When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Series: N/A
Pages: 380
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 30th 2017

      “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.

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“It was beginning. Her freedom, her independence, her period of learning—about herself, about the world, about her career. She was finally doing it. Here she wouldn’t be Dimple Shah, wayward, Americanized daughter of immigrant parents; she’d be just Dimple Shah, future web developer. People would judge her on her brain, not her lack of makeup.”

Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi is a delightful rom-com that captures how magical and unpredictable first love can be. Dimple Shah knows she will never be the kind of daughter her mother wants her to be, but she is determined to do everything in her power to make her own dreams of becoming a web developer come true. Attending Insomnia Con will bring her one step closer to realizing this dream. Unbeknownst to Dimple, her parents have co-conspired with the Patels, to get their children to meet at the con in hopes of getting them to agree to an arranged marriage. Rishi is happy and willing to meet Dimple, of having an arranged marriage altogether, but their meeting will challenge both of them in ways they never expected.

I often bemoan the lack of dual perspectives in contemporary romances. Though I love getting to know one protagonist, I’m often left wanting to know more about the love interest. Menon’s story playfully jumps from Dimple’s perspective to Rishi’s, allowing both characters to become fully-realized and partaking in perfect comedic timing. As a result, it was hard not to smile with every page turned. I loved how Menon explored the cultural significance of having an arranged marriage through her two characters. As children on Indian immigrants, both Dimple and Rishi experience the weight of their parents’ dreams. For Rishi, these means embracing his heritage, of making his parents proud, and continuing a cultural tradition. For Dimple, it means forever being trapped in a box, of never being able to discover what she wants out of life, of following a path that will only smother all her untapped potential.

Dimple is a character who I immediately liked. She’s opinionated, temperamental, and often doesn’t have a filter. She has all this passion inside her just waiting to get out. Her ambition and dedication to furthering her education and need to discover what she can truly accomplish if given the right opportunities is hard not to admire. Dimple is sure of her future plans, but in the novel she learns to accept that life happens and sometimes those plans end up changing for the better. One of the things that resonated with me the most was Dimple’s relationship with her mother. They often clash when it comes to what one expects and wants of the other. Even though there’s a lot of love between the two, this doesn’t mean they don’t get fed up with one another, especially when their views on things like marriage differ so widely. Dimple wants to be valued as more than just a potential future wife, and she struggles with the fear that that’s all her mother sees her as.

Rishi is one of the sweetest characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading. He’s thoughtful, kind, and sensitive. When he finds out Dimple had no idea about their parents’s plan, he backs off immediately. He feels the need to be responsible, to fulfill all the dreams his parents have for him. Unfortunately for Rishi, this means giving up something he’s truly passionate about. I admired how sure he was of himself and how easy it was for him to be assertive when he had to be. I loved his interactions with his brother Ashish. These are two characters who could not be more different, but who in the end, find common ground and becoming really supportive of one another. Rishi’s first interaction with Dimple could not be more of a disaster, but I loved how both of these characters became friends and pushed each other to embrace their dreams.

When Dimple Met Rishi is a wonderful contemporary that allows its characters to make mistakes and grow. It’s a coming-of-age story as much as a fun rom-com and I loved every second of Dimple and Rishi’s story.

5/5

★★★★★

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: Jack Thorne
Series: Harry Potter, #8
Pages: 327
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: July 31st 2016 

      “It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
      While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

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“The poor orphan who went on to save us all. So may I say—on behalf of wizarding kind—how grateful we are for your heroism. Should we bow now or will a curtsy do?

I tentatively include the label “Harry Potter, #8” for this play in the description above because ever since I heard there was going to be an eighth Harry Potter story, I’ve been wary of what to call it. I’m typically not a fan of “extras” after a series has ended. I usually regard these additions as optional canon because I feel most of the time it’s better for an author to leave well enough alone. So I approached Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in a different way, not as canon, but as a neat little “extra” that at the end of the day, I don’t necessarily have to consider a part of the Harry Potter universe. From the get-go, the play interfered with the headcanons I’ve created since the series ended. I’ve created futures for these characters and how their relationships have evolved and had a knee-jerk reaction to a particularly salty interaction between two characters at the beginning of the play. It was from this moment forward that I knew I wasn’t going to call this canon Harry Potter, but instead of focusing on the various aspects of the novel I couldn’t quite reconcile with my own thoughts on the HP world, I sat back and enjoyed the ride.

The focus of this play is Harry’s tumultuous relationship with his youngest son Albus. Uncomfortable with the extra attention that comes with being Harry Potter’s son, Albus feels like he’s destined to be a disappointment. He struggles with his identity throughout the story and because his father’s shadow looms large, it’s difficult for him to discover who he is apart from the legacy of his father. While I sympathized with Albus’ inner struggles, it was hard to find him entirely likable as he tended to indulge in self-pity at the detriment of other people’s own struggles. Harry finds it difficult to connect with Albus, who doesn’t seem to want anything to do with the famous Harry Potter, and this is where their relationship gets off track. It’s become almost impossible for Albus to separate how everyone perceives his father from who Harry actually is and Harry can’t understand the loneliness and social shunning Albus has endured at Hogwarts when his own view of the school is seen through a lens of idyllic nostalgia.

Of the secondary characters we are first introduced to, no one shines quite as bright as Scorpius Malfoy. This kid is what I hoped for when I imagined the new generation. He brings a lightness to the narrative despite the negativity surrounding him and his family’s connection to Voldemort. Scorpius knows how other people view him, but unlike Albus who seems to bruise under the weight of his ancestry, Scorpius remains defiant in a different sort of way. He is kind and loyal, willing to go to great lengths to protect the people he loves. Though many are determined to dislike him, Scorpius remains good-natured, confident that if given the chance, those with prejudice views will eventually see him for who he is and not what the imagine him to be.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was actually quite an entertaining read. I’m interested in the extra tidbits the play provides in terms of special effects, but even without it this story provided plenty of enjoyable moments and just the right amount of nostalgia.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

ARC Review: Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

Title: Dreamstrider
Author: Lindsay Smith
Series: N/A
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not affect my review**

The Land of the Iron Winds has its eye on the Barstadt Empire. The Ministry works to protect the empire from invasion, their tools are espionage and dreamstriding. Livia is the only dreamstrider in Barstadt, able to take control someone else’s body while they sleep. But something is awry in the dreamland known as Oneiros and Livia finds herself fighting for Barstadt on both fronts. With her best friend, Brandt, at her side and help from representatives from the small Farthing Confederacy, Livia must discover just what plans the Land of the Iron Winds has in store and stop them before they invade her home.

I feel the need to start off by saying Lindsay Smith’s Dreamstrider has one of the most interesting and gorgeous covers I’ve ever come across. In this imaginative world, dreams hold a special place in the hearts of Barstadters, seen as a gift from the Dreamer, a divine being who protects the people and who is credited with slaying the terrible Nightmare. Livia, once a lowly tunneler, is discovered to have a gift for dreamstriding and now works for the Ministry as an agent. Because of her origins, Livia is regarded by many within the Ministry as inferior, despite being the only one capable of dreamstriding. She struggles with confidence, cognizant of her own limitations and the ever-present chasm between her and Brandt, her partner who is destined for an aristocratic life. I liked Livia’s growth throughout the novel as she learns to trust in herself and let go of past failures. Despite this, the novel does little to explore Livia’s past which subtracts from her character considerably. There are certain unresolved issues missing from her story, mainly what happened to the family she left behind when she joined the Ministry. I found her lack of concern for her siblings inconsistent with the generous nature she shows toward others.

I wasn’t a big fan of Livia’s two love interests as neither is very interesting. Brandt, Livia’s constant for the past several years, comes across as one-dimensional. He has no character arc himself and his only function is to be the object of the main character’s affections. Marez, a Farthing delegate Livia is assigned to work with as both regions try to find a way to stop The Land of Iron Winds, is supposed to represent different possibilities for Livia, not just romantically, but also philosophically. Unfortunately, his immediate interest in Livia comes across as disingenuous and with no natural progression to their relationship, I didn’t feel at all invested in the two of them. Several other minor characters also felt incomplete and there were a lot of missed opportunities for many. Professor Hesse, the man who discovered Livia’s rare talent and whose experimentation led to dreamstriding, makes only a few appearances, but his expertise on Oneiros and manipulating this odd land would have helped with the world-building for this novel.

Overall, though I enjoyed exploring concepts like dream manipulation and possessing someone else’s body, Dreamstrider could have been better if its characters were more well-rounded and the world-building had a more complete foundation.

Rating: 2/5

★★

ARC Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Series: N/A
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not affect my review**

Madeline Whittier has been a prisoner in her home for her whole life. As a baby she was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare life-threatening disease that forces her to live in isolation. Madeline’s constants include her doctor, who is also her mother, her nurse, Carla, and her books. When a new family moves into her neighborhood and Madeline starts an unlikely friendship with their son Olly, her safe and structured life no longer feels like enough. Now Madeline must decide if living is worth the risk.

Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything is the story of a girl who discovers that living is more than taking that next breath. Madeline has been physically isolated from the outside world and has also learned to build an emotional wall around herself in order to protect herself from what she refers to as “false hope.” No matter how much she might want something, her illness will never allow her to have them. Her close relationship with her mother is an example of two lonely people finding happiness in a small, limited world. Madeline’s nurse, Carla, provides a different kind of support and often holds a different perspective on life than the one Madeline has embraced over the years.

Routine is the norm for Madeline, so Olly’s lack of predictability breathes life into her stagnant lifestyle. His tumultuous relationship with his father is a direct contrast to Madeline’s experience with her mother. While Madeline and Olly live very different lives, they both feel helpless because of circumstances beyond their control. In the end, however, they both have opportunities to break the cycle that has had them feeling trapped for far too long. And just as importantly, through their relationship Madeline learns that being vulnerable even when one understands there is a possibility of loss opens the door to things like love, which isn’t possible if you hide yourself from the world.

While I really enjoyed the evolution of Madeline and Olly’s relationship, I did feel the book could have expanded more on the protagonist’s disease. I also wanted to know more about her childhood and why her nurse was so apprehensive about Madeline’s friendship with Olly. It’s hinted that Madeline had a hard time when a former neighbor moved, but we’re never given the full story. I also think the book could have benefited from a dual perspective because although I enjoyed Olly’s character, I think having a more intimate look at the novel from his perspective would have further enriched the story.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★