Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige


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In Dorothy Must Die, the heroes from your childhood are villains. It was a delicious feast for my imagination, each page rich with descriptions of a place that–despite its darkness and corruption–I really wanted to visit.

Amy Gumm stole my heart and loyalty from the beginning. Her mother is so self-centered, so broken, she doesn’t care about her daughter’s struggle at school; off to party, she leaves Amy alone during a tornado.

That tornado takes Amy away to a whole new world where she’s on her own–and in danger. But she can take it. She’s not scared at all. We see that her heart has become one of steel, making her the kind who’d survive in a place like Oz. She is gutsy enough to break the law and question people. It also makes her just the girl to face Dorothy and kill her.

But will she succeed?

Our childhood hero has become a monster who doesn’t hesitate to torture or kill. The Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodman are just as bad; you wonder about their backstory, asking yourself what happened to change them so drastically.

Those questions are not answered here. Indeed, a great deal of Oz is left in a shroud of mystery. Just enough is revealed to make us feel like Ozians, craving the next book desperately.

We see Amy’s effort to reach Dorothy so she can kill her. She starts working as a servant in disguise at the palace; with every chapter, we dislike Dorothy more. But the servants are expected to adore her, brainwashed into singing her praises and blessing her name. According to them, nothing she does is wrong, and she only cares for their well-being.

I don’t think I’ve disliked a villain this much in a long time; the book was great at playing with my emotions, making me feel pity, disgust, and anxiety. I wanted to join in the fight and make things right again; I was rooting for Amy the whole time.

Dorothy Must Die is thrilling. Teaching us that up is down, it changes how we see right from wrong. It also advises us to trust no one–except me. Trust me when I urge you to read this clever, disturbing book. I had my eye on it for a long time before I finally gave in to read, and it was worth it.

Without a doubt, Dorothy Must Die is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Five stars to this one–and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!

Review: Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers


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Truest left me a twitching pile of emotions on the floor. I can’t believe how powerful every page of it was, making me want to laugh and cry…sometimes at the same time.

Westlin Beck is going through a time of change, during which her eyes are opening; she realizes there’s more to life than her small community. By the end of the book she’s ventured so far from her former routine that there is no turning back. She’s a changed person; we get to laugh with her, cry with her, and face tough choices every step of the way.

West’s outlook changed fairly quickly after meeting Silas. It felt like her world expanded, like only then had she begun to breathe. She grew up a pastor’s daughter, thus carrying the obligation to set an example for everyone in town. I was so proud when she broke away to be her own person.

The writing style constantly took my breath away. Sometimes I’d find one sentence, a simple gem that made me stop, close the book, and try to memorize. References to the legend of the swan song–that the most beautiful song a swan sings is the one before it dies–kept the mood melancholy.

There was always this sensation of waiting for something to break, and when the big break finally happens, we hurt with the characters. I couldn’t pin anyone as a villain–they all had a struggle that made us feel for them. This book is an emotional punch, one of the few contemporaries I’ve read this year that I’d quickly recommend to everyone.

Truest offers insight on life when you’re under pressure. It dares you to do the opposite of what you’re expected for the sake of growth and maturity. It reminds us that we’ll never know how vast the world is if we don’t break out of society’s boxes, and look.

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Review: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult


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I probably should have waited before reading Off the Page; I only learned after devouring half the book that it was a sequel, and I was missing out on a great deal of the story. Fortunately, this fact didn’t keep me from enjoying the book; I finished it in love with the characters and settings.

Off the Page chronicles Delilah’s life after she gets her storybook prince out of the book. It isn’t a traditional happily ever after; it’s not simple and it isn’t always pretty. She has to teach her overly polite boyfriend how to survive in a world where people aren’t polite; he gets into a lot of trouble at school. There is an amusing scene where he makes a mess trying to use the washer.

The story was well thought out, but some of the transitions to scenes within the storybook felt cheesy and abrupt. At times they didn’t mesh together well. However, it only took some adjusting before I could get back to enjoying the read.

This book was the perfect read for my California trip. I devoured it during the long drives from place to place, making it part of my own fairy tale. It helped set the mood as I wandered a city so different from my own.

Off the Page will make you smile and question what matters in life, fairy tale or not. It also drills in the importance of readers for the survival of a book. Without readers, a book doesn’t come alive; it sits dusty on a shelf.

I recommend Off the Page, but I need to go back and read Between the Lines. Then I can fully appreciate the story told and how it began–when a reader fell in love with a character.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer


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Here we go again.

It was one of those books all over social media, a book everyone insisted that I read. When a book is like that, I’m almost always suspicious of it. With The Selection, people were right–I didn’t regret the read. Cinder is a similar situation, though I must admit I didn’t love it at first.

