Book Review: Genuine Fraud

4D5A81DF-071A-4C42-9B9E-AAEC2533CAACTitle: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Delacorte: Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Thank you to PRHC for sending me this finished copy in exchange for my own review.

My Review: GENUINE FRAUD is an engrossing story told in reverse chronological order about a bizarre friendship of two orphans gone wrong. Immie was adopted by a wealthy couple, a globetrotter worth millions she cycles thru relationships. Jule, raised by her aunt, barely scrapes by and is a mastermind proud of her physical strength and street smarts.

Opening up at Chapter 18 Jule West Williams is living a first class lifestyle in a posh Cabo San Lucas hotel pretending to be her best friend Imogen Sokoloff.  A cop catches up with her and Jule pays the bartender to help her leave town. Outside of the confines of the hotel the bartender extorts more money from her and Jule physically assaults him and runs. From here the story is told in flashbacks spanning the past year of Jule and Immie’s friendship jetsetting across Martha’s Vineyard, Puerto Rico, New York, London, California and Mexico.

I can’t tell you anymore without spoiling the plot but I can tell you this book is twisty, gripping and a total thriller! I was left wide-eyed wondering ‘wtf’ just happened?!

What I Liked:

  • Twisted plot
  • Murder. And more murder.
  • Strong women.
  • World travel.
  • Living the high life and not having to work!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The reverse chronological order was confusing at times.
  • This read more like new adult rather than YA.
  • Unlikeable characters – all of them.
  • Dim-witted cops – if I ever go missing I hope the intelligent ones are assigned my case!

Overall: GENUINE FRAUD is unique and really well written. Lockhart spares no detail in her richly developed characters and plot that packs a punch!

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Book Review: Every Last Word

Title: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Hyperion Teens
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Hyperion: If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling. Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist. Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

My Review: When I finished EVERY LAST WORD I immediately thought about how hard it is to attain and maintain friendships during the difficult teenaged years, especially with superficial types like the Eights, but moreover when you throw a disorder like OCD into the mix. I applaud Sam on so many fronts; holding herself together so her friends perceive her as ‘normal’, her devotion to the swim team, her love for Poet’s Corner, her relationship with A.J. and just being real even when it’s not cool – I loved everything about Sam!

And as much as I admired Sam I also empathized with her. When she opens up to her friends, the Eights about her disorder and faces the reality that she’s not getting better my heart ached for her. She is so likeable – compassionate and caring and I completely and utterly adored her relationship with A.J., who was an oddball by her friends’ standards, but her love for him is too strong to let the Eights come between them. I felt a range of emotions with this one – happiness, heartbreak, acceptance, courage.

I listened to the audiobook version and did not relate at all to the narrator. This book is for teens and the narrators voice is sultry, which I found wholly inappropriate for this book.

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han Book ReviewTitle: P.S. I Still Love You
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

My Review: P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU is the follow up to TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE and every bit as charming and heartfelt. I listened to the audiobook version for this installment too because Laura Knight Keating’s narration is amazing.

It’s tricky writing a young adult novel that captures the readership of both young and old and Han brilliantly masters it. Some YA books leave me rolling my eyes because they are too silly but Han’s writing engages me and transports me back to my teenaged years. Her characters are lovable, sharp and witty, and when I want to dislike them I can’t because each one has a strong moral compass.

The all too familiar plot has Lara Jean stuck choosing between Peter Kavinsky and John Ambrose McClaren. Like most teenaged boys Peter does not wear his heart on his sleeve and his facade is somewhat coarse which makes me want to scream but on the inside he’s loving and compassionate.  No spoilers here – read the book to find out who Lara Jean chooses!

Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.  This is a young adult novel with mature content so it may not be suitable for all young audiences.

June Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0628Happy Summer! Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids so we are officially on summer break. The plan is to enjoy a couple weeks of downtime including chilling at the beach and pool, which is code for R-E-A-D-I-N-G. Mid-month I’m taking my kiddos to visit my parents for 3 weeks – woo hoo! We will be swimming, shopping, sewing and reading. My mom is a huge reader so I look forward to lots of book discussions with her.

I read some great books in June. It’s a toss-up between Beartown and UNSUB for my favourite. Both were amazing stories that kept me fully engaged from the first page to the last page. What are you reading this summer?

The People We Hate at the Wedding – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
The People We Hate at the Wedding is scores of family dynamics and dysfunction. It was like watching an upper echelon reality show chock-full of painful moments and endless entertainment.

