Review// Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' by Julie   Murphy

Author: Julie Murphy
Series: Dumplin #1
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Book Length: 371 pages 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

My Review:

Beautiful, he says. Fat, I think. But can’t I be both at the same time?

Finally. Finally I’ve read a book whose movie did it justice (and was maybe even better than the book?) – I really enjoyed this.

Willowdean Dickson, or Dumplin’, as her mom calls her, is a plus-sized Texas teen who decides to compete in the annual Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant which her mother and former winner of the pageant is running. Will’s initiative sparks other girls who wouldn’t have otherwise to join the pageant as well, which I loved.

Other things I loved:
• Millie! – Millie was one of the girls that Will inspired to also join the pageant. I thought Will was pretty confident in her skin, until I met Millie. I think Will sort of did care what other people thought, but Millie was completely oblivious to anything but her own happiness, kind of like a child, and it was endearing.
• The setting – this book made me want to go to Texas, although I felt like I was already there when reading.
• Bo – I loved the scenes with Bo and Will, I was rooting so hard for them to get together.
• The focus on Will’s relationship with her late aunt – Will was really close to her aunt Lucy, and I thought the way the author portrayed the stages of grief after her loss was done really well.

Things I didn’t like:

• Will and Mitch – Oh my. Where to begin with this? It was really sad and cringe worthy having to read through the parts where Will was leading Mitch on for ¾ of the book! I feel like the truth should have come out way sooner and in a much more mature way than it did.
• How mean Will was to basically everyone – her best friend Ellen, her mom, Mitch… the list can go on. Ellen was supposed to be her best friend, but they didn’t talk for ¾ of the book. She went on and on about how much she missed her, but was too proud to apologize for majority of the book; I almost forgot they were supposed to be best friends.

Being comfortable in your own skin is an uphill battle that I think everyone faces from time to time. Sometimes it is difficult not to let our decisions be affected by what we think others will think of us, or by how we think we will look if we step out of our comfort zone. This book’s message is that anybody can do anything they set their mind to, and that you should live your life based on what makes you happy, not by what others will think is the societal norm for you. Overall a great book with a positive message. Definitely want to read the next book in the series!

-Catherine

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Review// Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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Author: Neil Gaiman
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: August 4, 2002
Book Length: 162 pages 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring….

In Coraline’s family’s new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only it’s different.

At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom, books whose pictures writhe and crawl and shimmer, little dinosaur skulls that chatter their teeth. But there’s another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits and all the tools she can find if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.

My Review:

When I think of Coraline, I think of Octobers as a child flipping through television stations and finding that it was playing. For a children’s movie, it always felt so sinister – the blank, button-eyed stare of the ‘Other Mother’ still imprinted in my mind. Now that I’ve read it, I still have the same impression, except now, I understand a deeper meaning behind the story that I never thought about as a kid.

Like many fictional children before her, curious Coraline daydreams of a different life – a life away from home where she feels bored and neglected by her preoccupied parents. Enter the secret corridor in her house which she discovers and is immediately enthralled by. When Coraline steps through the door, she is in an alternate reality of her own life and one that, at first, seems so much better. Through the door, her ‘Other Parents’ pay attention to her, people actually call her Coraline instead of Caroline, and her father’s disgusting dinners are a thing of the past. Everything seems perfect… a little too perfect. Her Other Mother wants her to stay there with her, never to return to her original world, so she can love and care for Coraline forever. Once Coraline rebels against the idea, the Other Mother’s true colours as an evil, manipulative entity are shown and it is Coraline’s job to save herself, her family, and other children she meets along the way who have all fallen victim to Other Mother’s trap.

The way I see it, the life beyond the door represented the exact flip of Coraline’s reality: in her real life, she knew her parents loved her, but they were poor showing it and kind of unintentionally treated her like a nuisance; in life beyond the door, her Other Parents showed her affection, but it was hollow and based upon manipulation. People who are manipulative are often blind to what it is they are doing and how that affects other people – cue the reason that in the other world, the Other Mother and everyone else who was successfully manipulated by her had buttons for eyes, much like puppets. I found it so interesting that the Other Mother was trying to give Coraline buttons for eyes, because in my opinion that felt like a fitting final step for someone who wants to rid you of the ability to see them for the monster they really are.

The dark fantasy-style of writing works perfectly for this book because Coraline herself is grappled by the dark fantasy presented though the alternate version of her life. Just as it is the perfect October movie, it is the perfect October book, and one that I would definitely revisit time and time again.

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Review// Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Author: Kevin Kwan
Series: Crazy Rich Asians #1
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Book Length: 403 pages 
Publisher: Doubleday
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.

Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

My Review:

I liked this! It was like the book version of a television drama – so many different characters and plot points which all wove together to paint a larger story. At times, I found that this could be a bit confusing though as there were many characters to keep track of and each chapter kept switching between each of their perspectives. Because there was a lot of back and forth between which character’s perspective you read for each chapter, I found I did enjoy certain ones over others. Namely, I really enjoyed Astrid’s and Rachel’s chapters – I always found myself eager to know what was happening from their points of views which built up a lot of suspense since I always had to wait for each of their parts to come back. Although, if I am being honest, there was something about everyone’s drama that kept me flipping the pages to find out more.

This book was also very informative, which I enjoyed! I got to learn a lot about Singapore, the traditions of its people, and its history. Sometimes it really did feel like I was being transported to the other side of the world because the setting was captured so beautifully. Although I have a lot of good things to say, the reason I am giving it a 3 and not anything higher is because even though I liked it, it isn’t a book that is going to stick with me for a long time or be one that I would ever consider reading again. However, it was entertaining and I’m glad I read it. I waited to watch the movie because I wanted to read the book first, so now I can’t wait to watch it to have everything I have envisioned on paper come to life on the big screen.

Catherine

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Review// Roomies by Christina Lauren

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Author: Christina Lauren
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Book Length: 368 pages 
Publisher: Gallery Books
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions.

Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago.

Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, a wild idea takes hold of her. Impulsively, she marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway—in the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting—will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

My Review:

This book sounded so great to me from the synopsis, and although I liked it, I didn’t love it, and I’m a little sad about that.

I liked the idea of the plot so much, but I think it fell short for me. As soon as I figured out that a musician was the heartthrob of this story, I was instantly sold. However, I wasn’t exactly sold on Calvin and Holland’s relationship.  I could tell the author was trying to make them click as the book progressed and they actually got to know each other after the marriage, but I never felt the spark. There were times I liked Holland and found her relatable, but other times when she was acting so immature that I couldn’t stand her – the same goes for Calvin. Maybe they were meant to be after all because they were both annoying and childish 🤷🏻‍♀️

I picked this up partly because of the synopsis and partly because Autoboyography by Christina Lauren was one of my favourites, but in this case, I just wish I liked the characters more. Regardless, I would definitely consider reading more Christina Lauren books and am glad I read this as it had been on my radar for months.

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Review// Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Book Length: 368 pages 
Publisher: Hutchinson
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

My Review:

“To be honest, I thought Daisy’d get tired of trying to write an album pretty quickly. I underestimated her. Let me tell you this. Don’t ever doubt Daisy Jones” 

I had a feeling I would fall in love with Daisy Jones just as I had fallen in love with Evelyn Hugo and guess what – I was right. Badass takes-no-bullshit female protagonist? Check. Rock band? Check. Characters that felt so real, I wish they existed? Check. This book was practically made for me. What I didn’t anticipate though was falling in love with The Six and all the other characters too. I am going to miss Camila, Karen, Graham, and yes, even Billy. As I was reading, I was kind of getting A Star is Born vibes, so if you liked that movie, there is a good chance you will appreciate this book. It took me by the hand and brought me back to the 1970s – an era I have never lived through but feel like I have experienced in some small way because of Daisy Jones.

The book is written in an interview-style format, which I wasn’t sure I was going to like, but I thought it worked well for the subject matter. I think it’s hard to write a whole novel in this style and still have it flow, but TJR did an excellent job. However, if there is one thing I disliked, it would be that the ending felt a little rushed. As quickly as Daisy Jones and The Six rose to fame is as quickly as it felt like falling action took place – a little bit too quickly in my opinion. I loved the book as a whole, I just wish there had been a bit more time taken in ending it off less abruptly.

I heard that there is going to be a TV series out based on this book, and I am really excited to see it all come to life – I’d love to be able to search Spotify for the Aurora album and listen to all the songs whose lyrics read so poetic and emotional. This was an excellent book and one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

– Catherine

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