Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reviews: What I read on my Winter Break in Muskat, Oman

This winter break I traveled to Muscat, Oman with my daughter and her father. Yes, we're divorced and yes, we traveled together. :-) I read just over 3 books while we were away and since we didn't have good internet access I decided to do quick reviews of the books I finished while we were away.

Title: Boy21
Author: Matthew Quick
Pages: 272
Genre: YA fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: You can lose yourself in repetition--quiet your thoughts; I learned the value of this at a very young age. Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights, and Finley is left to take care of his disabled grandfather alone. He's always dreamed of getting out someday, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood, and the life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won't pick up a basketball, but answers only to the name Boy21--taken from his former jersey number. As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, a unique friendship may turn out to be the answer they both need.

Quick review: This book has good characters and plot even though it is weird in the first half. However, in the second half all of the pieces come together and, in a sense, it becomes a very different storyline that is quite poignant. I borrowed this book from my school's library e-reader collection. I hadn't done that before and it was an easy process.

Title: Yes Please
Author: Amy Poehler
Pages: 352
Genre: Adult non-fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Do you ever wish your life was just a little bit more dangerous? Yes Please
Do you look in the mirror and think mean thoughts about your face? Yes Please
Do you want to know more about the day you were born? Yes Please
Do you think you would make a terrific ninety-year-old? Yes Please
Do you have a ridiculous, obsessive, and ultimately unsatisfying relationship with your phone and are you missing that phone right now as you read this? Yes Please
Do you believe in time travel? Yes Please
Do you want to hear advice about treating your career like a bad boyfriend? Yes Please
Do you like to look at the moon and think about how small we are in this big universe? Yes Please
Do you want to find the thing you love most and go for it no matter what? Yes Please
Do you need world-famous sex tips that cannot be disputed and would hold up in a sex court of law? Yes Please
Great news. Amy Poehler is here for you.
Yes Please is her collection of ideas, stories, and questions about the stuff of life, big and small, funny and sad. Now, Yes Please can be yours.
Thank you.
Quick review: Amy Poehler is funny. I found her memoir to be interesting, but quite different from other books that I've read by comedians--Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, and Mindy Kaling. Amy's book is more stream of conscious and snippets from her life rather than a traditional memoir.

Title: Madam Tussaud
Author: Michelle Moran
Pages: 480
Genre: YA fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.
 
Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away
from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.
 
As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse √Člisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.
 
Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and caf√©s across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?

Quick review: I have had this book on my TBR shelf for years and have tried starting it twice with no luck getting past the first couple of pages. However, on this third try I zoomed right through it, enjoying every minute! I like the era of the French Revolution so that was a good setting and the storyline is cleverly intertwined. I really feel like I got to know the characters of the Revolution, big and small, what they wanted, and what it felt like to be there.

I also loved that the author stayed so close to reality, but that this reads as a novel, not a history book. When the story ends she included a historical update on all the characters, which is great!

My 15 year old daughter also read a number of book while we were away:

Title: The Edge of Nowhere (here's my review)
Author: Elizabeth George
Rating: 4 out of 5

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why (here's my account of meeting the author, Jay Asher)
Author: Jay Asher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Title: Bridget Jones' Diary
Author: Helen Fielding
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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