Mini-Reviews: Heartstopper Vol. 1, Super Chill, and Heavy Vinyl

Heartstopper, Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2018
Source: Won in Alyssa’s giveaway!

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Okay, so I’ve been anticipating Heartstopper since approximately forever, and I finally got the chance to read it when I won Alyssa’s giveaway! I was about 99.9% sure that I would love this book to pieces, and I was correct.

I absolutely loved Charlie and Nick and all of the little interactions that they had. Watching Charlie fall for Nick and Nick fall for Charlie was just… so… cute. This is the most adorable, wholesome friends-to-(not quite yet)-lovers story, and it also does a great job of really subtly addressing a bunch of important topics like consent and how to be a good ally.

I’m so mad that it ended on that cliffhanger because I need to know what happens next.


Super Chill by Adam Ellis
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2018
Source: Borrowed

From former Buzzfeed illustrator Adam Ellis comes a collection of autobiographical comics that follows a year in the artist’s life.

Adam’s comics deal with weightier topics like seasonal affective disorder and struggles with self-esteem, while also touching on the silly and absurd—like his brief, but intense obsession with crystals. With a bright, positive outlook and a sense of humor, Super Chill tells a story that is both highly relatable and intensely personal. 

I’ve been a fan of Adam’s comics since he worked for Buzzfeed, so I was pretty excited to find his book available on Hoopla. I already knew that I liked his art style and his sense of humor, so there wasn’t much of a surprise there. Like with most comic collections like this, there were some that I really enjoyed and some that I didn’t.

The ones I enjoyed were the ones I related to most, like the comics about Gudetama, Dr. Feelbad, and moms with wrapping paper. Some comics seemed to go on a bit long, though, and others I just didn’t really react to. That’s to be expected, though, and I’d still recommend this one if you’ve previously enjoyed Adam’s work.


Heavy Vinyl, Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Chris joins the staff at her local record store, she’s surprised to find out that her co-workers share a secret: they’re all members of a secret fight club that take on the patriarchy and fight crime!

Starry-eyed Chris has just started the dream job every outcast kid in town wants: working at Vinyl Mayhem. It’s as rad as she imagined; her boss is BOSS, her co-workers spend their time arguing over music, pushing against the patriarchy, and endlessly trying to form a band. When Rosie Riot, the staff’s favorite singer, mysteriously vanishes the night before her band’s show, Chris discovers her co-workers are doing more than just sorting vinyl . . . Her local indie record store is also a front for a teen girl vigilante fight club! 

Follow writer Carly Usdin (director of Suicide Kale) and artist Nina Vakueva (Lilith’s World) into the Hi-Fi Fight Club, where they deliver a rock and roll tale of intrigue and boundless friendship.

Heavy Vinyl is a super fun story about a group of crime-fighting record store employees in late 1990s New Jersey. It’s a great concept and I loved the setting (never thought I’d see an NJ Transit train in a graphic novel, but I did), the representation, and all of the characters. It also gave me a huge rush of nostalgia for the 90s!

The only reason I didn’t give this five stars was that I felt the resolution of the mystery was a little odd. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me, but I also feel like that wasn’t the point of this graphic novel, so I’ll let it slide. I’m excited to read the next volume and also happy that it coincides almost exactly with me finishing this one.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good MG recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Vanishing Stair, 19 Love Songs, & The Wicked King

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Borrowed

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Much like with Truly Devious, I wasn’t really fully convinced by The Vanishing Stair until partway through. I was worried that this was going to be a filler book, one where the characters sort of just wander around looking for clues until we hit the final book in the trilogy, where everything finally happens. That worry ended up being unwarranted, because a ton of stuff happens in this book!

With any mystery, I’m kind of hesitant to get into details because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. I just want to say that Maureen Johnson has clearly thought everything through in this series and planned out every detail in depth. I can’t wait to find out what will happen next!


19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

The New York Times bestselling author of Every DaySomeday, and Two Boys Kissing is back with a short story collection about love–perfect for Valentine’s Day or year-round reading!

A resentful member of a high school Quiz Bowl team with an unrequited crush.

A Valentine’s Day in the life of Every Day‘s protagonist “A.”

A return to the characters of Two Boys Kissing.

19 Love Songs, from New York Times bestselling author David Levithan, delivers all of these stories and more. Born from Levithan’s tradition of writing a story for his friends each Valentine’s Day, this collection brings all of them to his readers for the first time. With fiction, nonfiction, and a story in verse, there’s something for every reader here.

Witty, romantic, and honest, teens (and adults) will come to this collection not only on Valentine’s Day, but all year round. 

