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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

I Owe You One
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Love, Hate & Other Filters
The Wartime Sisters
The Belles
The Gilded Wolves
Hey, Kiddo
Blackberry and Wild Rose
Queen of Air and Darkness
Firestarter
The Retribution of Mara Dyer
The Evolution of Mara Dyer


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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Audio ARC Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34213319-four-dead-queens?ac=1&from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book in audio format from Listening Library in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Get in quick, get out quicker.

These are the words Keralie Corrington lives by as the preeminent dipper in the Concord, the central area uniting the four quadrants of Quadara. She steals under the guidance of her mentor Mackiel, who runs a black market selling their bounty to buyers desperate for what they can’t get in their own quarter. For in the nation of Quadara, each quarter is strictly divided from the other. Four queens rule together, one from each region:

Toria: the intellectual quarter that values education and ambition
Ludia: the pleasure quarter that values celebration, passion, and entertainment
Archia: the agricultural quarter that values simplicity and nature
Eonia: the futurist quarter that values technology, stoicism and harmonious community

When Keralie intercepts a comm disk coming from the House of Concord, what seems like a standard job goes horribly wrong. Upon watching the comm disks, Keralie sees all four queens murdered in four brutal ways. Hoping that discovering the intended recipient will reveal the culprit – information that is bound to be valuable bartering material with the palace – Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, to complete Varin’s original job and see where it takes them.


Review:
When I first saw the title and cover of Four Dead Queens, by Astrid Scholte, I immediately thought of the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake.  Would this be a copycat story of Queens fighting to the death?  Thankfully, no.  With a richly built setting, characters that all are deeper than they appear, and a lovely romance, this was a unique whodunit and a compelling page-turner.  

What I Liked:
World-Building:
The society of this Queendom is quite complex.  There are four quadrants, each with a different function, that provide agriculture, innovation, entertainment, or education to the culture.  The Queens rule their separate quadrants.  But they rule the whole country equally together.

The author spent a good deal of time detailing what made each quadrant unique.  There were different rituals, food, clothing, attitudes, and customs for each quadrant.  The amount of planning and detailing that author Astrid Scholte must have done was truly impressive.

Narration:
The book alternates between Keralie's viewpoint, and that of the four queens.  The two voice actors, Amy Shiels and Elizabeth Knowelden, perfectly embody the characters.  Keralie is spoken with a lovely Irish accent, while the queens are all spoken in the poshest of British voices.  I loved it.

Characters:
The story focuses on not just the would-be detectives, Keralie and Varin, but also on each of the four queens.  They may each be sovereigns, but they essentially live in a gilded prison.  Every aspect of their lives are regulated by "queenly laws".  But following these traditions means they will give up love, companionship, and even more.  While they are expected to have daughters, once they are born they are taken away to be raised by others.  They only return to be crowned queen themselves once their mother dies.

What sad lives they lead.  Is it any wonder that each found ways to fight back from all the rules imposed on them?  I loved this.  


Romance:
I enjoyed the romance between Keralie and Varin.  They come from different quadrants, and thus have very different opinions on everything.  But this was better than the standard "hate at first sight" trope.  I think that while they couldn't agree on anything, they respected each other from the start.  As the story progresses, they learn details about each other's lives.  This lead to greater empathy towards each other, and made it inevitable they would fall in love.

              
via GIPHY

What I Was Mixed About:
Keralie always wanted to be a thief.  This was her choice, and she wasn't forced into it.  I liked that she was unapologetic about getting what she wanted in the easiest way possible.  It was refreshing.  But Keralie also didn't really grow as a character.  She showed no guilt for a variety of morally ambiguous actions.  No one else seemed to have a problem with what she did either.  Wouldn't there be a few judgemental people out there who would be demanding punishment for what happened?  Wouldn't she feel more than a passing moment of guilt?

