Dumplin by Julie Murphy

Summary:

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

The Review:

This book was on my TBR for a long time, even before I heard about the Netflix movie, and seeing the trailer kinda made me want to read it more, and luckily my library had it.

With Willowdean or Dumplin, she deals with the fact that she is fat, and the daughter of a beauty queen. She deals with her normal life with school and friends, while also dealing with the constant bullying from classmates.

The beginning of the book does a good job at setting up her character arc, and seeing why she would join a beauty pageant even if she was seen as unconventional. With her entering the pageant she inspired other girls who weren’t seen as conventional beauty to also join, including Millie, another fat girl, and Hannah, a queer latina. I thought they were great characters and I loved Millie’s story arc.

What I like about the book is the theme of empowerment and the message about body positivity. It didn’t deal with the fact that Willowdean needed to lose weight or having her be happy after weight loss. It also took a lot of shots at diet culture, and how it made her miserable.

She also deals a lot with grief, especially with her aunt Lucy, who she was very close with, even closer than her mother. Willowdean made for a great main character because throughout the book I was constantly rooting for her at every turn.

I thought her relationship with her mother was pretty layered. Yes, her mother would try to get her to diet, and become more like her. As Willowdean enters the pageant the relationship starts to unravel a bit, but in the end, both of them kinda come to an understanding and I liked that.

There is also some romance. Firsts there is Bo, her co-worker at the diner and their relationship was really good, and you could see that he cared about her. While it does come across as a cliche romance I did enjoy seeing them together. Then there is Mitch, football player at her school and it also had the cliche romance in which he was almost embarrassed to be seen with her.

In the end, I loved reading Dumplin. It was a great book from start to finish. It was a great and empowering message with an amazing character in Willowdean to follow. I will definitely be watching this when it comes on Netflix.

Grade: 4.5/5

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Dear Rachel Maddow by: Addrienne Kisner

Summary:

Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?

The Review:

Trigger Warning: This book contains scenes dealing with abuse and homophobia. 

This is an author I saw at Boston Teen Author Festival, and while I didn’t get a chance to pick up her book there I decided to add to by TBR. This was a very quick read, which I sometimes enjoy especially with YA Contemporary.

I would describe this as a sort queer-girl version of Perks of Being a Wallflower, with a young girl dealing with everyday life, while sort of writing letters to Rachel Maddow, a reporter for MSNBC.

Brynn, is entering a new school year after the death of her old brother and a very bad break up from an ex-girlfriend, Sarah. She spends most of her time as a loner just trying to get through the year, and also dealing with her mother and her stepfather, Fart Weasel.

I like the concept that the book is told through her draft emails to Rachel Maddow, and I think it makes the book or her actions seem very therapeutic, as if she is writing to Rachel Maddow herself. Throughout the book she sends about a few actual emails to Rachel Maddow, sort of explainiunbg about her life. With the format of emails, it helped me feel for Brynn and form more of a connection with her.

The main plot of the book is dealing with a student receiving a seat on the selection committee of the new superintendent of schools, and while ex Sarah, and Adam, the school’s popular jock want to only open up the selection to honor students, Brynn wants to make sure everyone has a voice.

Throughout the book, she also tries to run for student body president against Adam, and she has to deal with a lot of negative campaigning and homophobia directed at her.

At home she deals a lot with her abusive stepfather, and neglectful mother and some of the abuse scenes could be triggering and effects her mentally.

She also starts to form a relationship with Micheala, a new girl at school who she begins to like, and rebound from Sarah. I though their relationship was very cute and it was nice to see some f/f relationships that didn’t end bad. I found myself rooting for her constantly.

She also has some great friends, such as Lacey, who helps tutors her for her classes and Justin, who tries to get Brynn back on the school paper and also help deal with an arson that Adam may have done at the War memorial.

I felt the ending was a bit rushed, and while it was satisfying, I would have liked to see it more fleshed out.

