Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Year Published: 2013

Genre: Adult fiction (some romance)
Pages: 295
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)Australia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 Don Tillman, genetics professor, is getting married. Or he will be, when his sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey yields a condidate (see: the Wife Project). Designed to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the vegans, the later arrivers, Don's questionnaire is, for this socially challenged academic, the most logical method to find the perfect partner.

Enter Rosie Jarman. Don quickly disqualifies her as a potential wife but is drawn into Rosie's quest to find her biological father (see: the Father project). When something like a friendship develops, Don must confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie and the decidedly unscientific conclusion that sometimes you don't find love, it finds you.

Review: I bought this book on a whim and I'll admit that the cover was what drew me in. I don't usually admit that. But I was in the mood for a happy book and this one looked like it would fit the bill and it did.

Don Tillman, the main character, is such an interesting character. He is like so many academics: socially a bit awkward. He is also stuck with routines, doesn't understand social cues, and doesn't have many friends. In fact, he has two. He approaches all of life in a logical and scientific way, not allowing for change or emotion to get in the way. The author has really grasped his voice, giving Don a frustrating, but lovable approach to life. And the cast of characters around him is good fun as well.

The story is not so new: a guy wants to meet the right woman, he does, there are obstacles, and it all turns out alright in the end. I don't feel like I am giving anything away since there is a sequel called The Rosie Effect. But, there were many different aspects to this book that made it a fun read: the Father Project is an interesting twist as is Don's friendship with his best friend and his wife, both of whom "help" Don along the way with their own methods.

I found myself smiling as I read this book and I find it is so rare to read a happy book that I really enjoyed myself!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: Random by Tom Leveen

Title: Random
Author: Tom Leveen
Year Published: 2014

Genre: Youth Lit fiction
Pages: 217
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (AZ)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 late at night Tori receives a random phone call. It's a wrong number. But the caller seems to want to talk, so she stays on the line. He asks for a single thing--one reason not to kill himself.

The request plungers her into confusion. Because if this random caller actually does what he plans, he'll be the second person connected to Tori to take his own life. And the first just might land her in jail. After her Facebook page became Exhibit A in a tragic national news story about cyberbullying, Tori can't help but think the caller is a fraud. But what if he's not? Her words alone may hold the power of his life or death.

With the clock ticking, Tori has little time to save a stranger--and maybe redeem herself--leading to a starting conclusion that changes everything....

Review: Tom Leveen has done it again. He manages to write books for young adults that are quick reads, interesting reads, and important reads.

Bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide are such important topics and I like that this book deals with them in a way that teenagers can relate to. It isn't a preachy, heavy book, but rather a realistic look at the issue. And, it's from the perspective of the bully, which is different from so many other books on this topic.

I don't really know what else to say about this book because I don't want to give anything away in my review. I liked the characters, not because I LIKE them, but because they are well done. The story moves quickly (I read the book in one sitting last night) and is believable. I think teens will really like this one.

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Year Published: 2014

Genre: Adult fiction (romance)
Pages: 308
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (CA)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless. TV writer Georgie McCool can't actually visit the past--all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up. And hope he picks up.

Because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants to do is make things right with her husband, Neal. Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving he ra chance to start over.... Does Georgie want to start over?

Review: Rainbow Rowell is such a good author! I have enjoyed the other three books of hers that I've read: Fangirl; Eleanor and Park; and Attachments and this book did not disappoint. All of her books are funny, poignant, and quick reads. I find I read them with a smile on my face and I nod my head, like I'm agreeing with her and understanding where the characters are coming from.

Landline is a bit different from the other three that I've read in that there really isn't a whole lot of plot to it. There isn't some major disaster that happens, or an event that it is all building up to; instead it is character-driven. Through the landline phone calls the reader gets to know Georgie and Paul and to understand their relationship. And it isn't as if their relationship is something special. Neither one has a disease, neither one is an addict, neither one has an affair. They just are. They are like so many other couples who fall in love and stay together and it isn't all perfect. They find themselves adults with kids and jobs and almost wonder how they got there.

With the time travel phone Georgie is able to see how she and Paul started out, the mistakes she's made, and how she can be better. Better at being a professional writer, better at being a mom, better at being a wife. Will she be better? Who knows. But at least she is aware of it as the book ends. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review: Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche

Title: Don't Fail Me Now
Author: Una LaMarche
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Youth Lit fiction
Pages: 273
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (MD)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 Michelle and her siblings Cass and Denny are African American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle's part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leah and her stepbrother Time are white and middle-class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah have only one thing in common: Buck Deveraux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little. After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind. Five people in a failing old station wagon, living on free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle's mind is: Who will break down first--herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won't make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it's never stopped her before....

Review: I really enjoyed the other Una LaMarche book that I read, Like No Other and so was excited to find this book at my local bookstore last weekend. I was not disappointed!

I really like LaMarche's characters. Michelle could have been a stereotype (African American, almost finishing high school but may not make it, mom in jail, absent dad), but LaMarche ensures that she isn't. Michelle is also smart, aware, scared, brave, headstrong, and caring. While she knows she needs to step in to fill her mother's shoes, she shows that it isn't easy, but that she can handle it without being perfect at everything. Leah could have been the pathetic spoiled white girl, but she really comes through on the road trip, surprising everyone including herself.

The story sounds a bit fantastic: five kids (ages 6 to 17) go on a road trip across the country. Could be fun, could be out of control, or it could be dumb. It is none of those things; this trip is steeped in need, angst, humor, and friendship. All five learn about themselves and one another as well as some hard truths about life. That's what I like about this book: it feels real.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Review: Shackled by Tom Leveen

Title: Shackled
Author: Tom Leveen
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Youth Lit fiction
Pages: 212
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (AZ)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book):
 Sixteen year old Pelly barely manages to leave her home to work at the local coffeehouse. Her panic attacks are just that bad. but holding down a job is all part of her master plan to reenter the land of the living, following years of therapy, meds, and even a stint in a mental hospital.

The new plan seems to be working--that is, until the appearance of a girl in the shop, an unkempt girl accompanied by an older man. A girl who mouths "help me" on the way out. Pelly immediately recognizes her best friend, Tara, who disappeared from the mall six years ago. Too shocked to take action, Pelly helplessly watches as the girl and man drive away, and steels herself for a new spiral into crippling anxiety. And yet, amazingly, she feels more energized than she has in years. Despite the cautions of her attentive fellow barista, David, and the voices in her head second-guessing what she believes she saw, Pelly knows she must track down enough evidence to force the police to reopen Tara's dusty file. No longer will she be shackled to the anxious thoughts, fears, and grief. But in seeking answers through whatever means necessary, she'll come face-to-face with true evil.

Review: I have abandoned two books since my last posting. I was reading the second of these books while at my daughter's dance studio and I realized there was a bookstore down the street. So off I went and bought five books! I haven't done that in so long! Shackled was one of those books. I proceeded to read two thirds of it at the dance studio and the other third before bed last night. Boy did that feel great; Tom Leveen to the rescue!

I have liked every one of Tom Leveen's books that I've read and I actually bought two of his books in my five-book haul. This book did not disappoint as it had me from page one. Pelly's anxieties are extreme and we don't really know where they come from until the second half of the book, but that's okay since what really matters is that they are debilitating and she is trying to get herself out of them. Unfortunately, she's off her meds, has stopped seeing her therapist, and is cutting to "relieve the pressure." This part of the story is so important; I've known a number of people with anxieties and it is just so tough!

David, Pelly's fellow barista, is a wonderful guy, but it takes us a while to realize that. He is what someone with anxieties needs: patient, caring, and interested. And of course, he becomes a love interest (this is YA after all).

I am not going to go into the plot any more than I have as some things need to be discovered while reading this book. Typical me, I didn't read the entire description of the book before buying it so there was a lot that was surprising to me and I think that made the book even more enjoyable and effective.