Book Review: Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Book Review: Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle MoranMata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran
Published by Touchstone on July 19, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
From the international bestselling author of Rebel Queen and Nefertiti comes a captivating novel about the infamous Mata Hari, exotic dancer, adored courtesan, and, possibly, relentless spy.

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.

From exotic Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.

Book Review:

I’ve read Michelle Moran’s novels set in Ancient Egypt several times, so I was interested to try something of hers set in a different time period. Mata Hari is one of those names I’ve always known without knowing much about the actual person.

The book starts with a news article detailing Hari’s conviction as a spy and death by firing squad in 1917. I think that’s what everyone knows about her, so it makes sense to start there. Then MATA HARI’S LAST DANCE goes back to 1904, when Mata Hari starts creating the legend of Mata Hari in Paris.

The beginning of MATA HARI’S LAST DANCE was great. I thought the author did a good job of developing Mata Hari’s character and the glitzy pre-war period. Mata Hari isn’t always likeable, but I understood her choices and actions.

I think the summary for the book is a tad misleading, as I expected a chronological account of Mata Hari’s life. Instead, she recounts her past in flashbacks, sharing with her lawyer/agent, Edouard Clunet. Is she sharing the truth, or merely how she remembers events? Mata Hari’s a somewhat unreliable narrator, which I enjoyed. I never knew when she was telling the truth or lying or embellishing.

And it’s her habit of lying and embellishing that gets her into trouble. As the book went on, I could see how Mata Hari’s actions and words led to her conviction as a spy. Michelle Moran neatly planted that stake in the ground, raising the tension until Mata Hari’s trial and execution. But I do wish that more time had been spent explaining the political tensions of the war, as the last third of the book went too quickly for me. I felt like I was missing some critical connection or plot thread. Which does make sense in a way, because Mata Hari was unable to hear much of the crucial evidence against her because it was classified. But I wish there had been some way for the author to make everything clearer to the reader.

Socialize with the author:

Michelle Moran:
Website
Facebook

– leeanna

Book Review: 32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

Book Review: 32 Yolks by Eric Ripert32 Yolks by Eric Ripert
Published by Random House on May 17, 2016
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
For readers of Jacques Pépin’s The Apprentice and Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes, Chef, here is the coming-of-age story of a true French chef and international culinary icon. Before he earned three Michelin stars at Le Bernardin, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef, or became a regular guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, and even before he knew how to make a proper omelet, Eric Ripert was a young boy in the South of France who felt that his world had come to an end. The only place Eric felt at home was in the kitchen. His desire to not only cook, but to become the best would lead him into some of the most celebrated and demanding restaurants in Paris.

Book Review:

I first saw Eric Ripert on Top Chef, and was instantly intrigued by his mastery of fish as well as his calm, cool personality. I immediately requested the book on Le Bernardin, where Ripert is head chef, from my local library and was entranced even though I don’t like fish. Anyway, all of this led me to thinking Eric Ripert’s memoir would be just as interesting to me.

32 YOLKS starts with Ripert’s difficult childhood, where a love of food was one of the only good things in his life. His parents divorced when he was young, his stepfather was a beast, and Ripert understandably had anger issues. Although he always loved food, he wasn’t encouraged to be in the kitchen — it wasn’t a boy’s place. Eventually, he started culinary school, and then his first job in a kitchen, but things just got harder from there.

32 YOLKS gives a good look inside the kitchens of 1980s France, where some chefs ruled by intimidation and some by fear. It was interesting, to see the difference between La Tour d’Argent and Jamin: how the brigade worked, the head chef’s ruling style, how the dishes were created, etc, as well as the effect of everything on Ripert.

Ripert’s time in the brigade at La Tour d’Argent and Jamin was the best part of the book for me. I found his stories about his childhood somewhat disjointed, but they almost all did have something to do with food. But 32 YOLKS ended just when it really got going for me — when Ripert went to America for his first job there. I expected that the book would go further, to talk about how Ripert started at Le Bernardin, but it ends just as he gets on the plane. I don’t know if the publisher is planning a second book for the next part of Ripert’s journey, but I feel like 32 YOLKS ended too early.