In the end, Dear Rachel Maddow, was a nice sweet read taking a journey with a young girl navigating through life with the help of Rachel Maddow. I though Brynn was a very compelling character to take this journey with

Grade 4/5

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertali

Summary:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

The Review:

When i first heard that Becky Albertali and Adam Silvera was writing a book together, I was very ecstatic. I am a fan of both of their writings and I wanted to see what they could come up with together. I also had the strage feeling that I “Will suffer and be happy about it” because I know both of their writings.

This book is a very much like a romantic comedy with two boys falling in love in New York City. It started with a chance encounter in which Arthur, while working in a post office meets Ben who is mailing stuff back to his ex-boyfriend, they strike up a little bit of a flirtation before going on their way. I even liked how some of their beginning moments was interrupted by a Flash Mob proposal.

Arthur is the sort of hopeless romantic type, and is trying to figure out who the “cute boy” from the Post office was and is trying to figure out everything about him. His character was mainly written by Albertali, with him coming from Georgia and just visiting New York for the summer. A lot of her knack for writing great characters comes with Arthur. I also kinda relate for his love of Broadway musicals and him referencing Hamilton every chance he gets.

Ben, who was written by Silvera, is a white passing Puerto Rican living in New York and meet Arthur while dealing with a recent break up from his boyfriend Hudson. Adam Silvera wrote his character as very relatable, and his best friend Dylan, was a riot. The fact that he is very white passing is brought up a lot throughout the book, along with the racism he had to face.

With both Ben and Arthur, they are both sort of opposites. Ben, is spending his summer in summer school and is just trying to get by in school, while Arthur is an Ivy League bound student. But I did love the connection they had with one another, and they both complimented each other in a sense. While their first date was almost a bust they did enjoy each other, and I loved reading about their courtship.

Since it is very much a romantic comedy, it did follow almost the same beats of the romantic, with a few cliche moments such as “the misunderstanding” and trying to win each other back. With both of Alberatali’s and Silvera’s writing both of these characters came alive with every page, with me humming “Only Us” from Dear Evan Hansen.

In the end, What if It’s Us, was a match made in heaven with two great YA authors. Both Silvera and Albertali crafted a great love story with two boys, falling in love that one summer. I enjoyed reading every page of it.

Grade: 4.7/5

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by: Holly Black

Summary:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Review:

The Cruel Prince was the first book I read by Holly Black, and since I loved that book so much, and I cannot wait for The Wicked King to come out, I decided to start reading some of her early work.

This is a stand alone, which is very unusual for me to read, because I do like reading series most of the time, but this one caught my eye because it was about vampires.

In this book the Vampires lived in a sort of closed off place away from the rest of the world in a place called Coldtown. I like that within the story, Vampires were basically the product of a plagued. But not only does Coldtown inhabit Vampires but also humans who have been bitten but not turned yet. With her writing, Holly Black does a good job in describing Coldtown to the reader. I also love the Coldtown reality show, it really adds to some to the meta humor.

I also love the first chapter. It had a really good eerie feel to it, in which Tana wakes up and sees a whole bunch of corpses from a late night party, and her confusion and dismay for the events that have been taken place. Like I said earlier, it is a great testament to her writing and her lyrical style.

A weak aspect I had with the book, was mainly its characters. Particularity Tana. I didn’t really feel a connection with Tana, like I did with other YA protagonists. I think a lot of her story arc took place around her. Some aspects I did like, was her relationship with her mother, and feeling that her mother’s death was kinda of her fault even though it wasn’t in the end.

There is Aidian, Tana’s ex boyfriend. I didn’t feel like he had an arc and was more of a plot device just to get Tana to Coldtown, to try to get him some help because he was bitten.

Gavriel, is sort of the Vampire bad boy, who has to guide Tana through Coldtown. I did like his backstory and his relationship with his maker, Lucian. I did really like his story line and I kinda wish his character was a bit more fleshed out.

I thought some of the other supporting characters were fine, like Valentina, who I really enjoyed reading about and Jameson.

