Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- A book review

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- A book review

Dumplin’ has been on my book shelf forever now. And I can’t understand how I didn’t read it already, especially with all the praises the book and the movie got. Anyway, did it fare well on my reading scale? Read my book review of Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy right away.

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About Dumplin’

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy book cover

Book Name: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Genre: Fiction – RomanceYoung adult

Characters: Willowdean Dickson (Dumplin’), Ellen, Bo Larson, Mitch

Setting: Clover City, Texas, The USA

Plot Summary of Dumplin’

Willowdean is the “resident fat girl” (her own words) and is quite happy in her own body – mostly. With her best friend Ellen, a conventional beauty, by her side she doesn’t care much about others opinion her body, including her mother’s – a former beauty queen herself.

But she is more than surprised to find that her crush, Bo Larson, likes her back. She needs some validation as doubts about her body creep into her mind. Of course she has to do something Will would never dare to do, normally.

With some more unlikely candidates on tow, she signs up for the Miss Clover City beauty pageant to show herself and the others that she deserves to a spot as much as every other girl there.

Does she get the boy? More importantly, does she get her much deserved space in the beauty pageantry? You will have to read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy to know more.

Book review of Dumplin’

First of all, I loved Willowdean, mostly. I loved that she is flawed yet strong and so well developed. Actually, none of the characters in the book are flawless or perfect. Most of them are dimensional and etched out.

I understand the insecurities that Will faces all through her life and why she reacts the way she does (a bit self centered) at times. And it totally worked for me, especially since “losing her weight” or “romance/a boy” were not prescribed as the solutions.

I loved the complicated mother-daughter relationship and how differently each person handles the grief over a losing someone beloved. I kept waiting for Will to shout at her mother for being so pushy about the diet and losing weight, though it would have been a bit cliché.

On the other hand, I didn’t like how she treats her friends and boy friends at all. She was being too mean and inconsiderate to her new friends, in general and it was not addressed in the book.

Secondly that the resolution was quite abrupt.
Spoiler I found it a little odd that Ellen and Will made up so easily at the pageant, out of nowhere. They could have done it any time. I wish it took more than a speech to solve that issue.

What worked for me

  • I loved the whole Dolly Parton fan theme. Many song references went over my head, but on the whole I enjoyed reading about it.
  • Most of the characters in Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy were flawed and fully fleshed out. And I really liked that.
  • I also liked the complicated mother daughter relationship dynamic.

What may have been better

  • I particularly disliked how Will treated others, especially her new friends.
  • This book has a triangular love story. So if you hate that trope, beware.

Content warning

Body shaming, bullying, Fat shaming, grieving the death of a beloved, forced diet and weight loss (mentioned)

Bottom line

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is a light contemporary read which is (mostly) body positive and sends a powerful message. It is perfect for both young and adult readers.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- A book review

Boy Who Steals Houses, The by CG Drew – A book review

I seriously don’t know why and how had I not read this book earlier. I loved the author’s debut book A Thousand Perfect Notes, and I absolutely adore Cait’s (the author) blog. So what’s my verdict on this one? Read my book review on The Boy Who Steals Houses by C G Drew to find out.

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Boy Who Steals Houses book cover

About The Boy Who Steals Houses

Book Name: The Boy Who Steals Houses

Author: C G Drew

Genre: Fiction – RomanceYoung adult

Characters: Sam and Avery Lou, Moxie, Jack, Jeremy De Lainey

Plot Summary of The Boy Who Steals Houses

15 year old Sam Lou is a homeless teenager, who breaks into empty houses just to find somewhere safe to sleep. He and his older brother Avery have been on the run for sometime now.

All through his life, Sam has been the adult and takes care of Avery, who is on the Autism spectrum. When all the adults in their family fail, Sam had to grow up too quickly and all he ever wanted was a safe home where he belonged with Avery.

