Review: Dumplin' - Julie Murphy

“I guess sometimes the perfection we perceive in others is made up of a whole bunch of tiny imperfections, because some days the damn dress just won’t zip.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Fiction

Reading Challenge: 3 out of 35

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 Thoughts —

I’m a sucker for a good fluffy romance. (New drinking game: take a shot whenever I say that in a review).

Last December, I saw that the film adaptation of Dumplin’ had been put onto Netflix and because I have no impulse control, I watched it before reading the book. Big literary no-no, I know. But here we are. I really enjoyed the film but I had to wait until after final exams to read the book. So, finally, I got to read it and no shock, it’s SO much better than the film.

Dumplin’ has all the key elements of a great YA romance: an authentic female lead, a dreamy love interest, a complicated but enduring friendship, and of course, Dolly Parton, hero to all. To be honest, Dumplin’ really hit the mark for me. It pulled me in, got me invested in all the characters, and it just seemed authentic to me. I believed that these characters could be real teenagers, which I find is really difficult for some YA authors to capture perfectly. Being not so far off from a teen, I can still understand teen characters fairly well. Mind you, I feel like every day I feel less and less connected to teens these days lol.

I really liked how this book strayed from the reliance on stereotypes like a lot of YA novels do. Not only in terms of Willowdean, either. I thought it was really interesting that Bo could have easily been made into another mysterious, handsome, obnoxious private school kid. But instead, they made him into a multifaceted character. They also avoided having Willowdean desperately chase after Bo to the point that pining over him would be her only personality trait (I’m sure this sounds familiar). In fact, Bo actually chased Willowdean throughout the book. Willowdean is a strong, complex character with ambitions and goals, who happens to also have a crush on a boy. And I loved that about her.

Did you like the movie adaptation or the book better?

Felicia x

Review: Alex and Eliza: A Love Story - Melissa De La Cruz

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“And you, Colonel Hamilton, are mine, and I am yours always.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (American Revolution), Young Adult, Romance

Reading Challenge: 30 out of 50

My Thoughts —

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

My Thoughts —

Recently, I’ve become super obsessed with the musical, Hamilton. I’ve been in love with it for a few years now for whatever reason, my obsession has skyrocketed in the past few months. Sadly, I’ve not yet had the chance to see it. My boyfriend tried to get tickets for the two of us to see it in NYC last year, but they came out to about $2,000 US!! So that was NOT happening. Since it won’t be coming to Toronto until the 2019/2020 season, I’ve had to find other ways to fuel my addition - like reading Hamilton-inspired lit apparently.

Melissa De La Cruz was actually one of my fav authors when I was a preteen, back when Girl Stays in the Picture came out (THE THROWBACK). When my reading tastes changed, I moved on from her books. But I was excited to read another one of her books again after all these years and see what I’d been missing.

I loved this book!! As you may know, I’m a huge YA fan. This is so up my alley that it’s crazy. The love between Alex and Eliza was palpable and I think it really was the perfect kickoff for the long history of the Hamiltons. I thought this novel read a lot like a modern-day Jane Austen novel. Not even just because it was set in the 18th century, but because it has a romantic storyline with a strong heroine lead and it ends in a wedding. I loved the Austen-esque elements and although I’m not sure if the author intended to include them, I think they were pretty perfect!

I also thought it was quite interesting how the novel was told from both the perspectives of Alex and Eliza. Especially since there was a fair chunk of the novel where Alex was off doing war-related things. It was pretty cool because then you got to see both sides of the story. It also gave readers the opportunity to be introduced to other key historical figures such as the Sons of Liberty. I’m very 50/50 when it comes to dual narratives, but when they’re done effectively I’m quite keen on them and I think it was done very well in Alex & Eliza!

There were obviously a ton of differences between this novel and Hamilton which I think ultimately comes down to picking and choosing which details to include and which to omit. For instance, in the musical, a lot of details were excluded or altered to work with the storyline - this was also done with Alex & Eliza. I did find that with Alex & Eliza, everything was a lot more fluffy which makes sense as it’s a YA novel. So if you’re looking for a hard-hitting, authentic Revolutionary War retelling, maybe look elsewhere.

I’m really interested to see how this series progresses throughout the next couple books! I already started Love & War which is the sequel, but the third and final book isn’t being released until April 2019 - so I have a bit of time left until that one! Until then, keep an eye out for my Love & War review!

Are you a Hamilton fan?

Felicia x

Review: My Lady Jane - Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

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“She delighted in the smell of the ink, the rough feel of the paper between her fingers, the rustle of sweet pages, the shapes of letters before her eyes.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Reading Challenge: 26 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

My Thoughts —

First and foremost, let me start by saying that I love the Tudor era and everything about it. Which is ultimately why I decided to pick up this novel. Except this is no ordinary historical fiction. It tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the Nine Days’ Queen. But this time around, it’s far less tragic and a lot more mystical.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history, here’s how it goes. Jane Grey was a teenaged English noblewoman who was married to Lord Guildford Dudley. When King Edward VI fell terminally ill, he wrote into his will that succession would fall to Lady Jane and her male heirs. But when Lady Jane took the throne, support grew in favour of Mary Tudor - a Roman Catholic - and eventually, Jane was deposed and executed for high treason. Yikes. This version of the story is a little different in that it includes humans that can turn into animals. And poisoning. The usual stuff.

This book was wild from start to finish, and I actually loved it. I thought the addition of fantasy elements, including the E∂ians (aka the animal-morphing humans), was quite exciting and ridiculously creative. I’ve not been huge on fantasy novels since my early teens, but this has definitely made me reconsider the genre. My Lady Jane was an extremely amusing and cleverly-written story, with enough real details to make you forget sometimes that people in the 1500s weren’t actually part-animal.

There were lots of twists and turns to this novel so, keeping with the spoiler-free promise of this review, I won’t reveal too much about the plot. But I did think it was interesting how they played out the Jane Grey vs. Mary Tudor situation. In real-life, Mary deposed of Jane and that was that. Jane’s existence was a threat because she was a Protestant queen. But in the case of this novel, I found it interesting how the role of religion paralleled the storyline of E∂ians and the Verities (aka the people who remain permanently human). The E∂ians being the Protestants, and the Verities being the Roman Catholics. There was definitely an interesting similarity there, that I’d really encourage you to look out for if you’re reading the book!

Most of all, what drew me into this book was Lady Jane herself. I loved Jane. I thought she was an incredible and complex character, the perfect bookish female lead. Books with a strong female lead always capture my heart and My Lady Jane was no exception. Jane showed undoubtable strength and defiance from the very start of the novel, constantly questioning decisions that she didn’t agree with or proving her intelligence by her extensive knowledge of life through reading. I think her relationship with Gifford was extremely interesting also because it forced her to come out of her world of just books and court, and apply her strength to real-life situations (i.e. the villagers early on in the novel). I was really rooting for the two lead characters and never more have I wanted a happily ever after in a novel!

After reading this, I’m so eager to read the follow-up book, My Plain Jane, which is a retelling of the classic Bronte novel, Jane Eyre. I think that these three women are spectacular authors and I would probably read anything that they published as a team. This is definitely the sort of young adults novel that I’d recommend to not only teens, but also adults!

Have you read My Lady Jane? Lend me your thoughts in the comments!

Felicia x

Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies - Louise Gornall

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“See, anxiety doesn’t just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn’t leave.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Contemporary, Young Adult, Mental Health/Illness

Reading Challenge: 7 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

My Thoughts —

Where, oh where, was this book when I was in high school?

