Tag Archives: Julie Murphy

Book Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue

Ramona Blue

Release date: May 9th 2017

2.5 stars

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

So far Julie Murphy has been pretty hit or miss with me. I wasn’t a fan of Side Effects May Vary but I loved Dumplin’. Ramona Blue had the potential to be on either side and, unfortunately, the more I read, the more I found myself thinking it belonged with Side Effects May Vary in terms of enjoyment. The pacing was slow, it felt like it was really dragging in the middle, and so many characters had very little development.

I think this will be one of those books that ends up dividing readers. Ramona was a girl who had always identified as a lesbian who started to have confusing feelings for a childhood friend who’d come back to town – and that friend was male. Her journey of exploring what those feelings meant and what it meant for it is not something I feel like I have a right to comment on, even with it being a fictional character. I did enjoy her relationship with her sister and her two friends Ruth and Saul, and the dynamic between Ramona and Freddie’s grandmother was something I wish we’d gotten a lot more of.

The supporting characters were where this book lost me the most. None of them were very developed. There were a lot of them but they could have been condensed into two more well-rounded characters. They were fun and I liked them but they were mostly just there and had very little to do with the plot except for when Ramona needed a sounding board. I do wish we’d gotten more of Adam in some fashion, whom I got very attached to even with his limited page time.

I did expect swimming to play more of a role in the book, based on the synopsis. It was present and it was something Ramona loved but for the most part it was in the background compared to her arc and her family. The swimming and the training was another thing I wish we’d gotten to see more of during the book. Overall, I think the book tried to focus a little on too much instead of choosing a few things to focus a lot on.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Talk: Bookish Confession Time

books

It’s been a while since I did a little confessing. I went back to look at the last time I did a post just to see if any of the confessions were still were true and none of them have changed. I am a creature of habit I guess.

1. If I have to choose between new books and new clothes, I pick new books. I can deal with clothes being a little too baggy or out of season for an extra two weeks until next payday.

2. There might be a mess all over my bedroom at times but my bookshelves are always meticulous.

3. Even if I read an ARC(digital or physical), I need to buy the hardcover of the book if I rated it 3 stars or higher.

4. I prefer hardcovers and will actually replace a paperback with a hardcover if I find it for the right price.

5. I pet pretty covers.

6. There is a book from my TBR pile in every room of my house, just in case I need it.

7. Talking to me while I’m reading is a bad idea. I either won’t hear you at all or you’re putting your life at risk.

8. I tend not to picture characters as I’m reading, no matter how vividly they’re described. It’s a weird habit but it works out in the long run since I don’t have an image for a movie cast to live up to.

9. I will buy multiple copies of the same book if there’s special editions. But only if the book was a 5 stars read.

10. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where writing a review isn’t a little nerve-wracking. It’s a little piece of my thoughts out there for everyone to see.

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Comparing Before and After: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

dumplin

I chose this for my WoW pick(hosted by Breaking the Spine) back on July 17th 2015. Not too long ago. Back then, I was excited for:

“It sounds like it could be a good positive body image type of book. There are parts that make me nervous. Does she try to change her body for a boy? Will there be shaming of the skinny girls by the main character? But I’m hopeful that this will turn out to be a great, positive, feel good about yourself, type of read.”

After reading and posting a review, I was very happy with the way the book turned out. I loved the characters, I loved Will’s story arc, and I loved that the romance wasn’t the main focus of the book. I thought there were a lot of good messages throughout the story and I loved the friendship and Dolly Parton influence.

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Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

dumplin

Dumplin’

4 stars

Willowdean Dickson has never really been ashamed of her body. She’ll be the first to make a comment about her weight, she’s nicknamed “Dumplin'” by her mother, her definition of having a bikini body is simply to put a bikini on your body. When she takes a job at Harpy’s, a fast food joint, she meets Bo. She’s definitely attracted to him but she’s surprised to find he might just return her feelings. Her new relationship causes Will to start to doubt herself so in order to take back her confidence, she does something she never thought she’s do: Enter the Miss Clover City beauty pageant and she brings several other unlikely entries with her. She’ll show everyone that she belongs up on that stage just as much as any skinny girl.