But when Avery falls into a bad crowd, Sam is left all alone to fend himself. When he breaks into an “empty house” he realizes what he has been missing all these days.

Does he have to choose between feeling belonged to a family and Avery? If yes, what would he choose? You might have to read The Boy Who Steals Houses by C G Drew to know more.

Book review of The Boy Who Steals Houses

This book will break your heart. Do not come at me when you are a mess trying not to cry – but in a good way.

I absolutely adored every character and I wanted to protect Sam and Avery from any harm ever. And there will be a warm and sunshine-y place for the DeLaineys in my heart forever.

I was a bit worried about how The Boy Who Steals Houses would ever stand up to the expectations that C G Drew had created after her fantastic debut A Thousand Perfect Notes. But the author has proved her worth and it does more than expected.

This book is not too long and I finished in two short sittings. I can understand that it was written for a younger audience but that fact didn’t reduce the pleasure I had reading the book.

What worked for me

  • The characters. I love how fleshed out each of them were and I loved them all.
  • I love the world building and the lyrical writing. C G Drew proves that she is YA writer we all have to watch out for.
  • Though written for a younger audience, The Boy Who Steals Houses will work for all ages well.
  • It is an own voice book and the author herself is on the Autism spectrum. And I think it shows.

What may have been better

  • NOTHING AT ALL.

Content warning

Child abuse and Parental negligence, death of parent, ablest terms

Bottom line

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C G Drew is easily one of the favorite books of the year. Pick it up if you are looking some heart warming characters right away.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- A book review

Ziggy, Stardust and Me – A book review

Once in a while we get to read books that are too difficult to read because they speak of raw and unflinching truths. Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon is one such book. Read on to hear more on my review of Ziggy, Stardust and Me.

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About the book

Ziggy, Stardust and Me Book review

Book Name: Ziggy, Stardust and Me

Author: James Brandon

Genre: Fiction – HistoryYoung adult

Characters: Jonathan Collins, Webster, Starla, Dr Evelyn

Setting: Missouri , The USA

Plot Summary

Jonathan has been waiting for his final “therapy” session so that he can be cured of his “disease” and be the son his father wants.

The sixteen year old is bullied at school and ignored for most of the time by his alcoholic father, who is still mourning his wife’s death. At a time when being gay is considered a mental illness and is punishable, Jonathan just wants to be a boy who is “normal”.

When his only friend Starla, a biracial neighbor leaves the town for the summer, he realizes he is truly alone. Except for Ziggy Stardust. He worships David Bowie and has long (and only) conversations with his dead relatives and Ziggy.

But everything changes when he meets Web, a Native American/ Indian kid in his school. Web is everything he wants to be – fearless and not ashamed of being gay.

What happens when their homophobic neighbours, classmates and mainly families know about his secret forms the rest of Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon.

Book review

For a setting that is inherently doomed and heartbreaking, Ziggy, Stardust and Me surprisingly is not. There are many sweet moments and is full of hope, especially in the end when Jonathan starts accepting who he is gradually.

That being said and given the time it is set in, the book has so many homophobic and racist characters that it broke my heart. Unfortunately not much has changed in the last 50 years or so.

I think it is essential for us to learn from our history to understand how homophobic we have been as a society. Ziggy, Stardust and Me also talks about how internalized homophobia affects people, especially younger ones.

If you like David Bowie, there are so many references to his songs and characters and you will love it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about them and the references flew over the top of my head.

What worked for me

  • Ziggy, Stardust and Me is a must read to learn about our mistakes in terms of understanding homosexuality. And it is definitely a hard to swallow pill.
  • Despite the gloomy background, there were several sweet and romantic moments between the main characters.
  • The book also talks of music and music icons can play a huge role in saving people from trauma and from others.
  • While I can’t speak for its accuracy, I loved Web and his Native American (Lakota) representation.

What may have been better

  • I didn’t get or connect with Jonathan’s monologue, in this first person narration. And that bothered me quite a bit.
  • I hate the closeted homophobic bully trope. It is a personal thing for me, and I am getting tired of this trope of “oh the homophobes are all secretly gay themselves“.

