my faith in the human race. I’m very picky with my five star ratings and just can’t do it for this one but it’s so dang close. Literally like a 4.95.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰.95
RECOMMENDED READING: The Bear & the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden


Thank you to The Novl/LBYR for my galley, which I received as part of the Novl Book Squad in exchange for an honest review. THE WAR OUTSIDE is available September 25, 2018.

BLOG TOUR: All Your Perfects, Colleen Hoover (July 17, 2018)

“Sometimes when people change, it’s not always noticeable in a marriage, because the couple changes together, in the same direction. But sometimes people change in opposite directions.”

Every once in a while we all need one of those rip-your-heart-out-cry-through-a-whole-box-of-tissues kind of book and Colleen Hoover’s yearly releases always provide this for me. Even though it was very different from her previous works, I highly enjoyed WITHOUT MERIT—but if you prefer the heartwrenching romance aspect of CoHo’s work…she’s back in full force with her newest release.

And DEAR LORD keep a box of tissues close and well-stocked because you’re going to need it.

 


“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”

The 411: Quinn and Graham have a perfect love story, but their unique connection is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart, day by heartbreaking day. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair. So do they risk it? Is their history worth saving?

ALL YOUR PERFECTS is a profound novel about a damaged couple struggling with a relatable issue – infertility – whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. In Colleen Hoover’s inimitable style and brilliant narrative voice, this heartbreaking page-turner asks: Can a resounding love with a fairytale beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?


For as much as I read, I haven’t read a lot of books about infertility, and this book was certainly a deep dive into the pain couples go through when they’re struggling to get pregnant. The book is from Quinn’s POV and the sorrow and pain she feels is palpable. There were many parts where I was physically hurting from A) how much I was crying and B) simply by empathizing with her character.

We alternate between present day Quinn and Graham and when they first met. The difference is so striking and really a testament of how quickly something like infertility can derail a marriage. As per typical CoHo, Graham is a complete dreamboat and gives some magnanimous speeches that had my poor little heart fluttering. The climax of the book is a scene so incredibly heartbreaking and, ultimately, uplifting that I’m convinced no one else could have pulled this book off other than Colleen.

I have loved every single one of Colleen Hoover’s books and there hasn’t yet been one that didn’t make me cry uncontrollably. I like that her books aren’t just sex, sex, sex (not my cup of tea), and they always have intense stories and a conflict that tackles an important subject.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰✰
RECOMMENDED READING: Colleen Hoover’s entire catalog (obvi), but also Lauren Layne, and Christina Lauren.

Thank you Atria Books for including me on this tour and for my galley.


COLLEEN HOOVER is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Slammed, Point of Retreat, This Girl, Hopeless, Losing Hope, Finding Cinderella, Maybe Someday, Maybe Not, Ugly Love, Confess, November 9, It Ends with Us, and Without Merit. Colleen has won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance three times—for Confess in 2015, It Ends with Us in 2016, and Without Merit in 2017. Confess was adapted into a seven-episode online series. In 2015, Colleen and her family founded The Bookworm Box, a bookstore and monthly subscription service offering signed novels donated by authors. All profits are given to various charities each month to help those in need. Colleen lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Visit ColleenHoover.com.


Colleen will be hitting the road on the ALL YOUR PERFECTS tour! See below for all the dates, and hopefully see some of you at the Minneapolis stop!

  • 07/17: Denver, CO, 7:00 PM | TATTERED COVER BOOKSTORE | Tickets
  • 07/23: Portland, OR, 7:00 PM | POWELL’S BOOKS | Call store for details: 503-228-4651 or pre-order
  • 07/24: Seattle, WA, 7:00 PM | THIRD PLACE BOOKS | Tickets
  • 07/25: San Francisco, CA, 7:00 PM | BOOK PASSAGE | Tickets
  • 07/26: San Diego, CA, 7:30 PM | WARWICK’S | Tickets
  • 07/27: Phoenix, AZ, 7:00 PM | CHANGING HANDS BOOKSTORE | Tickets
  • 07/28: Los Angeles, CA, 4:00 PM | THE RIPPED BODICE | Tickets
  • 07/29: Dallas, TX, 6:00 PM | HALF PRICE BOOKS | Information
  • 08/02: Atlanta, GA, 7:00 PM | EAGLE EYE BOOKS | Tickets
  • 08/03: Asheville, NC, 6:00 PM | MALAPROP’S BOOKSTORE/CAFE | Tickets
  • 08/04: Cincinnati, OH, 5:00 PM | JOSEPH-BETH BOOKSELLERS | Tickets 
  • 08/05: Chicago, IL, 3:00 PM | ANDERSON’S BOOKSHOP | Tickets
  • 08/06: Detroit, MI, 6:30 PM | SCHULER BOOKS & MUSIC, Okemos | Tickets
  • 08/07: Minneapolis, MN, 7:00 PM | BARNES AND NOBLE/Edina | Call for more details: 952-920-2124
  • 08/08: Kansas City, KS, 7:00 PM | RAINY DAY BOOKS | Tickets
  • 08/09: Austin, TX, 7:00 PM | BOOK PEOPLE | Tickets
  • 09/17: New York, NY, 7:00 PM | THE STRAND BOOKSTORE | Tickets

BLOG TOUR: The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager (July 3, 2018)

the last time i lied blog tour | fantastic flying book club

“Everything is a game, Em. Whether you know it or not. Which means that sometimes a lie is more than just a lie. Sometimes it’s the only way to win.”