What I didn't Like:
The "Twist":  
Of course, I am NOT going to say what this is, but I was not happy with the big reveal at the climax of the book.  While I was truly surprised by it (which is a good thing), I felt like the twist came out of left field.  I freely admit that there were a few clues as to what would happen, but the hints were so subtle that I missed them.



Rating: 





Release Date:  February 26th, 2019

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Author:  Astrid Scholte

Audio Publisher:  Listening Library

Audio Length:  11 hours, 33 minutes

Narrators:  Amy Shiels, Elizabeth Knowelden

Print Publisher:  Putnam

Page Length:  432 Pages 

Source:  Publisher

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  This was a fun book with surprising characters, and a sweet romance.  The world-building, alone make this a very special experience.

 
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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Audio Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35068632-pride
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant re-imagining of this beloved classic.
  


Review:
It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that if I hear of a book based on a Jane Austin novel, then I will obviously want to read it.  When I heard about the book, Pride, by author Ibi Zoboi, I immediately jumped on the waitlist at my local library.  Of course, this is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but with a modern twist.  Set in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwhick, this story of class, love, and misunderstanding is wildly entertaining. 



What I Liked:
Narrator:
This book is narrated by none other than Elizabeth Acevedo, writer of the stunning prose book, The Poet X!  Elizabeth is known as a powerful performer of poetry, and her narration is full of passion.  She perfectly embodies Brooklyn Pride.

Setting:
Although I have never been to New York, and didn't know anything about the neighborhood the author was writing about, I could easily envision
Bushwhick.  This is a neighborhood filled with people who look out for each other.  But, as reassuring as this is, it also means that everybody knows your business.  I love all the details of the block where Zuri lives.  From people visiting on each others' stoops, to block parties, to the local Bodega, this seems like a vibrant place to live.

But the neighborhood is becoming gentrified.  Wealthy people, both black and white, are buying up properties, spending serious money to renovate their new homes.  This is deeply troubling to Zuri, who sees the character of her cherished neighborhood changing.

Characters:
As with the original, the main characters, Zuri Benitez and Darius Darcy, form the heart of the story.  I think Darius is far more likable in this version.  Where Darcy hides his shyness with a prideful demeanor, Darius is much more confident.  But he walks a tightrope between being a private school student, and trying to remain authentic to his heritage.  He doesn't really fit into either world.  Among his peers at school, he will always be the token African-American.  When he moves to Bushwhick, he's accused of not being "Black enough".  The poor guy can't win.

As for Zuri, I love that she is so focused on getting into college.  I also enjoy how much Zuri loves her neighborhood.  Her plan is to go to Howard University and then return to Bushwhick.  She is not out to find a boyfriend.  But Darius and she just seem to click.

Aside from the two main characters, there are numerous characters that match up with the original Jane Austin piece.  There is Zuri's loud mom, her reserved dad, and her four memorable sisters.  Warren (the George Wickham character) remains a charming snake.  The scandal that he is involved in is updated with a very realistic situation.

Story:
The story itself closely follows the main plot of Pride and Prejudice.  There is a block party in place of the country dance, the instant attraction between Darius's brother Ainsley and Zuri's sister, Janae, the party where the family's actions cause so much embarrassment that Ainsley drops Janae, and even Darius's pompous grandmother makes an appearance.

But, what make this story really special is the added themes of neighborhood, and belonging to a group.  Zuri's neighborhood is changing.  Old homes are being bought out by rich outsiders and turned into McMansions.  Longtime residents are being forced out as rents rise.  This is a real problem facing many areas.

What happens to you when your family moves to a different area?  Will you remain connected, or lose your sense of who you are?  These are important themes for this contemporary book. 
 

Rating: 




Release Date:  September 18th, 2018

Author:  Ibi Zoboi

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray

Page Length:  304 Pages

Audio Book Publisher:  Balzer + Bray and Harper Audio

Audio Book Length:  6 Hours, 7 Minutes

Genre:  YA Fiction

Source:  Public Library

Format: Audio Book

Recommendation:  A highly entertaining retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  The addition of modern issues such as gentrification, and trying to remain true to your heritage elevate this story beyond a simple rehashing of a classic.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Stacking The Shelves #146 & Sunday Post #110





I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back!