Content warning:

conversion therapy, (internalized) homophobia, electroshock therapy, homophobic slurs, suicidal thoughts, Bullying, hate crimes, racism, racist slurs, past death of a parent, alcoholism, mentions of drug use, sexual assault,

Bottom line

Ziggy, Stardust and Me is an essential read to understand what the LGBTQA+ community had to overcome to just exists. It is a harsh, intense and raw book that is worth reading.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- A book review

Ten must-read books for middle schoolers

Choosing age appropriate, yet entertaining books for middle schoolers can be a daunting task. But fear not, here are some wonderful books that your young reader might find joy reading and getting lost in the literary world.

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Ten engrossing books for middle schoolers

Between 11 and 12 years, a middle schooler can read independently for extended time period. And keeping their piquing curiosity and short attention spans in mind, here are some great books for tween readers.

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin

In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense.

But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

The To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only.

Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. Nine year old Pippi is an unusual and unpredictable character, she lives alone with a monkey, a horse, and no rules whatsoever!

She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!

Every day is a crazy adventure with Pippi, but what else would you expect from the daughter of a swashbuckling pirate captain?!

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban Middle graders books

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience’s applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she’ll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall.

But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe’s dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn’t the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn’t the only part of Zoe’s life in Michigan that’s off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day.

Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises–and that perfection may be even better when it’s just a little off center.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl – Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.

She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction.

Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill books for Tweens

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town.

But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own.

When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known,

Up for Air by Laurie Morrison

Up for Air by Laurie Morrison books for middle schoolers

Thirteen-year-old Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team over the summer, everything changes.

Suddenly, she’s got new friends, and a high school boy starts treating her like she’s somebody special—and Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. She’ll do anything to fit in and help the team make it to the Labor Day Invitational, even if it means blowing off her old friends.

But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle is abandoned by the older boy and can’t swim. Who is she without the one thing she’s good at? Heartwarming and relatable, Up for Air is a story about where we find our self-worth.

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban

Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down.

She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she’ll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth graders.

But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie’s plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.

The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski

The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski

WANTED: Maid for the most popular kids in 8th grade.

Cleaning up after the in-crowd gets Rachel all the best dirt.

Rachel can’t believe she has to give up her Saturdays to scrubbing other people’s toilets. So. Gross. But she kinda, sorta stole $287.22 from her college fund that she’s got to pay back ASAP or her mom will ground her for life. Which is even worse than working for her mother’s new cleaning business. Maybe. After all, becoming a maid is definitely not going to help her already loser-ish reputation.

But Rachel picks up more than smelly socks on the job. As maid to some of the most popular kids in school, Rachel suddenly has all the dirt on the 8th grade in-crowd. Her formerly boring diary is now filled with juicy secrets. And when her crush offers to pay her to spy on his girlfriend, Rachel has to decide if she’s willing to get her hands dirty…

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman middle schoolers

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.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- A book review

Under a Painted Sky – A book review

I love reading rag tag groups or misfits coming together to save the day. A little into the book, I realized Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is a feminist historical fiction set in the westerns and falls under the misfits ensemble genre. Did I love reading it? Read my review to know more.

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About the book

Under a Painted Sky book review

Book Name: Under a Painted Sky

Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: Fiction – RomanceYoung adult, Historical

Characters: Samantha, Annamae, Peety, Cay, and West, Ty Yorkshire

Setting: Missouri, Oregon TrailThe USA

Plot Summary

When a middle aged, rich, white man cornered young Samantha, the same night her father succumbed to a fire accident, she did what she could to defend herself. She didn’t expect Ty Yorkshire to break his skull or his slave Annamae to walk in.

Fortunately for this Chinese American girl, the street smart runaway slave Annamae joins her flee from the law. They take on the Oregon Trail, under the disguises of Sammy and Andy, two young boys heading towards the Californian gold rush.

