Hello readers, and welcome to another round of Mini Reviews, where I talk about some of the books I don’t write full length reviews for. It’s been a while since I did one of these posts! This installment, let’s chat about: Aru Shah and the City of Gold, Admission and Maybe This Time.
Aru Shah and the City of Gold (Pandava #4) | Roshani Chokshi
Aru Shah and her sisters–including one who also claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter–must find their mentors Hanuman and Urvashi in Lanka, the city of gold, before war breaks out between the devas and asuras.
Aru has just made a wish on the tree of wishes, but she can’t remember what it was. She’s pretty sure she didn’t wish for a new sister, one who looks strangely familiar and claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter, like her.
Aru also isn’t sure she still wants to fight on behalf of the devas in the war against the Sleeper and his demon army. The gods have been too devious up to now. Case in point: Kubera, ruler of the city of gold, promises to give the Pandavas two powerful weapons, but only if they win his trials. If they lose, they won’t stand a chance against the Sleeper’s troops, which will soon march on Lanka to take over the Otherworld.
Aru’s biggest question, though, is why every adult she has loved and trusted so far has failed her. Will she come to peace with what they’ve done before she has to wage the battle of her life?
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a middle-grade read this much! I didn’t realize that this series was being extended by another book until late March of this year (clearly, I need to pay more attention to bookish news), and while I always thought this series should have 5 books (because, well, 5 Pandavas), I’m not a huge fan of series extensions this late into the story. However, there was no reason to worry at all. This book was as amazing as each one before it, and with the introduction of Kara, who claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter, the plot took an intriguing twist that I had my fingers crossed for ever since the cliffhanger at the end of Tree of Wishes.
Our protagonists are growing up with each book, and it’s nice to see that while they do feel more mature, the hilarious banter and the lighthearted mood remains as it used to be. Roshani Chokshi writes amazing characters and despite everything being narrated from Aru’s perspective, I feel like I’ve gotten to know all of them equally.
On an unrelated note, I really liked the part where the group has to complete certain quests for the God Kubera in order to get his army and a powerful weapon, particularly how this sequence took the time to highlight a couple of lovely Vedic stories. The only thing I was a little disappointed about was that with the introduction of the City of Gold, I was expecting more of Ravana given the cover of this book, but it was used as more of a setting to introduce a variety of other characters.
For anyone who is familiar with Hindu mythology and the tales from the Mahabharat, the major twists at the end will not be a surprise since there are some pretty blatant hints dropped throughout the book as to who Kara really is, and once you’ve gotten that far, the fall out of that information is not too much of a stretch to figure out either. If you’re newer to this though, sit back and enjoy the reveals because this definitely won’t be predictable! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting. The sequel can’t get here soon enough! Highly, highly recommended!
Publishing Date: April 6th, 2021 (Rick Riordan Presents)
Admission | Julie Buxbaum
It’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer. She’s headed off to the college of her dreams. She’s going to prom with the boy she’s had a crush on since middle school. Her best friend always has her back, and her mom, a B-list Hollywood celebrity, may finally be on her way to the B+ list. It’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer–at least, it was, until the FBI came knocking on her front door, guns at the ready, and her future went up in smoke. Now her mother is under arrest in a massive college admissions bribery scandal. Chloe, too, might be facing charges, and even time behind bars. The public is furious, the press is rabid, and the US attorney is out for blood.
As she loses everything she’s long taken for granted, Chloe must reckon not only with the truth of what happened, but also with the examination of her own guilt. Why did her parents think the only way for her to succeed was to cheat for her? What did she know, and when did she know it? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be complicit?
Although this is a fictional story, it is modeled after very real events and it will be familiar if you followed the college admissions scandal a few years ago. Told from Now and Then perspectives, it follows Chloe Wynn Berringer, the daughter of a TV star, through her college admissions process. As she is not a very good student, her parents hire a counselor to help with her college applications and things unfold pretty much exactly how it played out in the news.
It was a pretty straightforward plot and the narration was fast paced. This book did a decent job in illustrating the privilege and entitlement some people have, though since we only see it through the eyes of Chloe and her family (which was more than enough to make me so disgusted with the whole thing), it only scratched the surface. Keeping the plot so close to Lori Loughlin’s story was a missed opportunity, in my opinion, to lead into deeper conversations about the topic.
I think the real downside of this book was that I couldn’t connect with the main character and didn’t really care much about what would happen to her and her parents. Initially, when it wasn’t clear exactly how much Chloe knew about what was going on, I was inclined to be a bit more sympathetic, but later on it became clear that even when she started sensing that something wasn’t quite right, she deliberately turns a blind eye. She was oblivious to her own privilege to the point that it became really annoying when she said such stupid things. Her sister Isla, on the other hand, was much more interesting, and I would have loved it if the book had been narrated from her perspective instead, as it would illustrate how the actions of her family blew up her own chances at a great future despite being an amazing student and entirely innocent in the whole mess.
Overall, not a bad read. I’ve watched a documentary or two on the subject, so it was interesting to read a book about it. If the topic interests you, I would definitely suggest this book!
Publishing Date: December 1st, 2020 (Delacorte Press)
Maybe This Time | Kasie West
One year. Nine events. Nine chances to…fall in love?
Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.
Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .
Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places.
I read this book ages ago and I’ve been meaning to review it for the longest time! This was pretty standard for Kasie West and it was a fun summer read. I really liked the premise and it was a bit of a change as we follow Sophie through an entire year of working at the florist’s and hence get to know her character quite well. It was a nice touch that the chapters went by which event Sophie was organizing rather than simply chapter numbers, along with the funny blurbs about the flowers being used for the event.
Sophie and Andrew were really cute, and while I’m usually a big fan of the enemies to lovers trope, I felt that it wasn’t too well executed in this case. Though this is a romance centered book, it felt like they spent way too much time hating each other, and when that finally changed, the book was pretty much over.
Kasie West’s novels have long been a go-to for me when I need something lighthearted or feel-good. However, I think I’m at a point where I’ve well and truly outgrown her novels. I still find them entertaining, but I’m no longer able to really connect with the story or characters, and so it’s unlikely I will continue picking up her novels. For those whom this genre appeals to though, this book, along with all her other novels are perfect summer reads and I would definitely recommend it!
Publishing Date: March 9th, 2021 (Little, Brown BYR)
Have you read any of these books or do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!