Exploring One’s Sexuality || Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Publication Date: May 9th 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: ★★★★
Amazon / Book Depository

Synopsis

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher. No compensation in any form was received for the review of this book.

Months before its publication, Ramona Blue gathered attention due to the original synopsis.  I shared my thoughts about it on Goodreads. I wasn’t one of the people who rated it 5-star just to counter the low ratings given by some, what I did was to share an experience years ago that made me realize that sexuality is indeed fluid.

Back in grade school, I had this huge crush on a girl from my class so I really thought that I was lesbian. Add this to the fact that I kept on hanging out with the guys when we entered high school because I love watching basketball. During my whole high school life, I kept on being attracted with girls, but there was one boy who stood out from the rest. The said boy made me question my identity a little bit. And I was like, “Why do I have a crush on this boy, yet I still have crushes on girls?”  Bisexuality wasn’t an open term during that time, at least for me. So in college, I decided to take up a course about gender and sexuality, and I learned a lot from the course. I felt okay, validated, and most of all, I felt ME, I started to embrace myself. I learned that it is okay to be attracted to people regardless of their gender. I learned that there are a lot more sexual orientation in the spectrum, and despite that it’s okay to not label yourself.

I felt like Ramona, when she was questioning herself. Sexuality is not a one time thing. It can change, as you discover yourself further. I’ve seen and read some stories featuring characters with heteroromantic relationships before they realized that they’re gay/lesbian/bi etc, and I think it’s time for narratives like Ramona Blue to be read. See, Ramona thought that all her life she’s lesbian, until she met her childhood friend, Freddie, again and realized that it’s possible. It’s possible because that’s exactly what happened to me.

 

“Life isn’t written in the stars. Fate is ours to pen. I choose guys. I choose girls. I choose people. But most of all: I choose.”

Moving on to the story, I really enjoyed the whole book. The friendships, complex family relationships, and the diversity. I adored Ramona, she’s one of the most relatable characters for me and I definitely saw myself in her shoes. I love her relationship with her sister, Hattie. More than anything, the book not only was about Ramona coming in terms with herself, but also her coming in terms of her family. There really was a strong sisterly bond between Ramona and Hattie, one that I truly enjoyed reading.

Saul and Ruth might just be the most adorable siblings. I also enjoyed the polarity between their personalities. Meanwhile, Freddie is just so lovely, plus I adore his grandparents!

It’s also worth noting that this book also features diversity in socio-economic class. Ramona lives in a trailer park with her sister and dad. I’m glad that we’re getting this kind of representation in books, and it makes you feel grounded too. It’s actually eye-opening to see this kind of narrative. Let’s face it, most contemporary YA books feature characters in either middle class or elite status.

Overall, this book is a perfect mix of everything. Julie Murphy’s writing is genuine and heartfelt. Her characters are easy to connect with, and she’s one of the auto-read authors, although I still need to check on Side Effects May Vary. I would definitely recommend this book, as it’s my favorite of hers so far.

 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Publication Date: May 30th 2017 by Simon Pulse
Source: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★
Amazon / Book Depository

Synopsis

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher. No compensation in any form was received for the review of this book.

First of all, let’s admire the cover of this book! Since the cover reveal was made, I immediately added this to my tbr because of how adorable the cover was! It’s not everyday we get to see an Indian girl on a cover of a book!

This book was straight up quirky, nerdy, and truly enjoyable. I enjoyed Dimple and Rishi’s banter and interaction from the get go. Both of them are huge nerds in their own ways and I just love it! Dimple is feisty, smart, and passionate. In contrast to Dimple’s feistiness, Rishi is such a pure soft boy!!! He’s so adorable and I love the fact that he never gave up on Dimple, even as friends.

The story was told in alternating POVs, which I love, but because of the formatting of the ARC, it was a little hard for me to keep track of the shift in the POV, but overall it was delightful to see the story in both voices. Dimple and Rishi totally complements each other in a lot of ways, and they’re one of my favorite YA couples to date.

“You. Are. Beautiful. Lajawab. My only worry is that I might not be able to do you justice.”

I also enjoyed how the Indian culture was integrated in the book, and how it steered away from the usual culture I see from Bollywood movies. It was modernized in a way, that kids are getting more freedom make their own choices in life since their tradition plays a big part in the story. It’s also sex positive!

I think the only issue I had was it’s a little predictable especially towards the end. Although, we all love our happy endings, don’t we?

Sandhya Menon’s debut is a sassy rom-com that will leave you laughing, crying, and swooning all at the same time. Menon’s writing is so lovely and heartwarming and I can’t wait to read more from her. I definitely recommend this book to everyone!

