Archives For 4 stars

missfortuneMiss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Format: eBook, 288 pages
Source: copy received from Crossroad Tours

The Blurb

Meet Erin. Smart student, great daughter, better friend. Secretly the mastermind behind the popular advice blog Miss Fortune Cookie. Totally unaware that her carefully constructed life is about to get crazy.

It all begins when her ex-best friend sends a letter to her blog—and then acts on her advice. Erin’s efforts to undo the mess will plunge her into adventure, minor felonies, and possibly her very first romance.

What’s a likely fortune for someone no longer completely in control of her fate? Hopefully nothing like: You will become a crispy noodle in the salad of life.

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My Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading this book…it’s true “young adult” without all the gimmicks that the genre brings. 3 girls are about to graduate from high school, they’re worried about their grades, which universities they will be accepted to and, of course, boys.

I loved Erin’s character – she was a little bit sweet, a little bit sassy and VERY funny. She’s the kind of girl that I’d actually want to be friends with if she wasn’t a character in a book. Mei and Linny were a good addition to the story, most of the drama revolved around them more than Erin, actually, but it was pretty true-to-life in that way. I also loved Lincoln, he was so spunky I just wanted to hug him!

I thought the parts with the advice column (Dear Miss Fortune Cookie) were great – Erin’s responses to some of the letters (even ones she didn’t post, but wrote out anyway) were too funny. I also liked the “fortunes” posted at the top of each chapter – they weren’t what you’d hope to find in a fortune cookie! The Chinese theme is explained early in the book, and made me love the book just a little more, since it’s something different than most YA books.

Overall, I thought the book was well-written, so if you’re in the mood for a true YA book with quite a bit of humor in it, you need to check this one out.

My Rating: 4 stars

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Release Date: Feb 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover (339 pages)
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Source: Borrowed from the library

The Blurb

Oct. 11th, 1943–A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France.

Its pilot and passenger are best friends.

One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

They’ll get the truth out of her. But it won’t be what they expect.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Code Name Verity is the story of an unforgettable friendship forged in the face of the ultimate evil.

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My Thoughts

All my life I’ve been very interested in stories about wars. I don’t know why. I was *really* bad in history class, except when it came to WWI and WWII, then I was acing essays and tests like you wouldn’t believe. So, whenever I find a fictional book about WWII, I’m all in.

I really liked how this story was told. The book starts with Verity in custody of the Nazis after her and Maddie’s plane crashed in Occupied France. For the first half of the book, readers are told the history of Maddie and Verity’s friendship from Verity’s side. It was mostly light-hearted – even though Verity has been caught by the Nazis and is being somewhat tortured, she writes as if she’s telling a story rather than just plain facts. The part that I found hardest to understand about this half of the book is why the Nazi officers let her get away with the nonsense she was writing, but it was forgivable because it was so entertaining. I loved Verity and Maddie from the beginning because of the way this part of the story was told.

Halfway through the book, the point of view switches to Maddie, and she writes the story about what has happened since they crashed in Nazi-occupied France. Maddie’s tale is more a tale of the Resistance and what it’s like to be hiding from the Nazis, knowing that her friend has been captured and wanting desperately to rescue her. When it all comes together, it’s completely heartbreaking. I had several ideas of how the story would end, but never did I see this one coming.

If you enjoy reading books about WWII, give this one a try. It’s not as serious as some, because these girls are young and lively, the book feels that way too. It’s a good, light-hearted look at friendship during wartime, and an entertaining read.

My Rating: 4 stars

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This is a bit different for me, since this is a series of prequels leading up to the release of the first book in The Grimm Diaries series, Snow White Sorrow. I decided the best way to do it is to group the prequels together in bundles, since they are such short reads, and review them all together. I noticed after downloading the prequels that this book is getting quite a bit of buzz on GoodReads.com right now, and not all of the buzz is favorable. I haven’t read the book(s) that this one is being likened to so, without any comparisons, this will be a completely honest review.

What if all you knew about fairy tales was wrong?


Snow White Blood Red by Cameron Jace

The Blurb

I have always wondered why you never asked about my name. Was I so superficial to you? So stereotypical and mundane? Why did you treat me as if I were just the monster of the week? You know what I think? You never had the time to really hate me. You wanted to hate me, long before you even met me. You wanted to scrape my existence and avenge your childhood princess by laying all blame on me. What if they didn’t call me the Evil Queen, what if I told you the real story from my point of view instead of hers, would you ever think of me as an angel? Could I ever make you care? I know that deep inside of you, you adore me,but you’re just scared, afraid to admit how much you love the Snow White Queen.

My Thoughts
This short story just sucked me right in. This one is in the form of a letter from the Snow White Queen to one of the Brothers Grimm, and it pulled me right along. I’m not usually into vampires and paranormal stuff, but for whatever reason, this one grabbed my attention (possibly because I like the idea of how the author is building up anticipation for his book Snow White Sorrow).

