About Jaclyn

I'm a total bookaholic! Fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, YA, science fiction, I read practically anything and everything. I also love talking about books, and chatting about books with people who love them as much as I do!

Review | 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, Sandhya Menon

10ThingsIHateAboutPinkyI’m a huge fan of Sandhya Menon’s contemporary YA romances. When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something About Sweetie are both sweet, frothy, utterly feel-good romances that also tackle issues around family relationships. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky reads a bit younger than the earlier novels, but otherwise fits right into that mold.

Pinky Kumar is a proud activist who resents that her mom views her only as a trouble-maker. When her family visits their beach house for the summer, Pinky finds herself unfavourably compared to her ‘perfect’ cousin Dolly, and unfairly accused of mischief she didn’t commit.

Enter Samir, a friend of Pinky’s friend Ashish (from There’s Something About Sweetie). Samir is everything Pinky’s parents want her to be — an aspiring lawyer who lives his life by the rules, plans out his daily schedule, and writes out lists for everything. When Samir’s summer internship falls through, Pinky invites him over to be her fake boyfriend. In exchange, Samir gets the opportunity to impress Pinky’s mom, a high-powered corporate attorney, and possibly gain himself an internship at the mom’s firm for the fall. Samir and Pinky are polar opposites personality-wise, but as they get to know each other better, sparks fly, and lots and lots of tender, fluffy, adorable feelings develop.

I love how Pinky and Samir’s relationship helps them both grow and confront their own personal shortcomings. For example, even though a lot of Pinky’s activism is for good causes, Samir rightly points out that she tends to present them to her parents in a very combative way, and that she doesn’t bother to tell them about all the thought and preparation she puts in before making a decision to take up a cause. Pinky’s parents therefore see her as a troublemaker not just because of their own biases about some of her choices, but also because Pinky herself seems to like presenting that persona. On the flip side, Pinky prompts Samir to question why list-making is so important to him, and how much his mom’s cancer journey has affected his approach to life.

Samir is a sweet hero, a classic Sandhya Menon cinnamon roll type who is oh-so-easy to fall in love with. He has his flaws as well, and I like how his relationship with Pinky forces him to examine why list-making is so important to him. I also love the background information about his mom, and how her cancer journey affected their relationship. I do wish Samir’s relationship with his mom was explored more — at the start of the book, Pinky called his mom overprotective, but we didn’t really get to see any of that develop later on. Samir makes a big life decision at the end of the book that he talks to his mom about, but that conversation takes place off-screen, and so I wish we’d seen a bit more of that relationship on the page.

And Pinky is a wonderfully complex, complicated heroine. I love that a lot of her activism in the novel is around animal welfare (a cause I personally care about), and I especially love that her activism is less about ‘doing the right thing’, and more about caring for particular persons/creatures. In one of my favourite plot threads, Pinky rescues a possum on the road whom she calls Drama Queen (DQ for short). DQ has an unfortunate tendency to play dead at the slightest hint of a threat, and Pinky worries this will make her vulnerable to predators. I love that despite the impulsiveness of the initial rescue, Pinky does due diligence in researching possum care, to give DQ the best care possible.

Later on, Pinky’s big cause is the butterfly habitat in the town, which is scheduled to be demolished to make space for a condo. I love that Pinky’s reason for fighting for the habitat is that she and her family have had lots of good memories there, and she wants to preserve those memories because of the contentious relationship she now has with her parents.

I also like that Pinky joins the protest already being organized by the town residents, rather than starting her own. Because her family visits the area only in the summer, I couldn’t help feeling that the town residents have more at stake than she does with the butterfly habitat issue. I’ve read YA books where teens from wealthy families save  a town while the year-round residents are mostly passive, so I love that Menon centres a town resident (a Black lesbian) as the leader of the protest, with Pinky supporting her efforts.

Mostly, I love that Pinky, thanks in part to her brainstorming with Samir, comes up with a reasonable alternative to destroying the butterfly habitat. Instead of just saying the condo developers must leave completely, she proposes a compromise that’ll protect the butterfly habitant while also keeping the jobs and the homes that the condo development would create. Her proposed solution is simple, elegant, and quite frankly, much more mature than I may have come up with as an adult, never mind at her age. 

I really love the subplot about Pinky and her mom, in particular how they learn to understand each other better over the course of the novel. I wish the story of the mom had been developed a bit more gradually and deeply, as I found her a really interesting character and I thought the resolution of their conflict felt abrupt.

Overall, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky is a fun, feel-good teen read, and Pinky and Samir are sweet characters who are adorable together.

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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | The Trouble with Hating You, Sajni Patel

TroubleWithHatingYouLiya Thakkar is a biochemical engineer who’s fending off her parents’ attempts to get her married. One evening, she shows up for what she thinks is a family dinner, only to find out that they’ve invited Jay Shah and his mother to meet with her about the possibility of marriage. Liya escapes… literally knocking Jay off his feet in an insta-hate meet-cute… and thinks the matter is settled. Except Jay also happens to be the lawyer hired to save her struggling company, and he’s angry at her rejection not just of him, but of his beloved mother.

The Trouble with Hating You is an enemies-to-lovers romance that explores how our pasts inform how we respond to the possibility of finding love. I absolutely love the complexity of the backstory around Liya’s family and community. I felt for Liya’s mother, who had subsumed her own desires to be the traditional obedient wife to her domineering, emotionally abusive husband. Without giving away spoilers, the story ends with a touch of hope for Liya’s mother, that isn’t quite the full 180 degree liberation I’d hoped for, but is at least both realistic and very much welcome.