I’ve been reading David Levithan’s books since I was a teenager myself, so when I saw that he had a new collection of short stories out, I had to read it. Levithan has written some of my all-time favorite books (The Lover’s Dictionary, You Know Me Well) as well as some books that I’ve really disliked (Every Day, the Dash & Lily books). He’s also written a ton of books that I’ve felt indifferent about, and I won’t link all of those reviews here, but they’re all on my “all reviews” page.

The point is, I can go either way on Levithan’s writing, and I went both ways on the stories in this collection. When they were good, they were really good. I loved the story about Taylor Swift fanfiction, the story about being snowed in, the quiz bowl story, and the Santa story. I also loved all of the music references. The stories I didn’t love mostly left me bored. This isn’t really Levithan’s fault, because I’m sure there are plenty of people who connect more with those stories than I did.

Overall, I think this evens out to a three-star read for me. If you’re into Levithan’s writing, a lot characters from his previous books make appearances in these stories, so you might be pleasantly surprised.


The Wicked King by Holly Black
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Source: Borrowed

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.


After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Well, 89% of people on Goodreads have given this book either 4 or 5 stars, and I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this series or anything. I gave the first book four stars, mostly because it really grabbed me toward the end, but I definitely thought it had a rough start.

In The Wicked King, I had many of the same problems as I had in The Cruel Prince. Jude is less annoying than she was in the first book, but she’s equally dumb. Cardan is still mostly mean to Jude (that’s the point, I know) and I didn’t buy their “romance” at all. I found much of the plot boring, and the big plot twist at the end seemed so in-character for everyone that I wasn’t really surprised at all. In 336 pages, very little happens that actually advances the plot.

And yet. For however much I disliked this book, I still want to read The Queen of Nothing to find out how everything ends.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie

Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Source: Borrowed

For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.

Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica’s “American operations,” which were driven by Steve Bannon’s vision to remake America and fueled by mysterious billionaire Robert Mercer’s money, as it weaponized and wielded the massive store of data it had harvested on individuals in–excess of 87 million–to disunite the United States and set Americans against each other through psychological manipulation. Bannon had long sensed that deep within America’s soul lurked an explosive tension. Cambridge Analytica had the data to prove it, and in 2016 Bannon had a presidential campaign to use as his proving ground.

Christopher Wylie might have seemed an unlikely figure to be at the center of such an operation. Canadian and liberal in his politics, he was only twenty-four when he got a job with a London firm that worked with the U.K. Ministry of Defense and was charged putatively with helping to build a team of data scientists to create new tools to identify and combat radical extremism online. In short order, those same military tools were turned to political purposes, and Cambridge Analytica was born.

Wylie’s decision to become a whistleblower prompted the largest data crime investigation in history. His story is both exposé and dire warning about a sudden problem born of very new and powerful capabilities. It has not only exposed the profound vulnerabilities and profound carelessness in the enormous companies that drive the attention economy, it has also exposed the profound vulnerabilities of democracy itself. What happened in 2016 was just a trial run. Ruthless actors are coming for your data, and they want to control what you think.

Okay, so I kind of just picked this book up on a whim — something about that bright green cover and the big “Mindf*ck” got me — but wow, this was fascinating! I remember the controversy over Cambridge Analytica, but I never followed it all that closely. We all know Facebook knows way too much about us, right? We all know that ads are targeted to our specific interests now. I never really cared that much. I also never really understood the extent of what happened until I read this book.

If Cambridge Analytica aimed to do one thing with all of the data it collected from Facebook, it was develop a deeper understanding of people. If they could form connections between different aspects of peoples’ lives, they could target political messages in just the right way to influence people’s opinions. For example, take a woman who loves yoga and eating organic and is also incredibly homophobic. What kind of messages will work on her? Reading this was like looking at a detective’s wall with string connecting all of the different bullet points about people.

Cambridge Analytica really came up with some cool, interesting stuff. I can see why Wylie was involved, even if their clientele didn’t quite mesh with his personal political beliefs and their methodology was sketchy at best. This is a company that could tell you anything about anybody, and its employees really had the freedom to research anything they wanted.

Take a look at this study, which I don’t want to believe, but unfortunately, I do:

In one experiment, CA would show people on online panels pictures of simple bar graphs about uncontroversial things (e.g., the usage rates of mobile phones or sales of a car type) and the majority would be able to read the graph correctly. However, unbeknownst to the respondents, the data behind these graphs had actually been derived from politically controversial topics, such as income inequality, climate change, or deaths from gun violence. When the labels of the same graphs were later switched to their actual controversial topic, respondents who were made angry by identity threats were more likely to misread the relabeled graphs that they had previously understood. What CA observed was that when respondents were angry, their need for complete and rational explanations was also significantly reduced. In particular, anger put people in a frame of mind in which they were more indiscriminately punitive, particularly to out-groups. They would also underestimate the risk of negative outcomes. This led CA to discover that even if a hypothetical trade war with China or Mexico meant the loss of American jobs and profits, people primed with anger would tolerate that domestic economic damage if it meant they could use a trade war to punish immigrant groups and urban liberals.

Reading this book made me wonder what kinds of things Cambridge Analytica would say about me, and what’s been targeted to me. (Though, given my completely opposite political leanings, I kind of doubt Bannon, the rest of the Republican party, and the Russian interference wasted their money on me during the 2016 election.)

This book is incredibly well-written and incredibly interesting. I’ve hardly even scratched the surface in this review because I honestly don’t know where to begin, but if you have any interest at all in social media, data analysis, targeted advertising, current events, the current political situation in the United States, Brexit, ethics, or just interesting nonfiction, read this book.


Have you read Mindf*ck? Have you read any good tech or current events books lately?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? & Stiff

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Gift

Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?

In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to thirty-five distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans. In her inimitable voice, Doughty details lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn colors during decomposition? And why do hair and nails appear longer after death? Readers will learn the best soil for mummifying your body, whether you can preserve your best friend’s skull as a keepsake, and what happens when you die on a plane. Beautifully illustrated by Dianné Ruz, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? shows us that death is science and art, and only by asking questions can we begin to embrace it.

buddy read with my boyfriend!

I was immediately drawn to Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? just because of the title. Luckily, I ended up getting it for Christmas, and I absolutely loved it. The book is written in a Q&A format, answering questions asked by children. The questions range from things like the titular “Will my cat eat my eyeballs?” to “Can I be buried with my dog?” and “Can we give grandma a Viking funeral?”

Everything is explained in a really straightforward, informative way without ever getting too heavy. Death is hard and it’s sad and it’s scary to think about our own mortality, but Doughty puts just enough humor in her answers that the book never gets weighed down.

I learned so much about death and dying from this book and now I’m just waiting to read Doughty’s other books.


Stiff by Mary Roach
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 17, 2003
Source: Borrowed

Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

I’ve seen Mary Roach’s books show up on a number of lists of best nonfiction, and after finishing (and loving) Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, I figured that Stiff would be a good place to start. I really thought that this book would focus on what happens to the body after we die, and it sort of does… but mostly it’s about all the different things a body can do after it dies.

Sure, you can be embalmed and buried in a casket, like many people do in the United States. But you can also donate your body to science — and what does that mean, exactly? What are the different paths your body can take if it’s donated to science? You can become an organ donor and save a number of lives. You can have a natural burial. You can be cremated and spend eternity in an urn or have your ashes scattered. Roach covers all of these possibilities and more.

The book is fascinating, and at times pretty disgusting. I have a pretty strong stomach when it comes to most medical stuff, but the section on the materia medica even made me nauseous, so just be prepared for that. Still, it was worth it to learn about ancient remedies, and now that I’m prepared, I’d actually like to learn more about it.

I’ve decided that all of Mary Roach’s books are now on my TBR and I just have to decide which one to read next.


Have you read either of these books? Have you read any good science-y nonfiction recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Pet, Symptoms of Being Human, and With the Fire on High

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question-How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

I’m not sure the last time I finished a book feeling so confused as when finishing Pet, but at least I knew that I liked it. The thing about this book is that the writing style feels very middle grade, but the subject matter is very much not.

My favorite thing about this book was the representation. Jam is a trans black girl, and it’s not the focus of the story or really relevant to the plot in any way, it’s just who Jam is. I think this is the best kind of representation to have.

The book has an important, if maybe heavy-handed message, that just because we don’t expect people to be evil doesn’t mean that they’re not. In Jam’s world, evil has supposedly been eradicated, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not lurking where we’d least expect it. Her journey, along with her best friend Redemption and the monstrous-looking (but not actually monstrous) Pet, to find out what’s been going on with someone they both care about, is absolutely heartbreaking.

In the end, I would recommend this book as long as you’re okay with the fairly obvious way the message is delivered.

Content warnings
  • child abuse/molestation
  • fairly graphic vigilante justice
  • (accidental) self harm with razor blades

#wian20: 4 letters or less


Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Borrowed

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

We’re all taught from a young age that there are only two choices: pink or blue, Bratz or Power Rangers, cheerleading or football. We see gender in two dimensions because that’s what society has taught us from birth. But, are you ready for a shocking revelation? SOCIETY NEEDS TO CHANGE.

I’d had Symptoms of Being Human on my TBR for a while, but I still went in with no expectations. The reviews are pretty mixed, with most people agreeing that it has great genderqueer representation but very little plot. I guess I can see that.

The story revolves around Riley, who identifies as genderqueer. Riley’s parents don’t really understand. Riley’s classmates don’t really understand. So Riley starts a blog and finds some people to talk to about life. That’s really about it, and I’ll agree that it’s not much of a plot to go on, but it did hold my interest.

I will say that this book made me angry, though. I don’t have any children, but I hope to never make my future child feel like they’re not good enough the way they are, like they have to stuff themselves into a suffocating box to make me happy. I hope it made other people angry too.

Overall, I think the characters really carry the story here, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.


With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source: Borrowed

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free. 

After really loving The Poet X, I decided to give another of Acevedo’s books a try and read With the Fire on High. I didn’t love it quite as much but it was still really, really good.

I loved Emoni. She was such a strong character and she was truly just trying to do her best with the circumstances in her life. I loved the relationship she had with her abuela. I loved her cooking and just wish that I could taste some of those recipes! There’s even a little touch of magical realism, which I thought was great.

As for why four stars and not five, I felt like, though the overall writing was very good, it did have some awkward parts. (I rolled my eyes every time Emoni let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding.) I also didn’t understand what purpose there was to all of the drama with Pretty Leslie, though it does get resolved nicely in the end.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. But if you have to pick one of Acevedo’s books to start with, I’d recommend The Poet X.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 10, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…


Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

I think I’ve seen about 12,000 positive reviews of The Flatshare, but it took me a while to pick it up because I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how this flatshare thing would work. I know, I know, if I’d just read the book right away, my question would have been answered. But it just seemed so weird! Strangers sharing a bed? But not meeting? What?

Well, this turned out to be a very good book. After the first couple chapters, the whole flatshare/bedshare thing seemed perfectly normal. I loved watching Tiffy and Leon’s relationship develop through little notes they left for each other. That was so cute! But this book isn’t just fluff. There’s plenty of darker content in it, which I wasn’t really expecting, but it was handled really well and felt very realistic.

Both Tiffy and Leon were really likable characters. Tiffy, a generally upbeat and quirky person, has to come to terms with the fact that her last relationship was incredibly unhealthy and emotionally abusive. Leon, a quiet, laid-back nurse, is trying to help his wrongfully imprisoned brother as much as he can. The two of them together make an unlikely pair, but the support they give each other (if only through short handwritten notes) was so heartwarming.

The book is very, very slow burn. Most of the book goes by without Tiffy and Leon ever meeting, but their eventual meeting and the development of their relationship was so worth it.

I can’t wait to get my hands on The Switch, O’Leary’s next book.


Have you read The Flatshare? What’s the last book you read that lived up to the hype?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Dumplin’ & Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Source: Borrowed

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.

Because of the hype, I managed to avoid Dumplin‘ for a good four years. I’m always scared when I go on Goodreads and out of 38 friend reviews, the average is four stars. But after enjoying Julie Murphy’s middle-grade novel Dear Sweet Pea, I decided to suck it up and get on with it, and I’m so glad I did. Dumplin’ ended up being so much better than I’d expected!

I think, above all else, Dumplin’ is a really inspirational novel. Willowdean knows that she’s fat, and she knows that it doesn’t make her undesirable. She’s had it with society’s ideas that she should be ashamed of her body or try to hide. But that doesn’t mean that she never gets self-conscious. I felt like, while definite inspiration, Willowdean’s feelings about her body were also really realistic.

The romance I could honestly take or leave. The majority of the book is spent in this weird love triangle that I really could have done without. Still, the end relationship was very cute and I don’t really have any complaints about it, once it’s finally settled.

I ended up liking Dumplin’ so much more than I’d expected and now I just feel like I need to watch the adaptation.


Puddin’ by Julie Murphy
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

It is a companion novel to Dumplin’, which follows supporting characters from the first book in the months after Willowdean’s star turn in the Clover City pageant.

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined. 

Shortly after finishing Dumplin’, I decided I might as well read its companion novel, Puddin’, which features one of Willowdean’s pageant buddies.

I was immediately skeptical of this book because of how much I disliked Callie from the beginning. She’s portrayed as a really self-centered person who feels like the rules shouldn’t apply to her. She’s brash, she’s blunt, and she’s flat-out rude a lot of the time. Luckily, the book focuses a lot on Callie’s personal growth, which made most of that awful behavior worth it. Millie, as always, was great. I really felt for her and wanted her to achieve her goals. The main conflict between Millie and Callie was a little drawn out, but that’s pretty much my only criticism with this book.

Honestly, both Dumplin‘ and Puddin‘ were unexpectedly great and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either one.


Have you read either of these books? Are they on your TBR?
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