Socialize with the author:

Eric Ripert:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

Book Review: Night Shift by Charlaine HarrisNight Shift by Charlaine Harris
Series: Midnight, Texas #3
Published by Ace on May 3, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 308
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
3 Stars
At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be...

Book Review:

NIGHT SHIFT is the final book in Charlaine Harris’ trilogy about Midnight, Texas. While the book ties up most of the loose ends left hanging by the other two books, I do find myself wishing the series wasn’t over. It took some time for the series to hit its stride, and now it’s finished. I’ll miss my time in Midnight.

In MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD and DAY SHIFT, individual characters faced danger. In NIGHT SHIFT, the entire town of Midnight is threatened. People are being drawn to the crossroad to commit suicide, and while the press interest isn’t welcomed by the town, it’s the hidden danger that’s the big worry. What’s causing the deaths? And who is talking to Fiji?

Lemuel plays a bigger role in this book than in previous ones, which I liked. Part of the fun of this series is all the different characters that live in Midnight. Seeing how they co-exist and have formed friendships. Plus I just like vampires, what can I say? There’s also angels, shapeshifters, a witch, and a psychic. I’ve said before that Midnight’s a town I’d want to live in — everyone minds their own business, but they also come together when necessary, and there’s just enough danger without it being too overwhelming.

Fiji really came into her own in NIGHT SHIFT. I wasn’t a fan of the whole Fiji/Bobo misunderstanding romance, but otherwise, A+ for Fiji. There’s this great scene where she gets revenge on someone who violated her privacy, and then another when she tells her sister off. It was great to see that she wasn’t a pushover and could stand up for herself, as well as take a few for the team.

I do think too much of the action/revelations in NIGHT SHIFT took place off the page, or if they were shown, there wasn’t a lot of processing. Manfred learns about an important ancestor, but I can’t recall reading about his feelings after the reveal.

Some of the events also seemed out of place, based on the characters’ actions in the previous books. Take Olivia for example. She’s nearly killed by her father’s henchman, but then gets a phone call from her dad that hints at future making up. And this is after her father not believing that stepmom and friends molested Olivia when she was a child. Olivia thinking that she might talk to her dad in the future just doesn’t jive with the way she’s been characterized in the other books.

Overall, NIGHT SHIFT and the Midnight, Texas trilogy as a whole is okay. Good, not great. I did expect more from Charlaine Harris because of the hype of Sookie Stackhouse. But Midnight is a good trilogy to read when you want something a little slower, not full of feeling like the characters are going to die every other page.

Socialize with the author:

Charlaine Harris:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Book Review: Day Shift by Charlaine HarrisDay Shift by Charlaine Harris
Series: Midnight, Texas #2
Published by Ace on May 5, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 307
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.

Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular — and very wealthy — clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight...

Book Review:

DAY SHIFT is the second book in Charlaine Harris’ trilogy about Midnight, Texas. Midnight is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town, important only to the locals. So, of course it’s a town where there’s a lot going on underneath the surface: there’s a vampire, witch, and psychic in town, and that’s only the start.

Midnight is a series that grew on me. It’s great for when you’re in the mood for a slightly slower paranormal mystery, with a lot of focus on everyday life in a small town. The characters aren’t in danger every single second, which is sometimes a nice change.

The mystery of DAY SHIFT showed up earlier than the mystery in book one, MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD, which helped the pacing. When Manfred travels to Dallas for a weekend of in-person readings, his first client dies in the middle of the appointment. Accused by the woman’s nasty son of stealing her jewelry, Manfred needs the help of his fellow Midnight citizens to clear his name. And while that’s going on, there’s also a mysterious new hotel built in town, one whose purpose might be sinister…?

DAY SHIFT also expands some of the “minor” characters from the first book, such as Olivia Charity. I was super intrigued by Olivia, so I was happy to see her play a major role in this book. There’s also more about Joe and Chuy, as well as the Rev, who ends up watching a friend’s son. Diederik was a lot of fun.