While I did enjoy the book, I did feel that it wasn’t as good as The Cruel Prince. I kinda wish this book wasn’t a stand alone, and we could learn more about Coldtown, the Vampires and the Vampire hunters. The ending felt sort of rushed because of it, with Lucian a pretty cool antagonist being nothing more than a monster of the week.

In the end, I enjoyed The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Holly Black’s writing was really good and her descriptiveness helped really drive in the setting. I felt the characters were not as fleshed out as her other character’s and I really felt more stories set within this universe would have fleshed them out a lot.

Grade: 3.8/5

 

Vengeful by VE Schwab

Summary:

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

The Review:

Vicious was one of my favorite books that I read in 2018, so of course I was excited about a sequel that was being written. This was also the book that made me fall in love with VE Schwab and her writing.

The book picks up a little after the events of Vicious and the sort of battle between Victor and Eli, two people who started off as friends, but then grew into bitter enemies. With Victor sort of living and dying back to living again, and Eli being in jail for his crimes in Vicious.

This book was very character driven, and Eli was the character I thought was a lot more fleshed out. You see a lot of backstory with him going from foster home to foster home without anything close to coming to a real home. Even though it seems pretty much like a super villain origin story, it makes him a very complex character.

Sydney and Mitch also returned for Vengeful, and Mitch’s backstory was definitely a lot more fleshed out, and he had some great bits of character development.

Then there is Marcella. Oh boy, Marcella. I feel in love with her from the very first page. She is a mob wife, who was “killed” by her husband and then starts to come into her power. She was one of my favorite characters of the book. She kinda has the sort of “evil is sexy” trope and I love how after her “death” she begins to take control of her own situation, and basically being a mob wife with super powers.

I also liked how in Marcella’s story she recruits sort of her own band of lieutenants. There is June who is a shapeshifter and could transform herself into anyone she comes across. She was also another badass character.

While I wouldn’t say this is plot driven like her other works. This book is very character driven in every way possible. All of the characters are all complex in their own way, and I like that the title of the series, is called Villains. Because it is very hard to pin point who are the villains of this story. It made me hard to choose sides between Victor and Eli because they are both such great and compelling characters.

This book also plays a lot with time. It uses flashbacks, to further flesh out the characters of the book, mainly Eli and Marcella. It may have been a bit confusing at first to figure out where in the timeline you are, but it is very worth it and has a lot of good build up, especially towards the end.

She also took a story about people with super powers and made it very exciting, and took full advantage of its premise. Some books dealing with super powers that I have read never really ran with the powers concept, but VE Schwab, took that concept and ran for a 100 yard touchdown.

In the end, Vengful, solidified why VE Schwab is one of my favorite authors. Her characters are rich,vibrant and complex. It was such a page turner that I was captivated from the first page. I know its  suppose to be a duology, but I just want more.

Grade: 5/5

Big Little Lies (Book/Adaptation Review) By: Liane Moriarty-Also spoilers

This is something that I always kinda wanted to do for quite sometime now, in which I discuss both the book and its adaptation in the same review.

Also this will contain spoilers for both the show and the book.

For Big Little Lies I watched the show first last year when it was on HBO. I always would see the book at stores but never really would pick it up because it was never really a genre that I would grab towards which is mystery novels. My girlfriend would sometimes read mystery novels and they could either be really good or really bad. I also borrowed this book from my girlfriend for almost a year before reading it (sorry Julie).

I am first going to review the show.

Big Little Lies

Image result for big little lies show

The show premiered on HBO last spring in 2017. It starred Nicole Kidman as Celeste, Reese Witherspoon as Madeline, and Shailine Woodly as Jane.

It started with a mystery of what happened on a school’s trivia night and a dead body that came with it. Was in an accident or murder? That is what the book is trying to figure out.

It felt as if I was watching a very long movie, with nice and solid pacing. It was written by David E. Kelly who I have been following since his legal dramas, The Practice and Boston Legal, and it really paced out the book well.