This was such a fun and touching book to read. I found Will easy to relate to, it had great dynamics between characters, it was funny, poignant, and wasn’t afraid to tackle some tough issues.

I loved Will’s confidence at the start of the book. She was a bigger girl, she knew it, and she wasn’t ashamed of it. That was her, take it or leave it. She had a great personality and she was a character I could definitely see myself becoming friends with if she were real. She had to deal with a lot besides body issues as well. There was the romance with Bo, her awkward relationship with her mother, grief over her aunt’s death, and drifting away from her best friend.

The minor characters were all great. Everyone had a role to play in how they affected Will as a character on her growth arc but they also had their own issues happening that they had to deal with. Whether it was guilt, gaining confidence, standing up to parents, grief, self-discovery, each character went through something and as they dealt with their issues, we saw how it affected and sometimes helped Will.

There were so many great friendship moments. First Will and Ellen, best friends, sharing a love of Dolly Parton and being so supportive of each other. The other girls who join the pageant because of Will end up being really good friends as well and there were so many moments that had me laughing as they all had fun together. The romance ended up being pretty light, though it had a lot of affect on Will’s insecurities and decisions. She and Bo made a cute couple and I was definitely rooting for them. The relationship between Will and her mom was complicated and felt realistic. They both cared but rarely talked, or at least said what they truly meant and her mother had a hard time hearing what Will was trying to say. I was definitely hoping for them to finally sit down and just talk to each other because they needed to stick together.

Any worries I had about the way body issues would be portrayed in this book were gone by the time I was halfway through. Will’s voice was just perfect; confident in herself but with moments of insecurity, a fully formed character that had so much personality and who refused to see herself as just ‘the fat girl’. I thought her confidence made her pretty bad-ass.

I also really loved all the Dolly Parton references throughout the book. They were fun and it made me want to turn on some old Country music to listen to after finishing the book.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Waiting on Wednesday

New WoW

This is a feature started on Breaking the Spine that puts the spotlight on upcoming books.

This week’s pick is:

dumplin

Dumplin’

Release date: September 15th 2015

Goodreads: 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.

Why I’m excited: It sounds like it could be a good positive body image type of book. There are parts that make me nervous. Does she try to change her body for a boy? Will there be shaming of the skinny girls by the main character? But I’m hopeful that this will turn out to be a great, positive, feel good about yourself, type of read.

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Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

side effects big

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15728577-side-effects-may-vary

2.5 stars

Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, and the prognosis isn’t good. She decides to use the time she has left to complete a bucket list, things she wants to do, revenge against people who hurt her, and she gets her friend Harvey to help her. Harvey’s always had feelings for her, and Alice knows this, so it’s easy to get him to help. Just as Alice completes her list, she goes into remission.

I found it hard to get drawn into this book. Setting aside the characters and the plot, it was told in two POVs(Alice and Harvey) and each of them had a Now and a Then part that went back and forth so instead of getting right into the next chapter to keep a steady flow, I would have to check the heading to see where it was going.

Alice is a very angry girl, and she definitely has reasons to be angry. But there’s a difference between angry and being kind of a horrible person. Her revenge against two of her classmates made me extremely uncomfortable to read. I do think she got lucky that the harsh public humiliation and threat of secret exposure didn’t leave one of them hurting themselves or more. And the way she treated Harvey was maddening, and it only got worse for most of the book which left barely time for any kind of redemption for her.

I did like Harvey for the most part but it was hard to see or understand what he saw in Alice when she was so horrible to him. He at least had a conscience and I loved the rare bits we got to see between him and his mom.

Things moved along pretty quickly. As mentioned, there was a lot of back and forth between the past and the present, which could get confusing. I never had the urge to root for Alice and Harvey to work out, moreso I wanted Harvey to find someone who wasn’t going to keep jerking him around. I don’t mind seeing the worst or darker sides of characters but there seemed to be so little good in Alice that it was really hard to enjoy her.

Other than the confusing back and forth chapters, I did enjoy the writing style. It was full of some really good one-liners and quirky at times. This is an author I would pick up again based on that.

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