Riley Sager is becoming one of my favorite thriller novelists. Last year, I absolutely devoured his debut thriller, FINAL GIRLS, and when I saw he was coming out with a new novel, I knew I had to get my hands on it—which makes me even more excited to be included on the blog tour for THE LAST TIME I LIED. Folks, I loved FINAL GIRLS, but I thiiiiiink I might have loved this even more.

Read on for a spoiler-free review AND a giveaway below.


“Two truths and lie, ladies. I’ll start.” 

The 411:  At 13, Emma Davis is sent to Camp Nightingale aka Camp Rich Bitch for the summer. She’s assigned to the Dogwood cabin and is taken in by her cabin-mates, Natalie, Allison, and most importantly, Queen Bee Vivian Hawthorne. Vivian’s favorite game is “two truths and lie” and over the course of the summer, the girls use it to gang up and humiliate each other. The games end, however, when the other three girls go missing one night. As the last person to see the girls, Emma accuses the camp director’s son, Theo, as the culprit.

Fast-forward 15 years and Emma is a hot up-and-comer on the NYC art scene, where she creates lush paintings of forests, (and unknowingly to everyone else) hides three girls in flowy, white dresses. At an art show, Emma is approached by Franny Harris-White, the former director of Camp Nightingale, with the news that she is reopening the camp and wants Emma to return as staff.

Emma returns to Camp Nightingale in the hopes of finally uncovering what happened to her friends, and to face the Harris-White family, who she tore apart with her accusation.


Ok, friends. There were so many swerves in this book that my motion sickness-prone ass was metaphorically spinning by the end. And let me clarify, these were all the good kind of swerves. Here’s the mandatory disclaimer that I am horrible at figuring out twists in books—so it’s no surprise that the ending threw me for a hell of a loop. But it’s an ending that makes sense and is completely satisfying.

Now, the Unreliable Female Narrator is a super common plot line these days and while I do enjoy this trope, I am seriously tired of the is-she-or-isn’t-she-going-“insane” trope. And honestly, I was a little worried that’s where this book was heading at first. Mental illness is involved, but is maaaaaybe mentioned 10 sentences at most. It’s also not often where I enjoy books without some kind of romantic aspect. I don’t need a relaysh to root for, but it definitely helps me feel more invested.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰1/2
RECOMMENDED READING: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier, Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

Also, this book is a July pick for Book for the Month club! If you have a subscription, you should definitely add this to your box and if you don’t—you can grab one here.


BUY LINKS
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | IndieBound | iBooks 


GIVEAWAY

If you’re still here, I’m going to assume you’re here for the freebie (I’m not cocky enough to assume you’ve kept scrolling for my incomparable wit). Dutton is being amazing and offering up 20 hardcovers of THE LAST TIME I LIED for all the blogs on the tour. To get your own copy of the summer’s hottest thriller, here’s what you need to do:

US/Canada only. Winners can only be chosen once per tour (so if you win on another blog, you’ll be disqualified).


Thank you so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me on the tour and to Dutton for my galley. Check out all the other stops on the blog tour here.

Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag

I’m doing this popular tag via blog because no one and I mean no one wants to watch me on YouTube. So really, I’m saving you from having to gouge out your eyes. You’re welcome. 🙂

Thank you the original creators:
IsThatChami: https://www.youtube.com/user/ReadLikeWildfire
ElyJayne: https://www.youtube.com/user/MidnightBluex

— THE QUESTIONS —

Best book you’ve read so far in 2018:
Picture Us in the Light, Kelly Loy Gilbert


Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2018:
Wildcard, Marie Lu (review in the works!)


New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang

I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this book and I can’t wait to dive in.


Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:
Queen of Air and Darkness, Cassandra Clare

The ending to LORD OF SHADOWS nearly killed me and I love this trilogy so much. Please don’t kill my Julian, Cassie.


Biggest disappointment:
Our Kind of Cruelty, Araminta Hall


Biggest surprise:
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah


Favorite new author (Debut or new to you):
Helen Hoang (The Kiss Quotient)


Newest fictional crush:
Thomas Cresswell, Stalking Jack the Ripper Series by Kerri Maniscalco

  <— I mean…*heart eyes* (credit: Phantom Rin)


Newest favorite character:
Helene Aquilla, An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

I admit that I highly disliked her in the first book because she was an obstacle to my Elias-Laia ship, but now I love her for being a bad-ass Bloodshrike, loving her family so much, and I’m really happy she’s taken on a larger role in these books. Also note to Sabaa, please don’t kill her.


Book that made you cry:
All Your Perfects, Colleen Hoover (REVIEW IN THE WORKS!)


Book that made you happy:
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, Ashley Herring Blake


Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received):
The Way You Make Me Feel, Maurene Goo

Look at the beautiful pinkness AND the beautiful Asian girl on the cover?!


What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
The Darkest Minds series, Alexandra Bracken

(or at least before the movie comes out)


Favorite Book Community Member:
Book Riot staff + contributors

I’m cheating a little (and I’m a little biased), but this group of people is fantastic. I love working with all you and thank you for keeping me sane on Slack all day.