Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “Dorothy Must Die” by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle PaigeA review written/summarized by Amanda.

Every month, our club votes on the book that we want to read for that month. October’s winning book was Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. The following review is based on a verbal discussion at October’s meeting.

Spoiler-free Synopsis:

Amy Gunn is a typical teenage girl, living in present-day Kansas with her mother and their pet rat Star. Like the rest of the world, she grew up with stories of Dorothy Gale and her fantastical trip to the Land of Oz. She saw the movie, read the books, heard the famous song about the rainbow over and over. Also like the rest of the world, she believed that it was all make believe, until a tornado (yes, a tornado) picked up her trailer from the park that she calls home and deposited it in – you guessed it – Oz, where Amy quickly discovers that the legendary land is not at all like it was supposed to be. It turns out that Dorothy returned to Oz and was still there, wreaking all kinds of havoc. Oz is not what it used to be. Good is wicked. Wicked is good. And it’s up to another girl from Kansas to put things right… if she can figure out what “right” really is.

Fangirls’ Analysis:

October’s hostess chose this book because she thought the premise sounded promising and that the club would enjoy it. She also liked “the unique take on Oz”. Club members voted for it out of love for fantasy stories and because an “original viewpoint of a familiar story was compelling”.

During the discussion, comparisons were drawn to a book that the club read earlier in the year, John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things. That book is also a retelling of classic tales, many that were darkly twisted and very different from what we are familiar with. Particular attention was drawn to Connolly’s version of Snow White, now portrayed as a cruel and grotesque woman who uses the dwarves as her personal slaves.

What We Liked:

Amy is a headstrong young woman who doesn’t fit in at her school. She even has an archenemy. She doesn’t have any friends and her relationship with her mother has deteriorated over the last few years. Despite all of this, she is determined to graduate high school with top grades and escape Kansas for good. She isn’t without bitterness but she doesn’t let it affect her long-term goals, which is admirable. The individuals that she meets in Oz are unique creatures with serious issues of their own – Indigo, a Goth munchkin with a BIG attitude, and Ollie, a flying monkey who wishes to change his species’ fate. And then there’s Nox, the handsome, solemn boy who only seems to add to Amy’s confusion – and Pete, an eccentric boy who claims that Oz needs Amy’s help, but disappears at inopportune moments. YA skeptics shouldn’t worry—Paige doesn’t follow the usual YA romantic tropes with this story, which is much appreciated.

What We Didn’t Like:

The story ends on an extremely abrupt note. Even knowing that a sequel is in the works, the ending seemed to come from nowhere and didn’t feel like a natural stopping point. While the majority of the story moves quickly and keeps the reader engaged, there are some scenes in the middle that drag on a bit too long. Amy also has a tendency to swear but the profanity doesn’t sit right with the overall style of the story, or with Amy’s character.

As a group, we really enjoyed this story and are looking forward to reading the next book!

Fangirl rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review of “The Little Girl” by Thatcher C. Nalley

The Little Girl Thatcher C. Nalley

A review by Amanda.

Lindell “Lindy” Wellbrook is a therapist who had just opened her own practice. One of her first clients was a little girl named Molly, who captured Lindy’s professional interest with her obsession with dolls, the imaginary world she has created called the Land of Pretty, and (most intriguing of all) an alternate identity. Pen, an adult male personality, was created to protect Molly from the horrors of her life before she began therapy. He was abrasive, crude, and caused Lindy to fear for her client’s well-being. Believing that she has found the root of Molly’s issues, Lindy decided to help her get rid of Pen and bases her future treatments on that premise. Certain that she was on the right path, Lindy got a major shock when Molly committed suicide after showing signs of improving.

The format the author uses keeps you interested, even through some of the less intense scenes. The story is told in past tense from Lindy’s perspective and focuses on her personal life, divided into Before Molly and After Molly. Separating the chapters are transcripts of Molly’s sessions in therapy. Lindy developed an obsession with figuring out why Molly would kill herself when she seemed to be doing better and listens to the tapes, trying to find a reason.

I enjoyed this book very much, but it was difficult to like to Lindy in the beginning. She is extremely driven, intelligent and has commitment issues. She approaches her work from a place of self-righteous detachment—she views each client as a challenge. She does genuinely want to help, but her interest in Molly soars when the alternate personality appears, because of the potential boost to her career. She has a loving boyfriend and a cordial, supportive relationship with her parents. But as she delves further into the mystery of Molly’s death, she is forced to confront her own inadequacies, failures and the ever-increasing problems in her relationship. As you learn more about Lindy’s past, as well as Molly’s, Lindy becomes more relatable and human. This book was very well written, with a riveting, unique story.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “The Red Pyramid” by Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid by Rick RiordanA review by Steve.

I chose to review The Red Pyramid because I love books/ series that take a creative twist on mythological and historical events. This one was far from disappointing. Carter and Sadie Kane are siblings with a strained relationship. After their mother passed away, they were separated. Carter travels the globe with their father researching ancient Egypt, and Sadie lives with her grandparents due to a nasty custody battle involving a spatula fight (read the book!). During one of their visits, their father destroys a priceless museum artifact and releases five Egyptian gods, including Set, the god of evil.

After he banishes their father, Set turns his attention on the kids, who barely escape. Now they are being hunted by the minions of Set and also the House of Life, an order of magicians who date back to ancient Egypt and have a grudge against anyone who aids the gods. On top of all this, Carter and Sadie learn they have magical powers dating back along their lineage to the pharaohs themselves and only have five days to learn how to control these abilities before the world ends.  A lot of pressure for a couple of kids.

The story links in a large amount of historical information about Egypt, along with myths and legends surrounding the ancient gods and practices attributed to them. Rick Riordan does an amazing job of narrating the book as both Sadie and Carter, and giving each their own voice. The plot rolls along smoothly and keeps the reader interested by mixing in action, drama, and suspense with a bountiful helping of education (the fun kind).  He also manages to keep true to ancient legends while continuing to give new life to stories that have been around for millennia.

I really enjoyed this book, and instantly dived into the rest of the series, including Throne of Fire and The Serpent’s Shadow, respectively. I also enjoy his other award winning series, the Percy Jackson novels. If you like these books and want to continue on the historical fiction kick, I also recommend The Heir Chronicles by Cinda Williams Chima. I hope these books engage and entertain you as much as they did for me.

My rating: 4/5 out of 5 stars.

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Review: “These Broken Stars” by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

These Broken StarsA review by Danielle.

The Icarus, a luxury space cruise liner, is suddenly pulled out of hyperspace by a strange planet’s orbit. The only two survivors (it seems) are Lilac LaRoux, daughter of the richest man in the universe, and Major Tarver Merendsen, a war hero on leave to hob knob with the galaxies most elite. The two teens from completely different worlds must now rely on each other to find a way off this bizarre planet. After Lilac starts hearing voices and having visions, they begin to wonder if the planet on which they have crashed on is really so desolate and uninhabited. When Tarver begins to seeing the visions too, they realize that there are other forces at work on this planet; and it seems the forces are trying to tell them something.

As Lilac and Tarver bushwhack their way farther and farther into the forest, they encounter horrifying creatures that should not exist at all. Every terraformed planet is predator free; the corporations forming the planets make sure of it. After several close calls, endless sleepless nights, and no one to rely on but each other, Lilac and Tarver find a love deeper than either has ever experienced before. For the first time since they crashed, the star crossed lovers each secretly begin to question whether they really want to be rescued and go back to the real world where their vast differences in class will most certainly keep them apart. As Tarver and Lilac finally make it to an outpost (long abandoned, thanks to mysterious visions leading the way), they discover a sinister secret that hits too close to home for Lilac’s comfort. If the young lovers ever want to get off of this planet and return home to safety, they must find a way to send a signal to the rescue ships that are scouring the galaxy, looking for Lilac. That is, if they are still able to leave the planet.

Aside from the authors’ blatant rip off of Titanic, complete with the main character as a little redheaded rich girl who has the love of a wonderful but poor boy who will never be good enough, (and the fact that every rich person in the future decides to dress and act like a turn-of-the-century Victorian novel). This is a good book that kept me guessing throughout each chapter. A common theme in young adult books is to toggle between character perspectives and this book is no exception. The view point switches between Lilac and Major Tarver at a dizzying rate. After the Icarus crashes, it completely travels in a new direction with vivid description of the alien planet, and the strange creatures who have incredibly spooky powers. What are those creatures? Are they ghosts? Are they friendly? What is it they want? Is Lilac going insane? These questions played on an endless loop in my head for two days straight until I finished the book.

One major point I disliked about These Broken Stars are the characters’ ages. Lilac is just 16 and Tarver comes in at a respective 18, and yet the story reads like they are both in their late 20’s, with Lilac having an impressive understanding of both electrical wiring of a spaceship and hyperspace intergalactic travel. Tarver is just 18 but has managed to become a major in the military thanks to his track record in the field. Frankly, their age is too big of a reach on Kauffman and Spooner’s part. Other than that, I truly enjoyed how much this book kept me guessing and would recommend it to anyone looking to be enthralled with a sci-fi romance.

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Review of “Tease” by Amanda Maciel

Tease by Amanda MacielA review by Maria.

I had wanted to read Tease by Amanda Maciel because I had met the author at a book signing and the premise sounded fascinating. Tease is about the bully’s point of view instead of the victims. In main character Sara’s point of view, she and her friend Brielle were a little bit mean to the new girl, Emma. And soon after Emma goes and commits suicide. Now Sara and her friends are up on criminal charges of bullying and harassment. However, Sara believes it is all Emma’s fault. Emma was going around hitting on all the boys in school and then sleeping with them, but then she made the mistake of going after Sara’s boyfriend. Sara believes that Emma wanted the attention and wasn’t as much of a victim as everyone made her out to be.

Tease is a quick read but I wouldn’t call it an easy read. The author goes from present to past every chapter and the only way to differentiate is the months set as chapter headings. Occasionally I would think I was in the present but was really in the past and had to keep flipping back to figure out which tense I was in. However, Maciel was very good at creating character arcs and transformations.

This novel was difficult in the sense that the main character was really unlikeable. In fact, for much of the book I hated Sara. Even when her life turned upside down and everyone hated her for bullying and called her a murderer, she would show a little slip of humanity and remorse but then she’d screw it all up again by insisting she didn’t do anything wrong. However, this novel was very interesting to get in the mentality of why people bully others or do cruel things to each other. Most of us can relate to the victim and how awful it might have been for them but very few of us want to relate to the bully. It was fascinating getting into Sara’s mind and learning how she’d justify what she did. The only frustrating thing was never finding out for sure why Emma committed suicide, if it was because of the terrible bullying or for attention like Sara believed. This book was not a happy novel but it’s worth the read if you’ve ever been bullied or were a bully.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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