But when they cross paths with three young cowboys

Book review

I was kinda prepared for tackling the issues of stereotypes and racism, casual and otherwise, peppered throughout this historical fiction seeing that the characters were Chinese and African American.

But I was pleasantly surprised when Stacey Lee so effortlessly weaved the character’s beliefs, culture and ethnic backgrounds into the narrative. A huge win for the diversity factor!

While they met rather accidentally, the friendship between Sammy and Andy keeping growing stronger. Their relationship is matured and supportive of each other, and they are also hilarious! Even when we get some romance angle, their relationship stays the main focus of Under a Painted Sky.

It was easy to get lost in the genuine comradeship among the boys and emotional quotient never dipped either. I loved Stacey Lee’s writing especially the parts where she describes the rich and adventurous journey.

What worked for me

  • I loved the strong friendship between Sammy and Andy. They are easily one of the best female friendships I have read recently.
  • The funny repartees between the characters made me love them and wondered about a sequel already.
  • Under a Painted Sky is a great example of why we need more diversity in the books, especially Young Adults. Kudos to the author for pulling it off so brilliantly.

What may have been better

  • I wish we could see Sammy’s goal being reached. I mean Under a Painted Sky ended too soon for me!

Bottom line

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is all about strong female leads and their friendship. With well written characters, Under a Painted Sky is a great win for diversity! Read it as soon as you can.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- A book review

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – A book review

It has been a while that I read a book that has opened my eyes on a few issues. And this book did that exactly, without cutting the entertainment factor. Let us get on to the book review of I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, shall we?

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About the book

I Wish You All the Best Book cover

Book Name: I Wish You All the Best

Author: Mason Deaver

Genre: Fiction – Romance, Young adult

Characters: Ben De Backer, Nathan Allen, Hannah and Thomas, Mariam

Setting: Raleigh, North Carolina , The USA

Plot Summary

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as a nonbinary, it doesn’t go well with them. They are thrown out of their house and is forced to reach out to their estranged sister Hannah and her husband, Thomas.

Thomas and Hannah let Ben to stay with them and help them join a new school. Ben comes out only to them and their therapist and wants to keep a very low profile at their new school.

But when Nathan Allan, a charismatic student, decides to befriend them and to include them in their gang, Ben’s plan fails spectacularly.

What does Ben actually want? Is it okay if they were actually attracted to Nathan? Read I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver to know more!

Book review

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver is probably the first book I have read with a nonbinary/enby lead and honestly, I have learned a lot from it. Yet educating the readers about nonbinaries is not the main motive the book.

The book is filled with sadness and poignancy due to the plot. And at the same time, I Wish You All the Best makes sure there is hope and a chance for happiness.

I love the fact that the romance was not an end or to cure all the mental health issues. While I am all fluffy rom-com books, I somehow love the fact that I Wish You All the Best was not one of them, mainly because the topic is very important. And kudos to the #ownVoice author to have handled it so well.

If I had to complain about just one thing: I wish we had heard a little more about their relationship with Nathan, after the big reveal. You know, sorta acceptance or them dealing the issues together as a couple etc. Of course, that I Wish You All the Best didn’t do that doesn’t reduce it for me in any way.

What worked for me

  • I loved how I Wish You All the Best deals with anxiety and mental health as a part of identity crisis and then its acceptance.
  • Romance takes a backseat to themes like identity and friendship.
  • I really liked the friendship between the two main characters and adored Nathan.

What may have been better

  • I wish the big reveal to Nathan happened a little bit earlier.

Content warning:

Disowning parents, Kicked out of the house, panic attacks and depression, peer pressure into drinking, constant misgendering, stressful coming out.

Bottom line

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver is an emotional and heart wrenching book that will not just educate the readers but also an entertaining read. Kudos to the author in maintaining that delicate balance.

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