On The Blog:

Tuesday:  ARC Review Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto 

Wednesday:  Book Review:  Family Trust by Kathy Wang

In Real Life: 
This has been a week of both the terrible and wonderful.  At school we seem to have flu going around that is taking a toll on children and adults alike.  Many kids were sick, and we sent home several kids with various ailments.  I felt so bad for everyone!

Valentine's Day was full of celebrations and special meals.  I cooked for hours for my family and the end result was a fantastic dinner for all.  My husband of 30 years surprised me with roses and a lovely gift.  We usually don't go all out, so I was really touched.

I had Friday off and spent it at the DMV, renewing my license.  It wasn't as horrible as I envisioned! 
           
via GIPHY

It only took an hour and I rewarded myself afterwards with a trip to Barnes & Noble buy some much anticipated books!!!  

New Books:
Bought:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36307634-king-of-scars?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8667848-a-discovery-of-witches?ac=1&from_search=true


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37569347-courting-darkness?from_search=true
Borrowed:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39831843-the-wife

Audio Books For Review:
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34213319-four-dead-queens?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40702154-lady-smoke?ac=1&from_search=true


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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review: Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years, Stanley has claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. But the time is now coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed, and Stanley’s family is nervous.

For his son Fred, the inheritance Stanley has long alluded to would soothe the pain caused by years of professional disappointment. By now, the Harvard Business School graduate had expected to be a financial tech god – not a minor investor at a middling corporate firm, where he isn’t even allowed to fly business class.

Stanley’s daughter, Kate, is a middle manager with one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious tech companies. She manages the capricious demands of her world-famous boss and the needs of her two young children all while supporting her would-be entrepreneur husband (just until his startup gets off the ground, which will surely be soon). But lately, Kate has been sensing something amiss; just because you say you have it all, it doesn’t mean that you actually do.

Stanley’s second wife, Mary Zhu, twenty-eight years his junior, has devoted herself to making her husband comfortable in every way—rubbing his feet, cooking his favorite dishes, massaging his ego. But lately, her commitment has waned; caring for a dying old man is far more difficult than she expected.

Linda Liang, Stanley’s first wife, knows her ex better than anyone. She worked hard for decades to ensure their financial security, and is determined to see her children get their due. Single for nearly a decade, she might finally be ready for some romantic companionship. But where does a seventy-two year old Chinese woman in California go to find an appropriate boyfriend?

As Stanley’s death approaches, the Huangs are faced with unexpected challenges that upend them and eventually lead them to discover what they most value. A compelling tale of cultural expectations, career ambitions and our relationships with the people who know us best, Family Trust skewers the ambition and desires that drive Silicon Valley and draws a sharply loving portrait of modern American family life.
  


Review:
Set in Silicon Valley, Family Trust, by Kathy Wang, is reminiscent of Crazy Rich Asians in its portrayal of the ultra-wealthy.  But it is also a family drama about the complications of second marriages, and the generational differences between parents and their adult children.  This was a highly entertaining book.

What I Liked:
Setting:
The novel is set in Silicon Valley.  I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I could recognize many of the places in this book.  The mix of various immigrant cultures, luxury shops that cater to new money, and people working themselves to death launching the latest tech start-up, are all part of the culture of the Bay Area.  This book gets all the details right.

Narration:
Joy Osmanski does a wonderful job of voicing all the characters.  From self-important Stanley to overworked Kate, Ms. Osmanski seamlessly juggled it all in this dialogue-heavy novel.

Characters:
The book focuses on two generations of the Huang family.  Stanley has a younger second wife, and is coming to terms with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  When everyone starts asking about who he will leave his money to, Stanley is vague but reassuring that everyone will be "taken care of".  But what does that mean?  Will he leave everything to Mary, his second wife?  What about his children?  How much money does Stanley actually have?

Linda (the first wife) is chiefly concerned with making sure Stanley doesn't shut out their children in favor of Mary.  But she is also considering dating again.  I found it so realistic that Linda is ambivalent about Stanley's requests for her to attend "family" dinners.  Why should she be forced to cater to any of his whims again?  That's why they're divorced!

I really like their daughter, Kate.  She is every super stressed working woman in the Bay Area.  She works full time, but is still expected to manage the children, and a home by herself.  Is it any wonder her marriage is in distress?  

Story:
Each Huang family member has their own story-line, with alternating viewpoints for each chapter.  This allows for events to be seen from multiple angles and adds layers of meaning that we couldn't receive in single voice narrative. 

I really like how each story is told in a way that makes me empathize with each character.  I came to care about the characters, even the ones I thought I despised. It came as a shock to me that I actually cried when Stanley died!  This is a testament to the ability of the author to show me how complicated each person is.

This story shows how delicate and complex trusts, wills, and end of life decisions are in to a family.  What do you do when you know someone has a terminal disease?  Do you push for clarification of a will or trust?  Will that help, or make you look greedy?  Should people be forced to apologize for past wrongs, or should those issues be swept under the rug in order to make it easier on the dying?  So many difficult issues are brought up.

But, lest you think this book is super serious, I would be remiss in not pointing out how funny this story is.  The ridiculous spending, swagger, and name dropping of the characters was fun.  And there were some truly funny situations, such as when one character is hiding in the bushes, spying on their spouse.

What I Was Mixed About:
Male Characters:
While I understand that the author wants to show the misogynistic culture of Silicon Valley, does every man in this book have to be a jerk?  These guys are sexist, and appraise women based solely on how they can help them elevate their social status.  Yes, many successful men want beautiful eye candy.  But I think it would have been good to have at least one decent man to show that guys do have a choice of how to behave. 

Fred, Stanley's son, is particularly awful.  He sees his girlfriend, Erica, as a pushy social climber, out to ensnare Fred into marriage.  But is he any better?  He is more than happy to have her on his arm during a business trip because she is beautiful, and he feels this will elevate his status.  But the moment she steps out of line, he sends her packing.  He was the one character I couldn't sympathize with.

Rating: 




Release Date:  October 30, 2018

Author:  Kathy Wang

Publisher:  William Morrow

Genre:  General Fiction

Page Length:  400 Pages

Audio Publisher:  Harper Audio

Audio Length:  13 Hours, 43 Minutes

Narrator:  Joy Osmanski

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  An entertaining choice for a book club.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

ARC Review: Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.


Review:
Fantasy books with dueling sister queens seems to be a thing right now.  Books such as Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake, really set a standard for complex plots, and royal intrigue.  So, while I was quite excited about reading Crown of Feathers, by Nicki Pau Preto, I was also wary.  Would this be a retread of Three Dark Crowns?  

I am so happy to say that Crown of Feathers is such an original work, full of fabulous world-building, characters, and themes that it is wholly unique.  I loved it!

What I Liked: 

Setting:
The novel is set in a world that has been ravaged by a war between two rival queen sisters.  Most people are still struggling to survive, and they are wary of Animages (people who can bond with animals), putting them into slavery.  This is a civilization in decline.  Before the war, women and men were equal.  The legendary Animages (called Phoenix Riders) worked with their regal creatures to protect the empire from invaders.

But with ending of the Blood War, men decide that female animages are too dangerous.  When Veronyka does find some Phoenix Riders, she isn't allowed to train with them because she is a girl.

Phoenixes play a central role in this book.  I loved the mythology behind these creatures, and how they bond with the animages.  The author has really thought out all aspects of the life of a phoenix, from how it is born, to what it eats, and how one would behave in a battle.  This made for a rich setting.


Characters:

I loved Veronyka.  She is a teenager who has survived years of abuse at the hands of her sister.  We begin the story seeing Veronyka as rather weak.  But as we see that kind of psychological attack she has endured, it's no wonder Veronyka is so meek.  Her journey of evolving into a strong young woman was very satisfying.

Tristan and Sev are two other characters who go through a transformative journey in the novel.  Tristan is an apprentice Phoenix Rider.  As the son of the Commander, he has a lot to live up to.  The fact that he is afraid of fire (and, of course, Phoenixes often burst into flames) complicates his training.  

Sev is an animage who is hiding from the empire in plain sight.  He becomes a soldier, an oppressor, who must witness other animages being worked to death as slaves.  Will he continue to take the easier, safer path?  Or will he risk everything to help in a rebellion? 

Themes:
One of the main themes concerns how abuse can happen among siblings.  In the case of Veronyka and Val, this abuse is more psychological than physical, but it is destructive, nonetheless.  The novel really delves into the subtle ways Val manipulates Veronyka to do her bidding.  She bullies, and threatens, but also isolates Veronyka from friends so her self-esteem is completely gone.  Although this is behavior that one would believe only happens in romantic relationships, this portrayal reminds the reader that abuse can occur in any relationship. 

Ending:
Even though this book is the beginning of a series, the ending did resolve many of the plot points, and was extremely satisfying.  I hate it when a book seems to end right in the middle of the action with the promise that there will be a big reveal when book two comes out.  Which will be at least a year later.  The ending solved enough of the problems to be gratifying, while generating interest in what could happen in the next book.


What I Didn't Like:
While I know that piracy is a huge issue for publishers, I really struggled with the protected PDF format of this book.  Is there some other format that would protect the book from being copied, but is not an Adobe product?  I certainly hope that this is an issue for review copies only, as it took me three times as long to get through the book due to the abysmal navigation of Adobe Acrobat Reader.  Please publishers,  at least tell reviewers on NetGalley that the format is a PDF.  I will avoid books in this format in the future.
               
via GIPHY


Trigger Warning for Abusive relationships.
 

Rating: 





Release Date:  February 12th, 2019

Author:  Nicki Pau Preto

Publisher:  Simon Pulse

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Page Length:  496 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  PDF (Ugh!)

Recommendation:  A very entertaining book set in an awe-inspiring world.  I can't wait for book two!!!   
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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Book Review: Love, Hate, & Other Fliters by Samira Ahmed

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31207017-love-hate-other-filters?ac=1&from_search=true

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.


Review:
Reading Love, Hate, & Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed, I wasn't really sure what kind of book this was trying to be.  Was it a light, teen rom-com, a coming of age drama, or a serious topical book dealing with Islamophobia?  Ultimately, it was all three.  I was at turns charmed, surprised, and gut-punched, but always riveted.

What I Liked:
Characters:
Maya is a conflicted character.  She wants to break fee of the restrictions her parents place on her, but she also does love her family and her culture.  It would have been easy to just go along with her parents expectations for her future. But Maya wants to go to New York University to study film-making (an impractical major).

I really liked Maya for her need to live a life of her own choosing.  When racism starts to affect Maya (a Muslim), she is understandably scared.  But she also knows that most people are kind, and not out to blame her for every terrorist attack or war.  She sees the good in people, not the bad.  I loved her optimism. 

I also liked the portrayal of her best friend, Violet.  I liked that she didn't just pop in and out of the story to fill an inauthentic need.  She was there, being a kind, sympathetic listener when Maya needed it most.  She also jut accepted Maya's life with all it's restrictions on regular teen activity.  She never made Maya feel strange.

Romance:
Oh, this book has some amazing romance in it as Maya juggles with feelings for two different boys.  One is (of course) mom approved.  He comes from the right family, is Muslim, and is studying to become an engineer at Princeton.   The other boy is Caucasian, not Muslim, and is the most popular boy at school.  He also has a girlfriend...  Rom/Com conflict ensues!

