Book Review: The Fireman

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The Fireman

Joe Hill

747 pages

William Morrow

This seemed to be the book of the summer, which is actually one of the reasons I picked it up.  Therefore, chances are you know something about it. A brief synopsis for those who are wondering wtf I am talking about:

Harper Grayson is a school nurse who has been caught in a plague ravaged world. It’s unknown how it started, but a spore has developed that has the ability to cause people to literally ignite and go up in flames. Terror runs rampant as everyone does their best to avoid this new plague, so as you can imagine tensions are astronomically high and the world as we know it is no more.

Harper escapes to a commune type place, where a bunch people infected with the dragon scale are hiding out. I will leave it at that because I don’t want to give too much away.

As I mentioned before, this is one of the “it” books of the summer. Joe Hill, the author, is also Stephen King’s son. Those are the two main reasons I bought this book (the third reason being that it was on sale for Amazon Prime Day). Otherwise, I never would have picked this up on my own. I don’t dislike dystopian fiction but it’s not my favorite.

I thought The Fireman was just ok. The storyline was interesting and I liked how Hill really explored what happens when society is dictated by fear and power. Ultimately though, this book was just a bit too long for me. I am not opposed to behemoths, but it has to be done well and in this case, I felt like it was done just for the sake of it and not because the story actually needed to be that length.

It seems like reviews have gone both ways for this one, so tell me what you thought.

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Book Review: Miller’s Valley

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Miller’s Valley

Anna Quindlen

Random House

272 pages

This is the coming of age story of Mimi Miller. Her family lives in their namesake valley, a small, unassuming town where everyone knows everyone. Mimi enters into her teenage years in the 1970s a local battle is waging over the land where she lives. Constantly flooding, it has become apparent to the higher ups that the valley should be flooded, and the state government has been after landowners for years trying to buy the property so they can set such a venture in motion. Mimi’s family, among others, is refusing to sell, and tensions flare as the possibility of being forced from the only home they have known for generations becomes very real.

As much as Miller’s Valley is about local politics, it’s also not. Mimi experiences the same jubilations and downfalls as any other teenager, and we experience her as she treads through a difficult friendship and also as she enters into her first romantic relationship.

It’s hard to describe how quiet and self effacing this book is. Mimi is more of an observer, so we get to see her life through her eyes as she discreetly goes on from day to day. I was utterly rapt as I hastily read to see what would happen next, despite the fact that Miller’s Valley wouldn’t be referred to as a plot driven book.

I have only read one other book of Quindlen’s, Black and Blue, and it was so long ago that I don’t remember it at all or even whether I enjoyed it. I hope her other books are as great as this one and I look forward to seeking them out.

Book Review: Dumplin’

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Dumplin’

Julie Murphy

Balzer + Bray

375 pages

There’s something about swimsuits that make you think you’ve got to earn the right to wear them. Really, the criteria is simple. Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.

“Dumplin'” is Willowdean Dickson, aka Will, a 16 year old girl who is stuck between embracing her body and her confidence and hiding from the shame of being a fat girl. Will had been fat her entire life, much to the chagrin of her mother, a former pageant winner and current director of the biggest even of the year: the Miss Clover City Beauty Pageant. Will would never even dream of entering the pageant. It’s overrun by the skinny, popular girls. That’s the status quo and nobody thinks to change it. Until Will and her new group of misfits decides they want to participate, regardless of what everyone else thinks.

Interwoven into the pageant storyline is also a budding teen romance, that between Will and her co worker at a local fast food place, Bo. Being with Bo has all of the fireworks and weak knees you would expect from hormonal teenagers falling for one another, but once again, Will’s insecurities get in the way. Every time Bo touches her, instead of feeling amorous, she feels sick to her stomach. She wrestles with herself over whether to go with her heart or listen to her head.

Lastly, there is the lifelong friendship between Will and Ellen. What started over a love for Dolly Parton has turned into a true friendship. But Will’s insecurities over her body have started to destroy her relationship with Ellen, and the two struggle to decide whether to remain friends or go their own way.

Dumplin’ had a lot of your typical YA story lines. Boy and girl meet and fall for each other. Two friends fight and struggle to overcome their differences. It all felt very fresh though, which I am thankful for because after awhile YA books in general can start to feel stale to me. Will was flawed in such a relatable way. I have read some reviews of Dumplin’ that took her to task for how hard she was about her own body image. Yes, I agree this book is touted as one that displays a bigger girl with a positive body image. Which I do think Will certainly displays at times. But how unrealistic would it be if she didn’t have to fight for that acceptance? As women, don’t we all know the uphill battle we fight with ourselves for body positivity and acceptance? That is what made Dumplin’ so real and raw for me.

I actually just finished Shrill, by Lindy West last night, and I am so glad it within a few weeks of finishing this one. I feel like they are great companions to one another. Lindy is like a grown up, even more kick ass version of Will and I like to think that she would have continued to battle her way to the point where she is not only accepting of herself, but an even bigger voice for others.

Have you read either Dumplin’ or Shrill? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Book Review: Flight of Dreams

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Flight of Dreams

Ariel Lawhon

Doubleday

336 pages

The Hindenberg was a commercial airship that was designed and built in Germany at the start of WWII. I am not going to go into the mechanics, because it is impossible for me to understand, let alone explain, but I am personally in awe that such a mode of transportation ever existed.

Flight of Dreams is the fictionalized retelling of the final flight of the Hindenberg in May 1937. It tells the story of the last voyage my alternating chapters between various crew members and passengers. I found it a bit tricky at first to keep everyone straight, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I became immersed in the story despite that, and it all ended up becoming clearer as the book continued.

I felt like the storylines were interesting and thought provoking. I only researched the different characters after I finished the book. SPOILER ALERT: Once I researched it, I did find a few aspects of Lawhon’s story to lack credibility. By that I mean she obviously made them up and there is no evidence that shows they ever occurred. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest, because it is fiction and to be expected, however I have seen where other reviewers took issue with it so I thought it was worth noting.

One aspect I found interesting is that Lawhon did stay true to the actual characters-everyone was really on the ship except for “The America” (that is one aspect that was completely fabricated, at least from what I could tell)-and that also whether you lived or died on the Hindenberg was portrayed accurately in the book. So she didn’t change that part of history at all, which made the deaths of certain characters at the end even sadder to read.

I am personally in awe of the Hindenberg now and I would love to have been on it during one of the non fatal flights. It sounds so cool, with all the observation windows and lookouts, although definitely not safe at all. Fiction based on true events and people is a favorite niche of mine and I am so thrilled with how Lawhon crafted this story. I read her last book as well (it was good but not as great as this one) and I now know I will continue to read whatever she publishes in this sub genre.

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Book Review: Maybe in Another Life

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Maybe in Another Life

Taylor Jenkins Reid

Washington Square Press

342 pages

Hannah has just moved across the country. She is about to hit the big 3-0 and she has nothing to show for it. Her family left the U.S. when she was a teenager, leaving her behind, and ever since then she has been adrift. She has finally decided to move back to CA to stay with her best friend Gabby while she attempts to get her life back on track. To welcome her back in town, Gabby hosts a small get together at a local hangout. One of the guests is Ethan, Hannah’s former flame, first true love, and “the one that got away”. Hannah isn’t sure where she and Ethan stand, but as the night runs its course, old feelings start to surface.

As the evening draws to a close, Hannah is faced with a choice. Does she leave with Gabby or go home with Ethan? A seemingly innocuous choice, the decision has a much more serious impact.

Maybe in Another Life switches back and forth between two scenarios: Hannah’s life if she had left the bar with Ethan and Hannah’s life if she had left the bar with Gabby. It was interesting as hell to watch her two separate lives unfold. Her relationships with people were so different in her two lives, and although some of the same situations played out in both scenarios, the way they were handled and discovered varied greatly. It made for an interesting reading experience.

Maybe in Another Life started off as just another dose of chick lit for me, which had me nervous. I used to be a major fan of Sophie Kinsella as a young adult, but my tastes have changed over the year and I stay away from chick lit now. I am so glad I stuck with this one though because I quickly became intrigued with the story. I plan on reading everything by Taylor Jenkins Reid now, and especially look forward to her most recent book.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library.