Author: Julie Murphy
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr
Also by this author: Dumplin'
Publication date: May 9th 2017
Source: Harper Collins Canada (thank you!)
From Julie Murphy, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, comes another fearless heroine, Ramona Blue, in a gorgeously evocative novel about family, friendship, and how sometimes love can be more fluid than you first think. Perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson.
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.
Review: RAMONA BLUE by Julie Murphy
Beautifully intersectional, Ramona Blue is equal parts complex family dynamics, small-town poverty, friendship goals, and swoony romance. Julie Murphy has an incredible gift of being able to bring all of these pieces together in a way that never feels forced, but always lyrical.
Ramona Leroux is 17, entering her senior year of high school, with no plans for the future other than staying in Eulogy, Mississippi. She’s got her part-time jobs, her friends, and her sister Hattie, who is pregnant at 19. And she has a summer romance with Grace, a vacationer who’s not quite out yet. The end of the summer brings that romance to a bittersweet close, but luckily, childhood friend Freddie is back to help Ramona pick up the pieces.
While this was a very slow read for me at first, once I got into it, I felt that same feeling that I got at reading Dumplin’. It’s that poignant feeling that each scene is a picture, captured in words. Murphy has uncanny pacing, relaying information about Ramona and her family at just the right time. She doles out moments of beauty and heartbreak and sisterhood that just sink into your heart. I loved how much Ramona was dealing with – especially with her own expectations of herself – and how it always threatened to overwhelm her, but it never overwhelmed the reader.
I also loved the honesty of Ramona’s confusion at her love for her family, people who didn’t always support her but still meant a lot. And I loved the strength of her relationships…with her sister, with Freddie, and with the friends that stayed in tact because of changing dynamics.
And yeah, I totally swooned at the romance.
My issue with Ramona Blue is that it really came after Dumplin, which is one of my perfect books. It’s hard for me to compare to the connection I had with that book with anything. So Ramona Blue ended up feeling a little disconnected for me. It was only once the romance really got going that I felt really strongly connected with the characters.
The Final Word:
Julie Murphy’s books are always difficult to summarize for me, because they really do capture the heartache and pain and wonder of teenagerhood so perfectly. Ramona Blue is no different. I loved how intersectional it was, though – something that was missing from Dumplin. The moments when Ramona questioned her sexuality, her worldview, her understanding of what she was capable of made this a poignant summer read. While this one didn’t captivate me as much as Dumplin’ did, it’s nevertheless a very strong novel, and one I really enjoyed.Coming Up for Air
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: Breathe, Annie, Breathe, Jesse's Girl, Defending Taylor
Publication date: July 1st 2017
Format: eARC from publisher (thank you!)
Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.
All of Maggie's focus and free time is spent swimming. She's not only striving to earn scholarships—she's training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team, and cheers her on. But Levi's already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it's notuntil Maggie's away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the "typical" high school experience she's missed by being in the pool.
No one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?
REVIEW: Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally
I’ve read five of Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks books, but Coming Up for Air is the only one that’s ever been absolutely unputdownable for me. I don’t know if it’s the really amazing friendship/relationship between protagonist Maggie King and best friend/swimming partner Levi Lucassen, the sex positivity, the descriptions of thetraining needed for the Olympics, or the absolute steaminess of the romance…
Ok, wait, who am I kidding, it’s definitely the steamy romance. This book smolders with the main characters’ encounters – equal parts banter, long-time friendship, and incredibly sexy moments.
What I loved about this book was how naturally Maggie and Levi went from friends to lovers – and how honest it was about the confusion of first having feelings for someone. Add to that the focus needed to become an Olympic athlete and it’s a lot of pressure to try to sort out a relationship.
I also loved how much Maggie was the instigator for everything because she was sexually curious and ready to explore physical love. She wanted experience before going to college – but she also wanted to feel safe while getting that experience. Obviously, this provides for some pretty steamy scenes. And even more obviously, things get complicated when Maggie and Levi start to have feelings for each others.
Kenneally has always been a huge proponent of writing sex positive teenagers, but never more so than in this book. I loved how Coming Up for Air encouraged her to explore and do what felt good to to her, safely. I loved that all of the girls in the book were just as interested in the physical side of love as the boys were. It’s so realistic, feminist, and honest.
As someone who loves sports romances, and especially loves swimming, I found this book to be so good at balancing both. The swimming descriptions, in particular, were fascinating and never felt heavy or weighty with exposition. I enjoyed seeing the characters preparing for such big challenges.
I also really loved the secondary characters in this book – from Maggie’s parents, to athlete friends Hunter and Georgia, to the swim team friends. Everyone in this book really feels rounded, and because of that, every scene felt compelling and necessary. Even though the central theme of this book is around the dichotomy of focus and determination vs losing oneself in a relationship, the little moments that Maggie has with her friends at the local Jiffy Burger, or the talks with her parents at their party planning business made this book come alive for me.
The Final Word:
If I’m being objective, I think Breathe, Annie, Breathe is still the best book of the Hundred Oaks series. But I think Coming Up for Air is the most tightly written of the series, and the one that really says what Miranda Kenneally wanted to say with this series. It’s got a little bit of everything, from friendships to sexy romance, to feminism and sports. And since it’s the last book in the series, the cameos don’t hurt either.
Coming Up for Air is definitely up there as my second favorite of the Hundred Oaks series – and it might even sneak into first on further reflection.When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: May 30th 2017
Source: ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada (thank you!)
The rom-com that everyone’s talking about! Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about two Indian-American teens whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage.
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.
REVIEW: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
When Dimple Met Rish is very very close to being a perfect rom-com. I had a few tiny reservations at the end, but mostly, I shipped the crap out of Dimple and Rishi and loved everything about this wonderful book.
Dimple is a teen web developer who is dying to go to Insomnia Con, a six week web development camp and contest for talented aspiring coders. Shockingly, her very traditional parents allow her to go. What they don’t tell Dimple is that a) they’ve arranged a marriage for her b) the boy she is supposed to marry is going to Insomnia Con as well. Hilarity ensues.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect book that explores arranged marriages, Indian families, the expectations of parents, and following your dreams. For me, arranged marriage has always seemed like a trap. I’m so glad to have gotten a different perspective on this, especially since it still happens in Chinese culture as well. I’m grateful for this book because it also taught me a lot more about what it means to be arranged in Indian culture. This is #ownvoices done right.
Aside from that, this is surely one of the most adorable character-driven books I’ve read this year. Dimple and Rishi are both super developed, with so much going on aside from just what’s on the surface. I didn’t just ship them as a couple, I loved them individually as well. You really get to know them and it’s a delight the entire way through. I loved the alternating perspectives and gosh, the swooning….I was so here for this book.
The Final Word:
If you’re looking for a summer romance that’s funny, diverse, thoughtful, and fluffy at the same time, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is your book. I whipped through it in a day and I can’t wait to read it again.
Have you read any of these books? Which is your favorite? Which would you say is the perfect summer swoony read? Any you’d recommend? Hit the comments and let me know!