Anyhow, back to this short story/prequel. It has a prologue in which we learn the basics of the story – the Brothers Grimm and the fairy tales not being true. And then we read the Snow White Queen’s version of events – which was actually really interesting. The author has managed to stir together several fairy tales, letting on that these characters all know each other. It’s a short little tale, but it’s got my curiosity piqued – and I’m quite excited for the debut of the novel (and now I’m off to read the next of the prequels).

My Rating: 4 stars

Ashes to Ashes and Cinder to Cinder by Cameron Jace

The Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Alice Grimm lives a dangerously enchanted live. Other than being distracted by a Dreamhunter called Loki Blackstar who has a heart of gold but acts like a jerk, she has a job to do. Being a descendant of the Brothers Grimm, she is one of few in the world who can locate the fairy tale characters and remind them of who they are. This time, Alice flies to Venice where an 800 hundred year old witch’s skeleton surrounded with seventeen glass slippers was found by archeologists in the city that invented the art of glassblowing. When Alice and Loki follow the lead, they find one of the fairy tale characters she had been searching for. It’s a famous girl character that you know by name, but never really knew what actually happened to her.

My Thoughts

In this prequel to The Grimm Diaries series, we are introduced to Loki (a Dreamhunter who, I understand, is going to be a big part of the first book, if not the whole series), and Alice Grimm. And we are treated to the usual YA girl-meets-boy-but-doesn’t-want-to-admit-she-likes-him banter between them. It was amusing, albeit slightly over-the-top, and their dialogue made me smile in a couple places. In this one, we learn the story behind Cinderella…or at least the very beginning, mixed in with some historical fact. Jace does a good job of using these prequels to sell the stories he’s about to tell – expertly explaining (without being too obvious) parts that will be important in the series.

My Rating: 3 stars

Beauty Never Dies by Cameron Jace

The Blurb

Peter Pan has a plan. Since it’s been hundred years since his friends were all cursed by the Brothers Grimm, he is about to wake up Sleeping Beauty, his eternal lover. Oops, you didn’t know that. Blame it on the Grimms.

But in the middle of the ceremony, he is visited by the Evil Queen who manipulates him into helping her with information about Snow White. This or she will expose him as he has been secretly kidnapping kids to help him rebuild Neverland in the Dreamworld.

After the deal is made, Peter continues with the ceremony, bringing Sleeping Beauty back into life. What Sleeping Beauty is capable of and who she really is are like nothing ever written in the books.

My Thoughts

Well, this one was a surprise…a big one. Here we reunite with the first prequel, and meet Peter Pan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Count Dracula, and Sleeping Beauty as Jace now weaves characters from other authors into his storytelling, drawing them in on what I hope will be some elaborate plot. It’s told from the point-of-view of Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up…and he acts (and talks) like a kid. I’m not sure yet if that’s annoying or endearing. Now the plot thickens, as the Evil Queen tries to figure out the clues of the Lost Seven (aka The Seven Dwarfs), while Peter Pan is very little help at all. The writing is juvenile in places, but it’s entertaining enough to keep me wanting to read, I’m starting to get high hopes for the plot of the book.

My Rating: 3 stars

Watch for my thoughts on The Grimm Diaries Prequels #4-6, and (once the book is published), my review of Snow White Sorrow. If you’re interested in picking up these prequels, they’re just $0.99 each on Amazon (for Kindle only), you can grab them here.

The Blurb

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.

Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

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My Thoughts

It’s so hard to put what I think into words on this one. I have friends (Canadian friends) who moved to Cambodia a few years back, and when they came back to visit after the first year abroad, they told stories about the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s regime. It happened just before I was born, so I had no idea – and it’s not taught in school like the World Wars.

A couple years after that, I read First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, in which I read some of the worst treatment on the Cambodians – it was a memoir, after all. That book didn’t really explain the *why* behind it, though.

So this book is a mixture of things for me. It’s a chance to learn more about this terrible regime (albeit a fictional book, it is based off Ratner’s own experiences with the Khmer Rouge at the age of 5). I found it a bit soft compared to other things I’ve heard and read about the genocide – in the sense that the author toned down the violence and somewhat romanticized (it’s the wrong word, I can’t seem to think of the right one) the character’s ordeal. She talks of people “settling in” and as if they went about ordinary lives when in reality they were being carted off and executed, tortured and starved to death. That’s not to say that the characters didn’t go through some extremely hard things – it’s just that the story was softened. The violence is only occasionally mentioned until near the end of the book, when it picks up the pace a little.

One thing this book did do was answer a little bit of the “why” questions I had. It doesn’t fully explain it (although I’m not sure it can be fully explained), but it was a start. The author included many of the rules of the regime in the plot, and some of their way of thinking. It was delusional, too ideological – and that’s why it failed, but it shows something of the human condition, it’s something we see in war after war after war. The way people were treated has happened in war after war after war. It’s sickening.

As for the characters, we start off with a family who is very privileged, and we see them torn apart and their spirits broken throughout the book. I felt a strong connection to Raami and her father, though her mother seemed a bit distant, perhaps because the book is written from Raami’s point of view and that’s how the relationships were developed. I started to see Raami’s mother in a different light as the book goes on, but I still felt disconnected from her – which is weird…I feel that as a mother myself I should have identified with her more.

All in all, the book is beautifully written, and if I hadn’t known a little bit about the more violent parts of the Khmer Rouge regime, I would have completely loved it. It’s probably an excellent book for someone without this knowledge, as an opening to learn about this genocide that doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves.

My Rating: 4 stars

The Blurb

“You were made for The River . . .”

Gabriel Clarke is mysteriously drawn to The River, a ribbon of frothy white water carving its way through steep canyons high in the Colorado Rockies. The rushing waters beckon him to experience freedom and adventure.

But something holds him back-the memory of the terrible event he witnessed on The River when he was just five years old-something no child should ever see.

Chains of fear and resentment imprison Gabriel, keeping him from discovering the treasures of The River. He’s remains trapped, afraid to take hold of the life awaiting him.

When he returns to The River after years away, his heart knows he is finally home. His destiny is within reach. Claiming that destiny will be the hardest-and most brave-thing he has ever done.

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My Thoughts

The opening scene of this book is completely heartbreaking – we see what young Gabriel sees at the tender age of 5. The next few chapters we see Gabriel as a broken child, trying to grow up but burdened by the tragedy he suffered. I just wanted to reach through the pages and hug this young boy, since his innocence was wrenched away from him at such an early age.

The book then fast forwards to Gabriel as a 20-year-old, stuck in a rut because of his past. But an adventurous streak comes across him and he goes back to The River and is completely changed by his experiences out there.

The first part of the book was slow, but important…it helped me understand where Gabriel was coming from and why he was acting the way he did in the second part of the book. From the point Gabriel goes back to The River it gets very interesting and picks up the pace. I was expecting it to be more of a suspense type of book, but it wasn’t – it was about a boy coming to his own after suffering throughout his childhood (not because he was denied anything, but because of fear). It’s a very sweet book, it makes your heart happy when you walk away.

The author left the book in a very curious manner, and I’m wondering if we will see a sequel to this book that continues Gabriel’s story. I hope that there is.

My Rating: 4 stars

The Blurb

“My life begins at the Y…” so starts Shannon’s story, a newborn baby dumped at the doors of the local YMCA. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon longs to uncover her roots. Where is she from? Who is her mother? And why would she abandon Shannon on the day she was born?

The answers lie in the heartbreaking tale of her mother’s family, and their flawed and desperate fate. Through Marjorie Celona’s intimate observations and quirky wit, present and past converge to shape a unique and lasting story of identity and inheritance. A novel that asks us to consider the “why” of our lives, even as it reveals that the answer isn’t always clear.

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My Thoughts

This story was incredibly sad. Not in a cry-your-eyes-out way, though. We meet Shannon as she’s being dropped off on the front step of the YMCA in Victoria, BC. We follow her growing up, being transferred from home to home, until she is adopted by Miranda. But it’s not all roses from there, she struggles to fit in with other kids and with her sister, Lydia-Rose (Miranda’s natural daughter). She acts out and things start to fall apart for her when she’s 16.

Interspersed in there is the story of her parents and her birth. It’s told with Shannon’s voice, but in an omniscient way, which is a little weird at first, but I got used to it. Her parents story was the saddest part of the book, I think.

It’s definitely not a feel-good book, but not sad enough to make me grab the tissues, it’s more sad in a “this poor little girl, look at how hard her life is” way. It was an interesting book, a good read, but not *quite* there for me. I found it a little hard to feel sorry for Shannon at times when trouble found her because she was acting like a brat…then I’d think, of course she’s a brat, think of all she’s been through. But I couldn’t quite connect.

It’s hard to place this book in the real world, even though I *know* that it’s real. There’s drugs, sex, booze, homelessness…but it’s so far from what society likes to think about, likes to pretend life is like that it’s hard to reconcile the two worlds (the pretend world we like to live in, and the real world we DO live in). As I was reading, I thought “that doesn’t happen in Canada”, but I know it does – I *knew* kids like this growing up, I was friends with them.

I think this book will be one that I need to let sink in for a little while. It’s definitely worth the read for the story alone, just don’t expect miracles…it’s a harsh, realistic look at an underprivileged life.

My Rating: 4 stars