Review + Giveaway || The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Publication Date: May 16th 2017 by Feiwel and Friends
Source: ARC from Publisher via Netgalley
Rating:★★★★
Amazon / Book Depository

Synopsis

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher as part of the Blog Tour. No compensation in any form was received for the review of this book.

From the moment I first heard about the premise of the book, I got intrigued and I wanted to read it, even if love triangles are basically a hit or miss trope for me.

The Love Interest is a refreshing take, subtly satirical, on love triangles and other YA tropes. Reading every page of this book was worthwhile.

I adored the complexity and polarity of Caden and Dylan’s personalities. Both of them had the struggle of being a Love Interest. The premise was Caden is the nice guy, while Dylan is the bad guy, and they need to work and make Juliet fall in love with them. One will get chosen and the other one will die. Caden and Dylan’s characters were well-developed and I loved how there seemed to be layers in their personalities. Their dynamics work well too, and the chemistry… just wow!

“I’m not, nor will I ever be, her friend. All I’ll ever be is the scumbag who manipulated her into falling in love with me.”

Juliet was very interesting too. Basically, the set up was she’s been friends with Caden for a long time so there’s the possibility of a friends turned lovers which is my favorite trope. I loved her with Caden too! Her personality is strong and it’s one of the things I like about her character.

The only issue I had with the book was towards the end of the book, the writing felt really fast-paced and rushed. The book was action-packed, and I liked that, but during some scenes things were just happening here and there, which made it a little lacking in terms of story depth.

“You know love can drive people to act irrationally.”

Overall, this book was a pretty solid debut. Cale Dietrich’s writing is very effective and entertaining. It’s a bit meta, which is refreshing, and I loved the pop culture references thrown casually in the book.  It’s definitely a good read if you’re in the lookout for something action-packed, and swoonworthy. It’s a good mix of sci-fi/thriller and contemporary, y’all!

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Waiting in the Wings by Tara Frejas

Waiting in the Wings by Tara Frejas
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Source: Bought
Rating: ★★★★★
Amazon / Print (PH only)

Synopsis

At twenty-three, theatre actress Erin Javier has yet to fall in love or kiss a boy offstage, away from the klieg lights. She is the perfect leading lady—whose heart men would fight for, win, and protect—unfortunately, only until the curtains fall and the lights go down. In real life, Erin is a certified NBSB whose heart has been hoping for a song to dance to for quite some time.

But when two (two!) men enter from stage left and right, Erin is confused. Who deserves to take center stage in her heart—Mr. Theatre Royalty whose attention and displays of affection make her pulse race, or a good friend whose steady support has helped steer her to success and fulfill her dream?

I read this book in one sitting because it’s really good! I was still high and dry from April Feels Fest, a local event courtesy of the #romanceclass community. Waiting in the Wings was one of the books that got featured in the live reading, and I’d say that it was one of the main reasons why I read this book. I felt so much kilig during the live reading and the same thing happened while I was reading the book.

Erin, the main character, was lovely. I really like her overall vibe and I could relate to her. Ramon was so adorable, I’d love to just cuddle with him forever. He’s such a great friend to Erin, and I just love how supportive he was of her, even if it somehow stomps on his feelings. It’s also worth noting that Ramon has alopecia, I think it’s a good thing to have this representation in books. Pio, the other guy that makes up the love triangle, is adorable as well. Although, I saw him as a bit reserved, but he’s also lovely and it’s hard to hate him! I heard that Tara is writing a story about him, so I really can’t wait to read about that.

I really liked the whole premise of the book, which featured theatre arts. I’m probably the least person you’ll see on stage, but you can bet that I’ll be one of the people who can fill in the audience. I’ve always had an admiration to theatre people and seeing plays and productions were the best things I did during college. It’s nice to see this aspect of the arts in the book up close.

We can’t all be stars, Erin. You know that. Some of us need to stay behind in the dark so others can shine.

I don’t usually enjoy books with love triangles but this was one big exemption. The love triangle was well-executed and there was literally zero bad blood between the two male leads. I just love how the whole thing unfolded, the romance between the three was fun to read. Also the “labyu” drops, oh my gosh, those were my favorite scenes!

I think I’m a bit on an advantage here since I have already experienced the feel of the book because of the live reading, even before I was able to read the whole thing. If any, it heightened my experience in reading. I also love Tara Frejas’s writing style, the emotions were easy to pick up, and it made me swoon so hard! This was my first from her and I can’t wait to read more!