Tag Archive | family

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Series: Dumplin’ #1

dumplin -julie murphySelf-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.


4 Drink Me Potions


[The song] is catchy and everyone knows the words, but to me, it’s this reminder that no matter who you are, there will always be someone prettier or smarter or thinner. Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we’re all chasing.


Dumplin’ is that book about an atypical heroine you may think of based on the synopsis, but with way more heart and less cheese-y fluffiness than I had pegged it to be.

This book – and my thoughts on it – can be summarized in a few points.

1) Will’s voice as the protagonist was the perfect balance that didn’t overly make me want to sympathize with her yet also showed her vulnerabilities.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes reading stories about girls who are fat does neither of those things. They either lose weight and “get better” and we get to feel “happy” for them or they embrace themselves in such a way that I’m not sure is fully realistic either. This wasn’t the case here and that was surprising. I cheered her on when she was happy with her body and who she was, and was sad with her when she let her doubts get in the way of everything she could aspire to be.

2) The romance wasn’t the highlight.

Wait, what? That can’t be right. I’m saying I didn’t want the romance to be heavily laid on?
You betcha. I frankly didn’t really love Bo. He’s your average good looking guy who was a jerk (to someone else in the past) but now is all romantic and sweet ’cause he’s fallen hard – somehow, and no, we’re not given a reason why – for Will. He seemed too 2-dimensional for such a 3-dimensional girl. SO yeah, I’m quite happy that it wasn’t the focus, especially for the latter half of the book. (I’m sorry, romance fans!)

But don’t get me wrong. It was still sweet. For all of you who really look forward to this.

There’s some kind of peace that comes with knowing that for every person who is waiting to be found, there’s someone out there searching.


3) The ending was abrupt – but in a good way.

I know, how is that a good thing? Well, to me it left things a bit more ambiguous. Like how life is generally. It isn’t always tied up in a nice bow where all the family drama is solved immediately with a deep heart-to-heart talk or couples throwing themselves at each other in happiness after resolving the romantic tensions between them. (Yes, you can see that I’m feeling rather jaded at the moment towards love). I liked that it ended on a good note but without tying up all the loose threads completely.

4) Heartfelt messages for the win! Or life lessons, if that’s what you wanna call them

“Maybe Lucy wasn’t supposed to be your compass forever. Maybe she was there for you just long enough so you could learn how to be your own compass and find your own way.”


Losing her aunt Lucy was a major theme in this book as Will always felt closer to her due to their similar body size. But this isn’t one of those books where the death of a loved one is driving our protagonist crazy with grief or other kinds of pain. Yes, it’s present and it flares up on some days but it’s not just a plot device. It felt real with the lessons Will was able to draw from all the things she remembered and learned anew about her even after death.

5) Girl power!

This story is all about friendships. Will’s ups and downs with her bestie Ellen took a big chunk of this book. If you know what it feels to have someone you’ve just known and gone through so much crap with, this is how it should be portrayed. But aside from lifelong friends, the new ones Will gains in her journey to the pageant was great. I kinda wish there was less of Bo in these pages and more of these girls. They were atypical secondary characters. Not necessarily your characteristic beauties or smarties or sporties. Just…people who want to fit in but others have deemed them OTHER. I loved them, and I love Julie Murphy for creating a story where girls can support each other, even if it’s a bit unwilling at first.

Aside from these things, my only complaint was the slow pacing of the story in the beginning. You know she’s gonna enter a pageant and show everyone that just ’cause she’s fat doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to do this. I adore Will for this. But yeah, it was slow going at first, for at least the first half. I wouldn’t say I breezed through this book at all. Other than that, Dumplin’ holds a lot of good messages that warms my heart at the end of the day.

Overall Recommendation:
Dumplin’ features a cast of atypical girls at the heart of the story, and it’s like no other book I’ve read with fat girls in a starring role. While tugging at our heartstrings in sympathy, it doesn’t just stop there. This is a story of embracing who you are – no matter what size, shape or form – and the courage to be your true self and truly be comfortable with it. The girl friendships gained along the way were empowering. The romance was doable although I could’ve gone without it. Overall, a more remarkable book than I had initially boxed it in. And boy, am I glad for that.

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Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

more than we can tell -brigid kemmererRev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.


4 Drink Me Potions


Heart-rendering in a way that pulls all my heartstrings, More Than We Can Tell is a poignant follow-up to its companion novel that centred on a unique character whose heart has won over many readers even before picking up this book.

Rev Fletcher was an interesting protagonist to see the world through. Many awful things had happened to him yet it didn’t turn him into a bad person with a jaded view on life and society. Instead, it gave him his heart of compassion and loyalty. But that didn’t mean the demons from his past experiences weren’t following him, and I was so very eager to see how (and who) would help him face these demons head-on.

Our love interest for Rev, Emma, was just as intriguing. Awkward yet lovable, this gamer girl who wanted to stay strong and true to herself was just right for Rev. With her own slew of problems that were no less as painful to go through, this book really focused on strength in the midst of a storm. And while it’s not as light of a contemporary read as others, I found myself particularly resonating with such tormented hearts. Life wasn’t easy and had given them each obstacles to overcome. What they each learned from them, and the process that led them there, was simple yet heartfelt. From the depths of familial love to the deep bonds of sacrificial friendship and trust, there were a lot of encouraging messages that resonated deeply.

While this was an enjoyable read, there was just…something missing from it for me. Maybe it was more that I saw Rev and Emma’s relationship as less romantic and more of a deep friendship? Maybe it’s just the emotional state I was in while reading this novel but I particularly loved seeing how their tentative trust in each other built as fate kept bringing them back in one another’s lives. I mean, wouldn’t you want to find someone like that? I’d love a Rev, honestly. Not so much for his jujitsu techniques and physique (although that’s a plus!), but his forthrightness, his integrity and solid trust in God and a greater meaning to his life.

And that is the other thing. I couldn’t wrap my head around whether or not Brigid saw religion and faith as a negative or a positive thing in Rev’s life. Maybe a bit of both. I don’t think it can be construed as offensive to anyone as the awful religious aspects were considered abnormal, but at the same time, I just don’t know.

Either way, it was interesting to see this kind of portrayal in YA contemporary and I felt like I could connect with Rev more because of it. Fast-paced and a great follow-up to an amazing book, More Than We Can Tell holds a lot for fans of Brigid Kemmerer’s past works.

Overall Recommendation:
More Than We Can Tell delivered a heavy message that was ultimately uplifting while also heartbreaking. Both Rev and Emma’s voices rang true with their individual struggles and as their stories crossed, Kemmerer continues to show how well she can weave a story of the hardships that shape us into the better people that we are. Call me a true fan now as I don’t think she can do wrong when it comes to her contemporaries!

Review: Dream On by Kerstin Gier

Series: Silver #2

dream on -kerstin gierThings seem to be going well for Liv Silver: she’s adjusting to her new home in London; she has a burgeoning romance with Henry Harper, one of the cutest boys in school; and the girl who’s been turning her dreams into nightmares, Anabel, is now locked up. But serenity doesn’t last for long.

It seems that Liv’s troubles are far from over—in fact, suddenly they’re piling up. School gossip blogger Secrecy knows all of Liv’s most intimate secrets, Henry might be hiding something from her, and at night Liv senses a dark presence following her through the corridors of the dream world.

Does someone have a score to settle with Liv?


4 Drink Me Potions


Dream On continues along in the same thread as its first book with whimsical dreaming and the threat of dangerous entities waiting for our protagonists in their dreams.

There are many things I love about this book. First, for a second book in a trilogy, it sure was a fast read. Things have settled down somewhat since the crazy ending events in book 1, but there seems to be something hanging in the air that unsettles poor Liv. And while the danger that presents itself isn’t anything crazy (now don’t be thinking of demons and weird monsters and other fantastical creatures), it’s no less a dangerous threat to these sweet individuals I’ve come to love.

That brings me to this point. The characters. They’re just so…. lovable !

Liv and her sister Mia are fun and so real. They don’t necessarily act like mini adults that a lot of YA seems to portray their protagonists. They’re sweet girls who sometimes have a hard time adjusting to their new familial lives with the Spencer family. They make mistakes – no one’s perfect – but the thing is, neither of them are particularly special either. And they don’t have to be! I love them for how they are, their unique personalities that make them so tangible, without having those super protagonist powers that also are so prominent.

The secondary characters are all unique as well. From the eccentric but sweet au pair to the boys Liv hangs with and the completely intolerable Spencer matriarch, each one isn’t just a cookie cutter mold of someone else that is vaguely familiar.

I will admit that the plot is a bit slow at times, especially when it comes to isolating what this feeling of trepidation is whenever Liv and Henry are exploring the dream corridor. But the romantic tensions between them both drove me nuts and kept me reading like crazy. The progression of their relationship felt real. No need for weirdly complicated love triangles, dastardly plots trying to destroy their relationship or other crazy things that I’ve seen occur. Liv just had her doubts about Henry’s interest in her sometimes. And the trajectory of their sweet romance was a lot fun to follow, especially for you romance lovers out there! It was just enough to the story that added a bit of sugar on top.

I once said that this whole series reminded me of Wonderland. Maybe it’s the covers with the keyhole showing the other side of one’s dream door. Maybe it’s the whimsical and nonsensical nature of what goes on in dreams sometimes. Maybe it’s the innocence and curiosity of Liv that I see in Alice as well. I’m not sure if this extra layer could’ve coloured my view on these books, but either way, I think it’s another solid story added to the series and I can’t wait to see how things go for this wonderful eclectic family of dreamers.

Overall Recommendation:
Dream On has a bit of everything: suspenseful wait for what other dangers may be present, romantic relationships with a certain dreamer and the fun antics of a truly unique family. I loved every single bit of it, but especially the way that Gier makes her characters come alive. For any dreamer out there, I definitely recommend this book – in fact, the whole darn series – for you. ‘Cause in dreams, anything can happen. And the imagination can run wild, although sometimes a little too wild as these wonderful protagonists find out.