Saturday, September 12, 2015

Review of Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Title/Author: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Publisher/Date published: Balzer + Bray, September 15th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: 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.

So there's been a lot of buzz about this book and most of it is well-deserved. I was interested from the moment I saw the part in the summary that says 'Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.'. I really wish everyone, including myself, would always feel this way.

Like Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy doesn't sugarcoat things in Dumplin', there's a lot of ugliness going on when it comes down to high school and people who are different from the norm in how they look. And you know what, it's not ok that some people are made fun of for how they look. It's not ok that people get oinked at if they're overweight or if a guy thinks it's funny to neigh like a horse because you have buckteeth. It's not. But it is reality and a whole lot of people are not going to change anytime soon.

I loved how Willowdean was this confident person, who knows who she is and doesn't take crap from people. And then she goes and shrinks in on herself because of a guy. And I SO got that, but it still made me cringe to see it. And I really hated how she let what other people would think ruin her happiness. I could fully understand how things happened, but holy wow, was she making a big mess of things for herself!

I sorta have mixed feelings about Dumplin', cause on one hand I LOVE how it made me think about everything about body image and how there's this pressure to look good and be thin and while as a doctor I also tell people to lose weight, that is not the most important thing in being healthy. It's also a healthy mind. And your BMI can be too high, but you can still be healthier than someone who wears a size 2. And I can especially relate to the part where Julie Murphy through Willowdean talks about how everyone has their moments in which they don't feel beautiful or inferior to someone else, because we've probably all been that person at one point in life or maybe a little more often.

But there are a couple of things that I didn't like so much, and some of it's due to me not really connecting with Willowdean as a character. The way she treated this one guy made me cringe every time, because to me if felt like she was just using him and while he may not be her crush, he was a sweet, decent guy who didn't deserve this. And I also felt like she was basically using the other unlikely candidates at first, in the end I believe that she's truly their friend, but I didn't feel like this started with the purest of intentions.
And I really had a problem with her relationship with her mom, they're both not giving an inch and it was painful and harsh and nothing really gets resolved in my opinion.

I guess that part of what disappointed me is that it sends a body positive image like The DUFF did, but The DUFF is just so much more amazing in every way and I can't help comparing the two books. I just felt that this could have been something more.
BUT this is not me saying that I didn't enjoy reading Dumplin', because I did like it and it was a quick read for me (though I had zero time to read the last couple of days). I appreciate that it's harsh at times, and that Willowdean does grow as a person over the course of Dumplin', but the spark that would have made me love this book just wasn't there for me.

My rating: 3,5 stars

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review of The Sleeping King by Cindy Dees

Title/Author: The Sleeping King (untitled series #1) by Cindy Dees
Publisher/Date published: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, September 8th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley

Goodreads summary: The Sleeping King is the start of a new fantasy series by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Cindy Dees.

Dees has won a Golden Heart Award, two RITAs for Category Suspense and Adventure and has also twice snared RT's Series Romantic Suspense of the Year. She is a great storyteller, and the adventures in her more than fifty novels are often inspired by her own life. Dees is an Air Force vet-the youngest female pilot in Air Force history-and fought in the first Gulf War. She's had amazing adventures, and she's used her experiences to tell some kickass stories.

But as much as she loves romances, Cindy's other passion has been fantasy gaming. For almost twenty years she's been involved with Dragon Crest, one of the original live action role-playing games. She's the story content creator on the game, and wanted to do an epic fantasy based on it, with the blessing and input of Dragon Crest founder Bill Flippin.

The Sleeping King is the first in an epic fantasy series, featuring the best of the genre: near immortal imperial overlords, a prophecy of a sleeping elven king who's said to be the savior of the races... and two young people who are set on a path to save the day

So live action role-playing games have fascinated me for a time now, mainly because I've never actually participated in one and it sounds like a whole lot of fun, but also like a huge investment of both time and also costumes and such (some of my friends LARP and they have the most amazing props). Which is why the mention of this being the base for this epic fantasy immediately drew my attention!

I have to be honest, I was a bit daunted by the size of The Sleeping King (it's a whole whopping 496 pages), but the writing drew me in from the start, so my worries were soon non-existant. And I really loved the voices of both Will and Raina, who are our two main heroes. Obviously, there's a whole band of characters to get to know and I really liked that there's a quest. I mean, they actually really have a purpose in setting everything in motion, and while to sorta fall into it in the beginning, they definitely man up to the challenge so to speak.

There's a whole lot of worldbuilding going on and I was immediately intrigued, so the amount of information that is given didn't bother me in the slightest, cause I'd love to know even more of this world. I will however say that the story was a bit slow to really take off in the beginning and I'm still kinda wondering where all the different players tie in and how their storylines will come together, but I'm sure that will be further explained in the next book. And I do get that our two heroes need a backstory, but I very much liked it when they fell in with the same band and the story could take off.

The Sleeping King is my kind of epic fantasy, there's a quest and lots of travelling and there's so much scheming going on and just characters for me to love and root for! The romance that plays a minor part was a little too sweet for my liking, but it did develop sorta naturally, so I can get behind it, but it's not my favourite ever. I am however REALLY curious to find out what happens next for Will and Raina and everyone! I'm definitely hooked on this world and the people in it.

My rating: 4,5 stars

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review of A Whole New World by Liz Braswell

Title/Author: A Whole New World (Twisted Tales #1) by Liz Braswell
Publisher/Date published: Disney Press, September 1st 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: What if one key moment from a familiar Disney film was changed? This dark and daring version of Aladdin twists the original story with the question: What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?

When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish.To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

I'm BACK! I know it's been almost two months and I'm very much embarassed by that, but after reading A Whole New World, I found that I had something to say again and I decided to just go for it :)

A Whole New World immediately caught my attention, because I LOVE Aladdin! It's one of my favourite Disney movies and I've watched it so many times, I can literally just mute it and still get all the words right, especially for the first part. Which is also why I noticed that the first 20% of this book is basically the same as the movie. Which was not very much appreciated by me. And that's because I was looking for a fresh take on this beloved tale of mine and not have the first 76 pages be something I know by heart, but in book-form. But then the twist comes when Jafar takes the lamp instead of Aladdin and I was like, ok, let's give this another chance. But in the end I didn't really warm up to this twisted tale.

I mean, in the original tale, I love Aladdin's heart and his bravery and resourcefulness and the romance with Yasmine is believable and sweet, but in A Whole New World I was very much not feeling it. While the instant infatuation works in the Disney movie, here it fell flat and Yasmine definitely shows a side of herself that I didn't find pretty at all in A Whole New World and I really couldn't find myself cheering for their lovestory. I mean, even Jafar, who I love to hate in the original tale was not his best villainy self. I mean, he's this big bad sorcerer now, how does he not just kill Aladdin, capture Yasmine and be done with it? Also, I HATED that he destroyed the magic carpet, who is still one of my favourite characters.

But most of all, I'm disappointed by the lack of shininess that was the genie. I mean, you get this sort of charm coming off him, but it's muted and I get that he has less chance to show his magic and humour and all when he's tied to Jafar, but this spark that he has was just missing and I'm kinda disappointed by how things ended for him.

But aside from this, I was just basically a bit bored by the whole story. It never really got exciting for me and the charm and sizzle that I remember from this story was just missing. I felt that the things that were added to make it into this twisted tale were not really interesting or needed to be there. What I'm looking for with all these retelling and twists on classic stories are things that make me go ooh, that's clever and capture the magic of the original thing, but also make it a little something more. And I never got that from A Whole New World, which is a disappointment as I'd really been looking forward to reading it.
I might just go and watch the movie and laugh over the genie's antics now.

My rating: 1,5 stars