“It’s always darkest before the ultimate sparkle.” // Review of “Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Audio Book Narrator:
Libba Bray
Date Read: 26/01/2017 – 08/02/2017
Rating: ★★★★☆


You’re going to have to forgive me if I gush a lot about this book. It was just so very clever. It’s quite a dark satire, which was right up my alley, and it touched on so many issues that affect teenager girls, while never straying from the larger plot.

In a slightly alternate America where nearly everything, including the Presidency, is a product of The CorporationTM, a plane carrying the 50 State Finalists of the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a tropical island, killing all but 12 of the Beauty Queens and all of their attendants. Now the girls have to survive not only what the jungle throws at them, but also a secret plot to use their deaths to start a war.

The thing about this book is that in the hands of many another author, it would have turned into one of those books where the girls all turn on each other in complete bitchiness. There is a little bit of bitchiness, but the girls rise above it, knowing that they need to survive. These girls are capable! And they learn huge amounts about themselves and each other while they do it all, including that sex is not a dirty word and that they can be more than just pretty. They all have their own reasons for joining the pageant, and these come out as the book goes on. The girls all have individual personalities, and I was really impressed with the way Bray handled a large ensemble cast without any of the characters falling into two-dimensions. That’s not to say they’re not stereotypical. They are, because the book addressing those stereotypes, but I came to sympathise with these girls anyway as I learnedtheir stories and watch them evolve.

The book also covers so many issues that teen girls have to face, including body image/positivity, , female sexuality, transexuality, racism, rape culture, the way women are expected to apologise for existing and a whole host of others that I am forgetting right now.

I admit that it did disappoint me a bit when a group of ridiculously attractive boys showed up to help save the day. For a book that was so much about female empowerment, having that did lessen the effect a bit. It’s not that boys aren’t allowed or anything, and their presence did serve as a vehicle to address some of the sexuality issues that the book was interested in, but it would have been nice for a book like this to have the girls save the day on their own.

I am often a bit wary when I see that an author is narrating their own book (a writer is not necessarily a performer) but Libba Bray’s narration is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. True, I did download the ebook in order to finish a bit quicker, but if you can find the time to listen to it, do!

Disclaimer: this book’s brand of humour will not be for everyone. I’m a very sarcastic, deadpan person, so the fact that so much of the satire was delivered in that form really appealed to me. Judging by other reviews, some people have found it completely over the top and unrealistic. And it is, to a point. The footnotes, “commerical breaks” and “words from your sponsor” (the Corporation) also make the format a unique one that won’t appeal to all readers. But I hope you won’t let all that put you off giving this book a chance.

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 08 February, 2017

Guys, guys! Did you see that GoodReads has finally added a re-read feature? There are no words for how excited I am! They are rolling it out gradually but it is already showing up for my account. I don’t even reread much, but it’s good to know I can now revisit a series before the new installment is released, for example, and still have it count towards my yearly reading challenge. I am a slave to the GoodReads Reading Challenge.


It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?

thereptileroomcoverI finishedThe Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket, book 2 in the Series of Unfortunate Events. It wasn’t quite as good as the first, but I still want to keep going and get into all the mystery stuff that I remember from the later books.

I also finished Beauty Queens by Libba Bray just this beautyqueenscoverevening, and it was my first five star read of the year! 😀 The audio book is incredible and if you have the time to commit to 14 hours of it, I really recommend it. I ended up downloading the ebook and splitting my time between the two because I was only four hours into it and it was due back tomorrow.

I only posted on review this week, of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Click here to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been flitting between things over the past week, so I’ve got a couple of things on the go at the moment.

traitortothethronecoverI started the ARC of Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, with the hopes of finishing it in time for the release date last Thursday, but that came and went and I’m still going. I was having trouble reading off my tablet over the weekend because my eyes were aching, so that put a bit of a dent in my reading plans.

themesmeristcoverI also started The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith, another ARC (the book was released yesterday). It’s cute so far but some of the writing feels a bit clunky. Still, it’s fairly short, so I should get through it fairly quickly.

What do you think you’ll read next?

heartofbrasscoverWell, there’s Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks, which I have on hold and really should pick up again. There’s also The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler, which I would like to try to review sometime around the release date of March 1. I probably should also review The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias before too long.

adverbscoverNot to mention Adverbs by Daniel Handler and Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris are both waiting for me to pick them up from the library tomorrow. Oh, and I still havethe four books of the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carringer on loan from a colleague, and another colleague today brought me in the rest of the Series of Unfortunate Events books.

So, um, yeah. It’ll be one of those, I guess.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

Before I go any further, I wanted to announce that I have finally settled on a new title for the story-that-was-until-last-Thursday-known-as Operation: Sugarplum. This WIP is now known as With Memories and Magic, which is way more fitting now that the plot has completely diverged from its original form as a retelling of The Nutcracker.

My maths is easy this week: two paragraphs for the second month. This actually follows on from the WIPpet I shared a few weeks ago. Max has now arrived and is confronting the people pursuing Clara. He’s also brought back-up.

“I see you have two traitors with you.”

“You mean Derek and Ivo?” Max motioned to each man as he spoke his name. “They’re not the ones trying to persuade the Queen to return home so she can be enslaved by a dictator.”

Boy has a point.

I’m on the downhill run with the first draft of With Memories and Magic, and my subconscious has decided to go and get all antsy about it. I’m not getting down anywhere near the number of words I was each night a couple of weeks ago, and I’m far more angsty about the words I am getting down. I’m still hoping to finish this draft by the end of February, though. Cross your fingers for me!

I’ve been continuing with Fictional Flashback February. I’m hoping to write a few more little stories to go with my pictures like I did on the first few days, but some days it has just been easier to do one sentence with an image.

That’s it from me this week. I’m off to do my nightly writing and beta readings, and I’ll catch you all soon.

~ Emily

#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 01 February, 2017

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?

unspokenlynburncoverI finished Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, which at first I thought was going to be my first 5* read for the year. But then as I went on, my feelings became a bit more mixed. It started off with tropes and characters I really liked, but then it veered off not necessarily bad things, but things I am less fond of and less likely to flail and squee over. Review will be along soon.

Idarkunwindingcover also finished The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron. It’s definitely not a standalone and I do want to read the second book, but I am going to have to buy the ebook, as neither my public library nor digital library has it. So it will wait for a bit. My review went up on Monday and you can read it here.

I also posted my review of The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co.) here this week.

What are you currently reading?

traitortothethronecoverI was approved for an ARC of Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, which is released later this week. I’m hoping to finish it in time to get a review up on Friday, though if I need to leave it until Monday, that’s okay. It took a little while but I’m getting into it now.

beautyqueenscoverI also started listening to Beauty Queens by Libba Bray on audio. I went looking for one of her other books, and found this one. It’s a very black YA comedy. I’m enjoying it so far. And she is a great audio performer as well.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I actually posted a February TBR post yesterday, as I’ve got quite a few to choose from. I already have The Reptile Room (Series of Unfortuate Events #2) and Untold from the library, and I have two other pending ARCs to read as well.

What are you reading this week? 🙂


other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up. I’ve got three paragraphs today, for 01/02. Max has been reunited with some of his Aligarian Mage colleagues, but Clara is missing, and they’ve just told him that some of the Mages not loyal to Clara are also hunting for her here. Reminder that Clara has an entirely different set of memories at the moment.

Max felt his stomach knot up. “We need to get back to my Aunt. Clara – the Queen – has run off somewhere. Just now. I didn’t think she was that far ahead of me, but there’s no trace of her.”

“You’re that familiar with her?” Derek asked. “Calling her by her name like that?”

“She’s not the Queen here,” Max reminded them. “And she has no concept of being a Queen, either. We’re just her friends here.”

If anyone is interested, I’ve decided to participate in Faith Rivens‘ February challenge, Fictional Flashback February. My first post is here, introducing Clara in more detail.

That’s it from me this week. Toodles!

~ Emily