Cultural Tensions:
There is a lot of emphasis on the culture clash between immigrant parents and their born in the U.S.A. offspring.  The parents want to raise their children just as they would in India, but Maya will not be bullied into a life she doesn't want.  Maya is a fully American teen.  When most teenagers are becoming independent and are able to have choices, Maya is seeing her options shrink.  This increases as a terrorist attack occurs and Maya's parents fear for her safety.

Realities of Islamophobia:
The core of this book deals with the constant discrimination Muslims must confront.  Being flagged in the airport for extra security checks, people saying nasty things to you on the street.  These are daily burdens most Muslims face.

I recall back in the 1980's when fifty people were being held hostage in Iran, how Iranian students at my school were harassed by the football players.  I think one was beat up.  This sort of intimidation is still happening, today.

What I Was Mixed About:
I did find the mix of literary genres to be somewhat confusing, at least at first.  While the author showed scenes straight out of a teen romantic comedy, she alternated these with moments from a young man who may be planning something horrific.  I didn't understand who this person was, at first.  I even went back to Goodreads to re-read the books description to see if I could understand it better.  This all became crystal clear later in the story.  But it seemed like I was reading two very different books, at times.

Rating: 





Release Date:  January 16th, 2018

Author:  Samira Ahmed

Publisher:  Soho Teen

Genre:  YA Fiction

Page Length:  281 Pages

Source:  Public Library
 

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: A book that was compelling.  At turns romantic and heart-breaking in its portrayal of the realities of Islamophobia in post 9/11 America.  I highly recommend this book.
 
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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

ARC Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40702156-i-owe-you-one?from_search=true

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?


Review:
In my humble opinion, Sophie Kinsella is the queen of romantic comedy!  

                
via GIPHY

Her books are populated with compelling characters you want to get to know.  There's plenty of romance, and a satisfying ending that is not too predictable.  All of these elements are present in her latest book, I Owe You One.

What I Liked:
Characters:
I love books where more than just the main character is a fully formed being.  The Farr family is full of wonderful, annoying, and sometimes offensive people (kind of like an actual family).  I loved getting to know each person, and why they were how they were.  I also liked that all the employees at the shop (one of the main settings of the book) were distinct, quirky personalities.

Romance:
This book has all the elements of a satisfying romantic comedy.  The main character, Fixie, is mooning after the wrong man at first.  Then there's a meet/cute which was very funny.  It takes a while for Fixie and Seb (short for Sebastian) to get together, but, I loved all the tension.  And, this being a romantic comedy, you just know that there will be something that will tear them apart.  They can't possibly be happy without a few bumps in the road, right?  While I would say this book was a bit formulaic, it was so entertaining, that I was fine with that.

Love:
I also liked that the book explored the concept of love.  In a family, does loving someone mean looking past one's faults?  Or should we employ "tough love" in order to help them?  How will we handle it when someone messes up?  Do we get angry or reach out to listen and help?  In romantic love, can we do the same, or should we use a gentler touch?  There were no easy answers.

Family Dynamics:
There are lots of family dynamics that readers will recognize in their own lives.  There's the sibling who's always trying to impress everyone.  The self-absorbed sister who's checked out at family gatherings.  And then there's the fixer.  The main character is literally named Fixie!  She's the one to always smooth things over with everyone.  She jumps in when no one volunteers to help, because otherwise it won't get done.
Fixie feels a nearly physical need to take care of everything.  Otherwise she gets anxiety.  Although all of the antics of these personalities are taken to an extreme for comic effect, there's a lot of truth to the family roles in this book.


Rating: 




Release Date:  February 5th, 2019

Author:  Sophie Kinsella

Publisher:  The Dial Press

Genre:  General Fiction (Rom/Com)

Page Length:  448 Pages 

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: A fun romantic book with many memorable characters.  
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MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.
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