Genuine Fraud: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You stay away long enough, there doesn’t seem like much to go back for.”

Jule is strong.She is athletic. She is resilient.

Imogen is charming. She is wealthy. She is enchanting.

Together Jule and Imogen could be the perfect pair. Or maybe that was never the plan. Whatever Imogen might think, Jule knows that they need each other.

But Jule has everything under control because she is smart. Jule is the one who will save the day, not some great white hetero action hero. Jule knows that she is the center of her story and she’ll do anything to stay there in Genuine Fraud (2017) by E. Lockhart.

This inventive standalone thriller starts at the end. Jule is in Mexico. She’s on the run. And nothing turned out the way she had planned. From there the story unspools toward the beginning and the unlikely twist of fate that set Jule on this path and her collision course with Imogen.

Even knowing how it all ends, this homage to classic thrillers and Victorian novels packs in more than its share of twists and shocking reveals. Like Jule herself Genuine Fraud is shrewd, calculating, and electric.

Possible Pairings: Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Bad Girls with Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2017*

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We Were Liars: A Review

We Were Liars by E. LockhartA wealthy, respected family. Summers on a private island. Four friends, the Liars, who have the world at their fingertips. First loves. Memories. Lies. And, eventually, the truth.

Until one accident–one mystery–changes all that and nothing can ever be the same in We Were Liars (2014) by E. Lockhart.

E. Lockhart delivers another smart, layered story here with writing reminiscent of her Printz honor title The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It’s impossible to say much more without revealing too much.

We Were Liars is an incisive story of privilege, loss and a few other things besides. While the themes and fallout are often cutting, even tragic, the story still offers moments of optimism as well as an evocative island setting.

Written with layers upon layers of meaning as well as subtle clues, We Were Liars is a sensational read that will leave readers as shocked as they are satisfied. With so many twists, this is a story most will want to re-read moments after turning the last page.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Chime by Franny Billingsley, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, The Graces by Laure Eve, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, We Were Liars by Estelle Laure, The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore, Madapple by Christina Meldrum, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

Real Live Boyfriends: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Real Live Boyfriends by E. LockhartRuby Oliver has been in therapy. She has gone through Reginald several times. Her ex-boyfriend has cheated on her and turned into a pod-robot. Her best friends weren’t such good friends. She has conquered bake sales, November Week and befriended a pygmy goat named Robespierre.

Some of it was hard, some of it was fun. All of it led Ruby to a new group of strange but dependable friends and, maybe more surprisingly, to a new boyfriend.

Noel is the perfect boyfriend. He’s Ruby’s real, live boyfriend and everything is perfect. At least it is for a while.

But then everything gets complicated again. Noel shuts down and shuts Ruby out. Her parents are fighting. Hutch has gone to Paris to study and do whatever retro-metal fans do in France. Megan is busy with her real live boyfriend. Things with Nora are still kind of a mess. Then Gideon shows up. Shirtless.

It’s all a mess but with little patience and a lot of mishaps Ruby might be able to survive these recent debacles, her panic attacks, and even manage to make a few lists about the whole thing in Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, plural. If my life weren’t complicated, I wouldn’t be Ruby Oliver (2010) by E. Lockhart.

Real Live Boyfriends is the fourth book in the Ruby Oliver Quartet. Ruby’s earlier adventures are chronicled begining in The Boyfriend List and followed by The Boy Book and The Treasure Map of Boys.

I love reading about Ruby’s misadventures and all of her friends. Almost everything about this conclusion was spot on. My only real complaint: I wished Hutch was around more. Because he was my favorite character.

Real Live Boyfriends was the right conclusion to a really fun, sincere series. Reading through the books Ruby felt like a personal friend and it’s hard to believe her adventures are over so quickly (I only started reading the series a couple months ago). The book picks up during the summer before Ruby’s senior year and conclude during at the end of the first semester. Lockhart provides closure for Ruby’s panic attacks, her friends, her parents and even Robespierre the pygmy goat. Questions are answered about Kim, Nora, Cricket and Gideon.

It’s sad to see the end of the series but Roo fans will find a satisfying if bittersweet conclusion. Loose ends from the series are tied up while still leaving Ruby looking at a future that can be whatever she wants it to be. And knowing Ruby, you can bet it will be a bright, zany future.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Exclusive Bonus Content: I’ve already mentioned being dubious about the new covers that show Ruby but not Ruby wearing glasses. I still feel that way. But then I noticed the Ruby on this cover is wearing white fishnets. So almost all is forgiven.

The Treasure Map of Boys: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. LockhartIt’s the second term of Junior year. Ruby is still in therapy and still has no boyfriend (this is actually her 37th week sans boyfriend–not that she’s counting).

Her reputation in the Tate Universe still  stinks. And it probably isn’t going to get better any time soon.

This term Ruby is also in charge of running a bake sale and, much to her chagrin, playing bodyguard to Noel and matchmaker for Nora (both of which stink). She is defending the rights of pygmy goats (at least one, anyway), dealing with smelly feet, and trying really hard to be a good friend without attracting a boyfriend. But it’s really hard to stay in the state of Noboyfriend when Gideon is flirting with her, Jackson is talking to her again, Finn starts blushing around her, and Noel is his usual charming self.

It’s all a terrible mess but maybe when it’s all over Ruby will be able to see some of the real treasures in her life, even if the boys remain confusing, in The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon–and Me, Ruby Oliver (2009) by E. Lockhart.

The Treasure Map of Boys is the third book in Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series (preceeded by The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book). The book could stand alone but honestly since they’re so short it’s worth just reading them all in order.

This book picks up right where the previous book in the serious left off. Ruby is still grappling with her feelings for Noel and what to do about them in order to be a good friend. She also tries to shake things up at Tate with a bake sale that challenges traditional gender roles (and Tate’s social order).

As usual Lockhart presents Ruby’s story with aplomb and wit. In addition to a charming plot that might not be like the movies but is still pretty awesome, Ruby is a really strong character. Equal parts feminist and non-conformist Ruby is a quirky breath of fresh air.

Her mental health isn’t perfect, her love life is a mess, but she handles it all with style (and just a few panic attacks). Ruby Oliver continues to be a joy to read about in The Treasure Map of Boys.

Ruby’s adventures continue in Real, Live Boyfriends.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Exclusive Bonus Content: This is the first book in the series that I read with the new, repackaged covers. The covers (like the one shown here) feature a model who is presumably Ruby instead of abstract imagery. I like the original covers because they have unisex appeal and they’re quirky like the books and zero in on these minute but key aspects of the plot (frogs, penguins, marshmallow men) to exhibit on the cover. On the other hand, I like the clean look of the new covers and how they sort of capture Ruby’s style. BUT I hate that none of the covers show Ruby wearing glasses. Her zebra stripe glasses (and not wearing contacts) are a huge part of her character. I think the fact that she has glasses and her own almost weird style but still has all of these boys crushing on her is great. So while I like the new covers, as a glasses wearer, I cannot love them completely.

The Boy Book: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Boy Book by E. LockhartSince the end of her disastrous sophomore year at Tate Prep Ruby Oliver has:

  • Continued going to therapy
  • Befriended fellow Tate Prep misfits Noel, Hutch and Meghan
  • Lost all of her other friends and her first ever boyfriend

Although the panic attacks are in check and the wounds sting a little less, Ruby’s reputation is still in tatters. Her former best friends all still hate her (except maybe Nora . . . or maybe not). She still has panic attacks.

It’s not the best situation but Ruby is prepared to do her best to deal with it all including: getting a job, scamming, deciphering the many secrets of boys (including Noel, Angelo, and her ex, Jackson), and even going on a school trip that might not be a total disaster (although from past experience Ruby isn’t getting her hopes up) in The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them (2006) by E. Lockhart.

The Boy Book is the second book in Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series (preceeded by The Boyfriend List). The book could stand alone but honestly since they’re so short it’s worth just reading them all in order.

The Boy Book is a slim, fun book. Ruby’s life is not glamorous, or perfect, but it is real. Lockhart blends humor, wit, and a bit of mayhem to deal with weighty matters and rescuing hooters in need alike. As  the title suggests there are boys in The Boy Book but what really sets this book apart (like The Boyfriend List) is Lockhart’s treatment of friendships. Friends aren’t forever, no matter what we might hope, and Ruby deals with that sadness and the process of moving on (but she calls it Reginald) throughout the story.

This series is fun because it’s hysterical but Lockhart stays true to her exemplary literary standards. Readers can observe the growth of Ruby’s character over the course of the books. Interestingly, having read both The Boy Book and Lockhart’s Printz honor book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. (Isn’t Ruby kind of like Frankie before Frankie turns criminal mastermind? Maybe after as well. The similarities between Jackson and Frankie’s boyfriend, or even maybe Alpha, are also striking.)

At the end of the day The Boy Book is a funny, light-hearted read. It is authentic and marvelous and, even when Ruby is at her lowest, The Boy Book is optimistic and hopeful.

Ruby’s (mis)adventures continue in The Treasure Map of Boys.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Old Tales, New Twists: A Book List

The premises might sound familiar but these books all take traditional story elements and turn them upside down.

  1. Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart: For Gretchen Yee life as an artificial red head is anything but glamorous, especially when she feels too ordinary to fit in at her artsy high school. But it turns out life as a vermin, specifically as a fly on the wall of the boys locker room, is even worse. After a week maybe Gretchen will have learned enough to live life as a superhero instead.
  2. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore: Nimira came to Lorinar to seek her fortune but instead she finds seedy music halls and natives who treat her like foreign trash. When a handsome sorcerer offers Nimira work singing with a mysterious automaton he may also be giving her the key to her happiness if only she can discover the automaton’s secrets.
  3. Liar by Justine Larbalestier: One of the only true things Micah will tell you about herself is that she’s a liar. But Micah doesn’t want to lie anymore. Especially not to you–the one person she hasn’t lied to. Yet. When her secret boyfriend dies, Micah’s carefully crafted lies begin to peel away. One by one. Until all Micah is left with is the cold, hard truth. Or is she?
  4. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: Gen can steal anything. At least he can when he isn’t locked in the king’s prison. It’s a terrible risk but if Gen can steal a hidden artifact he might be able to win his freedom and something more.
  5. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier: Each full moon Jena and her sisters cross the wildwood to visit the enchanted glade of the Other Realm for a night of dancing and revelry. Everyone knows the wildwood is a dangerous place filled with witches, ghosts and all manner of other worldly creatures–and the lake that claimed Jena’s cousin years ago. But no harm can come from dancing. Or can it?
  6. Sabriel by Garth Nix: When her father, the Abhorsen, becomes trapped in Death Sabriel has to assume her rightful duties as the next Abhorsen and save him, and perhaps many others, from the dead that would keep him and claim the world of the living for themselves.
  7. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Nothing leaves Incarceron and nothing enters. No one knows where the prison is or how to get to it. So why does Finn suspect he has a life Outside the Prison? And why does Claudia have a key that seems to let her talk to Finn–a prisoner Inside?
  8. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld: Cal Thompson lives in a world where vampires are real, well sort of real. Parasite positives, “Peeps” for short, start to hate sunlight and everything they once loved. And they crave human blood. Cal is a carrier for the parasite and part of an organization dedicated to hunting Peeps down.
  9. How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier: Living in New Avalon and having your own personal fairy should be awesome. But for Charlie it totally sucks. Charlie doesn’t have a cool fairy to help her find nice clothes, or one to improve her grades, or make boys like her. Charlie is too young to drive, but she has a parking fairy. And she is going to get rid of it if it’s the last thing she does.
  10. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: In the land of Ingary, where seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility exist, Sophie Hatter is resigned to be a stunning failure. After all, she is the eldest of three sisters. Except that this is not a traditional fairy tale and events soon intervene to set Sophie on a very unexpected course indeed for an eldest daughter.

The Boyfriend List: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Boyfriend List by E. LockhartThe whole mess started with Finn. But it started a while ago. Before Finn was all cute and tall and athletic. Well, technically it might have had more to do with Kim. But Finn is definitely involved. So is Jackson. And his four ceramic frogs. Tommy Hazard, as usual, is blameless. Angelo and Noel aren’t really involved. But they might have helped make everything worse. When it’s all said and done Nora, Cricket and Meghan are all not speaking to her. Kim isn’t either but that isn’t really a surprise.

And that’s almost all before fifteen-year-old Ruby Oliver starts having panic attacks that lead to her eleven shrink appointments.

The first step in stopping the panic attacks is probably understanding what happened. Which requires looking at how things started (with Finn, obviously) and where they wound up (losing her best friend Kim, again duh). And a good way to figure things out is by making lists, right?

It’s not like one list could make Ruby’s life even worse by ruining her reputation and making her a social outcast. Right?

Wrong. One list can actually make Ruby’s life even worse by ruining her reputation and making her a social outcast in The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver (2005) by E. Lockhart.

The Boyfriend List is the first book in E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series.

Deceptively slim at 229 pages (paperback), The Boyfriend List is a complex story told out of chronological order. While Ruby’s life is essentially falling apart around her she also starts seeing Dr. Z and looking at her past interactions with boys to see what, exactly, happened. Lockhart moves seamlessly through distant and near past as she moves the story toward Ruby’s immediate present (the point from which she is narrating).

The resulting story is satisfyingly complex while still being straightforward. Despite what the title might suggest, this isn’t a book about boys. It’s about friendships and social interaction. And, okay, yes it’s also about boys. Lockhart brings humor and compassion to a book that is simultaneously zany and deeply authentic (I think, more on that in the Exclusive Bonus Content). Even more impressive: She does it all while creating a convincing cast of oddballs, smarties, and other likely suspects who are all fun to read about–even if some of them might be jerks (like Jackson). All in all a delightful book.

Ruby’s adventures continue in The Boy Book.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Exclusive Bonus Content: The truth? I was nothing like Ruby and her friends in high school (except maybe Nora). I had no interest in boys and no time for them. Did any boys even like me in high school? Still not sure. (Probably not. But since I doubt any of my high school classmates read this blog I guess we’ll never really know.)

So is this book authentic? I don’t know really but other people say it is so I’ll go with that. It’s weird reading books about the quintessential high school experience only to know your high school experience wasn’t like that. I’m starting to think I had a really skewed view of my high school life but who knows? Maybe the next big thing will be a book about a girl who spent all her time reading, working in a library, and doing homework instead of having boyfriend troubles or partying or whatever those authentic teens are doing. It could happen, right?