I read the entire Midnight, Texas trilogy in a weekend, which I recommend doing if possible. Now that I’m finished, I miss spending time in Midnight. It’s the type of town I’d like to live in if I were in an urban fantasy book, because there’s spooky stuff going on and some danger, but there’s also a feeling of community and small town life without destruction raining down every day.

Socialize with the author:

Charlaine Harris:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Book Review: Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine HarrisMidnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
Series: Midnight, Texas #1
Published by Ace on May 6, 2014
Genres: Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 305
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
From Charlaine Harris, the bestselling author who created Sookie Stackhouse and her world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a darker locale - populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that’s how the locals prefer it...

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth...

Book Review:

MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD is the first in a trilogy set in the quirky town of Midnight, Texas. It’s the perfect place to psychic Manfred to settle in and get down to work. Manfred bullshits sometimes, but he also has a real gift. But it doesn’t take psychic ability to see Midnight isn’t what it appears on the surface.

I found the pace of MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD to be somewhat slow. The mystery doesn’t show up for a long time; the book kind of meanders about, much like the town of Midnight. There’s a lot of detail on ordinary life: Manfred settling in, meeting the locals, going to dinner, that sort of thing. At first it bored me, but after I thought about it, I realized I liked the ordinariness. MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD isn’t as in your face as say, Kate Daniels or Mercy Thompson, and that’s a nice change.

The book is told from three perspectives: Manfred, pawnshop owner Bobo, and witch Fiji. At first I thought Manfred was the main character, but he isn’t. I liked all the perspectives, because I got a better view of Midnight that way, and the author handled switching characters in a clear way. I was also super curious about some of the other characters, such as Olivia, Lemuel, Joe, and Chuy.

Once the body of Bobo’s missing girlfriend was found and the mystery kicked off, the book sped up a bit. I had my suspicions for the killer, but I was totally wrong. I always like when I can’t predict the outcome, and the outcome of this mystery… it really cemented what sort of town Midnight is and who lives there.

I’ll be honest — at first I wasn’t sure if I would continue this series. MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD was my first Charlaine Harris book, and I did expect a little more. But I got sucked into the book, intrigued by the town and the characters. It also helps that all the books are available, so I was able to read all three in a weekend, which I recommend doing if you can.

Socialize with the author:

Charlaine Harris:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Frontier Grit by Marianne Monson

Book Review: Frontier Grit by Marianne MonsonFrontier Grit by Marianne Monson
Published by Shadow Mountain on September 6, 2016
Genres: History, Non Fiction
Pages: 208
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
These are the stories of twelve women who "heard the call" to settle the west and who came from all points of the globe to begin their journey: the East Coast, Europe, and as far away as New Zealand. They endured unimaginable hardships just to get to their destination and then the next phase of the story begins. These are gripping miniature dramas of good-hearted women, selfless providers, courageous immigrants and migrants, and women with skills too innumerable to list. All the women in this book did extraordinary things. One became a stagecoach driver, disguised as a man. One became a frontier doctor. One was a Gold Rush hotel and restaurant entrepreneur. Many were crusaders for social justice and women's rights. All endured hardships, overcame obstacles, broke barriers, and changed the world, for which there are inspiring lessons to be learned for the modern woman.

Book Review:

FRONTIER GRIT tells the unlikely but true stories of twelve women on the frontier. The author defines the frontier as “a place where your people have not gone before (p. vii),” and to me, that seems accurate. Also, by broadly defining “frontier,” the author isn’t limited to the American frontier.

The women included in FRONTIER GRIT are absolutely incredible, and I think it’s a real pity I’d never heard of any of them before. That’s whitewashed, male history for you. I liked that the author included women of different nationalities and backgrounds in this book. There’s a Mexican-American author, a freed slave, a Native-American activist, and so on.

The chapters in FRONTIER GRIT are informative, each giving a biography of the woman and what they did. Sources are included at the end of each chapter. I’d recommend this book if you want to learn a lot about some truly inspiring women.

The one thing I didn’t like about FRONTIER GRIT was the author trying to give me a takeaway lesson about each woman. At the end of each chapter, Monson tells the reader what she thinks is important about each woman’s life. I found the author’s intrusion jarring and out of place. It just didn’t fit into the idea of the book for me.

