Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed by Christine Dore Miller

Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed by Christine Dore Miller
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Sixteen-year-old Andrea Cavanaugh is elated when Josh, a bright-eyed piano prodigy, becomes her first boyfriend. But the closer she gets to him, the more she realizes that he’s not the boy she first fell for. In its poignancy and emotional darkness, Forgiven are the Starry-Eyed takes you deep into the delicate and devastating web of shame that spirals from the depths of dating violence when dreamy teenage love turns dark. Andrea must find not only an escape, but a belief that she is even worthy of freedom.

Love isn’t supposed to hurt.
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I appreciated the way the author showed the audience the many warning signs of an abusive relationship through multiple examples in the storyline itself. This was so much more effective than sharing a list or having another character spout them off once Andrea was more deeply involved with Josh. It also gave the audience a chance to think for themselves, especially when it came to the small moments of discomfort the main character felt on her first date that can so easily be brushed off.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning that I found distracting. What made them even more noticeable was that one scene from a faster-paced section was included out of chronological order early on. This was the only thing I wish had been written differently about this tale. Everything else about it was so accurate, interesting, and sympathetic that I wish every teenager would read it before they jump into the dating pool for the first time.

The ending was perfect. I often wondered how Ms. Miller was planning to resolve everything, especially since this was a fairly short novel and there were still so many loose ends to tie up by the time I got to the last ten pages or so. It was delightful to see where she went with the plot at that point. It was satisfying but also left room for a sequel if she ever decides to write one. I, for one, would love to know what happened to Andrea next!

Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed was a timely, educational read that I’d recommend to teen and adult readers alike.

Crave by Tracy Wolff

Crave by Tracy Wolff
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Length: Full (400 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Lupine

My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.

Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.
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Which could spell death for us all.

Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.

I am not typically a person who jumps at the opportunity to read a YA vampire book of any kind (I’m a young adult who never liked Twilight). However, after being offered the opportunity to read an up and coming twist on the subject, I couldn’t resist. It was written in first person, present tense which isn’t my favorite POV, but honestly that was easy to overlook once I got hooked on the story.

Crave is written beautifully, with lines that will leave you virtually breathing in the cold Alaskan air and wishing you were there right along with the characters. I appreciated Grace’s wit and dark sense of humor with every turn of the page.

The sexual tension between Grace and Jaxon was a little quick to be introduced (I prefer a slow burn), but the relationship between the two will certainly have you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next… and be warned: it’s hot. I admit to referring to Jaxon as my new book boyfriend more than once. The supporting characters are developed and written in such a way I can see each of their faces painted in my head. Each chapter introduced a new adventure with Grace and her entourage as well as offering very clever and fun chapter headings (for example, “No I Really Don’t Want to Build a Snowman” or “Shining Armor is So Last Century”).

I loved the original ideas and the twists on the ordinary vampire cliché. I never thought I’d say this about a vampire romance, but Crave is absolutely worth the read.

In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety by Krysten Lindsay Hager

In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Cecily feels like she has it all: great best friends, the beginnings of a career as a model/actress, and she’s dating her favorite singer, Andrew Holiday. Then Cecily’s best friend Lila begins to ditch her every time Lila’s boyfriend calls. Cecily feels lost, but she and Andrew begin connecting more and she’s never been in a relationship where she felt so understood. Andrew even begins to confide in her about his anxiety. Soon Cecily experiences her own anxiety on a magazine photo shoot, but she manages to impress the magazine staff. Just when it seems like all her dreams are coming true, everything comes crashing down when a photo of Andrew with another girl appears online. He swears nothing happened, but Cecily is crushed. She feels like she’s lost two of the people closest to her.

Was her perfect relationship real or was she in over her head?

Ahhh… all the angst of the teen years.
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I am the mother of teen daughter. I’ve seen how it doesn’t take much to create problems, or to cause the tears to flow, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that our heroine is in tears in the first few pages of this book. As an adult, I honestly rolled my eyes a bit at what seemed to be an overreaction to the situation, but…I do remember being a teen. I wouldn’t go back to those days on a bet!

Cecily is a sweetheart. I really liked her. And I liked Andrew. I didn’t read the book prior to this one, so I didn’t get to see their relationship develop, but for a star, Andrew seems incredibly honest and down-to-earth. I really felt as if Cecily couldn’t have done better in the romance department.

It doesn’t take long, though for the troubles to begin, largely how I’m sure it does IRL. She said this, they saw that, did you see this video, OMG social media said, plus add in cliques and mean girls … and bit by bit it tears down Cecily’s entire support system, from Andrew to her best friend, Lila.

I appreciated the author keeping things clean on the page. My own kid is frequently a little shocked at what she reads in her YA books. Look, we all know kids are having sex, but it’s not necessarily something that needs to be described on the page. This author has my admiration for keeping it real, but clean.

She’s talented in her character creation, too. The book was populated with a cast of well-rounded, unique individuals and I never confused one with the other. The writing itself was also strong and well done. I have no complaints about her skill.

I have to say, I honestly don’t miss the drama of those difficult teen years which made this book a little hard for me to read, but I’m not the target audience, (and honestly, I think being a teen is far more difficult now than when I was a teen) and I feel as if Andrew was a little too good to be true (though I’m betting this book has caused more than one teenaged girl to swoon and dream of having their own Andrew). Otherwise, a solid entry into the contemporary YA field. If this is a genre you love, I’d certainly suggest this book, though maybe start with book one. While I didn’t feel I was missing any information, and I had no trouble following the plot, I’m sure my experience with these characters would have been richer with that background.

TV Movie Review: A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi)

imageA review of the movie “A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi)”.

A young man is ostracized by his classmates after he bullies a deaf girl to the point where she moves away. Years later, he sets off on a path for redemption.

I’ve been a fan of animation all my life.  It was only natural to move from after school cartoons to more sophisticated anime as I got older.  Although, to be honest, not all anime is sophisticated.  A lot of it – and a lot of the stuff I choose to watch – is flat out silly.  This, however, is not the case for A Silent Voice. 

To the contrary, A Silent Voice is a much different, more serious sort of anime.  Which brings me to some content warning: this movie deals with bullying as well as suicidal ideation.   Although it is handled well, it can still be upsetting at times.

Shoko Nishimiya is the new girl in school and while she looks as normal as everyone else, she has one major difference – she’s deaf.  Unfortunately, this sets her up for bullying by her classmates, leaving her feeling ostracized and alone.  Despite this, Shoko never stops trying to make friends and to be a part of the group.  Things escalate and Shoko is eventually transferred to another school in hopes of giving her a better experience.  Sadly, this is all too common in our schools these days.  Kids can be the cruelest of people at times.  Brutal honesty at its harshest.
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tumblr_adc5b77edfeece1f62f24f54eae05045_ef4852d1_400Fast forward to high school.  Shoya Ishida, formerly one of Shoko’s biggest tormentors, finds himself on the other side of the fence.  After helping another loner being harassed by a bully, Shoya decides to search out Shoko in an attempt to redeem his past self.

He has a long road ahead of him because he was quite awful to Shoko in elementary school.  However, years of being a social outcast have changed him.  Shoya’s no longer able to look others in the eye and has no one he can call a friend.  Reuniting with Shoko changes everything for both himself and for Shoko and her family.  Slowly, they begin to build a lasting friendship that they never had the chance to start in elementary school.

ASF_01Beautifully animated, A Silent Voice is mesmerizing both visually and emotionally.  I often found myself laughing one moment at one of Tomohiro Nagatsuka’s antics and sobbing the next.  Every time a red x fell from someone’s face, I felt my heart skip with joy for Shoya.  Dark, and yet full of hope, this is a movie for families to watch together, or for friends to share with one another.  It’s all too true to reality which only makes it more of a must-see movie.  I saw so much of my own high school days in these characters, making me connect even more to them all in one way or another.  Parent or not, teen or not, I think most of us will be able to relate to the story of A Silent Voice.

