Review: WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI

First of all let me say this: I’ve been waiting  with bated breath for WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon to come out ever since I heard about it. I mean, a Bollywood style YA? What’s not to love? So when I recently got my hands on an ARC I was thrilled. Unfortunately it took me a little while to start reading because dear hubs, also an avid Bollywood fan, got his grubby fingers on it before I did and so I had to wait patiently. By the time he was done and I started, we were on our way to Santa Monica to attend YALLWEST. You can read all about that experience here.

I was still reading it on the plane and when we landed at LAX we decided to grab some lunch. Afterwards I got lost on my way back from the restrooms as one tends to do (okay maybe not most people, but I am directionally challenged). Anyway, while I was wandering around the terminal trying to locate dear hubs, who do I spy but Sandhya Menon, the author of WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI. Of course, since I’d never met her before in my life, I couldn’t be 100% sure. But like Rishi, I believe in kismet and also, I knew she in the lineup for YALLWEST and it wasn’t that far-fetched that she would also fly into LAX. So unlike a normal person I did not quietly continue the search for my husband, who by this time was no doubt panicking about his lost wife. No, I actually walked up to her, confirmed she was indeed Sandhya Menon and not some other unsuspecting passenger and proceeded to give her an exuberant hug. I can’t imagine what she must have thought about being accosted by a complete stranger in the airport (okay, maybe I can. She will probably always travel incognito from now on).

Of course she was perfectly lovely and gracious. She didn’t even run away the next day when we went up  to her after a panel at YALLWEST. My husband was not too impressed with my stalkerish behavior but after he met her and we chatted for a few minutes, he was convinced that things were fine.

The sad thing is, in all the excitement, I forgot to take a picture with her and worst of all, I DID NOT GET AN AUTOGRAPH!! I had the book in my purse the entire time.

Anyhow, I finished the book and let me tell you it was glorious!

I cannot say this enough: it was beyond amazing to read about a character who could have been one of my daughters. They are South Asian, children of immigrants, a leg in each world and they hardly ever get to see themselves reflected in YA. My older daughter, now 22, was an avid reader all through elementary and high school. There were no books with characters who looked like her or came from a similar background. So as I was reading, there were many moments of feeling connected and rejoicing.

What I loved most about this book was that it showcased two very different kinds of South Asian teens. Dimple is fiercely independent, has her own idea of what she wants her life to be and fights her parents, while Rishi is more traditional and feels responsible for his parents’ happiness. With so few books out there featuring POC it becomes more important to convey to readers that no culture is a monolith. South Asians are not all alike, any more than people of any other ethnicity.

And then there were the scenes with her parents and other relatives. Sandhya’s sense of humor is delightful. I could hear the voices in my head as clearly as if I were watching a Bollywood movie or drama. It was fun and light, while at the same time tackling the deeper issue of two very smart and driven young people finding their place in the world.

I can’t wait for this book to come out soon and watch people rave about it.

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YA Scavenger Hunt Fall 2015

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

                Hello! I am Sabina Khan and I will be your host for this leg of the hunt.

10733772_878872508789928_2805453803771163663_oA little bit about me:

I LOVE karaoke!

And puppies. When I’m rich and famous I want to rescue puppies and cuddle them all day.

I love to learn languages: Currently I speak German, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and of course English. I’m mastering the art of procrastination in writing by learning Spanish online.

While I was writing my first book I made two new best friends: gummy worms and vodka.

But enough about me. You are currently hunting on the Pink Team!

Team Pink

YASH PINK TEAM 2015

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PINK TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a blue team,a teal team, a purple team and a green team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Below, somewhere in this post, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the pink team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Oct 4 at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting the fabulous Kate Karyus Quinn for the YA Scavenger Hunt.

Kate-Karyus-Quinn-225x300

Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict. She has lived in California and Tennessee, but recently made the move back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would… build character. She is the author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, (DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, and the upcoming DOWN WITH THE SHINE (April 16th, 2016) all from HarperTeen.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here! 

www.katekaryusquinn.com

Kate Quinn

Check out her book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Among-Shadows-Stories-Darkness-Light-ebook/dp/B013TOA7W4

Even the lightest hearts have shaded corners to hide the black thoughts that come at night. Experience the darker side of young adult as 13 authors explore the places that others prefer to leave among the shadows. Including stories from: Lenore Appelhans, Joelle Charbonneau, Kelly Fiore, Geoffrey Girard, Justina Ireland, Lydia Kang, RC Lewis, Demitria Lunetta, Mindy McGinnis, Gretchen McNeil, Phoebe North, Kate Karyus Quinn, and Beth Revis.

And that’s not all! Enjoy some EXCLUSIVE CONTENT from Kate:

from THE ONE TRUE MIRANDA LIEU

Everyone has their breaking point. Turns out mine is having my father return from the dead.
I come home from school and there he is standing with Mother in the middle of the living room. His arm draped along her shoulders. Hers around his waist. They can’t possibly be comfortable. It looks as if they’re posing for a picture, and I can’t help but wonder how long they’ve been waiting here. But then again they never do seem quite at ease when they’re together.
“Miranda, isn’t this a surprise?” my mother squeals, proving once again that she has mastered the art of the understatement. It’s a shame they don’t hand out trophies for that type of thing.
“I hate surprises,” I answer. Which is true and which she would know if she paid the least bit of attention to me beyond what I’m wearing and how many times I’ve frowned (“Always aim for a zero frowny face day!”).
My distrust of surprises goes all the way back to my fifth birthday party. It was on that bright and sunny day when I received a beautiful pink pony, her flowing mane braided and bowed. She was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen and she was all mine to keep forever and always. In that first glimpse of her I imagined us having a million different adventures together. My love was instant and complete.
Still it was difficult to be gracious when my parents insisted my party guests be allowed to ride her before me. “After today she’s all yours and only yours, Miranda,” Father said with the same warm chuckle that always accompanied reprimands or admonishments to behave better. “Let the other children have a chance.”
So I waited and waited until at last it was my turn. Of course, my parents had to make it a big production. As I approached the pony, a carrot clutched in my fist, all the other kids circled around, clapping and cheering. Just as I stretched out a hand to stroke her velvety soft nose, there was a terrible rumbling sound.
And then the beautiful pink pony spontaneously combusted.
So when someone mentions a surprise, perhaps it is inevitable that it always makes me think of being spattered with pink pony guts and the feel of them dripping off my face while all around me my friends screamed and screamed and screamed.
This then is why I don’t rush to hug and kiss my long-lost father. One never knows who might blow up next.
Also, I rather hate him. I’d been told not to say such things when he was dead, but seeing as how he’s miraculously resurrected, it looks like hating him is back on the table again.
Trust me, I have my reasons for it.
A year ago I caught him getting it on with Miss Gruber. Even naked I recognized her immediately. She’d been my teacher for kindergarten and then again in third grade. I’d had fond memories of her. She was always so encouraging. “Good job, sweetie,” she’d say to everyone, even the kids who were doing a terrible job. With my father it was more of a “Yes, yes, just like that, sweetie baby,” but the chirpy tone of encouragement was grossly familiar.
Really, it wasn’t the cheating that had bothered me. I’d never believed my parents were in love or even particularly liked each other. But all that naked shaking flesh was unpleasant. Worse yet was my father announcing, “I’m sorry you walked in on me having relations with a woman who is clearly not your mother.” Sometimes my father talked like he had a robot living inside him. Maybe that’s why he’s alive again.
Anyway, after he’d gotten dressed and sent Miss Gruber home we’d had a talk. He apologized and said he’d done things he wasn’t proud of. A few tears had fallen (his, not mine; it’s been years since I’ve given anyone the satisfaction of seeing me cry) and he’d quickly wiped them away. Then he asked if I was still his “little kitten?” I’d known the correct answer was, “Yes, of course.” But honestly, had I ever been his little kitten? I had vague memories of him saying it once or twice when I was younger. Almost as if he was trying it out. But for him to bring it back after all this time . . .
“Kitten!” he exclaims now, apparently reading my mind, except not the part of it that thinks his nickname for me is gross and wrong.
“Surprise!” Mother says once more.
“I was never really dead,” Father adds, that old chuckle bubbling up. “It was all just for the insurance money.”
Mother glares at him like he’s stepped on her lines. The moment feels familiar in a way that is neither warm nor comforting. She’s always given him that same glare, as if every time he speaks he’s stealing the words out of her mouth. Now she hisses, “Wait ’til she asks the question, darling.”
I stare at my parents. These two strange slippery people that seem less knowable and more changeable the older I get. Oh I love them, of course. I suppose. But dear gods, I’d have given anything to know that I wouldn’t have to share the same small town with them for the rest of my life.
We all stare at each other as the clock loudly ticks the seconds. None of us spontaneously combust. I try not to be disappointed.
Available April 26th, 2016 from HarperTeen

Wasn’t that awesome? Check out all the authors on the 8 teams in the Scavenger Hunt and discover your new favorites!

To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is…8. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Bonus Draw

Thank you so much for visiting my website! While you’re here, don’t forget to enter the bonus draw I am running exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt.

For the BONUS draw, do the following (see the Rafflecopter link below):

-Tweet about #YASH

-Comment on this blog: Who is your favourite goddess from any mythology and why?

Check out other ways to earn points in:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For the bonus contest  I will be giving away Ebook copies of my book REALM OF THE GODDESS.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog!

CONTINUE THE HUNT

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author:

Kai McCarthy by visiting her website here:

http://kaimccarthy.blogspot.com/

My Stories… Not My People

The other day I was thinking back to the stories I wrote as a child. I was about 7 years old and had moved from Germany to Bangladesh around that time. I had switched from reading my favorite Enid Blyton books in German to reading them in English. Although learning to speak and read in English changed many things for me, what didn’t change were the characters in those books. They were all still white. Every single one of them. I remember being fascinated with everything they did, the interesting food they ate, their traditions and lifestyles. I loved reading about their (mis)adventures and the trouble they got into. As a voracious reader I always enjoyed a wide variety of books, but still…all the characters were white. So it was not surprising that when I wrote my first stories the characters in all of them were also white. They all had names like Nancy or Tom, even though in real life I was surrounded by people with names like Hassan or Seema. It never occurred to me that my characters could be something other than white. They didn’t eat sumptuous Bengali sweets or biryani. They ate fine chocolates and fish and chips. They didn’t wear kurtas or shalwar-kameez. They wore jeans and t-shirts. None of these things by themselves constitute anything untoward at all, but when I look at children’s fiction today and what is available in terms of diverse characters, it saddens me to think that there are still thousands of children around the world who may never see themselves reflected in the stories they love to read. Or even worse, they may never think it possible that they could be super heroes who fight evil. Or that they may be the ones to save the world. It’s depressing. And it’s time for change.

What I Learned From My First Author Signing

This past Saturday I was invited to do an author signing at the Strawberry Hills Chapters in Surrey, BC. Of course I was thrilled because as a very recently self-published author this sort of thing is just awesome. So here are some things I learned:

1. Have realistic expectations. Unless you are an established author with an existing fan base, it is not likely that you will be greeted by a crowd of people waiting with bated breath for your appearance. It will be more like a small trickle, mostly consisting of a few people who unsuspectingly wandered into the store and happened to stop at your table to check out what you’re selling. That’s when you pounce. Well metaphorically at least. You wow them with your pitch and overwhelming enthusiasm and before they know it they are buying a copy of your book, because it is the genre they read or they think it will make a great gift for someone else. Either way it’s a win for you. Then there will be those people who avoid making eye contact with you because they really just want to browse. After you’ve scared away the first couple of them with your fervent smile you’ll figure it out.

2. It is important to smile. Smile as though your life depends on it, even if your face begins to hurt after the first half hour. Pace yourself by exercising your facial muscles every now and then. Just don’t forget that people behind you at the Starbucks can see you. I didn’t realize it at first until I noticed a couple of kids staring at me in horror as I grimaced in an attempt to get some sensation back in my face. I hope they’re not scarred for life.

3. Be very,very appreciative of the people who work at the bookstore. I was blown away by how supportive they were. They came and checked on me constantly, made sure I was comfortable and that I stayed positive when things were slow. I cannot emphasize enough how much that meant to me as a first time author. Needless to say, having the support of your local bookstore is priceless.

4. Know where the washrooms are…and the music section…and the greetings cards. A fellow local author I met recently warned me of this and sure enough, at least five people asked me about this at various times.

5. Celebrate the small victories. I may not have sold more than a few copies of my book, but I got a lot of exposure which is what my main goal really was. After all, I am a newly self published author that nobody has heard of yet. If I want to change that I have to spread the word. This takes time and hard work. It does not happen overnight, so it’s important to stay positive and good things will happen. I am fortunate enough to have very supportive people in my life and I am extremely grateful to Chapters for giving me this opportunity.

Networking Events for Writers

Yesterday I attended a great event put on by the Surrey Public Library at the striking new City Centre branch. It was part of the Write Here, Read Now program and featured the inspiring Martin Crosbie, author of How I sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle, a self-publishing guidebook. In the 75 minutes that he had he did an outstanding job of presenting a plethora of useful steps to how aspiring authors can self-publish and not bankrupt themselves in the process. In the past, I have attended workshops and presentations on self-publishing and to be quite honest, mostly what I took away from them was how difficult it would be and how little success I should realistically expect. Add to that the fact that I am not great at the technical aspect of it. Martin Crosbie, on the other hand, makes it seem so achievable that it lit a fire in me once again. The best part of it is how encouraging he is to writers who are just beginning their journey. I also met the fabulous Lorna Suzuki, author of The Imago Chronicles. She was one of the writers in  Authors Among Us, an ongoing event at the library where you can listen to various writers give readings from their books and then ask questions and interact with them. I was able to spend some time with her afterwards and share some of my concerns. Ten minutes with her and once again I was on a motivational high. We’ve all been there, in that place of self doubt, of insecurity and frustration, when it feels that we’re stuck. Which brings me to my main point. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a city where the public library puts on multiple events that bring together successful authors of different genres and at various levels of success, so that aspiring writers can connect with them, learn from them and most of all be inspired by them. We all know that writing can be a somewhat lonely activity, but events like these make you realize that there is a community of writers nearby, where you can find guidance and encouragement and where hopefully, one day, you too can pay it forward.