Review: “Fat Girl on a Plane” by Kelly deVos

31123268To say that I was disappointed in this book would be a huge understatement. What started off with a great premise and the hope of being a champion for body positivity turned turned into a cringe-y, ill-paced, trope-ridden, should-not-have-been-YA mess.

Mean, I know. But, the letdown of this book was meaner (at least to me).

In Fat Girl on a PlaneCookie Vonn’s story is told in two alternating timelines– one where she’s “fat” and the other where she’s “skinny.” During “fat,” seventeen-year-old Cookie is motivated to loose weight after the trauma of being told that she’s too fat to fly to New York in one seat on the plane and must buy a second seat with money that she doesn’t have. To make matters worse, cue the mean girl trope, where a girl her age calls Cookies “cankles” and then proceeds to conveniently show up for the rest of the novel to ruin everything about Cookie’s life. Meanwhile, during “skinny,” it’s two years later and Cookie is at her goal weight after dieting with a Weight Watchers knock-off and now looks like the younger version of her supermodel mother. Trying to make a name for herself as a designer in the fashion industry, Cookie is thrust into a world the only reason that people stare at her on the airplane now is because she’s beautiful.

I did try really hard to like Fat Girl on a Plane. In fact, I actually kind of enjoyed the “fat” timeline, where Cookie balances her fashion and weight goals while dealing with family drama and the usual scenario of being in love with her best friend who is in love with the mean girl arch-nemesis. Cookie’s heartbreak and struggles felt very real and sincere, despite the tiredness of her attitude towards everyone else.

It’s the “skinny” timeline that throws a wrench in this novel. It’s here where Cookie, a now annoying character who is bitter towards everyone, quickly gets together with a thirty-five year old, who is also her fashion design idol. This is where you totally loose the Young Adult part of the novel and it starts reading like one of those e-book romances that you can get for free on the Kindle. I’m usually okay with age differences between characters, but when it’s fifteen years, supposed to be a teen novel, and the guy refers to himself as “Uncle Gary” when speaking to his nineteen-year-old girlfriend, it gets a little weird. I mean, I’m twenty-four and the thought of dating a thirty-five-year-old makes me go ew.

The reason that this novel is getting two stars from me is because it pulls through at the end. Despite the roller coaster of weird and flat characters behaving randomly, Cookie does learn to love herself, fat or skinny, and that’s what we came here for, right?

2/5 Stars.

I received a free e-ARC of Fat Girl on a Plane from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan” by Gia Cribbs

35750271Imagine you’ve lived in 19 different cities, 19 different houses, and have started 19 different schools in the past six years of your life. Now imagine you’ve been a different person each time.

For Sloane Sullivan, that’s what life in WITSEC, Witness Protection under the US Marshalls, has been. Only she’s not Sloane Sullivan. Sloane is just her 19th persona.

The jacket summary of Gia Cribbs’ new book doesn’t do the story justice. Our narrator is Sloane, who’s real name we don’t know. We also don’t know why she’s in WITSEC, but that’s the fun of it. Her backstory is slowly, suspensefully unraveled as she adjusts to life in yet another new school. This time, though, is different. Sloane is at the end of her senior year and just wants to coast until graduation, until she’s 18, and until she’s out of the program, but a friend from her past– her other past– shows up and changes everything.

Without giving away too much of the plot, one of my favorite things about this book was that I didn’t expect anything that happened. I tried to figure it out and I thought I knew how the story would go, it being a YA thriller and all, but I was so wrong. And that’s the best feeling when you’re up until two in the morning trying to find out what happens next.

The characters were well crafted, very imperfect, and quite likable. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a YA if there wasn’t a dramatic, high school love triangle, but it was well done enough, that I didn’t mind it.

My only complaint is that the end was a too-long info-dump of putting the pieces together of a six year mystery. But, with that being said, The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is a slow building roller coaster that I did not want to get off of.

4/5 Stars.

I received a free ARC copy from Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “The Midnight Queen” by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

20821047I’ve had a review copy of The Midnight Queen since around September and it’s taken me a long time to get around to posting this review. It’s March now. Yikes. Yes, I’ve been busy, so reviews have kind of taken a back seat to homework but the real truth is that this story didn’t captivate me. Like, at all. So, I just kept pushing it aside in favor of many, many other books.

I was intrigued by the initial idea of this book. The blurb promised an exciting, magical story but the writing was trying too hard to impress me and the characters stayed flat on the page. The Midnight Queen a fantasy story trapped in the horror is misspelling magic as “magick” for about 400 pages. Coming from a writing background, I can understand the reasoning behind giving magic a different spelling, but come on, I don’t need to cringe about word spelling while I’m reading.

Like I said, the concept of this book was interesting to me. Gray Marshall has a talent for magic– no, I’m sorry, magick— which lands him a spot at Merlin College. During his time there, a mysterious, late-night outing with classmates leaves some students dead, so Gray is sent away from the school. Enter Sophie Callender, not magical but highly educated, who is drawn to Gray. Gray is studying over the summer with Sophie’s professor father and the two end up thrust together, trying to figure out the mystery behind the late-night outing and the deaths. You’re interested now, right?

Unfortunately, the story takes too long to pick up its pace. The plot moves slow because the writing is trying too hard– it’s monotonous. The world building is nonexistent, so as a reader, it feels like you’re flailing around trying to figure out where you are and where you’re going without any guidance from the story. When it comes to fantasy, the world building needs to be done right and The Midnight Queen missed the mark.

I will give it some points for having a cool cover, though.

1/5 Stars.

I received a free copy of The Midnight Queen from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “DC Super Hero Girls: Date with Disaster!” by Shea Fontana

38364882There’s nothing that I love more than an awesome and positive display of girl power. In a world bogged down with male heroes, its so refreshing to see the ladies of DC Comics take the much deserved spotlight in DC Super Hero Girls: Date with Disaster! Not only do the DC Super Hero Girls always save the day, but they never fail to prove that the super-villains should never underestimate them.

Shea Fontana’s sixth installment of the DC Super Hero Girls graphic novel series is packed full of Pow! as the girls of Super Hero High try to plan a school dance, find a date for Commissioner Gordon, and track down the mystery behind an explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs. The story is centered around Batgirl and Lois Lane as they investigate, but features favorites, like Wonder Woman, Bumblebee, and Harley Quinn. While the hi-jinx at S.T.A.R. Labs are solved a little too quickly, the story stays true to the series’ themes of friendship, truth, and the super hero way.

Date with Disaster! is a great graphic novel for younger fans who aren’t ready for the gritty darkness of other DC titles. The art style brings out the colorful and fun style of the story. The characters are relatable, positive role models and almost real in their teenage antics (think Harley Quinn, Matchmaker). The storytelling stays very consistent with the other DC Super Hero Girls titles, both novel and comic, so long time fans and new readers alike will enjoy the adventure.

4/5 Stars.

I received a free e-ARC of DC Super Hero Girls: Date with Disaster! from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “Halloween Carnival Volume 2” by Glen Hirshberg, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, and Al Sarrantonio

35487670‘Twas the night before Halloween and this reviewer finally got around to posting her review on Halloween Carnival Volume 2Just in time for the spookiest day of the year.

This short story collection is comprised of five short stories:

Mr Dark’s Carnival is by Glen Hirshberg. It’s about a man, David, in search of the town’s long fabled Halloween carnival. When he finds it, it’s more of a scare than he’s bargaining for. This one was slow to get started, dragging out way too much backstory for a short story, but the twist at the end is well worth it. This was my favorite out of all of them.

The Facts in the Case of My Sister is by Lee Thomas. This one tells the story about a man, another David, and his sister. At a young age, David dabbled in magic and is seeing the consequences now that he is older. This story was not as creepy but the ending was slightly jarring. I’m not a huge fan of endings that make you say “Huh?” because it feels like a cheap trick when the rest of the story wasn’t as engaging.

Mischief Night is by Holly Newstein. This one is about Devil’s night, pranking kids, and an alcoholic. And it’s not Devil’s night unless someone dies, right? I wasn’t a fan of this story. Even though the timeline is based around Halloween, the vibes of the story are more from a morals standpoint rather than a fun scare. Again, the story focused too much on backstory rather than driving the here and now of the plot.

The Ghost Maker by is Del James. It’s basically about a mob hit man, where even on Halloween you’ve got to be on guard or risk swimming with the fishes. This was a fun read. The narrator is the real champ of the story, mostly because the writing has a good voice.

Finally, The Pumpkin Boy is by Al Sarrantonio. Written as more of a novella than a short story, the Halloween vibes are back in this story. There’s a creepy pumpkin boy, a disappearance, and a mystery to solve. This story was a bit longer than the rest and had more “meat on it’s bones.” While not my favorite, this one definitely wrapped up the collection with its spooks.

These stories are mostly chalk full of murder, gore, and horror, all revolving around All Hallows Eve. If you’re looking for short, spooky reads, this collection is right up your alley.

3/5 Stars.

I received a free e-ARC of Halloween Carnival Volume 2 from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “Miles Morales (Spider-Man)” by Jason Reynolds

32793053Forget Peter Parker.

Miles Morales is the Spider-Man that everyone should be paying attention to.

In this refreshingly not another origins story (here’s looking at you movie franchise), Miles is an average Brooklyn teen navigating the pressures of keeping his school scholarship, staying out of trouble with his hilarious best friend Ganke, talking to his brilliant crush Alicia, and keeping his web-slinging secretBut, being a teenage superhero is not as easy as it sounds– especially when Miles’ spidey-sense is not as reliable as it used to be and it ends up getting him suspended from school.

I’ve always said that the Marvel-verse should give more love to Miles Morales, so I’m so glad that this book exists. I hope there are at least ten more. This book did everything that I wanted and more, yet still left me wishing that the last page wasn’t the last. As we all know, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and Jason Reynolds really handled that responsibility well.

Not only was Miles Morales a great addition to the Spider-Man story and an entertaining hero vs. villain adventure, it points to some very important topics– racism, poverty, social injustice. We see Miles, a Black-Latino, deal with a teacher who thinks its okay to teach about the “benefits” of slavery. We see the failures of the prison system, especially for juveniles. We see Miles struggle to prove that he won’t fall into a life of crime, like many of the people in his neighborhood. This book sinks so deep– and it’s wonderful.

The benefit of having a character from comic books transition on to the pages of a novel is that you can get more characterization and background with a few paragraphs than from a few panels. (Side note: Not that comic books can’t do that, because they can. I just sometimes find that superhero comics favor the side of action rather than development.) Miles is such a well developed character. He’s dynamic and vulnerable, intelligent and determined. He’s flawed; we see his impulses and failures, but we know that he’s good and that he tries to do good.

Also, Miles Morales and Reynolds really do side characters justice– Ganke’s not just the funny best friend and Alicia’s not just the pretty crush. They have their own emotions and motivations. They struggle and they triumph and not just for the motivation of Miles. Have I mentioned that it’s wonderful?

It’s true that the action and super-villainry play second fiddle and take a while to progress in the novel, but it’s worth it. There’s so much to explore with a diverse superhero like Miles and this novel was a fun way to kick it off.

Plus, Spider-Man is just cool.

Miles Morales (Spider-Man) comes out August 1st, 2017.

4.5/5 Stars.

I received a free e-ARC of Miles Morales from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Volume II: Midnight at Madame Leota’s” by Amicus Arcane

Goosebumps meets Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in Disney’s new series that centers around the live-in spooks of the famous Haunted Mansion. Our ghost host and author, Amicus Arcane, is the Mansion’s resident librarian and keeper of tales. This is a fun and entertaining series, especially for those who are fans of the Haunted Mansion.

In this second volume of Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Arcane spins the story of William, a visitor seeking a seance with the famous Madame Leota in order to find out what happened to his sister many years ago. Along the way, William learns the spooky stories of a few of the Haunted Mansion’s ghosts. (Fun fact: these are based on actual ghosts that are seen in the theme park ride.)

Geared towards ages 8-12, this book is the perfect amount of creepy without being terrifying. The stories are simple, yet with enough twists and turns to fit the age range. It even manages to have a bit of morbid humor through fourth wall breaking interjections by Arcane. The design of Midnight at Madame Leota’s, which is to look like an old book from the Mansion’s library, fits excellently into the style of the book, with creepy illustrations and ghostly figures hiding between the pages.

Read at your own risk!

Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Volume II: Midnight at Madame Leota’s comes out July 18th, 2017.

4/5 Stars.

I received a free e-ARC of Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Volume II: Midnight at Madame Leota’s from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “Jane of Austin” by Hillary Manton Lodge

32143887As a Jane Austen fan, I was fairly excited for this book, despite the fact that I think Jane Austen retellings are very overdone. Hillary Manton Lodge‘s Jane of Austin is a modernized version of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with a few nods to other Austen works mixed in. Though the concept was exciting, the ultimate result– unfortunately– was not.

In this version, we follow Jane Woodward and her sisters Celia and Margot (Marianne, Elinor, and Margaret Dashwood, respectively) as they are forced to close their San Francisco tea shop and relocate to Austin, Texas (hence the title). In Austin, Jane meets her John Willoughby (known to her as musician Sean Willis) and the expected events of the story unfold. Interwoven with Jane’s story is retired Marine Callum Beckett’s (our Colonel Brandon), who instantly falls in love with Jane (emphasis on instantly).

The story strongly mirrors the original Sense and Sensibility, but adds a cozy modern flair. The tea shop, in particular, was my favorite addition. (Food is a huge driving force in this novel and Lodge kindly provided multiple recipes for the described food throughout the book.) The skeleton of the story is well planned and carefully adapted, but being that it’s a retelling, it falls prey to underwhelming predictability. I couldn’t invest myself in the story because I knew how things would pan out– and not just because I’ve read the original.

Not only was the story underwhelming, the characters were, too. I felt like I just got to know cardboard cutouts of them, maybe with the exception of Jane. Even more importantly, I felt like I missed out on a lot of character interaction and development through interaction. I couldn’t invest in the romances because I didn’t get enough growth from the characters. I love flawed characters but the only flawed ones in Jane of Austin were the “villians,” if you know what I mean.

Overall, this book just made me feel neutral. I didn’t love it or hate it. I’d recommend it to someone looking for a simple romantic read or a hardcore Jane Austen retelling fan. Or someone looking for some good Texas inspired recipes. This was simply not my cup of tea. (See what I did there?)

2.5/5 Stars.

I received a free copy of Jane of Austin from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: “Once and for All” by Sarah Dessen

32078787When I got the notification for this Galley, my high school self just about screamed. High school self had read every Sarah Dessen book she could get her hands on, multiple times, in a rotating order. High school self and friends rated the dreamy-ness of all the love interests (Wes was our favorite, Dexter a close second) and mapped out which characters crossed over into other books. High school self even wrote an article for the school newspaper about Dessen’s books and it made the front page of the entertainment section for the May issue.

But let me get to the point.

Sarah Dessen’s writing has an almost magical quality to it that sucks you into the pages and pulls on your heartstrings and steals your time away, because before you know it, it’s four in the morning and you’re internally sobbing over characters that you just met. At least that’s how it was with Once and for All.

Once and for All is about love– not just romantic love, but first love, family love, broken love, all love in its many forms and functions. It’s also about weddings and bets, but I’ll get to that. Louna is our main character in this novel, she’s a smart, overly cautious, recent high school graduate, working at her mother’s wedding planning business for the summer. Being the daughter of a highly popular wedding planner, she’s seen weddings of all shapes, sizes, and meltdowns. As expected, Louna is cynical about love and marriage and happily ever after. *cue dramatic flashbacks to Louna’s first love*

Enter Ambrose. He’s an absolutely charming weirdo and I mean that in the nicest of ways. (I think he’s up there on that list with Wes and Dexter, now.) Abrose is a bit cocky and a lot rich, but as Louna’s counterpart, he loves to love (and by that I mean he’s a serial dater). After a bit of a rocky start, Louna and Ambrose develop a friendship and place an entertaining bet– but as to what, you’ll have to read and find out.

Dessen has tackled some serious topic in her other novels and Once and for All is no exception. Louna’s flashbacks, which alternate chapters with real time, build up to some heartbreaking truths that I won’t spoil, but Dessen is really on the nose with writing about the somber subject.

Once and for All nicely tells us Louna’s journey to self discovery and coming to terms with things that you cannot change. The cast of characters are fun to get to know and all add their own purpose to the story– shout out to Louna’s mom and William for the best duo and BFF Jilly for being all around awesome. The novel lives up to Dessen fan expectations and delivers a satisfying ending. High school self would be proud.

Once and for All comes out June 6, 2017.

4/5 Stars.

I received a free e-ARC of Once and for All from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Review: “The Backstagers, Vol. 1” by James Tynion IV

31390219The Backstagers is basically a gender swapped version of The Lumberjanes (it’s fantastic, so if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?). I’m not complaining, though, because I absolutely adore Lumberjanes and I really loved getting to read the first issue of Backstagers. It’s a quirky story of friendship done with some colorful and imaginative art.

In the first issue of the new comic series The Backstagers,” Jory is the new kid in an all-boys private school, St. Genesius. Considering himself an outcast, Jory tries to join the drama club but ends up backstage instead. Behind the theater scenes, the self-named “Backstagers” are not only responsible for setting up the scenes and fetching props, they’re job also requires reigning in the supernatural stuff that happens in the changing tunnels underneath the school.

This issue sets up Jory and his new friends for further hilarity and adventures. With adorable creatures and a cast of diverse characters, The Backstagers promises to tell some entertaining and heartfelt stories about friendship, magic, and good times. I’ll definitely be keeping in tune with this series, not only for the stories but for the representation that shines in the characters.

4/5 Stars.

I received a free e-ARC of The Backstagers, Vol. 1 from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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