Everything’s coming up Rosie

I can’t say enough about books from a character perspective that ventures outside the social norms. Of course I want to read a story told by a dog, or an imaginary friend, or even a child who spent the first years of his life in one tiny room. But it’s also fun to read about a character that may not be aware of their own strangeness (think Screech from Saved by the Bell!) This book was recommended by a friend, so thanks Lauren!

Book #27- The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

ROsie Rating: 4- Would recommend to a friend

Synopsis: Don Tillman is a genius in the world on genetics and a bit of a imbecile when it comes to social interaction. He is rigid with his routine and abhors lateness by even 2 minutes. It’s just a waste of time!  And he really knows how not to waste time. He jogs to the market to combine exercise and errands. He prepares the same meal every on the same day every week to simplify the shopping and prep time. He books face-to-face conversations with friends to ensure their availability. So when Don decides he want a mate, he develops the Wife Project. He creates a questionnaire to be filled out by his dates and weed out unsuitable candidates. His best friend Gene, a bit of a cad, commandeers the forms and suddenly Rosie shows up at Don’s office door. She is beautiful and smart, but totally unsuitable. She smokes!

Rosie and Don develop an unconventional friendship and flirtation as Don helps Rosie to learn the identity of her father. And as they become closer, Don teaches Rosie to button up, while Rosie teaches Don to deviate.

My Impressions: What a sweet story. Don is, to quote a 90’s teen flick, so adorably clueless. He has some idea that he does not behave within social norms, and he plays the role to be laughed with instead of laughed at. For Rosie’s part, she is rough around the edges and has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. Don’s failure to take social cues helps to break down her tough shell, and Rosie’s emotions seep through Don’s general attitude of apathy. By the end of the book, they both make each other better people.

Why you should read it: This is a quick and quirky little book. It’s perfect for traveling, since you’ll finish by the end of your trip. But it’s also a different spin on romance and told from the gentleman’s perspective.

Read if you liked: Look Me In The Eye (John Elder Robison), House Rules (Jodi Picoult), Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend (Matthew Dicks)

Book #27 in the bag!

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.” ― Christopher Morley, Pipefuls

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Why be ordinary?

I’m continually fascinated by an author’s ability to create a work of historical fiction. I can only imagine the extensive research that must go into the time period alone, not to mention the context and specific details of the characters’ story. I find that I devour the books that drop me into the middle of place and time from the past and immerse me in the world of story. The really good ones do it so well that you don’t have to think to yourself about when certain inventions came about or what other significant historical events may have been happening because all of that becomes woven into to the telling of the story in some way or another until you get a genuine sense of what it was like to live the life of the character. You are walking a mile in their shoes for 400 pages or so…

Book# 26- The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman

Museum Rating: 4- Would recommend to a friend

Synopsis: Freak of nature or living wonder? That is what you’ll find behind the doors of Professor Sardie’s Museum of Extraordinary Things in Coney Island, Brooklyn. In 1911, Coralie Sardie is among the living wonders in her father collection on display in the museum. Her webbed fingers, a deformity of birth, and her extensive training and cultivating, find her submerged in a tank of crystal blue water with a mermaid’s tale and an uncanny ability to hold her breath. She is in good company with the butterfly girl, the sword swallower, the wolfman and an ancient tortoise. Her father, the curator of these “wonders” is a strict and sinister man.  Intent of making his money above all else, he sends Cora swimming in the Hudson late at night to create the suspicion of a sea monster to draw a bigger crowd. Only she uses these swims as her opportunity for freedom and one night stumbles on a man she cannot forget.

Eddie, a photographer, wasn’t always in that profession. He started out as a tailor like his father, then took up work as a runner for a man who did underground dealings for the local Jewish community. Eddie was good at finding things. So after his father’s friends recognize him taking photos of the great Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, they employ him to find a missing girl. As his path collides with Cora, their journeys intertwine to draw them inexplicably together.

My Impressions: I’ve been a fan of Alice Hoffman since I saw the movie Practical Magic and learned it was based on Hoffman’s book. While much of her writing gets a little dark, it’s her ability to paint the emotion within the words that I so enjoy. This book did not disappoint. The historical topic was fascinating and unique. New York in 1911; all of the world changes happening, the differences in classes, the immigrant workers, the re-development of Coney Island, and the birth of the city as we know it. All of these are described beautifully. The character voices are also very well differentiated. There is a general narration to move the story along, but there is also narration from both Eddie and Cora that gives a rich perspective to their individual stories. There is real life, whimsy and human darkness to weave a story together; with themes of water and fire to create a metaphor for good and bad, oppression and freedom.

Why you should read it: This is such an interesting work of fiction, that tells a story wonderfully entwined with history and actual events. While there is an underlying romance, the real focus is self reflection and what is perceived to be true battling against what is unseen and unknown. This would make a fantastic book club selection!

Read if you liked: Orphan Train (Christina Baker Kline), Blackberry Winter (Sarah Jio), The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)

Book #26 in the bag!

“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.” ― Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader

 

Silence is Golden

The last time I went to a public library was 9 years ago. I went daily for 5 weeks straight to study for my physical therapy board exam. It was NOT a quiet place! I was settled at a table in the center of the stacks (adult fiction, G-J) with people milling around me, chatting with their friends, the other “regulars.”  I was only a few feet away from the bank of computers where people could access the internet, so that brought its own special noise as people laughed at their screens or asked help of the attendant. Patrons held cell phone conversations, and listened to music through headphones at a volume that could be overheard. And the best part by far; the library was housed below a senior center where shuffle board was played regularly on the floor above. Scrape, shuffle, collide and begin again at regular intervals with a drop ceiling buffer. A McDonald’s PlayPlace may have been a quieter environment to study! With the convenience of mass-market book stores and the advent of the Kindle, I haven’t needed to re-visit the library since, but I do appreciate the concept of free use of books. Now that I can borrow from my Kindle, I’m more inclined to try the title that doesn’t cost me anything and return them when I’m done. That’s how I crossed paths with this title and I enjoyed its price as well as its content.

Book# 25- Conspiracy of Silence, Martha Powers

silence Rating: 3- It was a good book

Synopsis: Grand Rapids, Minnesota is a quiet little lake-side town. Unassuming and uneventful as far as small towns go. It’s home to renowned author Nathan Hassan, and that is the reason for Clare Prentice to travel there from Chicago; to interview him for her literary magazine. But she has another reason as well. She recently discovered she was adopted after her mother’s death and her only clue to her identity is a class ring from the town from 1962. Clare’s best friend also has a connection to the town; her father grew up there, and her aunt still lives there with a cottage for rent by the lake. As Clare begins her research, she discovers her adoptive mothers real name is Rose Gunderson, and that her sister Lily Newton was murdered in 1982. It becomes clear very quickly that Clare is really the Rose’s niece, Abigail Clare Newton and was sent away because her father was responsible for the murder. As Clare uncovers more details, she grows closer to Nate and his daughter Erika. But she also clearly stirs up a past that someone doesn’t want uncovered. There is more to this murder that meets the eye and someone doesn’t want Clare sticking her nose into it. Who is it, and what lengths will they go to to keep the past quiet? That is what Clare is about to find out before she can find out who she is.

My Impressions: I do love a good murder mystery. In fact I think I’m a bit of a sucker for them. This one was pretty good, though slightly predictable… I figured out that the boy would get the girl after their first meeting; as happy endings tend to go. And I figured out the source of secrecy about half-way through, even though the unveiling of details still made for an interesting journey to the ending.
The ending of the story itself was rather abrupt. I would have liked an epilogue to tie a bow on it. Perhaps since Clare’s cover story for the investigation was an update of the 25th anniversary of the murder, the epilogue could have been her article on the subject. I think it would have been nice to have a brief telling of all of the facts surrounding the story. Or a first person narrative of her journey to the truth since that is how she ultimately found her identity.
Overall the voice and the character development were fitting, and not forced. Even when I thought relationships were progressing unnaturally fast, the characters would recognize it and accept responsibility for it before backing up a little bit for a reality check.

Why You Should Read It : A sweet, if not a little clumsy heroine, a handsome hero. Murder, suspense, intrigue and small-town charm. It’s a recipe for success! Plus if you are a Kindle/Prime user (this is not a plug, I have no financial interests here!) it’s free. I guess also if you are a library user, than so is every other book; so there’s that…

Read if you liked: The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver), The Secret Life Of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd), Lost Lake (Sarah Addison Allen)

Book #25 in the bag!

“You can find friends between the pages of a book, wonderful friends.” ― Cornelia Funke, Inkspell

Universal Theory

You’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, and since reading primarily on a Kindle for the last 3 years, I hardly ever see the covers, so problem solved! You’re probably not supposed to judge books by their titles either. I’ve come to learn that the author generally doesn’t get input on the title of the book, the cover art and so on. But sometimes it’s a catchy title and it makes me think it might be an interesting story (I recognize that’s really the point). That’s how I chose this book, and well… You win some, you lose some.

Book #24-  The Theory of Opposites, Allison Winn Scotch

opposites Rating: 2- Not my Fav

Synopsis: Willa Chandler was actually born William. She did not have a sex-change or an identity crisis, she had a father who firmly believes in the ebb-and-flow of the universe. So when the doctor said it would be a boy, they chose the name William, and that was that, no turning back despite the absence of a penis upon birth. Willa dad is actually quite famous for his theories, having written a widely published self-help book about the absence of choices in life. Willa subscribes to these theories because she has had them ingrained since, and since the whole idea is to allow the world to happen as it will, she doesn’t protest.

That’s how she ends up with a husband who is asking for the summer off from their marriage (she didn’t think anything was wrong?), fired from her job (who can make adult diapers sexy? Who?), and thrown into a project with her best friend that forces her out of her comfort zone. Vanessa is challenging her to resist inertia, react in the exact opposite manner than she is inclined, all for the sake of stepping out of her fathers shadow and testing “the theory of opposites.” What happens to you when turn left if you have always turned right? Can you go back and correct a wrong turn?

My Impressions: This isn’t a very complicated story. Things go wrong early on and Willa, a general peace-keeper, not one to make waves, just sort of lets them go on. Her husband wants to leave, so she watches him go. She gets fired, so she needs a new job. Her dad gets sick and she faithfully stays by his side. Her mom has a bit of a life change and she casually accepts that too. Her friend Vanessa thinks she knows what Willa needs and Willa goes along (only protesting slightly). Blah, blah, blah…DOORMAT! I really had a hard time reading a story about someone who was so accepting of their own unhappiness and thought there was nothing they could do since that’s the hand they were dealt. I just couldn’t enjoy this story for all the apathy of the main character and the lack of responsibility for her own part in her circumstances. I kept reading because I was waiting for this great revelation about her trending behavior because everyone around her was happy to hint at it, or just say it out-right. But it never happened, until the very end. The very far-fetched end…

Why you should read it: Well, it’s a short book… It may make for an interesting discussion in a book group because of the basic philosophies presented. But it doesn’t really get a high recommendation from me.

Read if you liked: Delusional Thinking (Bonnie Trachtenberg), 20 Times a Lady (Karyn Bosnak)

Book #24 in the bag

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones