Review: ‘Dumplin’

Hello! So, I heard this was becoming a movie and–after reading Ramona Blue–I decided I would give this book a try! I have heard a lot about it and if it’s good enough to get a movie, I figured I’d try it.

 

Title: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Wow. I know that there’s a lot more representation in YA nowadays, but I found this to be a truly beautiful book. This book was about a girl named Willowdean, who is a self-proclaimed ‘fat girl’ and decides to enter a beauty paegant. Throughout the book, she struggles with her own self-image as well as how she is perceived by others, most notedly her mother, who is the organizer of the beauty pageant.

Likes

I have struggled with weight for a majority of my life and Willowdean was a picture perfect personification for a lot of the things that I have felt in the past. I thought her character struggled with the same things I have (not believing someone really likes you, trying to be comfortable in your own skin) and that’s what made me love her so much. I think the story that is told in this book is important for a lot of girls to hear at a time where weight is such a debated topic in our society. There are labels such as ‘plus size’ that make girls and women feel like less of a person because they aren’t the ideal size. Will accepts that she is overweight but she doesn’t let it stop her from doing anything, even when she is put down (more about that in what I didn’t like). I wish that I had her self-confidence when I was younger but this book was a great thing for me to read even now.

(Dis)likes

The thing I couldn’t stand in this book was her mother! That’s not a jab to the author, I just hated how the character was. I can definitely see, though, that some parents are like that with their children, as one of my old friend’s mother was. The mother constantly nagged on Will about her weight and how she looked in her clothes. These are the types of things that give girls negative body image and some people go even farther, putting young girls on diets, etc. Thankfully that didn’t happen here but I definitely could’ve seen it fitting into how her mother acted.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this book is going to become  film! Danielle Macdonald is going to play Willowdean and Jennifer Aniston is going to play her mother. I am actually excited to see this on screen because it is a very real portrayal of how body image is perceived today and I think it will mean a lot to many girls.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a contemporary read that feels very raw and genuine. I cannot compare it to any books off of the top of my head, but the writing is similar to her newest book, Ramona Blue, which tackles the struggle of LGBT youth.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘The Song of Achilles’

Hey! It was a productive day. This was the second of three(!!) books I read today. I had some extra free time and needed to unwind, and what better way to do it than with reading! This is my fifth Pride month read.

 

Title: The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

If there’s one thing you should learn about me, it’s that I LOVE mythology. I first fell in love with it when reading the Percy Jackson series when I was 14. Since then, I have picked up every greek mythology book I can find and I am always searching for more (if you have suggestions, leave them in the comments!) This book is based loosely off of the story of Achilles and it is a delightful retelling of the classic Greek myth.

Likes

The one thing I liked about this book was that it stuck very close to the original myth. The original myth was told in The Iliad, which I remember reading in high school and really not enjoying. But this book was an enjoyable telling of The Illiad and I found myself enveloped in the pages, while actually remembering a lot of the original characters. I thought that this retelling showed Achilles and Patroclus’ friendship in the sweetest light and how their bond transformed over the course of their friendship to something “more”. I felt that a strong point was showing where Achilles fell short with his hubris (for all those who don’t remember from English class, this is the fatal flaw of pride) and this book illustrated that hubris in a different way that made much more sense than the original (sorry, Homer).

Since this is one of my pride month reads, I have to talk about the LGBT relationship in this book! It is obviously between Achilles and Patroclus and it begins as something deliciously innocent that forms into a real bond. The Greeks (as told by my college world history professor) were “not prude about having relationships with men. Actually, many men who had apprentices would have relationships with them” (loose paraphrase, I’m serious). This book played off of Homer’s take on the couple, which was a strong emotional bond but not really a sexual one. I felt that this book did a great job of showing that romantic bond while not putting the stress on a sexual one. I think it fit in well with the story that was being told (war against the Trojans, people!!).

Dislikes

What I didn’t like about this book was that it seemed slow at times and like nothing was truly happening to move along the story. I knew how the original went, but this seemed to drag on a bit. It isn’t that long of a book so the dragging parts were a little tough to get through. I felt that it didn’t really read like a YA book, even, I think it felt more NA or adult to me. The slow pace left room for a lot of description and the like, but I prefer to have a faster-moving story rather than a lot of description, especially for the setting of this book.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of historical literature or Greek mythology. I had heard about this book for a while now and finally saw it while I was picking up another book at the library in the historical fiction section. I don’t think this book would be right for everyone but it certainly deserves a read if you crave a historical retelling.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Queens of Geek’

Hi! Today I have two books to read (ambitious, I know) but this one was pretty short so it’s a little bit easier. I couldn’t wait to write this review… and you’ll find out why below! This is my fourth read for Pride month.

 

Title: Queens of Geek

Author: Jen Wilde

Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

I literally LOVED this book. I haven’t had a 5 star read since ACOWAR and this absolutely blew me out of the water. I had an idea of what it was about and that immediately caught my eye: along with the pink cover! Let me tell you: this was the perfect book for a fangirl. The book is set during a weekend convention called Supacon, where one of the main characters, Charlie, is attending the con for press. She brings along her two friends, Taylor and Jamie, and the three experience a roller coaster of emotions over the course of the book. It is so real, and I think that was one of my favorite parts about it. I usually don’t like contemporaries but this definitely delivered and it makes me want to go to a con now (Bookcon 2018, where are you?!)

Likes

Taylor (which is ironically my name, too!) was the most relatable character I have ever read. I felt excited when she was excited, and I felt sad when she was sad. She was the perfect image of a typical fangirl and she was adorable throughout the entire book. She has a Tumblr blog and they mention a lot of pop culture related things: The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and Star Wars, to name a few. I also think she had the most astounding character development. In the beginning, she was scared to even be in crowds or around large groups of people. By the end, while she still isn’t 100% comfortable, she could handle it and even help others going through the same thing. Her confidence inspired me. She also writes a Tumblr blog  post at the end of the book that summed up what she endured during the con and I felt that it was such a great way to end her part of the story.

One feature I love aside from the story was the representation!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have an LGBT character (Charlie) plus Taylor, who has Asperger’s (I am studying counseling and the correct term is now Autism Spectrum Disorder, but they refer to it as Asperger’s in the book) and anxiety. I haven’t read many books surrounding mental health (though I have a few on my list) but I thought the author did a great job illustrating what it is like to have anxiety, have panic attacks, etc. Having anxiety isn’t fun but there are methods to cope and I think it was cool that the author touched on some of those in here. I know I personally use aromatherapy quite often. I relate to Taylor with the anxiety part of things and, as I said before, she was so relatable in this way. Charlie also goes through an unexpected situation but where she ends up made my stomach fill with butterflies and warmed my heart. I love happy endings and this delivered in that department as well!

(Dis)likes

I’m trying to think of something I dislike about this book and there’s literally… nothing. I just wish it was longer because it was so good!

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Fangirl, or anyone who is a fangirl themselves. It is a short and quick read, but it transports you into a convention that rivals with the likes of SDCC and NYCC.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue’

HELLO! I am so happy to be writing this review because I have been looking forward to this book since I saw it was being released. I received it in the mail this afternoon and spent the good part of the night reading it–or better named, devouring it. This was my last Pride month read.

THIS BOOK COMES OUT TOMORROW, EVERYONE! Pick up a copy if you love yourself <3.

 

Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5 stars

Pub date: June 27, 2017

I received this book as an ARC (trade) from a lovely fellow blogger on Twitter. This is an honest review.

Summary

Wow. That is literally all I can think right now. This book was absolutely a-ma-zing. It lived up to all of the hype surrounding it and I wasn’t let down one bit! This book follows three English teenagers named Monty, Percy and Felicity who are on a Grand Tour of Europe before they have to return home–or go to school–and begin their real lives. They travel to Paris, Marseille, Barcelona, Venice, and finally end up in Greece. That is literally a dream trip, if you ask me! This is 500 pages of pure deliciousness: that’s the only word I could think to describe this book after just finishing it and loving it.

