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My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma – #Bookstagramtour #darkroomtours

Synopsis

Do You Believe in Destiny?

Bollywood film fanatic Winnie Mehta has grown up convinces her future is written in the stars. Her family’s pandit predicted she would find the love of her life before she turned eighteen and her boyfriend Raj ticks all the boxes. So when the pair break up just months before her eighteenth birthday, Winnie is lost.

Then fellow film geek Dev challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope for her own happily ever after and take the future into her own hands. With a little help from family, friends and a Bollywood movie star, Winnie is about to discover that you can’t live life by the script.

About the Author

Nisha Sharma grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania immersed in Bollywood movies, ‘80s pop culture, and romance novels, so it is no surprise that her first young adult novel, My So-Called Bollywood Life, features all three.

The concept for the novel came to Nisha when she moved to New Jersey after law school, and a few years later, she completed the story as part of her MA thesis. Nisha was fortunate enough to receive feedback on film culture in the book from directors and producers such as Susan Catsonis (Storefront Pictures) and Gironde Chadha (Bend It films).

Nisha credits her father for her multiple graduate degrees, and her mother for her love of Shah Rukh Khan and Jane Austen. She lives in New Jersey with her cat, Lizzie Bennett, and her dog, Nancey Drew.

nisha-sharma.com/@nishawrites

What I Thought

This was a really fun read and one I can totally see being filmed in the vein of She’s All That and similar high school movies.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit I have never seen a whole Bollywood movie! I’ve seen snippets and think I understand the general gist. Melodrama, melodrama and some singing. I’m not sure if the title is a reference to the 90s TV show My So-Called Life (which I loved by the way) but I definitely saw echoes of Angela in Winnie.

Winnie is a Bollywood fan girl and each chapter begins with a short blog review of a film that sort of links in with what is going to happen. Not being familiar with the films some of these didn’t work for me but I found it interesting that at the back of the book there was more of a synopsis for reference (I wonder if they were initially with the chapters but omitted?). There were also references to other non-Bollywood films which weren’t given the same treatment (luckily for me I was more familiar with those). There are also dream sequences with one Shah Rukh Khan (a real actor in case like me you didn’t know). Those who aren’t movie buffs might miss out on a few references in that case. Although I’ve certainly been given an excuse to see add a few more films to my TWL!

I’m just going to pause here to point out that a few reviews I’ve read say that Winnie is unlikeable. I agree a few of the things she does are questionable but it worries me that YA characters (females in particular) seem to have to be totally politically correct in their views to be seen as likeable. Especially when not liking the character is cited as the main reason for not liking a book.

Winnie even refers to her own behaviour as like Reese Witherspoon’s character in Election so I think she shows insight into some of the situations in which she doesn’t behave perfectly. She’s 17 – I’m 40 and I’m still learning. I do remember being a teenage girl and girls can be mean to those people who aren’t their friends – crikey even to their friends. The teasing and poking fun occasionally goes too far.

There also just seems to be an inability to suspend disbelief and just have fun when reading stories, and this story is huge fun. Yes discuss books critically but not to the extent where you snap their spines and leave them unreadable.

I like to fully immerse myself in a story and take it in as a whole before trying to take it apart. It’s why reviews take me so long to write as I don’t often make notes so have to flick back. My views can fluctuate but I usually get an overall view of how much I’ve enjoyed it/learnt from it etc. It’s why I don’t put numbers to my reviews here anymore and will find myself re-rating books on a re-read. Where you are at personally when you read affects how you respond.

Sorry. Diverted by that but I felt it was important to highlight. Back to MSCBL.

This was very clearly a romance and there were definite swoon worthy moments. I did guess at something quite early on but as ever I enjoyed seeing when characters would catch up, and what would happen when they did. And the responses did surprise me.

I liked the focus on family and friendship too. I was really interested by the emphasis put on birth charts and horoscopes in Indian culture – it was useful to see differing views on this from those within the same culture.

I think Winnie realises it isn’t straightforward to follow destiny, or even realise what it is at times. One event had me telling the book characters off in no uncertain terms. They didn’t listen to me, but the very end bought a huge grin to my face. Romantic gestures don’t always work out like they do in the movies. 😂 🍨

Fans of Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale and It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne will enjoy this Bollywood take on the movie obsessed teen romance story.

Thanks to Faye and Jess at Darkroom Tours and the publisher Stripes for the copy and paper hearts I was gifted for the purposes of the bookstagram tour and an honest review.

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Floored by The UKYA Super Seven – Book Review

Ever since I got a sampler of this at last year’s YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) I’ve been desperate to read the whole thing and see if I could work out which author wrote which character. See below for my feeble guessing attempts. YALC 2018 is a mere week away with the Floored 7 speaking/signing on Saturday so I’m looking forward to getting my copy signed by these wonderful women (and also taking part in the Floored quiz on Friday night – I wonder if we can get last year’s #QuizYA winning #TeamBarnard back together).

Synopsis

When they got in the lift, they were strangers.

Sasha, who is desperately trying to deliver a parcel; Hugo, who knows he’s the best-looking guy in the lift and is eyeing up Velvet, who knows what that look means; Dawson, who used to be on TV, used to be handsome, and is sincerely hoping no one recognizes him; Kaitlyn, who’s losing her sight but won’t admit it; and Joe, who shouldn’t be here at all, but wants to be here the most.

And one more person, who will bring them together again on the same day every year.

Every day told seven ways in this unique collaborative novel.