The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter by Caroline Flarity

The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter by Caroline Flarity
Publisher: East Side Press
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (262 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Sixteen-year-old Anna sees things from another world, the spiritual world, a skill that isn’t exactly useful in high school. It’s bad enough that her mother, possessed by a demon, took her own life when Anna was a child, a loss she remains tortured by. Now her father makes his living “clearing” haunted objects, and Anna’s job as his assistant makes her a social misfit. Most kids in her suburban New Jersey town refer to her just as “Goblin Girl.”

Only Freddy and Dor remain loyal friends. But Anna’s so focused on her own problems, she’s missed that her connection with Freddy is moving beyond the friend zone.

Sex herbs may be slow but this is the best male enhancement drug available in the market from buy cipla cialis past many years. The message was signed – cialis generika 20mg Satan. Some women cialis 5mg sale are with strongly conservative ideas that sex is just an action aimed at reproduction. No craziness in his family, a conventional background, good-looking, stable income, well-educated, and socially adept. cheap viagra cialis As junior year approaches, a rare solar storm lights up the night skies and the citizens of Bloomtown begin to act strangely: Anna’s teachers lash out, her best friends withdraw, and the school bullies go from mean to murderous. When Anna realizes she can harness this evil power, she sets out to save Bloomtown and the only family she has left.

But to do so, she must keep her own increasingly dark urges at bay.

I thoroughly enjoyed this dark supernatural YA and was surprised to discover that it was the author’s debut.

There were times I wanted to strangle Anna, but then… she is a teenager with all the teenage angst that comes along with the age. Plus, she saw her mother (controlled by a demon) die, so I figured I should cut her some slack. But things kept getting weirder and weirder for Anna, her dad, her friends, and the whole town.

The story is told generally from Anna’s POV with some limited looks into a few other character’s thoughts, so you really get a chance to know Anna well. And, for the most part, I loved her. She was strong and dealing with a lot of things in a more mature manner than one might expect. After her mom’s death, her dad pretty well seems to have lost his way – hoarding and barely keeping his business alive. On top of it all, at school she gets a raw deal with many of the kids calling her “Spook Girl” because of her dad’s business.

It’s not all butterflies and rainbows in this book – expect some gritty moments, some dark moments, and some inappropriate behavior on the part of some of the adults in the town. In a way, it reminded me of a cross between Buffy the Vampire Killer and Warehouse 13 (two of my favorites, btw). I would so love to see these characters again!

I’m having trouble not giving away too many spoilers, because there’s a lot of action, a lot of twists, and some surprises along the way (and I have to admit some tears were shed as well). I’ve put this author on my list to check out her future works. Well done!

Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall

Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: Full Length (360 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

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In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

A fast-paced flintlock fantasy for those who enjoy How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

I stayed up way too late two nights in a row reading this book because it drew me into this world, and I didn’t want to have to leave it for anything as mundane as sleep (despite having an early morning wake up call!) The story is told from Volke’s point of view, and it was interesting to see just how badly he wanted to get out of the situation he was in and what he would do to reach his goal. I’m left wondering if the other books in the series, the other kids we get to know will get their own chance to shine.

We follow Volke, three other teens from his island home, as well as two other kids who join the same guild as apprentices after having been bonded to magical creatures – a wide variety of eldrin are described quite well – not only those of the apprentices but also the masters. Each character, human and mythical, have their own unique personality – great job on that!

The story grabbed me at the first page and kept me enthralled as I followed Volke on his quest, through heartbreak as his first plan didn’t pan out, then the excitement of discovering Plan B. There was plenty of action, but more than that, there was a great deal of character development. I am a sucker for character-driven fiction and, with Ms. Stovall’s first book in her new series, you have that in spades. I loved the characters in this book and am really looking forward to following them on their missions as part of the Frith Guild.

Yearning Young by Deidre Huesman

Yearning Young by Deidre Huesman
Burning Britely #2
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (160 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Braeden’s never had to question anything before. He’s always been popular, always had everything handed to him, and always been straight.

Then he met Jeffrey Young. Quiet, studious, analytical … a guy.

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As his connection to Jeff deepens quicker than expected, Braeden has to face the question he’s been avoiding for weeks: what is he supposed to do with a guy?

Sometimes love is complicated.

Seeing how Braeden’s understanding of his sexual orientation evolved over time was one of my favorite parts of this tale. Bisexuality was something new to him, and he had many questions about what being bisexual meant to him and how he should respond to people who were prejudiced against him because of it. I appreciated the fact that the author tackled this subject so openly and honestly. She did an excellent job of showing what it feels like to come out of the closet in this way, and I’m saying that as someone who has personal experience with the subject. Ms. Huesman’s empathy for all of her characters, and especially this one, made it impossible for me to stop reading.

This is a minor criticism of something I really enjoyed overall, but I would have liked to see a bit more time spent on the dysfunctional family dynamics. There was a lot going on with the homophobic dad in particular that I wish would have been explored more. The conflicts those relationships brought to the plot were quite interesting.

One of the sections of my review of the first book of this series talked about how I wished there had been more time taken to develop Braeden and Jeff’s relationship. I was quite happy to see that this was exactly what happened in the second instalment! Both characters had plenty of time to figure out what they wanted from their relationship and how closely the things they wanted actually matched up with each other. This was exactly what they and the plot needed in order to move forward, so it was nice to see it occur.

As I just mentioned, this is a sequel. I would recommend reading Burning Britely first in order to best understand what’s going on with these characters’ lives now.

I’d recommend Yearning Young to anyone who has ever felt out of place.

How I Handled Research by Rachel Clark — Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Rachel Clark will be awarding 1 signed paperback of the Blackfish Prophecy, 1 bookmark for The Blackfish Prophecy, 1 Orca-themed or book-themed mug to one randomly drawn US winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How I handled the research for the book.

Well, the more accurate question in this case is, how did the research handle me?

The Blackfish Prophecy has its origins in dreams, dolphins, whales, and a career writing about human impact on the planet that supports us all. I grew up identifying as a writer, but in college fell in love with the study of Life. I graduated with a Biology degree and loved it so much, I went on for a Master’s degree in Zoology. During those years, I had the opportunity to work with captive dolphins and Beluga whales at the National Aquarium, then, only a few short weeks later, the joyful and overwhelming experience of encountering wild killer whales off the shores of Washington State.

These were formative experiences that simmered for years as I went on to combine my writing and biology experience into a career as a science and environment writer. The idea for The Blackfish Prophecy came to me years ago as a newly fledged science writer (and very shortly after encountering the magnificence of wild orca), but it wasn’t until I had a dream in the summer of 2012 that things changed. That dream – in which a matriarchal orca slid up onto a pebbly beach to deliver an experience of unity and joy to me and my sons – lead to my reading David Kirby’s landmark Death at SeaWorld, which triggered a cascade of characters, plot, and mystical experience of receiving what I can only call, a “download.” This inevitably led to my writing the first draft of the book within the next few months.

So, yes, I did a lot of “research” for this book, and the ones to come, but that was more by “chance” or “coincidence” than an active quest by me to “do research.” Then again, if you read The Blackfish Prophecy, you know there are no coincidences.

Or… maybe you already know. 

The short answer though is this:

I was open to following my heart. That is where magic lies shining, and where the world changes for good.

Best friends Terra and Tiluk live alongside the wild orcas of Washington State. On the other side of the continent, Miles wallows in anger and self-pity fueled by his parents’ divorce. In a moment of harrowing fate, their lives converge when Miles witnesses a captive orca brutally kill his trainer at a marine amusement park.

When Miles contacts Terra and her family of whale biologists to better understand the “killer” whale, the three teens soon realize they are more linked to each other – and the whales – than they ever imagined. Driven by a primal urge to connect with the highly-evolved consciousness of the orca, the teens take extraordinary risks to challenge big business and renew lost traditions.

Their journey is set to restore an ancient mystical bond between humans and whales that ultimately reveals The Blackfish Prophecy…a revelation about Terra – and those like her – that’s about to change everything.