I also felt for Liya, who is dealing with the widespread censure within her family’s community because of her lifestyle (she lives alone and away from her parents, she has sex outside of marriage, and so on). There’s also a traumatic incident in her past that makes it difficult for Liya to trust men, especially when her father blames her rather than the actual perpetrator for the incident. I felt for Liya, and for how difficult it must have been like for her to grow up while dealing with this experience and being unable to find support within her own family. I really liked her circle of friends, and I also liked how she warmed up to Jay’s mother before she even warmed up to Jay himself.

Jay also has a heartbreaking backstory — he blames himself for a family member’s death, and so tries to make up for his guilt by taking especially good care of his mother. I love this, because it shows how important family is to him. I especially love how Liya’s rejection hurt him not so much for himself, but rather because he could see how much it hurt his mother, and how much his mother blamed herself for whatever slight imperfection must have caused Liya to run away from them.

Jay is a sweet, super caring hero, who is patient with Liya’s prickliness towards him even before he learns the reason behind it. There’s a really heartwarming scene where he sees Liya working late in the lab, and voluntarily stays with her all night, cleaning test tubes and doing other menial tasks, just so she won’t be alone. This is before they even get together, which makes it especially sweet, and shows the kind of person Jay is.

Liya is a bit harder to connect with. I can understand her defensiveness given her backstory, and I can understand why her parents’ example makes her fight so hard against the possibility of getting married. I’m all for complicated heroines, and I can definitely respect her ambition and drive. The thing is, her prickliness often crossed the line to being downright mean, and past the halfway point, considering how sweet and kind Jay had been throughout the book, Liya’s continued prickliness towards him began to annoy me. It was hard for me to understand what Jay saw in her that made him continue to fall in love.

There’s also this moment where Liya, a manager who supervises a group of biochemical engineers, notices that her employees are slacking off. Instead of talking with them about it, perhaps feeling out if it’s the uncertainty of their company’s future that’s making them lose motivation, Liya instead stays overnight to do their work herself. When her employees come back the next morning and ask if this means she’ll be taking the day off, she responds that she’ll actually go back to doing her own work now that she’s done theirs. Liya’s rationale, which both Jay and the book seem to find admirable (her employees shape up after that), is that she wants to lead by example, and show her staff that she’s not above getting her own hands dirty with non-managerial work. Except this solution struck me as incredibly passive-aggressive, and honestly, if I were one of her employees, this would piss me off.

The story overall was entertaining, and, as I said, I really enjoyed all the complex plot threads about Liya and Jay’s families. The romance was both sweet and steamy, but didn’t quite hook me as much. I did like the ending, and how even after falling in love, Liya continued to keep her career a priority.

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Thank you to Forever Romance and Hachette Book Group Canada for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review | The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin

CityWeBecameCoverThe City We Became is a full-out, unapologetic, in-your-face homage to New York City. In it, five New Yorkers are ‘reborn’ into the living embodiments of the five NYC boroughs. They must band together and find the living embodiment of New York as a single, wholly encompassing city, so that they can defeat the Woman in White, an other-dimensional being determined to stop New York City from being ‘born.’

I’m a huge fan of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. I find her books brilliant — they’re multilayered and reveal more with each re-reading. The City We Became is such a book. It made me wish I grew up in New York City, or even that I just lived there now. The characters felt real, but I think they will also resonate much more strongly for those with an emotional connection to NYC.

First, there’s Manny (Manhattan), the brash and charming ethnically ambiguous newcomer who finds power in a cab ride and in dollar bills. There’s Brooklyn, the badass Black city council member who used to be a rapper and who lives in a brownstone with her dad and daughter. There’s Bronca (Bronx), the Lenape arts centre administrator, who’s the only one of the five that was ‘reborn’ knowing the group’s history and purpose. There’s Padmini (Queens), the mathematician from Chennai who is in NYC on a student visa. And finally there’s Aislynn (Staten Island), the timid white woman who is scared to take the ferry into the city, and who grew up with a lot of prejudices about immigrant and persons of colour.

Each of these characters is so vividly drawn, both as human beings and as allegories for the boroughs they represent. I love how each of them draws power from something that’s rooted in the spirit of their respective boroughs (e.g. the brownstone for Brooklyn, the apartment complex of immigrants for Padmini), and how all of these come into play in the story.

I also love how the villainous Woman in White sinks her tentacles into the city both literally and figuratively. Literal tentacles destroy the Williamsburg bridge and cause a traffic jam on FDR Drive, but more significantly, the Woman in White also buys up real estate to turn into condos or coffee shops. In one scene, the heroes recognize the Woman in White’s influence when they see a Starbucks where a beloved community space used to be. The Woman in White also goes after Bronca’s art centre by offering a huge sum of money for the centre to display racist and misogynistic artwork by a group of alt-right white men. The symbolism can feel a bit heavy handed, but on the other hand, everything also somehow works together, and as someone who lives in a city, so many of the story’s touchpoints struck a chord in me.

On one level, The City We Became is a gripping urban fantasy, where the city’s champions/avatars fight to protect their home from an alien invasion. But on another, deeper level, it’s also about the way cities grow and develop identities. Jemisin’s New York City is not a land area with buildings and cars, but rather a living, breathing entity. I love that her vision incorporates the distinct identities of each borough, while still bringing them together into a cohesive, yet never singular, whole. Jemisin’s love for the city shines through with every page. I loved the New York City she portrayed, and I can only imagine how much more powerful this book would be for actual New Yorkers.

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Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.