What they left out/Changed

Since it is an adaptation, there will always be changes to fit the narrative. A major change is the setting. While the book took place in Australia, the show took place in California.

Also Madeline had another son, and so did Reneta who weren’t in the adaptation. It wasn’t a big change since those characters didn’t really add a lot to the plot.

Also there was an affair that Madeline had with her musical director in which she worked at, that wasn’t in the book, and I sort of didn’t like the subplot in the show. But it did give Madeline more to do.

There is also the character of Bonnie. Who in the end, was the one that pushed Perry during the trivia night. Her character was a lot more fleshed out in the book, and it actually gave reason as to why she pushed Perry off.

How it is as an adaptation

I watched the show, before I read the book, and I had the book for months because I borrowed it from my girlfriend. The show did follow a lot of the beats as the books.

It starts with the trivia night, and is told mostly through interviews of the other parents and teachers who were there, and starts from the first day of school. In which an incident occurred involving two of the children and Ziggy the son of Jane is accused on bullying, and from there it deals with the fallout from, party invitations, to wars between parties and gossiping moms all around.

It also deals with a semi civil war between the career moms and the stay at home moms. Especially with Renata and Madeline. The book dived more deeper into that situation.

It also dealt with the issue of domestic violence and how while Celeste and her husband Perry seem like an happy normal couple, who goes away on extravagant vacations all the time, but underneath there is violence among the marriage and Celeste tries to hide under all of that.

The show did a good job at highlighting the various degrees of a domestic violence perpetrator in which there are scenes of Perry being a loving and caring Husband and father, and then becomes the monster that he is.

I also liked how both the show and the book, had the same twist in which Perry was Ziggys father. The book was Jane saying his fake name and revealing that he was her rapist, was very chilling in both the show and the book.

As an adaptation I thought the show did an amazing job with the characters, and most of it lies in its performances especially by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailine Woodley. Aleksander Skardgard and Laura Dern. Those performances elevated the characters and its now suprise that Nicole, Laura and Aleks all won Emmys for their peromances.

Image result for big little lies show emmy

Both the show and the book was amazing. I usually don’t read contemporary books and especially mysteries for that matter but loved it any way. I may read more of Lianne Moriarty’s work.

 

 

Wildcard by Marie Lu

Summary:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

The Review:

This book, just proved why Marie Lu, is one of my favorite authors. I was also lucky to get an ARC of this book, while at a Sabaa Tahir event.

Wildcard picks up pretty much where Warcross left off. In which Emika found out about Hideo’s plan to use the Neurolink to basically control the population. What made it great was the act that it was one of those things that really makes you think whether or not that Hideo was right.

Emilka also joins Zero’s gang in order to take down Hideo, while also simultaneously trying to avoid Hideo at all costs, because some tried to kill her, and that’s where the plot gets moving. A major strength is how fast paced this book was, and I felt that there was never a dull moment in the book.

Also there is Zero’s story. His story arc was amazing, while in the Wildcard he was mainly a background character who speaks to Emika secretly, he really has some great development, and you find out about his backstory and all that has happened to him. I also loved seeing some Black coats especially Jax, who was one of my favorite characters.

Also Hideo’s story arc was great as well. He was a very complex character, and while he wants to use the Neurolink to basically control the population and destroy the notion of freewill. What made it great was how what he believed what he was doing was right, and was driven my the kidnapping of his brother. I always feel that best antagonists believe that they are the protagonists of their stories.

Also like a Marie Lu book, there is some twists and turns that I did not see coming. There is also the fact that the Neurolink was a small part of a bigger issue. That is all I am going to say because I do not want to spoil anything.

If there was a negative, I felt that I wish I saw more of the Phoenix Riders because I loved those characters so much in Warcross, and I wished they were more fleshed out in this book.

In the end, I loved Wildcard. It has everything that I love about Marie Lu’s books. With its amazing characters and a non stop plot. It takes some great twists and turns with a an amazing story to go with it.

Grade: 5/5