Read an Excerpt:

He wasn’t sure whether the fence was supposed to keep people out of the swamp, or keep the swamp away from the people. The snakes were seriously getting out of control. You couldn’t live in Florida and not know about the yellow anacondas, Burmese pythons and boa constrictors. They were a huge problem since they’d been accidentally introduced. The snakes loved it here, and they didn’t have anybody to eat them, so they were pretty much everywhere. He’d heard rumors at school about snakes that had even eaten little kids. Sometimes he’d just come here and stare over the fence, peering from the concrete stronghold of their subdivision into the dank, vegetation choked, black‐watered quagmire. The swamp creeped him out but, at the same time, it pulled at him, beckoning somehow.

The sidewalk was much smoother than the pavement, and he rocketed past all the backyards, blipping from fence to fence at high speed. He veered into the swamp on the fenced walkway that linked the back edge of his massive development to the business district on the other side of the swamp.

There was trash everywhere in here; soda bottles, needles, plastic bags, broken glass. This pathway smelled even worse than plain old swamp; like exhaust and beer mixed with the smell of a dead body rotting in mud. He raced past a couple of sleeping old homeless guys on benches, relieved it was getting lighter outside. He never came here in the dark.

Once he hit the business district, everything clicked. I’m going to OceanLand. He hadn’t realized it until that very moment. He slowed for a fraction of a second, Seriously Frost? Umm, Duh! YES! It was only a couple of miles from their house, which was one reason their mom took them so often—she’d bought a family membership after the divorce. Broken family membership, more like. He whipped through the back parking lots of the Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s and Exxon. When he got to Wal‐Mart, he knew he was close. Slowing, he narrowed his eyes and scanned the OceanLand perimeter. First was the gigantic parking area, which is what people saw when they pulled in. It was so big you could plunk down a freaking small town on that lot with room to spare. Behind that was the park itself, which was enclosed by a huge 12‐foot‐tall solid wood fence that snaked back into thick vegetation. Miles’ gaze fell against the trees back there, and instinctively he pushed his board toward them. But this time his foot came down carefully, gently. He’d gone on high alert. He was pretty sure that OceanLand wouldn’t want people sneaking around back there, especially after that Harvey Mott guy managed to get himself killed. Not to mention Dusky yesterday. The hair on the back of Miles’ neck went up as he realized what he was about to do. He pressed his mouth tight in resolve. I am doing this.

About the Author:

Rachel is a writer and biologist. As a kid she got hooked on all things animal, vegetable, and mineral. To complicate matters, she was hatching up stories before she could hold a crayon. Once she discovered biology it was all over. Ever since her first class in 7th grade when she refused to dissect a frog, a little voice in her head said: You gotta share this amazing stuff about how nature works, and ask if we really need to harm it. The little voice only got fiercer once she went to college and worked with captive dolphins and Beluga whales, then got to see wild killer whales only a few weeks later. From then on it was an all-out quest to convey the wonders of nature, while pointing out the serious problems of our very bad habit of dominating others and the Earth. She’s been a card-carrying science writer for twenty years. The Blackfish Prophecy is Rachel’s first book.

These days when Rachel is not writing, reading, dreaming, or speaking, you can find her sculpting an unruly assortment of moose-pruned orchard trees & berry bushes, gathering veggies & eggs in her micro-farmyard, foraging for mushrooms, and feasting on local food with friends.

She is a lifelong yogini, devoted pack mate to her free-spirited Canid, and mama bear who’s sustained by treks deep into the Pacific Northwest with her increasingly feral family. Rachel drives a 100% electric zero-emission car, and her family’s home is powered by renewable energy. Their little house is nestled on an urban lot they tend for kids’ play, territory Animalia, sequestering carbon, and a food forest to augment the bounty of local growers.

Her work is fiercely aligned with the science of Life, harmony & justice for all: the enduring dream of Earth.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Buy at: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | WDC Shop

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Paul O’Leary: Trouble on the Farm by Michael Mardel

Paul O’Leary: Trouble on the Farm by Michael Mardel
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (89 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Meet up with Paul as he has two moves, from the city to a farm. Join him in his one room school and his extra chores on the farm, mowing lots of grass and training his dog, Lassie, not to chase the sheep. He has a few dream adventures, including being a fireman as a real bushfire approaches. Will he be able to cope with the blaze?

It’s a great big place where Paul ends up with his dog and his parents. Lassie has to be corralled or there’s double trouble and the rest if she gets out and chases the sheep. His Grandad is one of the trouble shooters and is not averse to protecting his sheep. Maybe he’ll take Lassie on as a real sheep dog. He found out that the sheep go into a huddle when they’re threatened and not because the dog rounds them up.

Paul rode his bike to his one room school and he read from his Kindle when he had finished his work. He once went to a school mate’s place but all he wanted to do was play games.

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The last bit of trouble in paradise was a bushfire which are very extreme and some people leave their homes as they can’t defend them. Paul and his family decide to defend their two homes as Grandad had all the firefighting equipment.

There’s never a shortage of work to do when you live on a farm.

Paul was such a hard worker. He’d learned a lot about what it takes to keep a farm running from his dad, and he wasn’t afraid to pitch in to help make sure all of the chores were done every day. I liked this part of his personality quite a bit. His willingness to do whatever it took to help keep everything running smoothly made him seem like such a mature kid in a good way! What a great role model he was for his audience.

There were some pacing issues with the plot. Sometimes it moved so slowly that I had trouble staying interested, while in other scenes it had so much going on that it was hard to keep up. It would have been helpful for me as a reader if the pacing had been spread out more evenly so I always had something to keep my attention.

What a kind and loving family Paul had! While his parents and grandparents could be very protective of him sometimes, they were always acting in his best interests. It was nice to read about a character who was having such a happy childhood. This isn’t something I’ve seen being done very often in this genre these days, so it always stands out to me as something special when it does happen.

This is the second book in a series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

I’d recommend Paul O’Leary: Trouble on the Farm to anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to live on a farm.

TV Review: Dumplin’ – a Netflix original movie

Review of Dumplin’ – a Netflix original movie

The plus-size, teenage daughter of a former beauty queen signs up for her mum’s pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow in her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.

Review by Poppy

Willowdean Dickson is a larger sized Texas teen who has a girl crush on all things Dolly Partin and who lives in the shadow of her pageant winning mother, Rosie, former Miss Bluebonnet. She’s been pretty much raised by her Aunt Lucy, a fun-loving but obese woman who teaches Will how to love, laugh and fangirl over Dolly Partin. Sadly, as the movie begins, her Aunt Lucy has passed away, leaving Willowdean one more thing to weigh her down.

On the outside, Willowdean (aka Will or, aka the unfortunate nickname her mama gave her, Dumplin’) seems confident and well adjusted, but things happen which make it clear that’s not true. When the “hot boy” at work shows interest in her, she doesn’t believe he’s genuine. When her mama calls her Dumplin’ in front of the entire school, unsurprisingly it leads to bullying from kids at school. The final straw is listening to her mom getting ready to co-host the upcoming pageant and all but ignoring Will. As a protest, and because she stumbles across some items from Aunt Lucy’s things that inspire her, she signs up for the pageant. So does her best friend, Ellen, as well as another large and insanely upbeat girl from school, Millie (who is my favorite character in this movie) and an emo/goth feminist named Hannah.

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With a little help from from drag queen friends of her late aunt, these unlikely candidates prepare for the pageant.

I won’t give any more of the story away, but while it might be a bit predictable and clichéd and occasionally cheesy, it’s fun and it’s sweet and it makes a heart happy. It’s not something I’d watch over and over again, but it was so touching and adorable. I loved the character development in Will and Hannah in particular, but also Rosie. Rosie never meant to make her Dumplin’ feel poorly, she just got wrapped up in other things.

I admit, I cried a tear or two… yes, I’m a crier at movies, it’s true. But it genuinely touched me. This movie is worth a watch. Here’s the trailer, if you’re interested in a peek: