Title: Camp So-and-So
Author: Mary McCoy
Genre: Contemporary, YA, Thriller, Mystery
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5
The letters went out in mid-February. Each letter invited its recipient to spend a week at Camp So-and-So, a lakeside retreat for girls nestled high in the Starveling Mountains. Each letter came with a glossy brochure with photographs of young women climbing rocks, performing Shakespearean theatre under the stars, and spiking volleyballs. Each letter was signed in ink by the famed and reclusive businessman and philanthropist, Inge F. Yancey IV.
By the end of the month, twenty-five applications had been completed, signed, and mailed to a post office box in an obscure Appalachian town.
Had any of these girls tried to follow the directions in the brochure and visit the camp for themselves on that day in February, they would have discovered that there was no such town and no such mountain and that no one within a fifty-mile radius had ever heard of Camp So-and-So.
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Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, YA
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 3.0
Hi, it’s my favourite trope: arranged marriage, but they end up really falling in love! Dimple Shah is everything her mother doesn’t want out of a daughter: wild, stubborn, refusing to wear makeup. So she should have known when her mother allows her to attend the coding camp of her dreams that something was Up.
Because it’s there that she meets Rishi Patel: the Good Son, the hopeless romantic, and the guy who introduces himself to her as her “future husband.” So she does what any normal girl would do: she throws her coffee in his face and runs away. But then, as fate (or the partner preferences Rishi put on his application letter) would have it, the two are paired up, and much to her own annoyance, Dimple finds herself maybe possibly liking Rishi? Unstoppable object, meet immovable force.
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Title: Between the Lines
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA, Drama
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0 of 5.0
I wish I could say I enjoyed this novel. I even wish I say this novel simply “wasn’t for me.” Unfortunately, neither of these are true. I will preface this by saying that I’m neither Filipinx nor undocumented, so my personal impressions should be taken with a grain of salt, and should not take precedent over the opinion of someone who is Filipinx, undocumented, or both. That said, I found the novel to be extremely juvenile for its target demographic, and it was also incredibly microaggressive, especially where it came to respectability politics. I DNF-ed this book at just over 50% of the way through.
Initially, I was excited to read a novel about an undocumented Filipina girl because there are a lot of undocumented Asian Americans, but as a community, we don’t centre their voices nearly enough. Something in Between follows Jasmine de los Santos, who seems to lead a charmed life––pretty, popular, a cheerleader and a contender for valedictorian, she’s surrounded by loving friends and family. She’s fully prepared to live the American Dream. That is, until the day she’s notified that she qualified for a major college scholarship, but her parents tell her there’s no way she can accept, because she lacks documentation. While her world is crashing around her, she becomes increasingly reliant on Royce (…you read that name correctly), whose father is one of the most strident anti-immigrant congressmen on Capitol Hill.
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Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 3.5
After humans discover the existence of vampires in the 1960s, they’ve been pushed out into the open, slowly taking over drug trafficking and fighting over control of territories. After the fighting between her clan and the Godoys leaves Atl’s family dead, she flees to Mexico City, pursued by the scion of the Godoy family. But Mexico City is a vampire-free zone, and they’re both being pursued by veteran cop Ana Aguire, who is sick of dealing with both the bureaucracy and they body count in Nick Godoy’s wake.
Then there’s Domingo, who’s been surviving on his own since his stepdad kicked him out years ago. He’s infatuated with Atl, who, despite not having the time for it, feels strangely attracted to this earnest, naive boy.
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Title: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart
Author: J.C. Lillis
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 3.0
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart has a lot of things to recommend it: a fluffy gay romance, a quirky sensibility, and a knowledge of fandom that speaks to the author being engaged in it. The novel was well-written, and it didn’t condescend to fandom (and in particular, the fangirls)––in fact, it satirises anboys who condescend to girls for being into ships and writing fic. It felt a lot like Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but where Alberti’s book felt at times to me to be trying Too Hard, Lillis’ book felt very naturalistic.
Yet somehow, I wasn’t engaged.
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Title: Under the Lights
Author: Dahlia Adler
Genre: romance, contemporary, realistic, new adult
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 3.0
I had the opposite problem with this book as I did Labyrinth Lost––I tried really hard to dislike this novel, but I don’t think I can. There was a lot about it I felt I should dislike––one of the POV characters was a misogynist who wouldn’t stop talking about getting head, I’m kind of uncomfortable with the way Vanessa’s parents were portrayed, etc. etc. etc. ––but honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to write this off.
Under the Lights is the second of the Daylight Falls novel (though you don’t have to read the first novel to follow this one), and it follows the best friends of the main characters of the first novel––Josh Chester and Vanessa Park. Josh is Hollywood’s resident playboy, but he hasn’t had a project in ages, and he’s being forced to star in a reality TV show with his mother. Vanessa is the star of the long-running Daylight Falls, but she’s worried about maintaining her career after the show ends––there’s hardly work abound for a Korean American actress, especially one who’s struggling with her feelings towards her agent’s daughter.
I’ve been writing too much recently; the words aren’t coming out in quite the numbers they used to. There’s not really much I can say about this novel–it was adequate, I enjoyed it. I don’t think it’s something I’d read again, but I also don’t regret having read. This was in some ways a good thing–it lent left to what little dead time I had, and it was a fluffy read that helped bridge the moments between heavier course reading. And if it didn’t leave too strong an impression, it’s because it didn’t do much wrong.
There was some stuff that made me pause and wonder if a white woman should be writing the way she writes about Korean American households, but it wasn’t anything that was super out of line. And yeah, Josh is an asshole, but he’s reacted to as an asshole, it’s canon that he’s an asshole, and there aren’t excuses for his assholery.
I don’t know. I thought I’d have more to say, but I really don’t. It was cute. I liked it fine. That’s all.
Title: Catfish and Mandala
Author: Andrew Pham
Genre: Nonfiction, Narrative Nonfiction, Memoir
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 4.0
I seem to be short on words of late.
After quitting his cushy engineering job, Andrew Pham decides to bike through California, Mexico, Japan, and Vietnam, the country he and his family fled as refugees nearly twenty years prior. To be honest, I don’t really have much to say about this memoir––it’s beautifully written, I recommend everyone read it, I was discomforted by some of the claims he makes about Vietnam, I didn’t particularly like the way he writes about women. It’s painful at times, but also funny. Overall, a compelling read.