I thought the beginning really slow and mediocre. It’s definitely not a traditional Cinderella retelling, and that’s a good thing, but the change in setting and culture really caught me off-guard at first–then throw in cyborgs and a plague. But as I read I found myself impressed by the details; by the time I finished, Cinder had won me over.

The author came up with such amazing twists…for example, Cinder can’t cry because she doesn’t have tear ducts. You’d think a character who can’t cry would be hard to relate to, but seeing her express her frustration in other ways was really satisfying, giving this character another layer of strength.

The prince was awesome in this retelling. I liked him better as a MC than Cinder herself. He cared about more than the ball or finding a princess; he was taking his job seriously and doing what he could to save his people, despite lack of experience.

I could go on, but by the time I finished Cinder, I was in love with it. There were many things unusual to a fairy tale–dystopia, cyborgs, Cinder’s determination not to rely on anyone. All this convinced me to try the rest of the series.

Times may change, but we’ll find a good fairy tale will survive the centuries–even if it takes different forms.

Review: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure


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Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read this fantastic book and hope to do it justice here.

Books with missing parents usually bug me. A major literary pet peeve of mine is the absence of parents; that’s why I always try to have parents in my novels when I write them. But This Raging Light takes the concept of the teenager-on-her-own to a different level, giving life to a strong main character struggling to raise her little sister after her mother leaves.

It’s a powerful book where you see Lucille struggle with her emotions, fighting to stay level-headed while being Mom and Dad to her sister, Wren; she has to get a job and make sure her sister’s all right, trying to hide the severity of the situation.

Trying to hide that her mom is gone, and doesn’t seem to be returning anytime soon.

She has some amazing friends to help her, including Digby and Eden. They’re the only people who know what’s going on as she struggles to keep a straight face in public so her sister won’t be taken away.

With the writer’s engaging style, I was a mess of feels by the end. A rapid, nerve-wracking book, it didn’t disappoint me. If you’re looking for a quick read with powerful characters and–ironically–a strong family message, I highly suggest This Raging Light.

It’ll be out on December 22, so be sure to add it to your TBR on Goodreads!

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


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This book made me excited to be a writer. I could only dream of someday having such a gorgeous voice in my work.

Every now and then, we stumble upon the accidental read. There’s always that one book you guiltily buy because of the title–and for once, it doesn’t let you down. As this is  an adult historical book, there is some mature content. That being said, it’s a superb look into the life of Ernest Hemingway from a different perspective.

Does a writer ever really love one person more than their art?

This is the question we ask ourselves over and over throughout the book. It’s mostly written from the viewpoint of Ernest Hemingway’s wife, Hadley–though a couple of times, there are switches to his perspective, which I admit did catch me off-guard. They were all written in italics, which I suppose disoriented me.

This book is set in 1920, after the war; our world bears a scar that will never go away. Some people still try finding refuge in love, hoping to start their lives over. Ernest Hemingway’s scars run deep. Writing is clearly his one true love from the beginning. Still, he tries to be one of these brave souls. He settles with the main character, Hadley, and together they move to Paris. That’s where all the writers of the day wanted to be, according to Sherwood Anderson:

But if you want to do any serious work, Paris is the place to be. That’s where all the real writers are now.”
—Page 71

Ernest Hemingway in’t satisfied as a journalist. He feels they mock him, giving him jobs that seem ridiculous to write about. He wants to publish a novel that will make a dent in the literary world. While working to barely get by in Paris, he waits wait for the novel. He waits for the masterpiece that’ll launch him with the other greats–the “Lost Generation,” including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

In Paris, you’ve got to be bulletproof. This is impossible when love comes into the picture. We soon realize Hadley’s love is deeper than that of her husband. While he makes friends and his career grows, his wife is fading. She’s become distant to him, insignificant.

Paris has no mercy: She’s taken everything, and will continue till there’s little hope left. This novel is heartbreaking and beautiful, terrible and marvelous.

I want to share one of the most powerful excerpts to me, as a writer. All Hemingway’s work has just been lost, and this passage–I think–holds the overall feel of the story. It’s lost and hopeless, always about starting over without a clue how to begin.

“He puts his hand on the knob and pulls the door open and then he knows everything. There isn’t a page left in the cupboard. Not a note or a scrap. He looks and looks, standing there, wrenched out and hollow. As desolate as the cupboard is, that’s how he is too because the pages belong to him and are him. It’s like someone has taken a broom to his insides and swept them out until everything’s clean and bright and hard and empty.”
—Page 135

At times the writing sounds like a great poem, sweeping you away so that you’re hurting with the characters. When the book was done, I tossed it on the ground and stared at the wall miserably. Make sure you have thick skin: It’s not a light read.

This quote on the first page sums it all up:

It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
—Gertrude Stein

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