Authors

I have read and loved books by each of these authors. Instead of giving you a bio I’ll link you to their Twitter where they hang around being funny and awesome and tell you which one of their other books is my favourite… so far.

Sara Barnard – @saramegan

A Quiet Kind of Thunder

Holly Bourne – @holly_bourneYA

Am I Normal Yet?

Tanya Byrne – @tanyabyrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise

Non Pratt – @NonPratt

Trouble

Melinda Salisbury – @MESalisbury

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Lisa Williamson – @lisa_letters

The Art of Being Normal

Eleanor Wood – @eleanor_wood

Gemini Rising

A nod also to the illustrations by Laura Callaghan. I especially loved Kait’s illustration progression.

What I Thought

Back in 1994 Sandra Bullock’s character Annie in Speed told us that “relationships that start under intense circumstances, never last.” That film starts in a lift and so does the action in Floored, and it seems from the book’s dedication that so did the inspiration for this story. Clearly Annie is a master of reverse psychology because it seems intense circumstances can bring people together and indeed here it creates a story that I’ll happily keep with me.

This is a contemporary young adult read with common themes such as teen pregnancy, feminism, growing up, deciding where you fit. There’s also diversity in terms of sexuality and disability as well as young characters facing morbidity and mortality.

Each of the six teen characters gets their own chapters and there is an overarching narrator. I don’t think that was meant to be the seventh person in the lift but I could be wrong.

I liked the comedy in it especially the morbid humour in naming their messaging group. The use of text statuses between the group when they weren’t physically together also worked well to advance the story.

I thought it explored friendships really well in terms of how within groups of friends people pair off or create subgroups based on commonality or connection. The time jump forward to the next year reminded me a little of the film Beaches in terms of tone. The shock incident, and meeting, happens early on and the story is then about how they stay in touch or drift apart. It didn’t feel slow paced though and this structure allowed a range of experiences to be explored over time.

Not all of the characters are likeable but all of them are interesting and hold your attention during their narration. I didn’t find myself wanting to skip ahead to x’s bit but was fully immersed.

I enjoyed the nods to some of the author’s other books. Melinda’s character Luvian Fen from State of Sorrow is mentioned in Dawson’s chapter, as is Rhys Gold from Sara’s A Quiet Kind of Thunder. What other Easter Eggs did people find?

And reverse long bottoming as a concept is genius. Harsh, but also sadly true in some cases.

In short I really loved this and if you love contemporary I have no doubt you will too. I’d love the authors to considered coming back to these characters 10 & 20 years in the future too. More please.

Who wrote who??

Original guesses after the sampler to which Mel replied Interesting?!

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Holly

Hugo – Tanya

Velvet – Eleanor

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Melinda

Guesses when re- reading first chapters

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Holly

Hugo – Melinda

Velvet – Eleanor

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Tanya

Guesses after finishing

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Tanya

Hugo – Melinda

Velvet – Holly

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Eleanor

In other words I have no clue. I can’t even really fully justify why these were my guesses. Feel? I suspect I am totally wrong.

Anyway all of these ladies can write magnificently separately and together they have blended so well and created a group of characters you will be happy to meet up with time and time again. In fact I’d love to hear more from them.

If you’ve read the book who do you think wrote who? What reasoning do you have?

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

With London Pride being yesterday I thought that time was right to finally review this Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash.

Synopsis

Maggie is fifteen and has basically spent every summer of her life at one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, where her days are full of a pleasant, peaceful sort of nothing. Until one confounding moment of innocent physical contact catapults her into gut-twisting love with Erin, an older, wiser, and surprisingly – at least to Maggie – female counselor. When it seems as if Erin might feel the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for either Maggie or Camp Bellflower to endure, let alone understand.

Author

Maggie Thrash is a staff writer for Rookie, a popular online magazine for teenage girls. This is her first book. She lives in Delaware.

Honor Girl was first published in 2015 and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist.

What I thought

This is a non-fiction book, based on true events and is presented as a graphic novel. It is about a girl discovering her sexual attraction to another, older girl at summer camp.

I thought it was excellently done and a great use of the genre. The book is illustrated in watercolour pencil and pen images which were finished digitally and even the font was designed by Maggie. The art is fairly simplistic but there’s something powerful in its simplicity especially in the close up images like below.

I’ve seen some criticism of the ‘ending’ but I really liked the fact that is was realistic. Nothing against fictional coming out stories but the happily ever after they often portray does not often represent the stories of many teens in this situation. I also thought Maggie’s confliction was represented powerfully.

I read some of the one star reviews of this book on goodreads and whilst I agree with some of the concerns highlighted over this being about a relationship between an older 19 year old camp counselor and a 15 year old girl I can’t help but wonder how vehemently those concerns would be expressed if the counselor had been male and the 15 year old female. In fact I’ve seen many older boy/younger girl stories like this fictionally and in real life that are seen as ‘part of the norm’.

This is set in a summer camp in southern America a ‘few’ years ago so usual camp activities take place including shooting guns and the safety around such activities is more lax than I think it would be now. This was again a criticism I read from others, though I think we need to take care to read stories in their context not just applying today’s standards.

I liked the use of humour and ‘silliness’ when describing the typical teen girl behaviour such as lusting over the backstreet boys, being mean to each other and scaring the younger girls. As such I do think that teenagers will relate to the story whatever their sexual orientation. It’s about growing up, discovering yourself, falling in love and heartbreak. What is more universal?

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher Walker for the purposes of an honest review. I read it a year ago so apologies for the delay in reviewing.

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