Likes

First off, the humor in this book is ON POINT. I found myself actually laughing out loud for a lot of Monty’s one-liners and his personality fits perfectly with his humor. Monty is one of those typical rich-kids but he’s got a fire in him and is the resident bad boy. He has just been expelled from school and his father sends him on a Grand Tour to get his–for lack of a better phrase–shit straight. Percy, the other main male character, compliments him perfectly. I thought Percy was really sweet and cared about Monty, even telling him the cold hard truth when he didn’t want to hear it. Felicity is the final main character in this book: she’s Monty’s sister and she’s super smart and super badass and I love her to death. If you could actually do that to a character.

This book also includes a gay romance!! Well… kinda. Monty has dabbled with men and that was part of the issue in this book. Being gay in that time period (this is a historical fiction set in the ~1700s) was frowned upon and it wasn’t widely accepted at all. Additionally, Monty’s traveling partner Percy is a man of color, which is also a touchy subject at this time in history. Race relations are also touched upon in the book and that is accurate to this time period. Female freedom is also shown in this book because Felicity reads lots of books but she accepts that she will never be able to follow her dream because she is a woman.

(Dis)likes

I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like in this book. I thought it was poignant, funny, and an all around great read. I thought it was just going to be about their travels but, of course, things don’t go as planned and another storyline is formed along the way.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction or anyone who is looking for a feel-good enjoyable read. While the book is 500 pages, I felt like I devoured it (as I said before) because it was so gripping and fun to read. It’s been a while since I’ve had a “fun” read, but I am so glad I was able to fit this in to my extensive reading schedule!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘Daughter of the Burning City’

Hi! I got a little ahead on my reading and I’m so glad because this book has been one of my most anticipated reads of the summer. I learned of the book on Twitter, actually, from the author advertising it as an ‘LGBT YA dark fantasy’, which intrigued me immediately. Without further ado, here’s my third review for Pride month!

 

 

Title: Daughter of the Burning City

Author: Amanda Foody

Series: Standalone

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Pub date: July 25, 2017

I received this book as an ARC from Bookcon in NYC. This is an honest review.

Summary

I have to admit that the cover of this book intrigued me the most, because of the quote on the front: ‘wicked, wicked to the core, the city will burn forevermore’. It has to have one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen and it is my favorite color, which is purple! Aside from the appealing cover, the story is about a girl named Sorina who is part of traveling festival called Gomorrah, that offers different types of acts. It’s kind of like a carney circus type of thing. Sorina is a jynx-worker and she is the only person in the festival who is an illusion-worker, which means that she can create people through her mind and they become real, as well as make people see whatever she wants them too. She refers to the people she creates as her ‘family’ and the story follows her investigation as one of her illusions is killed, which should be impossible.

Likes

I liked this book. A lot. I thought that the story really kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not expect it to end the way it did and the hunt for the killer was what a majority of the book was about. I enjoyed learning about the different types of jynx-workers and how the happenings of the festival worked. It was unique in that I haven’t read a book like this before and the murder mystery reminded me a little bit of Stalking Jack the Ripper (which is one of my favorites: read it if you haven’t!). I thought Sorina was a likable main character who had such concern for her family that she would do anything in order to protect them. I was afraid this book was going to be a lot like Caraval, but it wasn’t! It has a completely new story and it was very magical. That is the one word I can put to this book: it was a magical experience that has a lot of different elements contributing to that magical feeling.

(Dis)likes

Another reason I picked up this book was because of the mention of LGBT themes and I have to say… I was a little bit disappointed there. It is mentioned that Nicoleta has dated women in the past, but then there is a gap without mention of anything related to the community. The only other mention of an LGBT theme would be with Luca, where he says something that made me think he is demisexual. For those who don’t know, demisexual is when a person must form a strong emotional bond to someone before they experience sexual attraction. Upon further thought and clarification, I think he’s a mixture of a few identities/orientations on the LGBT spectrum. Luca could be considered a main character, though, so the theme WAS there, even if it was only mentioned a few times.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fans of fantasies such as Caraval and Stalking Jack the Ripper, as I mentioned earlier. I think it’s unique story was easy to get immersed in and I thought Sorina’s jinx-worker powers were cool, as well as the rest of the jynx-worker powers, for that matter. If you are looking for a book that always keeps you guessing, take a trip to the Gomorrah Festival!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Not Like It’s A Secret’

It’s another hot day here so I spent it reading… again! But I’m not complaining. Today I read another LGBT-centric book in honor of June being Pride month!

 

Title: Not Like It’s A Secret

Author: Misa Sugiura

Series: Standalone

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Summary

As you can tell from the rating, I didn’t really like this book. But first, let me point out what I did like. I thought that the intersectionality of the main character, Sana, was something that we need in the world of YA. We need representation of different ethnicities, and identities, and affectional orientations. I thought that traditional Japanese values were represented here, even though sometimes they were stereotypical. Some of the characters even admitted things they said were stereotypical! I also think the Mexican-American prejudice debate was also touched on well here and the differences in how Caucasian people perceive the Mexican group vs the Asian group with their encounter with a police officer. Sana’s struggle in relation to her sexuality was also interesting in the idea of intersectionality and her “mixed race” relationship with Jamie is also something that needs representation.

Likes

This book was full of microaggression after microaggression. If you don’t know what that is, it is  “the casual degradation of any marginalized group” (thanks Google for the official definition). There was a lot of those in this book and they came from characters with plenty of different backgrounds, against characters of other marginalized backgrounds. I thought examining these stereotypes across ethnicities was interesting. I recently took a course on social and cultural diversity, where I learned about many multicultural issues, so seeing them in a novel was intriguing.

Dislikes

I didn’t really connect with Sana, who is the main character. I am not a fan of contemporaries usually, but I do read them to get away from the constant fantasy from time to time. My usual problem with contemporaries is that I can’t relate, and I feel like this is what happened with Sana. She seemed like a sweet character trying to find her way in the world, but I just didn’t LOVE her. I did like the fact that she challenged her mom’s stereotypical beliefs and I liked how she handled confronting someone who said something racist or offensive. I felt like this book just breezed by and I didn’t have enough time to truly connect with the characters. That’s why this book has such a low rating, but I wanted to review it and point out what I did like about it! Also, the title was also strangely not appropro, because it kind of was a secret till the end of the book.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to people who are looking for more diverse reads and Asian/Latinx/LGBT representation. I felt that the LGBT representation was very good and it was examined more within Asian and Mexican culture.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Ramona Blue’

Hello – It’s super hot here in CT and it was refreshing to stay inside today and read this awesome book! I had seen it floating around on Twitter and I have been actively searching for more LGBT-centric books to read in honor of June being Pride month, so I picked up this one (as well as Not Like It’s a Secret — review for that is up on Wednesday!).

 

Title: Ramona Blue

Author: Julie Murphy

Series: Standalone

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book. I hadn’t heard what it was about online, other than the fact that it contained LGBT themes. After reading the blurb inside the cover, I figured I would still read it to see how I could compare it to other books I have read focusing on the LGBT community. I have to say that this was a very heartwarming read. I felt a connection to both Ramona, and her sister, and their relationship throughout the book.  It made me want to be there with the two of them and I felt like I was soaking up their love through the pages. The setup of the book also goes by each month in Ramona’s life, so I liked that timeline setup for this particular novel.

Likes

I truly loved Ramona as a character. I thought she was written in a way that was very relatable and I felt like I knew her. She was genuine and the struggle she encounters in the book is something I have heard from many people who are in the Community. She struggles with her sexuality–whether she is gay, straight, bisexual, or many other labels–but this shows what it is actually like for the person going through it. I’ve seen reviews saying that the author made it seem like her connection with Freddie ‘turned her straight’, but I didn’t get that vibe. I got the vibe of a teenager questioning their sexuality and how they fit in to a specific label. The book also touches on a race issue and how that plays into culture in the South, so I immediately picked up on that, where I think it is important to mention today in our current political climate.

(Dis)likes

One thing I didn’t like was Grace. I’m not saying that she wasn’t written in a way that wasn’t believable–she was!–I just didn’t like the character herself. Once you read the book, it will be obvious as to why, but I felt like this happens more often than not when someone is questioning their identity. I think she sort of redeemed herself at the end of the book which I was thankful for, but how she acted in the beginning towards Ramona bothered me: for good reason. Though, Grace’s own struggles happen in reality as well, so it was good to have that represented too.

Recommendation

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to fans of YA novels such as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I thought it represented the struggle of a teen discovering their identity well and made me empathize with the characters.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor