Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Title:  Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Format/Length: ebook, 288 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2017
My Rating:  ★★★

Genuine Fraud has been marketed as a thriller. There’s a mystery at the heart of the story. There’s suspense. It will be "edgy and inventive."

Or so they say.

The book begins at the end. At the start the reader learns that Jule is on the run, and might have been evading authorities for quite a while. This moves on to carefully building up to the what and why.

Through that careful build up it became clear that I’ve read this story. I’ve seen these characters before. They even acted and did the same things. Some scenes are only slightly different.

So there goes the mystery. I already know this story. In fact, I loved it once. But who knows I might love it again. After all, this one has troubled women and this writer is known to excel at portraying those. There might also be a different twist at some point.

Sadly, if there was one it was not significant enough to distinguish this book from an old favorite.

Essentially Genuine Fraud is the modern reimagining of a book I read a few years ago.

Unfortunately I didn’t know that starting out and I found myself slowly getting disappointed.

Even with the "homage to a classic" in mind, I wanted so much more out of this book. I wanted to be wowed. I wanted to be impressed. I wanted excitement. I wanted a twist so different and separate from the other that it would make my head spin.

In the end I give this book 3 stars because while the plot was a letdown it is not a complete loss for me. I did finish it. I also appreciate it for the Lockhart’s writing - which I admit is engaging and well paced.

The themes and the questions this book presented were also something I enjoyed.

Such questions about identity. About truth. About relationships; what’s healthy, what’s definitely not. Self presentation, self-esteem, self preservation. Lies, secrets, boundaries, envy, morals.

There’s also the big question of what a person is willing to do to get what they want. How far will someone go to live the life they believe they are supposed to have.

Considering these things and choosing to look at this book as a retelling makes Genuine Fraud more enjoyable, even if not memorable.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Title:  Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Genre: Fantasy

Format/Length: ebook, 530 pages

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books, 2012

My Rating:  ★★★★

A book featuring dragons that can take the form of the human body. Dragons that are logical, brilliant, and talented. A strong, independent, female protagonist with an awesome name. A world were humans and dragons live side by side, albeit not without prejudice. A monarchy in which the sovereignty is passed from one daughter to the next. Featuring political intrigue, a plot to disrupt peace and discredit a treaty. The power of music, love, memories. Secrets and lies. These are some of the wonderful, fantastical, enjoyable details within the pages of Rachel Hartman’s novel, Seraphina.

This book was a very fun read. The world building was interesting, immersive. I wanted to live in Goredd, walk the cobbled streets (I pictured it cobbled and Medieval). I wanted to hear Seraphina’s music. I wanted to study with dragons, live amongst them, understand them. I wanted this story keep going.  

The plot is fascinating and moves at a decent pace without sacrificing detail, characterization, or the development of relationships.

I also loved Seraphina’s voice. She is smart and interesting. She is strong, determined, loving. I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes. The rest of the cast of the characters is also fun. From Orma, Seraphina’s teacher, Princess Glisselda, and her fiance Prince Lucian.

Told in Seraphina’s voice, the reader starts the story knowing Seraphina’s birth began with the unraveling of her mother’s secret; she is a dragon. Therefore Seraphina, unfortunately almost immediately motherless, is a half dragon. Her father, a prominent lawyer, quickly and carefully builds a false origin for his daughter. Fraternizing with dragons is prohibited and Seraphina's birth is not a blessing for their family, least of all for Seraphina herself.  

And so she grows up hiding the truth. She gets used to lying and living an extremely private life. She is as solitary as it would be acceptable to do so for someone who lives and works at a Royal Court.

Soon Seraphina’s carefully tended life is disrupted by events at Court; the suspicious death of a Royal Prince and a brewing political upheaval.

As Seraphina gets involved in the investigation of these mysteries, she learns to trust others, to rely on their strengths, and to slowly but surely be more open to everything.

The constant theme throughout this book is identity. Seraphina is a young woman trying to figure out who she is, all the while hiding a part of her heritage. She is also trying to create something separate from her secret; which she views as hideous and shameful. Seraphina is trying to find her place in the world. She longs to find a place to belong.

And I think Hartman was very successful in demonstrating this theme as well as that of longing and love.

Despite the adjectives I’ve heaped onto the review of this book, I need to say that the last scene was a bit of a letdown. In fact, I found it annoying. Of all the fun and enjoyment to be had in this book, the romantic aspect was my least favorite. Even though I like the characterization of Prince Lucian. Even though I want Seraphina to be happy, I just didn’t care whether or not they end up together.

I think this is about personal taste and not at all indicative of whether or not Hartman wrote a believable love story. In fact, she did. I just didn’t care whichever way it concluded.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu


Title: For Today I Am A Boy

Author: Kim Fu 

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBT, Young Adult 

Format/Length: ebook, 261 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2014, Mariner Books; 2015

My Rating: ★★★★

For Today I Am A Boy is the story of Peter Huang, the third of four children. Peter is the long awaited son of a mild, if distant, mother and an intimidating father. Peter adores his three sisters. But he envies their certain freedom, while also enjoying the happiness he feels when they’re together. Peter knows they understand the thing he is not ready to say out loud.

This is the story of a life of confusion, loneliness, pain, understanding, and acceptance. This is also the story of the debilitating weight of secrets, expectations and pressure, that of family and society. This is story of Peter told in his subtle and powerful voice.

Peter takes the reader through snapshots of his life; from his childhood in a small unglamorous town in Ontario to Montreal. Peter has always known that he did not belong with the body in which he was born. He doesn’t like this body, he admires others’ and secretly dreams of having the same. Even knowing all that, Peter has never said any of this out loud, he has learned to live in secret. He believes he’s alone in this feelings and has never known anyone who felt the same.

Despite this Peter takes comfort that there are some people in his life who somehow understands even half of the truth. From his sisters; Adele, Helen, and Bonnie, to his childhood friend Ollie.

Eventually Peter moves away from his parents to the busier and livelier Montreal. But what should have been an adventure, a path to a happy life, only made Peter more isolated. Although he is far from the control of his parents, he feels the same pressures they have always instilled, and has in fact resigned himself to fulfilling their dreams someday even if the idea alone makes him unhappy. Being away and having very little contact with the few positive connections he did have contributed to this loneliness.

This loneliness and pain is palpable in the first person narration. In Peter’s voice, the reader can feel/see his doubts about himself, his revulsion for that body. Similarly, the small moments of joy and peace he feels when he does something in secret, or hides something under his clothes is clear and made more powerful in this voice.

Things I enjoyed about this book also include Kim Fu’s writing. There is something seemingly effortless about her writing of this story. I was not bored and I did not find any part of this book tedious. I looked forward to page after page. Even the back and forth, snapshot way of presenting the events was enjoyable.

I also liked the characterization of Peter’s sisters. Adele, Helen, and Bonnie were quite different from one another. They were definitely their own person. They were also their own person when it comes to Peter. Though they all understood him, each one had a distinct relationship.

In the end, I wanted more of this book. I would have happily read another fifty pages, or as long as it took to dig deeper into the story. To bring more of Peter to life. To further relationships between Peter and the sisters, between Peter and anyone else. I was disappointed to see that I had reached the end and there was still a lot not touched on, explored.

I wanted to know about Peter and the future. I want to see the rest of the journey. Admittedly, it would a long journey because there’s so much for Peter to work out, but I wanted to see it. I adored Peter. I cheered for any moment of joy and I was sad for him when he was alone.

Honestly, I’ve read more pages of stories with characters I didn’t even like. So of course I’d want more out of book featuring a character I cherish.

That ending was abrupt and lacking.

P.S. The novel's title was taken from the following song. 

For Today I Am A Boy 
By Antony Hegarty 
Performed by Antony and The Johnsons

One day I'll grow up, I'll be a beautiful woman.

One day I'll grow up, I'll be a beautiful girl.
One day I'll grow up, I'll be a beautiful woman.
One day I'll grow up, I'll be a beautiful girl.

But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.

One day I'll grow up, I'll feel the power in me.
One day I'll grow up, of this I'm sure.
One day I'll grow up, I know whom within me.
One day I'll grow up, feel it full and pure.

But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.

For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

this image is from

Summary: Every Day tells the story of A who has lived everyday as a different person. A might be a boy one day, and a girl the next. A is never certain what tomorrow will be like, only that it will not be spent on the same body. For A, the only constant is change.

As the novel begins A is sixteen years old and has never known a different way of living. For the most part, A is sure this daily change is fine. A has long since stopped thinking that there should be something more, some sort of consistency. Until one day A meets Rhiannon.

My Review: 
As a typical Young Adult novel, Every Day portrays a romance that develops almost instantly. Since the story is told from A's perspective, the reader is privy to the intense feelings A has for Rhiannon. A's desire and intention to make Rhiannon understand the depth of these feelings is a constant in these pages. A works hard to convince Rhiannon that their feelings are genuine and that they belong together.

While Every day is a love story, David Levithan does a good job of exploring each day of A's life. A's journey; from body to body, life to life, is detailed. When it comes to each person A inhabits - Levithan explores life, family, friends, routines with some solid distinctions.

Levithan also shows A from time to time delve into the emotional aspects or toll that living an ever changing life can bring. Even though this is only happening at all because of Rhiannon.

Notice that I have not stopped mentioning how much A thinks about Rhiannon. That's because it's what you get when you read it. From the moment A realizes that their interaction with Rhiannon was something special, something A has not experienced often (maybe one other time, A has pointed out), they have not been able to let it go. A just has to see Rhiannon again.

And what do you know, A goes out of their way to do just that. A risks themselves and the inhabited person, deviating from the everyday protocol they have established for themselves.

Pretty typical conflict starter, really.

This novel has been praised for its exploration of gender. Its depiction of a love that might just transcend gender.

Personally I don't see that it explored gender at all. It definitely did not ask the questions other people have thought it did.

Such as: What is gender? What does it mean to be a boy? To be a girl? To be neither? What's it like to fall in love with someone - the person, not the their gender? How do we fall in love?

Sure, this book is unique because it's told from the perspective of a genderless protagonist. One who doesn't have control over where and whose life they will inhabit next. But that's about it.

Is this book about acceptance? About seeing differences? Falling in love despite differences? Maybe. Since the author does portray a variety of lives and people.

Maybe it's more about what makes us who we are?

Truthfully, I gave this book 4 out 5 stars as soon as I finished it. Why? Because I think it is a decent YA novel. It was funny and corny and comfortably familiar in parts. It made me smile, laugh, frustrated, and cry. Overall it was an enjoyable read and I'm glad I picked it up.

But I wouldn't attribute anything deep about this book.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: City of the Sun by Juliana Maio

Title: City of the Sun 
Author: Juliana Maio 
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Format/Length: ebook, 380 pages
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press 
Publication Date: March 9, 2014 
Where did I get my copy: Thank you, Greenleaf Book Group Press! 
Learn more about it on Goodreads 
Now available on Amazon

Synopsis: (From CAIRO, EGYPT 1941. As the Second World War rages, the city known as “Paris on the Nile” plays host to an international set who seem more interested in polo matches and swanky nightclubs than the Germans’ unrelenting advance across North Africa. Meanwhile, as refugees, soldiers, and spies stream into the city, the Nazis conspire with the emerging Muslim Brotherhood to fuel the Egyptian people’s seething resentment against their British overlords. 

My Review:  
There a lot of books about World War II. There are a lot of books about love, even about spies, and about Egypt. But I've never read a novel that had all of these together. I was excited about getting a copy of this book and 
I enjoyed it. 

Juliana Maio successfully put together a novel that is wonderful as a whole. All the little parts fit well, there is continuity, the dialogues are seamless, the descriptions are beautiful, and the mystery was interesting.

The historical details in this book is really impressive. The names, places, and events were aplenty. I enjoyed all that information. As a fan of historical fiction, I appreciate all of that hard work. 

I feel like I learned a little more about Egypt in WWII from reading this book. I enjoyed reading about this time in history in a setting outside of USA or Europe. 

The beauty of the Egypt, the glamorous part of the times - the style, the fashion, different lifestyles, it was all perfectly conveyed. It was easy to feel transported by Maio's words. 

Beautiful imagery and passionate writing aside, I think the story seemed weak towards the end. I thought what should have been the climax of the story fell flat. I didn't think it was exciting. It felt rushed. 

Even though it tied up the story just fine, I think it could have been better. All the build up; the tension and the intrigue deserved a heart pounding conclusion. 

City of the Sun is a beautiful debut novel. It has history, romance, and mystery. Maio seamlessly puts together a plot that kept me very engaged. I strongly recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5


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