The Fourth Monkey – ⭐️⭐️ / 5
The Fourth Monkey is portrayed as a cross between Se7en and Silence of the Lambs. Both movies are creepy, have disturbing aspects, literally keep you on edge but most of all stay with you. Years later you still remember those movies and may re-watch them. The Fourth Monkey has none of those attributes. It did not check off those typical suspense / thriller checkboxes for me. I am surprised because a bit of research into J.D. Barker and he has some near-award worthy books out there, unfortunately this one isn’t one of them.

Beartown – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book can be summarized in one word: POWERFUL! Beartown instilled emotion in me that made my heart want to explode from page one. Backman transported me into a place where I could feel the pain of every resident who inhabited Beartown, flailing on the cusp of survival but longing for so much more.

Chemistry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Chemistry is a uniquely written story that reads like a non-fiction book. Wang’s brilliant depiction of an unnamed woman who recounts why she left a chemistry PhD program is coursely humourous. This kind of fiction writing is a departure from what I would normally pick up and read but I am so glad I ventured outside of my reading comfort zone. This book is written like a succinct diary and reads quickly so if you are looking for a book in between heavier stories this one is perfect.

Sweet Home Cowboy – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This was my first book from the Love at the Chocolate Shop series and I thought it was a cute story. This was a pretty big variation in my reading choice. I normally don’t read romance-y books and definitely not western’s but this was light on the western romance. I thought it was entertaining and quick to read – perfect for summertime sitting poolside or at the beach.

UNSUB – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
UNSUB is the most intense and engrossing book I have read, which speaks volumes because I have read many true crime books. This book is fiction but Meg Gardiner made it feel like true crime. The story is a takeoff of the Zodiac Killer that haunted the Bay Area in the 60’s and 70’s but with a dialled up creepy factor. This book is not for the squeamish – it’s graphic and cuts to the quick, but totally suitable for any true crime lover. And the best part, a sequel is coming! This is a series I look forward to and know I will dig into.

The Secrets of Married Women – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Jill, Wendy and Leigh are best friends, each have very different personalities. Jill is married to Rob of 10 years, they adore each other but can’t have children because Rob is infertile. Wendy and Neil buried their baby daughter Nina and Wendy has never recovered from the loss but rarely complains and puts on a happy face. Leigh’s husband, Lawrence is a stay at home dad with OCD. He loves her dearly, would do anything for her but she no longer feels that spark with him and finds him a bit of a wuss.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book is super-cute! I listened to the audio book version narrated by Laura Knight Keating. Her narration is amazingly authentic as if Lara Jean herself were reading the story out loud. This book is entertaining and fast-paced making it a perfect summertime read.

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han Book ReviewTitle: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Audiobook
Verdict: Must read!
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My Review: This book is super-cute!  I listened to the audio book version narrated by Laura Knight Keating.  Her narration is amazingly authentic as if Lara Jean herself were reading the story out loud.  This book is entertaining and fast-paced making it a perfect summertime read.

What I liked most about this story is the authenticity of it.  The Song-Covey family is a family you want to know.  They have an innocence about them that reminds you of those old television shows about families who pride themselves on good values and morals.  I thought Lara Jean was absolutely adorable.  Her mother passed away and her father is raising three daughters alone. She has a tremendous amount of respect for her father, looks up to her big sister Margot (Go-Go) and happily looks after her little sister Kitty.

Lara Jean’s most personal love letters mysteriously find their way into the hands of the very boys she wrote about. Two boys in particular, the neighbour boy Josh who is Margot’s ex-boyfriend and Peter Kavinsky. Lara Jean is mortified, as any teenager would be, and begins backpeddling to save face. She and Peter strike a deal to form a fake relationship so Lara Jean can avoid embarrassment with Josh and Peter can prove to his ex-girlfriend he’s moved on. Josh is a kind, loving, boy-next-door type whereas Peter is popular, good looking and arrogant. The relationship is awkward, as you would expect, and Peter and Lara Jean don’t much like each other in the beginning. There is a fair bit of back and forth between Lara Jean’s relationships with both Josh and Peter and I found myself flip-flopping between which boy I liked best and who was suitable for Lara Jean. I think the right decision was made in the end and you will have to read the book to find out who she chooses!

I also liked the back and forth timeline of the love story and family life. This is a story about growth and relationships. Lara Jean experiences her first kiss, the pressures of sex and drinking and the fear of disappointment from her father and Margot after a rumour runs amok.

This is a young adult novel with mature content; teenage sex and drinking, so it may not be suitable for all young audiences.

May Book Wrap-Up

The Arrangement, Crazy Rich Asians, Dumplin', Into the WaterHello Readers! This is the time of year where everything seems to ramp up instead of slow down. My kids have one more month of school until summer break (I live in Canada) and on top of their regular school day and extra curricular activities come piling on performances, Sports Day, end of year teacher gifts, etc. Our weather has been pretty summery the last two weeks so I’m in summer mode – swimming pools, the beach, camping, visiting grandparents!

May was a good reading month for me. I imbibed in The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. Any month where I read two 5-star books is a good month!

The Arrangement – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

This is THE book of the year, for me, and the one I am recommending to everyone. The Arrangement is hilarious times ten – a total riot!  Sarah Dunn is a brilliant writer. Her character and plot development were on point and I found the characters very relatable, they were just like you and me. Lucy and Owen are real people managing everyday life with their autistic son, Wyatt. All couples married ten or more years should read this book.  Dunn had me in hysterics with this one.

Opinion: Highly recommend!

Crazy Rich Asians – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

After reading this book I wondered what took so long for me to join the Kevin Kwan trilogy party. I devoured this book quickly and thought it was super funny and entertaining. I found myself drifting into Rachel’s shoes wondering if I could handle Nick’s family with such grace and in the end I decided I would not be able tolerate the superficial shallowness inflicted on her – my hat goes off to Rachel!  It has taken a lot for me not to immediately jump into the next book in the series, China Rich Girlfriend. When I fall in love with a series, like this one, I need to add a bit of distance between the books otherwise the stories begin to feel diluted.

Opinion: Highly recommend!

Dumplin’ – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

I listened to the audiobook version of Dumplin’ and really enjoyed Eileen Stevens’ narration. The story takes place in small town Texas so it’s ideal to listen to it read with a southern drawl. It added an authenticity to a story I may not have enjoyed as much if I were reading it. The take home message here is body image acceptance. Sixteen year old Willowdean Dickson, known as Dumplin’ (the nickname her mother gave her) is a fat girl with a big personality. She’s well versed in defending her size to her mother and her peers. I admired Willow’s tough-girl exterior because sixteen is a challenging age without body shaming. Underneath the tough exterior Willow is like the rest of us – she harbours insecurities which is the pivotal point in the story.

Opinion: Recommend

Into the Water – ⭐️⭐️ / 5
You can read my full review here.

Into the Water was swirling with hype – lots of hype. Unfortunately there was no substance behind the hype. After TGOTT, which I though was good not great, this book was a let down and here is why: Hawkins cast such a dreadfully depressive mood on this story; the men were mysogonistic (same with TGOTT) and everyone else seemed pathetic. I’m casting some pretty big stones here but the hype really was too big for this book. And now nearly every suspense / thriller on the shelves is lumped into the same vein as TGOTT and Into the Water. I’m pulling away from titles advertised this way. There were way too many characters in Into the Water (too much time spent confused and re-reading), we didn’t know much about them and they were unlikable. I know I’m an outlier here as the book has quite a following. It just didn’t work for me.

Opinion: Don’t bother

Have you read any of these books and if so what did you think?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

I will publish my summer reading list shortly – I have some really good books lined up!

Book Review: Dumplin’

Dumplin' by Julie MurphyTitle: Dumplin’
Author: Julie Murphy
Format: Audiobook
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

While growing up I was blessed with a tall and skinny physique but like other girls there were things I was self conscious about. It didn’t help to be painfully shy during this awkward stage.  I wish I had been more like Willowdean Dickson, a girl who is comfortable in her own skin. You see, Willow is fat and she’s alright with that. Her mother calls her Dumplin’, she lives in Clover City, Texas, home of the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant and she adores Dolly Parton. Will’s mom is a former pageant winner who now runs the show and prides herself on fitting into her pageant dress and strict adherence to pilates and fad diets. Will’s best friend Ellen is her visual antithesis but their friendship has always worked.  But then Ellen has sex with her boyfriend and Bo, the cute private school jock, kisses Will and everything becomes weird.  A fight with her mom sends Will off to enter the pageant out of spite followed by Ellen’s registration which angers Will sending their friendship sideways.

There are several things I liked about this story. Murphy’s character development is brilliant.  These teenagers bare their souls – they express their inner most feelings, say what’s on their mind while maintaining that small town southern charm.  The experiences are relatable to anyone who is currently sixteen or was a teen at one time. This could have easily been a feel good story – fat girl enters pageant and wins but it’s much more than that.  Murphy puts it all on the line.  Will’s a confused teenager toggling between a tough-as-nails exterior and her vulnerable side.  She has hang-ups just like everyone else.  For example, when Bo kisses her she is terrified her back fat will turn him off.  And what’s a boy like Bo doing with a girl like herself?

What didn’t work for me is the course language and sexual content on repeat.  And it detracts from the main point – body image – so I’m conflicted sharing the story with my preteen.  This is a story that parents need to flesh out first before handing off to their children.  But the message is strong and important and kids need to know that it’s okay to be comfortable in your own skin no matter what you look like.