Monday, 3 November 2014

Novel Publicity Blog Tour Stop; Review: Just Girls by Rachel Gold

Publication date: September 23rd, 2014
Publisher: Bella Books
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 4/5
Source: Novel Publicity Blog Tour
Jess Tucker sticks her neck out for a stranger the buzz is someone in the dorm is a trans girl. So Tucker says it s her, even though it s not, to stop the finger pointing. She was an out lesbian in high school, and she figures she can stare down whatever gets thrown her way in college. It can t be that bad. Ella Ramsey is making new friends at Freytag College, playing with on-campus gamers and enjoying her first year, but she s rocked by the sight of a slur painted on someone else s door. A slur clearly meant for her, if they'd only known. New rules, old prejudices, personal courage, private fear. In this stunning follow-up to the groundbreaking Being Emily, Rachel Gold explores the brave, changing landscape where young women try to be Just Girls.


I read Just Girls by Rachel Gold a month ago, and the earnestness with which it dealt with issues of identity, gender and sexual orientation instantly sucked me in.

Just Girls tells us the story of Jess Tucker, who sticks up for a transwoman on campus; she doesn’t know who this woman is, just that it’s someone in the dorm. On encountering a bunch of girls who have already started making ignorant remarks about, speculating about the identity of and judging this girl, Tucker says it’s her (“You have anything to say to my face?”). Being an out-of-the-closet lesbian since high school, she figures she can handle it.

“I know I don’t understand viscerally what it means to have gender dysphoria or to have people always questioning who you are, but I do know what it’s like to have people be assholes to you just because of who you are. And I just got really pissed and really afraid for this girl and so I said it was me. That way they’ll direct their bullshit at me and I know I can take it.” (p. 39)

Meanwhile, Ella Ramsey, realizing what had happened and what Tucker did for her, much before they are even acquainted… is shocked and moved.

What I liked most about Just Girls is that this is by no means where the story begins and ends. Instead, we are introduced to a diverse and wonderfully fleshed out cast of characters. While it would be easy to tag them as “transwoman Ella”, “genderqueer Nico”, “the transphobic Women & Gender Studies Teaching Assistant”, “codependent Lindy”, and so on, there’s much more to them than that. No one is a token member of any community, and their story transcends labels and stereotypes.

Getting to know Ella, who was born a boy but was on hormone blockers to prevent male characteristics from kicking in during puberty, widened my understanding of what it feels like to be born a gender you do not identify yourself as. It was refreshing how her parents were supportive of the transitioning process and embraced her for who she was. As we get to know Ella as Ella – girly, funny, intelligent and loyal-, the premise of the novel felt stronger and its message truly hit home.

The issues tackled, whether thinly veiled sexism, transphobia outside and within the LGBTQIA community, where transgenders factor in same sex restrooms, and more, never feel like too much. We are trained to even pay attention to the voices and views of characters whom the others are eager to dismiss as intolerant and prejudicial; as they, too, come from somewhere and it is essentially to get to the root of that somewhere.

Rachel Gold has this amazing ability to integrate feminist theory and debates into the story in a way that feels natural; never feels obscure or out of one’s depth even to beginners. She also does a great job demonstrating that no subculture is free from prejudice, abuse and hatred. At the same time, love, friendship, trust and protection can be garnered from just about anywhere. The foundations of Ella and Tucker’s friendship, and their unconditional acceptance of each other left the deepest impact.

Just Girls was a funny, thoughtful and honest exploration into what it means to be a girl; exclusive of one’s assigned-at-birth gender and heteronormativity.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About the prizes:

Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Just Girls! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Just Girls tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: 

Jess Tucker sticks her neck out for a stranger—the buzz is someone in the dorm is a trans girl. So Tucker says it’s her, even though it’s not, to stop the finger pointing. She was an out lesbian in high school, and she figures she can stare down whatever gets thrown her way in college. It can’t be that bad.

Ella Ramsey is making new friends at Freytag College, playing with on-campus gamers and enjoying her first year, but she’s rocked by the sight of a slur painted on someone else’s door. A slur clearly meant for her, if they’d only known.

New rules, old prejudices, personal courage, private fear. In this stunning follow-up to the groundbreaking Being Emily, Rachel Gold explores the brave, changing landscape where young women try to be Just Girls.Get Just Girls through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: 

An award-winning marketing strategist and author, Rachel Gold also spent a decade as a reporter in the LGBT community where she learned many of her most important lessons about being a woman from the transgender community. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Religious Studies from Macalester College, and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Hamline University. When she’s not “translating English for English-speaking people” or working on her novels, you can find Rachel online checking out the latest games.

Connect with Rachel on her website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads..

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)

Publication date: August 14th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Bought
Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.


I don't think I've waited for anything as long as I waited for Isla and The Happily Ever After to release. With the release date being pushed back by a year and everything, I thought I'd never get to read it. In a nutshell it's about:

- Isla Martin (the redhead who has about maybe two minutes worth of screen (scene?) time in Anna and the French Kiss)
- who has a brief albeit completely loopy encounter with Josh (the other half of Joshua and Rashmi as well as St. Clair's best friend in Anna and the French Kiss)
- It's an encounter that might just be her "in" with him (she's been crushing on him since Freshman year) and a possible Happily Ever After

It's an extremely simple and sweet story, really; much like Perkins' previous books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. I liked how most of the conflict was self-created. You do not need a love triangle or love unrequited to turn a relationship upside down. You just need the insecurities that eat you up inside your head all day long. I think Perkins brought that out beautifully in these two wonderfully vulnerable characters.

The secondary characters, from the best friend, little sister to the ex best friend, have their quirks and flaws and an equal impact on the course of events. Much of Isla takes place in Paris, though there's a good bit of Manhattan and Barcelona. While there's the magic of Paris we experienced in Anna, there's less of the excitement and freshness to it since it's Isla's senior year and Paris practically feels like her second home. The story culminates at a much-awaited-reunion of favorites from Anna... AND Lola... with a surprise follow-up to an old story that will have you swooning!

If you are yet to read any of Stephanie Perkins' books, I suggest you start with Anna and the French Kiss. If you liked Perkins' previous books: Isla and the Happily Ever After, while lacking a little of the pep and quirk that made Anna... tick, definitely completes the series. Whether you had an unstomachable crush on Etienne St. Clair (!!) or want to know where Cricket and Lola are right now... whether you wanted to know more about Josh or that soft spoken redhead, Isla and the Happily Ever After gives you all of it!

Rating: ★★★1/2

Friday, 1 August 2014

Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Publication date: June 3rd, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Bought
Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.


The rumours about Alice started much before super-popular Brandon died in a car wreck; allegedly while sexting Alice:

Alice Franklin is a slut.
Alice slept with two guys at the same party.
Brandon's death is Alice's fault.

There is a "slut stall" full of graffiti'd hate over Alice. 

Is it true? Nobody seems to care. And after delving into the perspectives of Alice's supposed BFF Kelsie, the ever popular Elaine, Brandon's best friend and football star Josh, genius boy Kurt and last but not the least, the infamous Alice herself-- you wonder if it even matters in the first place. 

The judgments, pent-up angst and guilt felt by nearly all of the main players runs deeper. Is Alice nothing but a scapegoat for it all?

I really can't handle talking about this for too long because it hurts too much, but I do want to say that there is one thing I've learned about people: they don't get that mean and nasty overnight. It's not human nature.
If you give people enough time, eventually they'll do the most heartbreaking stuff in the world.

The Truth About Alice is a sensitively written, clean and short read that gives you enough insight into how the scandal-mill works. It's gratifying to see how even in the darkest of times, Alice does have someone to lean on. It gave me the chills to think about how it might've turned out if class-genius Kurt hadn't stepped in and decided to be her friend when she needed one the most. It's this big what-if that bothered me more than the actual turn of events.

Like most Young Adult novels, there's a romantic twist that it would've done better without. All it does is overshadow the point of the novel. The book, perhaps a bit too deftly, sweeps the remnants of the scandal under the rug. It gives us an ending that is as positive, realistic and sensible as resolution of real-life, petty, small town scandals can get.

Rating: ★★★1/2

I read this book along with Hilda @ Catch The Lune, which was a ton of fun!! Check out her review HERE :)

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Publication date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 4/5
Source: Bought
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


I'm going to copy-paste what's in the blurb, in case you're not the kind of person who reads the blurb first. Because, of the plot, this is all you need to know: 

"A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth."

No, its not just the blurb that's deliberately elusive. We Are Liars is as fragmented, as vividly illusionary, suspenseful and pseudo poetic as what you just read. The characters pop out of the page, demanding every bit of your attention span. They say pretentious things, everything they want or need is just there- on a literal platter, share a superficial, seasonal friendship amidst raging hormones and the salt of the sea water. And you'll listen to them. 

Because in their perfection and pretention and destruction, they remain glamorous. It's the sheen this kind of inherited privilege has given them.

The Liars were perfect. Until something happened and now, Cady, "the beautiful and damaged girl" has constant and prolonged migraines. A huge chunk of her memory, of "the accident" and what happened before, is missing. Gat, the Indian American boy she loved, who made her "weak", becomes inconsistent. Her friends, the Liars, seem to be crumbling with her. Her parents and aunties are drinking and shopping more than usual and their fake smiles are waning. 

What happened to these beautiful, beautiful people?

We Were Liars recounts the scenic, the surreal and the lies the Liars and their parents lived through in startling purple prose. Eventually, and without warning, it plunges into the truth which NOTHING can prepare you for and can never quite set you free. I was crying into the early morning hours. I remain stunned. I would never read this book again, because of how it messed with my head; branded it with images that will never leave me. But you should read it that once. BECAUSE it will mess with your head and grip you until you get to the bottom of it. Because it made me mull over the nature of "ownership" and things that are fickle and pretentious.

It goes without saying that if you dislike fragmented, purple prose and tales about "them poor-little-rich-kids", you will probably not like this book.

Rating: ★★★★

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Review: One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

Publication date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 5/5
Source: Review copy (Thank you, William Morrow!)
Internationally bestselling author Cecelia Ahern delivers her biggest and most compelling book yet—a tale of secrets, second chances, and the hidden connections that unite our lives

Scandal has derailed journalist Kitty Logan's career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor's bedside, Kitty asks her, "What is the one story you always wanted to write?"

The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance's office—a list of one hundred names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can ask her friend, it is too late.

Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, tracking down each of the names on the list and uncovering their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance's life... and starts to understand her own.


I give this book five, very subjective stars. I'm not quite sure if I would've given it five stars if I'd read it way back in January, when I received it for review... or even a bit later, when in the midst of finals. But then again, is there any such thing as an objective rating? That being said, I read One Hundred Names when I needed to read it the most.

One Hundred Names opens in a hospital, where Kitty Logan asks her dying mentor, Constance Dubois, about the one story she's always wished to write. It's a difficult time for Kitty as well. She made an error in one of her stories, the scandalous kind, that caused her a suspension from her job as a TV-journalist and set her network back big time. It's a mistake that may forever ruin her career. She's hanging on to her other job at Etcetera magazine, however unrelated to the TV scandal, by a thread.

Constance asks her to retrieve a list of one hundred names-- a list that had something to do with the story she had in mind. Before Kitty can get back with the list, Constance passes away. As a part of her tribute issue, Kitty needs to find out what connects these people; the very nature of the story Constance wanted to write. There isn't much time to piece it all together... it's ONE HUNDRED different people, and lives, she'll have to delve into... and her job might just depend on it.

I can definitely picture this book being made into a movie. It would be one of those romcoms with a slightly quirkier twist, and dialogues that are meaningful and sometimes even funny. The plot might seem a bit contrived: the way most plots involving a large cast are. It features six very different, very dreamy, "ordinary" but interesting people... people who, like in most books that have several subplots, gradually find their stories intermingling when they are thrown in a common setting.

Reading One Hundred Names, however, felt far from contrived. I've always admired the earnestness in Cecelia Ahern's writing. I'm glad she doesn't stick to the same formula. Instead, she always tells us different kinds of stories that take on different perspectives; retaining the freshness in her narration. In this book, it's the earnestness of the main players that gets to you. It's easy to picture them living their lives, one day at a time. 

Kitty attempts to uncover what Constance could've possibly wanted to write about them- practically drilling various angles into their lives... and as the arc finally dawns on her- it humbles her, and the reader. It's not something you couldn't have guessed several chapters before. In fact, I think it was pretty clear from the beginning. Still, it's beautiful because it's something all of us take for granted but is very very true.

One Hundred Names, through wonderful characterization, several humorous and WTF moments, is one heck of a journey! Before you know it, you are a part of their lives: laughing, groaning, whooping and cheering them on! Their energy is your energy. It reminds you of the value of a genuine and positive story; how wasteful it is that we are constantly on the lookout for superficiality, drama, a "dark" past and conflict instead. It encourages you to look beyond the surface, at what is already around and within you. 

Rating: ★★★★★

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Review: Right Click (Click, #3) by Lisa Becker

Publication date: May 19th, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Review copy
Love. Marriage. Infidelity. Parenthood. Crises of identity. Death. Cupcakes. The themes in Right Click, the third and final installment in the Click series, couldn’t be more pressing for this group of friends as they navigate through their 30′s. Another six months have passed since we last eavesdropped on the hilarious, poignant and often times inappropriate email adventures of Renee and friends. As the light-hearted, slice of life story continues to unfold, relationships are tested and some need to be set “right” before everyone can find their “happily ever after.”


Right Click takes us back to the CC'd and BCC'd adventures of Renee, Ethan, Shelley, Mark and the rest! With moving away, relationship-hiccups, break-ups, baby-troubles, Vegas trips, celebrity-run-ins, funerals and a wedding-in-planning, we're in for quite a ride; peppered with Billy-Joel-offs, pun-offs and plenty of surprises along the way.

In the final part of one of my favourite email-trilogies ever, Becker maintains the zippy-and-cheery pace set in Click and Double Click. Email plays an even bigger role in the characters staying connected to each other; especially in context of specific situations where no other medium works as well. 

The likability of the main players, however stuck-up and relatively annoying some of them may appear to be, instantly won me over. They have grown over the span of three books-- but at the same time, their voices are easily recognisable. Some of them make less-than-ideal comebacks and others, you continue to love to hate. While the story is centered around Renee, who has her share of ups and downs, Shelley continued to make me involuntarily "LOL" and Ashley's struggles were realistic and made my respect for her grow. Mark, who I've always found adorable, also gets his happily ever after!

I'm not going to deny that, like all chic lit novels, Right Click, too, did have that point when it got a bit too fluffy and even the ha-larity felt like an overkill. Thankfully, that's exactly when Becker chose to infuse grit and a surprising dose of tough love! Reading the last few email (!) exchanges between what has, over time, evolved into Renee's pretty tight-knit group, even left me a little teary-eyed! 

Click started out as a breezy and hilarious novel chronicling the online-dating (mis)adventures of Renee and Mark. Over time, over new and renewed friendships, heartbreak, funerals, PR-events, therapeutic pun-tertainment and hilariously tacky cat videos, it's clear that through chemistry, witty and light-hearted banter, forwards and mis-forwards, this series has morphed into so much more. And Right Click, over several plot arcs and important character milestones, provided a heartwarming and balanced finale to what has been a fabulous e-journey!

Rating: ★★★1/2

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Review: The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

Publication date: April 8th, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 5/5
Source: NetGalley
Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art's Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art's Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It's up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they'll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.


The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy has got to be the most enjoyable Young Adult book I've read in a while! I read this book way back in January, and if I hadn't been on an unofficial-hiatus I would've reviewed it right away. A lot of "reality show" based books end up wearing thin, but not this one.

The Vigilante Poets...(don't you love the title?) is about Ethan Andrezejczak who is witty, sarcastic, perfectly likable and hung up on ballerina Maura, the poster girl for Unattainable. Throw in a reality show their artsy unconventional school is the center of, an inspiring English teacher who introduces them to Ezra Pound's Cantos, the realisation that the show is ruining everything their school stands for and a creative rebellion is underway. There's plenty of genuine wit, solid characters, betrayals, a gerbil you will dote on and anti-climatic romantic twists to make this story epic and memorable. 

The best part? The ride is smooth. The writing is both charming and intelligent; and at no point does the plot pause. At no point are there Reflections or a pointless elaboration of angst. What we get of the show and the anti-show-movement are mere commercial-break-infused snippets. What we get of the characters, whether it's Ethan and his friends, his adorable twin sisters or even the elusive Maura, is brilliant. They grow on you, they fill you in on insights about themselves that surprise you just as much; but they never pause on it!

This book is a smart, snappy, insightful and colourful laugh-riot that reminds you of, but surpasses by a landslide, TV shows like Glee. A work of art by itself that gets the fun-insightful ratio just right, I highly recommend giving this book a shot.

Rating: ★★★★★