Let’s talk about mental illness representation for a second, as it’s obviously a major aspect of this novel. In the six agonizingly long years I’ve suffered from severe, sometimes debilitating, social anxiety disorder, I’ve never related to a book as much as I did to Under Rose-Tainted Skies. I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is to me that this book exists. I spent a large portion of my teen years having people say things like, “You have anxiety? So, you get stressed… So does everyone else.” IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. And this book actually shows the nitty-gritty side of anxiety. The depiction of anxiety in this book was so spot-on to my personal experiences that I was questioning if I’d maybe just wrote it myself lol. I haven’t come across many people who have fully understood or experienced my anxiety triggers (although I know there’s people out there somewhere!). But Norah did. I really hope someday I can write a novel that makes people feel as comforted as this made me feel.

Admittedly, I did have this awful premonition in the first-third of the book that Luke, the boy-next-door, would end up ~saving~ Norah by somehow curing her mental illness with ~love~… blegh. For a split second, I considered putting this book down before it got to that point because I just couldn’t handle if it did. Luckily I kept reading because hooray! It didn’t happen! No magical curative love powers here! The relationship between Luke and Norah was sweet and realistic. Sometimes I feel that in the YA genre, authors can often forget how teenagers are awkward, nervous, and inexperienced kids. I like how Norah doesn’t know what she’s doing in a relationship. I also appreciated how Norah’s mental illness never took a backseat to the gushy stuff and her anxiety wasn’t used as a device to further the romantic plot.

The ending was… a bit rushed, in my opinion. It felt as though we were building up to something huge that ended up being quickly resolved and tucked away. I could’ve done with a few more pages in that final scene. Overall though, this was a great novel. I would totally read this again.

Did you read Under Rose-Tainted Skies? Did you agree with the representation of mental illness?

Felicia x

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

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Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: April 7th 2015

Pages: 303

My Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Goodreads | Amazon


“He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to.”

Oh my god. THIS BOOK. I have not been this in love with a YA novel in ages, probably not since Anna and the French Kiss. Just the fact that I rated it 5 stars says enough as I’m typically so reluctant to rate anything so high. This one truly deserved it, in my opinion. Becky Albertalli has gone above and beyond.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is about a sixteen-year-old boy named Simon who’s hiding a huge secret: he’s gay. Everything is seemingly going pretty good for him - he’s got a great friend group and an online correspondence with an anonymous boy whom he happens to have a crush on. But when someone discovers his e-mails and threatens to expose the two boys as blackmail in return for Simon’s help, everything flips upside down.

Lemme start off with a bit of a disclaimer that I’m not a part of the LGBT community and therefore I can’t speak to the experiences of those who are. Since this book focuses heavily on the experiences of a gay teenager, which I have zero say in, I can only really speak to the plot itself. Which is what I’m gonna do. Can I also just add that this is the first novel I’ve ever read with an LGBT lead character. How is that even possible?? I’ve now made it my mission to scout out novels with a much more diverse cast of characters in the future.

There’s really not much that I didn’t like about this book, so I’ll just point out some of my favourite things. First of all, the e-mails. The e-mails between Simon (aka Jacques, his alias) and Blue are clever, amusing, and sexy. I actually found myself laughing out loud at times. One of the things I often find with young adults novels that puts me off of them is that the characters act and speak more mature than they are, but I didn’t find that a problem with SVTHSA. The teens acted like teens; they did immature things, they made mistakes and they were reprimanded for them. I really respected that. Even the use of Tumblr was appropriate and I think it really spoke to this generation. And, of course, I have to mention that the romance between Simon and Blue was so. flipping. perfect. It just pulled at my heartstrings.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone and everyone. I think that it’s such an important conversation starter on sexuality and adolescence. It’s funny and smart; it reminds me of what I’ve always loved about YA novels. Please please PLEASE give this novel a shot. I’m serious. Go read this book!!! Especially if you’re planning on seeing the film adaptation, Love, Simon. Read the book first. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Have you read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda? What did you think?

Goodreads Challenge: 5 out of 50

Felicia x