Today I'm SO excited to be part of a blog tour for one of my close writer buddies! My friend Annika Sharma's debut new adult romance, THE REARRANGED LIFE, is OUT!!! That's right, you can buy it NOW! I LOVED this book - trust me, you won't be able to put it down! And make sure you enter Annika's raffle at the bottom to win a Starbucks giftcard!
Here's a little about the book!
Nithya, a vivacious, intelligent and driven college senior has always known what she has wanted: a successful career in medicine and the love of her family. She’s even come to terms with the idea of an arranged marriage, a tradition her conservative Indian family has held up for thousands of years.
When a night of partying puts her on a collision course with danger, Nithya’s entire life changes.
Enter James St. Clair, the smart, challenging and heartbreakingly handsome American. As Nithya and James fall in love, she questions the future she and her parents have always planned.
Now, Nithya has a choice to make: become a doctor and a good Indian bride, or step away from her family and centuries of culture to forge her own path. The decision she comes to takes her on a journey that transforms how she sees her future, her relationships with loved ones, and how she learns to put herself back together when even her best-laid plans fall apart.
About the Author
Annika Sharma was born in India and moved to the United States (Pennsylvania!) when she was a baby. Annika was a daydreamer from day one, always coming up with stories and games of pretend that seemed real. She was a serious journal-writer from fifth grade to college and wrote dramatic scenes for stories often, inspired by soap operas she watched in summers off from school.
Eventually, when the time for college came around, Annika’s parents encouraged her to pursue journalism. Convinced she couldn’t make a living from writing, Annika disagreed. After five years, two degrees, two minors, working with children, being a dancer teacher, and creating a two-and-a-half page resume in college that had interests so all-over-the-place that even she couldn’t make sense of it, Annika finally decided her parents were right. Writing was where her heart was, all along.
In the month before graduate school, the idea Annika had in mind for years finally poured out in the form of the novel, The Rearranged Life. Annika began editing in earnest after she finished her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education, landing Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group as an agent. Three months later, she had a book deal with Curiosity Quills.
In her spare time, Annika loves spending time with her family and friends, often indulging in the three S’s: Starbucks, shopping and superhero movies. As a chocolate lover and general all-around vegetarian foodie, Annika also adores cooking.
A smirk crosses my face as I reread this morning’s texts. After countless drafts, I’d fired off the first volley to James, and his response had made me so glad I’d taken initiative. For someone who tries to take every opportunity, I sure did freak out over nothing.
Thanks again for last night. I had an amazing time, I’d sent.
-So did I. Next time, we need to find a place that’s open all night 🙂
Who says there’s going to be a next time?
-Please. There will be.
Getting cocky, I see.
-Not cocky. Just confident, he corrects me, and using deductive reasoning.
Always the lawyer, counselor. You’re right on the money.
-I do my best, doc. I’m glad you want to see me again.
I was hoping to, tonight. Do you have plans?
-I do, now, with you.
“You look pretty,” he says as he walks up to me.
My jeans and tunic top suddenly feel like a ball gown. He kisses my forehead, and I can still feel the soft pressure there as we pay for our drinks.
Time freezes as the sky turns from periwinkle to deep blue to black. We walk toward the stadium with no destination in particular, talking about everything from why fall is my favorite season to the fact that he is a Penn State football fan, and used to go to all the games with the colors painted on his chest.
“My mom told me she wouldn’t pay for my funeral when I died of pneumonia,” he tells me with a chuckle. Sports are a difference in our interests. He thinks I’m funny for not being a fan of the big football program here, and I tell him he’s beginning to sound like Sophia, who moped for three days when she was unable to purchase student season tickets because they sold out in minutes.
“Our senior year is going to suck!” Sophia had cried, clicking the refresh button on her browser like it would change the outcome.
“Soph, I’m pretty sure the success of our senior year isn’t dependent on whether we’re cheering on a football team,” I told her patiently, but she whined about it anyway. Before James and I know it, we’ve come full circle.
He proposes going to the arboretum so we cross the street toward the law school and soccer fields. Walking along Park Avenue is like balancing two worlds–cement dorms and all the classroom buildings on the left, and farms and greenery on the right. The arboretum glows in the distance, its neat pathways and plants lit up by the soccer field lights a block away.
James catches me watching him and gives me a shy, faint smile. His eyes travel down my arms, and his right hand slowly makes a move toward my left. I hold my breath, and the clouds of moisture I’ve been exhaling into the atmosphere dissipate as I wait for him. Every millimeter closing the gap between us is in slow motion, and the tingle in my nerves intensifies, reaching a peak where I want to scream just to break the anticipation. His fingers skim the inside of my forearm and leave a trail of sensation behind them. As his hand travels slowly down my wrist, mine responds. My fingers find his and twine with them. It takes all of two seconds, but feels like much longer.
The stars, twinkling in all their glory, brighten and align themselves in perfect concentric circles as if the universe is creating the perfect setting for an epic romance. Everything around us, from the breeze to the shifting grass, has a softly whispered undertone: This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Let it happen. The charge between our hands ignites and feels like it’s bursting out from within me. Or maybe that’s just my heartbeat. I have never felt such contentment or wonder. This is where I am meant to be.
Annika says: Okay, to be fair, I have a super eclectic taste in music. Some of the songs I associate with this book are because of lyrics, others because of the overall melody. Surprising fact: the story takes place in 2008-2009. All the songs on the list are from around that time. Hopefully, as you go through The Rearranged Life, you’ll love these songs with the scenes as much as I do!
- The Adventure—Angels and Airwaves: the entire crazy first day Nithya meets James. The lyrics, “And here we go, life’s waiting to begin,” are a great way to start the story.
- Don’t Stop the Music—Rihanna: The party where Nithya and James run into a not-so-great situation.
- Pehli Nazar Mein—from the Bollywood movie, Race: when Nithya goes to the wedding and meets Nishanth.
- Desi Girl—from the Bollywood movie, Dostana: the wedding reception where Nithya and Nishanth hit it off and she feels the pull of her Indian culture. The lyrics talk about how there’s nothing like a desi (South Asian) girl…and considering how Indian and wonderful Nithya feels that night, it applies.
- Dark Blue—Jack’s Mannequin: Dates with James—particularly laser tagging! Such an upbeat and fun song.
- Love Story—Taylor Swift: Nithya’s first kiss. The song talks about Romeo and Juliet and parental restrictions…Nithya and James’ entire story!
- Broken—Lifehouse: James finds out. The lyrics to this song are beautiful!
- Bleeding Love—Leona Lewis: When Nithya has to make a choice between Nishanth and James.
- All We Are—OneRepublic: “I’m all in.” This is actually James and Nithya’s official song!
- Straightjacket Feeling—The All-American Rejects: Medical school decisions.
- Hear You Me—Jimmy Eat World: the conflict between Nithya and her parents.
- Down—Jay Sean: the club scene. Another mix of East and West, since Jay Sean is an British-Indian artist who has a history of beautiful Indian songs and hip-hop…a mix of both the cultures.
- American Living—Rascal Flatts: Visiting James’ family.
- Marching On—OneRepublic: Nithya’s conversation with her dad.
- I’m Yours—Jason Mraz: Closing of the book
First of all, a disclaimer: Annika Sharma is my friend. Anyone who follows either Annika or me on twitter probably sees us being silly and chatting a lot.
However, another disclaimer: an author being my friend does not mean I automatically provide a glowing review. I always strive to review books honestly, in all fairness to 1. the author, 2. the readers checking my reviews, and 3. my credibility. If I really dislike a book, and feel an honest review would hurt the author, I just don't write anything.
But when I LOVE a book, it makes writing an honest review SO easy! And let me just say, I loved Annika Sharma's debut, THE REARRANGED LIFE.
This was such a wonderful and thought-provoking book! I couldn't put it down. I'll admit, I didn't know much about Indian culture and modern day arranged marriage before reading THE REARRANGED LIFE. I'm so used to reading and seeing arranged marriage books where the woman is forced into marriage with a stranger against her will, and she meets him at the altar for the first time.
This is nothing like that.
Nithya has a loving, caring family who are a huge part of her life. For the most part, Nithya's parents are tremendously supportive. They don't want to choose her spouse for her (although they would be delighted if Nithya chose Nishanth, son of a close family friend, and aren't opposed to nudging her in that direction); however, they are very specific and set in their wishes that Nithya marries an Indian boy. Nithya is on board with this (after all, she wants to marry someone who will understand her culture, her family's traditions and inside jokes) until she meets her classmate James. James is handsome, smart...and American. Dating an American is seen as taboo in her culture. She struggles with her feelings for James, because it forces her to question her priorities, her loyalty to her family, and her commitment to her culture. She feels strong connections to both her family / Indian culture and roots, and to American culture.
Yes, this book has a romance, but to me it was ultimately a book about self-discovery and trying to find your place between two cultures. Nithya struggles with her choice to enter the medical field (a choice that was highly influenced by the expectations of her family and culture) and worries about stepping out of her comfort zone when those plans she's had her whole life don't work out. There is a really great scene where Nishanth's family comes to Nithya's house, and everyone is so obviously pushing the two of them together that Nithya just feels so uncomfortable. I really felt her discomfort with the whole situation! Anyone who has struggled with growing up and coming into your own identity will be able to relate to Nithya's struggles.
I learned a lot about Indian culture and traditions from this book, and to be honest I saw both Nithya and her parents' points of view on the issue. I loved the scene of Nithya's cousin's Indian wedding.
I loved that this book was not black and white. There was no "right" answer and "wrong" answer. Nithya has a positive relationship with both Nishanth and James, and struggles with the fact that either man would be a good match for her in different ways. I loved James, and I also loved Nishanth, and both boys had moments that made me swoon (and made Nithya's choice that much harder). Nithya's choice ends up becoming a choice between what is more comfortable and compatible on paper, and what her heart really wants.
James' parents also worry about his relationship with Nithya, as they don't want their son left broken hearted if Nithya were to choose her culture over him. It all felt very realistic and heart wrenching. It's a modern story about choices and sacrifices, and family and culture and loyalty. It's also beautifully written.
I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone. Five stars!
Be sure to check out THE REARRANGED LIFE!!! You won't want to miss it!