Socialize with the author:

Marianne Monson:
Website
Facebook

– leeanna

Book Review: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

Book Review: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul KruegerLast Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
Published by Quirk Books on June 7, 2016
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

Book Review:

LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE is a fun, quirky urban fantasy. Featuring a squad of “new adult” bartenders taking on the dark forces of the night, the book is definitely one I’d recommend for aficionados of properly mixed beverages.

Fresh out of college and unable to find a job, Bailey’s working as a barback for her friend Zane’s bar. It’s not a job worthy of her Ivy League education, but Bailey tries to overachieve anyway. One night she mixes herself a screwdriver, walks home, and is ambushed by a gruesome creature. But that screwdriver? It gives her the power to knock the beast into smithereens.

Bailey finds herself in a secret part of Chicago, where a perfectly mixed drink gives the imbiber magic powers for as long as the drink’s in their system. Each drink gives different powers based on its ingredients. Scattered throughout LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE are pages from The Devil’s Water Dictionary, Bailey’s guide to mixing magic drinks. Those pages were quite cool; one of my favorite parts of the book. They really added to the flavor of the author’s world.

As I said above, this book was quirky and fun. I also liked that the author worked in Bailey’s underemployment and living at home, as those are things a lot of college grads are dealing with. And I liked seeing her make friends, become confident, and realize she can do more than memorize and regurgitate information from a book.I liked seeing Bailey think on her toes. Let’s just say… Dumpster tank.

But there were also a few things that didn’t work for me. Sometimes I felt like the author forgot to mention stuff, like he forgot an important thing here or there, or it was edited out. Once in a while I felt like I was missing something vital. I also thought the romance between Bailey and Zane was unnecessary, awkward, and resolved way too quickly. I think it would’ve worked better if they stayed friends, rather than getting over the Fight and jumping together. I also wanted more background on the tremens.

Right now I think LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE is a standalone, and while I had a few issues with the book, I would definitely read more about Bailey and the Alechemists.

Socialize with the author:

Paul Krueger:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Drag Teen by Jeffery Self

Book Review: Drag Teen by Jeffery SelfDrag Teen by Jeffery Self
Published by Push on April 26, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
A fantastic, fabulous, funny YA debut from Jeffery Self, one of the gay icons of the YouTube generation, that follows one high school student on a drag race to his future.

Debut YA author Jeffery Self takes us on a road trip with an insecure high school senior who has one goal: to be the first in his family to leave Clearwater, Florida, and go to college. The problem is, he has zero means of paying for school -- until his friends convince him to compete in a drag teen competition for a college scholarship.

Book Review:

JT needs to get out of Clearwater, Florida, a town that’s too small and just not for him. But he doesn’t have money for college, and his grades aren’t good enough for scholarships. Then his boyfriend Seth finds the perfect solution: JT will compete in the Miss Drag Teen Scholarship Pageant. The only problem? JT loves being in drag — it’s the only time he feels proud and powerful — but the last time he did it, he was booed off the stage of his high school talent show.

DRAG TEEN is a breezy yet serious book, on a subject I haven’t seen in YA before. There’s no angst over JT being gay; he’s already out to his parents and everyone else. No, the focus of the book is JT’s journey to find himself. Drag is a big part of it, because that’s his confidence booster, but there’s also a lot about him learning to quit worrying, live in the moment, and not put himself down.

I liked DRAG TEEN the most when it stayed in the moment, just like JT was learning to do. Sometimes the book got a bit too serious, and it didn’t quite fit the tone of it, like the author’s intentions were coming down like a sledge hammer. Sometimes JT’s revelations were a bit too mature, like a thirty-year-old looking back at being seventeen.

I liked the message of DRAG TEEN, I really did. I saw a lot of myself in JT, as I’m sure other people will. It’s so easy to be negative about yourself, to doubt things, to refuse the help of your friends, and so on. But anytime JT got into trouble, a miracle always showed up to help him. Flat tire on country backroads? Cue rescue by a superstar country singer who was also happy to lend JT wigs and costumes. By the end of the book, I was tired of JT never having to work for anything; everything he needed to find himself was handed to him.

Socialize with the author:

Jeffery Self:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung RichmondThe Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Scholastic on July 26, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Never underestimate a pretty face.

My name is Lucie Blaise.

I am sixteen years old.

I have many aliases, but I am none of the girls you see.

What I am is the newest agent of the CO-7.

And we are here to take down Hitler.

After the Nazis killed my brother on the North African front, I volunteered at the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, to do my part for the war effort. Only instead of a desk job at the OSS, I was tapped to join the Clandestine Operations -- a secret espionage and sabotage organization of girls. Six months ago, I was deployed to German-occupied France to gather intelligence and eliminate Nazi targets.

My current mission: Track down and interrogate a Nazi traitor about a weapon that threatens to wipe out all of Western Europe. Then find and dismantle the weapon before Hitler detonates it. But the deeper I infiltrate, the more danger I'm in. Because the fate of the free world hangs in the balance, and trusting the wrong person could cause millions of lives to be lost. Including my own.

Book Review:

At the start of THE DARKEST HOUR, Lucie’s biggest concern is successfully completing a mission and earning her title of “agent” in Covert Ops. But before she knows it, she’s in action up to her eyeballs, debating whether or not to trust a Nazi defector who has deadly knowledge about a new superweapon.

I was originally interested in THE DARKEST HOUR because, female teenage secret agents? I gobble that kind of thing up with a big spoon. I didn’t know what else to expect from the book, because the summary’s sort of vague. I was pleasantly surprised by where the author took Lucie — there were definitely some twists I never saw coming. The action was nonstop.

There was no romance in THE DARKEST HOUR, which I was super happy about. One, ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re trying to take down a Nazi superweapon, and two, not every YA book needs a romance to be complete. I was so happy that Lucie wasn’t swooning over every boy she met, but instead thinking about the best place to stick a knife.

The last third of the book is where things took a downturn for me. I can’t really say why without spoiling everything, but I found Lucie’s recovery, and thus the ending, a bit unbelievable. I wanted to see her process what happened, rather than pick up a few months later and everything’s a-okay. I also saw through the big twist early on, which lessened the dramatic impact of the book for me.

Socialize with the author:

Caroline Tung Richmond:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Book Review: Lily and Dunkin by Donna GephartLily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Middle Grade
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Author Donna Gephart crafts a dual narrative about two remarkable young people: Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder.

Sometimes our hearts see things our eyes can’t.

Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Book Review:

I wanted to read LILY AND DUNKIN because Lily is transgender, and there currently aren’t many Middle Grade books with transgender main characters. The book is told from the alternating POVs of Lily and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder and hiding a big secret.

Going in, I was most interested in Lily’s story. And the first twenty to thirty pages deepened my interest, because I liked Lily a lot. It takes a ton of courage to want to dress as a girl for the first day of eighth grade when she’s already been bullied, and her father clearly disapproves.

But then Dunkin took over the book for me. His character was more vivid and developed and memorable. Even though I disliked him for dissing Lily to be popular, I knew why he did it, and the doubt he had about doing so rang true. And as he stopped taking his meds, he practically vibrated off the page.

I could tell the author had firsthand experience with bipolar disorder. She wrote in the Author’s Note she promised her son (who has it), that she would one day write a book about it. In comparing Dunkin to Lily, I could see that the author didn’t have that experience with someone who is transgender.

I still did enjoy LILY AND DUNKIN. I liked that Lily and Dunkin sort of oriented around each other, rather than being friends right away. I liked that we saw Lily’s parents and Dunkin’s mom; it was especially great that Lily’s mom was so supportive.

But then there was this scene at the end of the book that, if Lily and Dunkin actually did what they did, they would be bullied into the stratosphere in the small-minded world of middle school. I wish the author had put that scene more towards the middle of the book, so she could have explored the repercussions of their show of support for each other. I wanted a bit more resolution.

Overall, while I liked LILY AND DUNKIN, I couldn’t help but want more from it. More personality for Lily. More resolution at the end. And so on.

Socialize with the author:

Donna Gephart:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna