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 | There’s Something about Sweetie, Sandhya Menon

43359220When Dimple met Rishi is one of my favourite YA romances. There are books I love so much I know I’ll keep them on my shelf for years, and there are books like Dimple that are so good they simply demand to be shared with someone else. I knew immediately that I wanted to share Dimple with my book-loving teenage niece in the Philippines, and kept my copy for months until I found someone who was travelling to the Philippines and could deliver it to her. It’s sweet and super kilig and I just fell heads over heels in love with the characters.

There’s Something about Sweetie is even better. The romance between Sweetie and Ashish is super sweet and believable, and I was moved by the subplots regarding their relationships with their respective families. I squee’d and I cried, and while Ashish wasn’t quite (to me) the book boyfriend that his brother Rishi was, I absolutely felt for him and for Sweetie and wanted so much for both to find their happy ending.

More than that, however, Sweetie is the YA romance I wish I’d read as a child. I’ve always been a big girl, and growing up, big girls were rarely the heroine of love stories. I remember loving the Sweet Dreams book A Little More to Love, but like many stories starring plus-size heroines, so much of the story focused on her insecurities about her weight. On the flip side, I recently read On the Plus Side by Alison Bliss, where the plus-size heroine was so kickass and confident about her weight that I couldn’t quite relate.

In contrast, Sandhya Menon managed to find a wonderful balance with Sweetie’s character, and manages to make Sweetie’s weight an ever-present reality without making it the focus of her reality. As a plus-size woman, I related hard to this, and I wish this book had existed when I was younger.

There’s a great scene where Sweetie refers to herself as “fat.” Ashish immediately tells her not to call herself that, and she responds that “fat” is simply an adjective and it’s only society that attaches a value judgement to it. Which is wonderful and woke, and I hope lots of teens reading this take it to heart.

I love that Sweetie’s fatness is a characteristic and not her defining feature, and most of all, that it doesn’t equate to unhealthiness. She’s a kickass track star, and one of the things that attracts Ashish to her is how awesome she looks when running.

I also love that all the problems with Sweetie’s fatness have to do with external social pressures, specifically with her mom’s constant desire for her to lose weight and the judgement Sweetie gets from her mom’s judgemental friend. I love that the mom’s friend is judgemental not just about Sweetie’s weight, but about other things as well, as this shows that it’s really not so much Sweetie’s appearance that’s the problem as it is the woman’s sense of entitlement to judge others. I especially love that the mom herself, while unreasonable and flat-out wrong at times, is not wholly cruel. Menon does a great job in showing how the mom genuinely wants what’s best for Sweetie, and just has the wrong idea about what that is.

There’s Something about Sweetie is on my list of favourite books this year, for so many reasons. Read it, read it, READ IT!

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

 

 

Review | Finale (Caraval # 3), Stephanie Garber

40381392Finale is a complex, captivating fantasy romance. This is the final book in the Caraval trilogy, and I highly recommend reading the earlier books first. I came into this cold and struggled to keep up for the first few chapters.

The story is a bit too convoluted to summarize succinctly, but basically, it’s about the epic battle between two pairs of siblings (sisters Scarlett and Tella, and brothers Legend and Julian) and the most powerful of the Fates (immortal beings who were previously contained within a deck of cards but are now unleashed on the world). There’s a lot of romance and family drama that come to the fore, and once I managed to grasp who the characters were and how they related to each other, the story was an exciting ride to the finish. 

I especially love the character of Scarlett and her romance with Julian — I think I just personally relate more to Scarlett than to Tella so I loved how kickass her story turned out beyond the romance. Basically, she learns something that makes her question who she really is, and what she’s really capable of, and I thought that storyline was particularly powerful.

Tella’s love triangle with Legend and Jacks was a bit darker, but her happily-ever-after seemed pretty clear from the get-go, so the drawn out push-and-pull just got a bit repetitive after a while. Both sisters’ romances reminded me a bit of the 1990s Charmed where Piper had the sweet and handsome Leo and Phoebe had the hot but demonic Cole, and I kinda wish Tella’s love story did lead to her giving in to her darker side as Phoebe did.

I also really liked the tragic aspect of being a Fate, that their major weakness is love. Basically, Fates are genetically predisposed to just want to possess the objects of their affections, and if they ever actually do fall in love, they give up their immortality and become fully human. This aspect of being a Fate played a huge role in the main storyline about the battle as well as in Tella’s romances, and so

But the best part for me was the focus on the sibling bonds (between Scarlett and Tella AND between Julian and Legend). I love how strong their love for their siblings was, and even though Julian and Legend’s relationship wasn’t as much a focus, there’s a scene where Julian confronts him about his feelings for Tella that made my heart warm.

Garber has created a complex, multilayered mythology with the Caraval trilogy. I very much enjoyed reading Scarlett and Tella’s story, and learning about the world that Garber has created.

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Thank you to Raincoast Books for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review | Finding Hope at Hillside Farm, Rachael Lucas

43714629Finding Hope at Hillside Farm is a sweet and heartwarming story about moving on from past hurts. Ella is an equine therapist, which means she helps her clients deal with their problems by having them work with the horses on her aunt’s farm. The farm also provides her a safe haven from her own trauma — an injury that ended her horse-riding career, and a load of guilt over how she treated her ex-husband. Her quiet life gets overturned, and a second chance at love presents itself, when a young girl Hope and her widower father Harry come into town and Hope falls in love with Ella’s horses.

I had expected this to be more of a romance than it was, so a part of me felt a bit impatient at how long it took for Ella and Harry to finally meet. While the story still did turn out to be romantic, most of the first half focused a lot less on the romance itself and a lot more on the various traumas Ella and Harry have had leading up to their meeting. If you’re looking for a heartwarming romance, you’ll find it here; it’ll just take a while to get moving.

That being said, the story was indeed heartwarming overall. I love the idea of working with horses being therapeutic because their actions basically mirror what they sense from the humans around them. I’ve heard a lot about how therapeutic animals can be for people undergoing stress, but haven’t quite seen it implemented in an actual therapeutic practice as Ella does. So I love the aspects about Ella’s work, and how her love for the farm pushes her to go past her comfort zone. Her discomfort with the things she has to do to save the farm — be interviewed by a reporter, expand her clientele to include children — turn out to be linked to her own past trauma, and I like how tightly Lucas weaves all these seemingly disparate threads together.

Harry was a bit more of an enigmatic character for me — while I felt for his struggles with workaholism and living up to the high parenting standards set by his mother-in-law — his story didn’t quite draw me in as much as Ella’s did until about the halfway mark.

There was a twist that I didn’t expect at Harry and Ella’s first meeting, and to be honest, I initially found it too gimmicky and hated the direction the story was going. However, as the story progressed, this particular plot point grew on me, and I eventually had to admit that it ended up taking the characters further than I expected.

Overall, it’s a lovely and emotional story about moving on and allowing yourself to be happy again. I found it to be more of a family drama than a romance, but I think it still worked, and I liked how Ella’s story arc progressed.

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Thanks to Publisher’s Group Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.