Book Review: Dumplin by Julie Murphy

My ARC has a striking black and red glossy cover!

What’s it about?

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean 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 Teen Blue Bonnet 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.

My thoughts

In a considered effort to read books that I’ve had on my shelf for a considerable amount of time, I picked up this ARC that I’d had from 2015!!! My bad!

I read this book in less than a weekend which I think is testament to my enjoyment level even though It’s full of stereotypes, clichés and fat jokes.  Although these mostly are from the main character..kind of let me say it first before someone else does!

**Having said I enjoyed it for what it is, I can’t decide if this is book is a good representation of body positivity for young women** I just don’t have enough literary knowledge of this area to determine that.  As a piece of entertainment, it worked for me.

Even though I’m undecided, I would have liked to have read this as a chubby teenager as I can only remember reading Judy Blume’s Superfudge.  Body image positivity wasn’t really a thing in the mid-80s.  This book is full of concerns that I’m sure many a plus size girl, myself included, probably has thought about at least once, it is all very familiar.  But as I say I am conflicted if this book really does promote body positivity or whether it just encourages people to change to fit in.  I did like that Willowdean is an imperfect main character as none of us are flawless. She is self-critical, full of self-doubt, doesn’t always treat those around her as well as she could 100% of the time but she mostly has a good heart and a wicked f**k it attitude.

There’s a bit of a love triangle thing going on which I didn’t feel was necessary or really brought anything extra to the story.  I was actually reading this thinking, are people going to read and believe this or think she’s punching above her weight and would never get one guy let alone two – I know this is down to my own insecurities and even as a 40+ singleton I still have these same doubts…”don’t touch the back fat!”.  The pageant itself doesn’t exactly promote healthy attitudes as all that is so judgemental in its entirety.

I get that the importance of the book is not who won the pageant but why don’t we find out who wins: I really wanted to know!  95% of the book revolves around the darn thing but we don’t get a winner – cop out! Maybe the movie will give me a winner.

As a bit of escapism for the weekend, it was a fun read.  As a book that everyone should read as a good example of body positivity, I don’t know!

The movie adaptation of Dumplin is due to be released this year and the book’s sequel, Puddin, was published in May.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: ARC – many thanks!
No of pages: 384
Publisher: Harper Collins

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

What’s it about?

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels.

But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get.

Her mother is stolen, by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world from her grandmother’s stories.

Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

My thoughts

This was very out of my comfort zone but I’d seen lots of positive reviews so requested an ARC and was delighted to be approved.  I was looking forward to trying something different but also somewhat wary that I might not like it as I do struggle with magical realism.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book when we’re introduced to Alice and Ella’s lifestyles and when Finch comes onto the scene, I liked his and Alice’s unusual relationship, although I don’t quite understand why she was so horrid to him a lot of the time, however, I particularly liked their hunt for the rare book Tales of the Hinterland (would have liked more of this) and their road trip scenes.  I also enjoyed the short stories of Tales of the Hinterland that were incorporated into the main story – these little bites were probably enough of a fairy tale for me to be honest.  I started to struggle when Alice found The Hazel Wood, the Hinterland and the events that followed.  That whole magical realism, I think I try too hard to rationalise it all rather than take it for what is: I didn’t get it, got confused and lost interest.

My problem with books like this is the constant trying to work out the logistics of how this stuff works; what can’t we all see the doors, where is The Hazel Wood, why can’t it be seen by others, where do people left behind in our normal world think people like Alice are, are they just missing? These are the things that are going through my head which you just can’t do in a book of this nature!

As I don’t regularly read this type of book I don’t really have much to compare it too or am able to say read it if you like so and so but it did very much remind me of the movies Inkheart and The Spiderwick Chronicles (which I have since discovered are based on books).  I really enjoyed these movies so I’m thinking I enjoy magical realism more on the screen.  This isn’t my usual go to read but if you love fantasy, magic and fairy tales with a darker side and a hint of mystery then you’ll probably enjoy it and therein lies the moral of this blog post to myself: less fantasy books, you enjoy the movies more!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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Source: ARC – many thanks!
No of pages: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Book Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

What’s it about?

I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.

As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet….

 

 

My thoughts

This was my last read of 2017 and one which I purchased just before Christmas.  I bought it based on another book bloggers review (thanks Ali at I Wuv Books) and it was such the loveliest Christmas read.

I loved the setting of New York at Christmas, the descriptions are just like those from a movie.  In fact, this would make a great movie.  I liked Dash and Lily but definitely had a soft spot for Boomer and Grandpa and all the secondary characters helping Dash and Lily along their way – let’s face it , they know some cool people!

I liked that the chapters switched between Dash and Lily’s perspectives, getting to know them better through their thoughts in the red notebook and their insecurities and hopes.

Having said all that, I didn’t award 5* because of the way these pair speak.  I mean these are the most eloquent couple of teenagers you’ll come across, just like the two from The Fault in our Stars.  Words and phrases that I can’t ever imagine using in my forties let alone young adults.  I don’t quite get why the authors have them speak like this, I know that they’re intelligent and bookish but have them speak like they’re from their own generation.

Overall a highly enjoyable read that reminded me of You’ve Got Mail and Serendipity which pose the question can the real thing ever be as good as the expectation?

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links:  Website

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Source: Purchased
No of pages:  274
Publisher:  MIRA Ink

Book Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

What’s it about?

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?

I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t, and the next day she remembers it. It’s the first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone. She thinks he’s moved to the Arctic.

Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?

My thoughts

Loved it, loved it, loved it – please tell me they’ll be a sequel!!!

I bought this book based on the recommendation of another trusted book blogger (see..it does happen!) and I’m not going to lie when I knew it was a targeted YA I was sceptical but I went with it anyway. Oh blimey, I absolutely loved everything about this book, including the sparkly cover and its design and adore Flora.

Not gonna lie the whole first person narrative takes adjustment to especially when little things are repeated but actually given the situation and Flora’s condition it’s totally appropriate and eventually I thought it endearing but so very heartbreaking.  There was a point where I very nearly shed a tear (that takes some doing I’ll tell you).

Don’t think, as I may have done initially, that this book will be light and fluffy and not hard-hitting.  This book is very unsettling  and I think because it’s written from a 17-year-old girl’s perspective most adult women will relate to her emotions which I did but on more than one occasion I wanted, needed to mother and protect her.  Without wanting to give too much away I sensed throughout that all wouldn’t turn out as Flora hopes but I certainly wasn’t expecting what actually did.

Those of you that have read and enjoyed SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep would like this, please don’t dismiss because it’s found in the teen section.  You’d really be missing out.  Overall, a totally unexpected pleasure, I’m just desperate now to find out what happens to her! 100% recommended for ALL ages!

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 320
Publisher:  Penguin

Book Review: The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

the-london-eye-mysteryWhat’s it about?

When Ted and Kat watched their cousin Salim get on board the London Eye, he turned and waved before getting on. After half an hour it landed and everyone trooped off – but no Salim. Where could he have gone? How on earth could he have disappeared into thin air?

Since the police are having no luck finding him, Ted and Kat become sleuthing partners. Despite their prickly relationship, they overcome their differences to follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. And ultimately it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery.

My thoughts

My eleven-year-old niece and I bought this book in a local second hand bookshop on Book Shop Day last year.  She read it and then passed it on to me as she’d enjoyed it and I spent a few enjoyable hours over a weekend with it.

If you’ve enjoyed books of the Nancy Drew and Wells and Wong series then you’re likely to enjoy this book too.  A good old caper with a couple of kids investigating a disappearance better than the police can…that kind of thing.  Only this search is aided by Ted’s condition…whether that’s Autism or Asperger’s it’s not actually spelt out, just that he has a differently wired brain!

The books is quite humourous, but of course, it’s probably not meant to be funny as this is just the way Ted is and how he reacts and breaks down social situations that feel alien to him but it’s done in a way that I expect the target audience (I would estimate pre-teen) will understand and empathise with.

I think this is one of the those books where it tells rather than shows; I didn’t feel there were any real clues to pick up on and the book ending will probably annoy regular readers of mystery novels because you at least want a chance to solve the mystery even if you can’t.

At the end of the day the real star of this book isn’t the mystery but Ted!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author Link: Website

Small print for info
Source:  Purchased (2nd hand book shop)
No of pages: 336
Publisher: Puffin


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