Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Life Drawing for Beginners

 Finally, I'm back!  I have such a back log of books to write about that I have forgotten things I wanted to write about.  I really hated trying to type on the iPad and so just left things slide.  I bought a bunch of new books but really should work on my TBR list.  What can I say?  I love buying cheap books. 

Title: Life Drawing for Beginners
Author: Roisin Meaney
Published: Hachette Book Group,Inc; August 2012
Genre: Fiction, Chick-Lit
Source: Library
From Goodreads:
 "From the author of Semi-Sweet comes a delightful new novel about the art of friendship, love, and (still) life. When Audrey Matthews offers an evening class in life drawing, all she's looking for is a little extra pocket money and something to fill her Tuesday nights. So she hires a model and recruits five students - each of whom have their own reason for being there. For Zarek, a Polish immigrant, the class is a welcome distraction and a place to escape his dull cafe job and noisy roommate. Then there's the handsome, mysterious James who has moved to the small town of Carrickbawn looking for a new start for himself and his daughter. He's vowed to keep to himself, but then his interest in Jackie, the class model and single mom, takes a more personal turn. While Audrey has just fallen in love -- with the adorable puppy in the window of the local pet shop. Will she be put off by the store's brusque owner or does she find out that his bark is worse than his bite? As the weeks pass, it becomes clear to the members of the drawing class that their fellow students aren't exactly who they seem..."

I put this book on my TBR list because I saw a goodreads giveaway for it who knows when.  I was really attracted by the title and cover.   I thought this would be a fun romantic comedy and  a quick and easy light read.  I really expected some girl-meets-boy and they fall in love with a good sprinkling of quirky side characters.  Jacket blurbs are obviously not a criteria in picking out a book. I'm shallow and judge books by their covers.  This was more of a general relationship novel.

The story telling shifts from Audrey to each of her class members and a few others.  Even though the characters are strangers to each other, they have connections outside of class through family and friends.  Kind of like the story lines in Love, Actually are all connected. Some of these connections were apparent right away and others didn't reveal themselves until almost the end of the book.

I enjoyed this book.  Sometimes I had to remind myself that things weren't happening as quickly as the timeline my brain had.  The story stretched out over six weeks.  I liked seeing the relationships develop and characters find their footing in the world.  I even questioned the tough decisions one character made about his son and wondered what I would do in the same situation.

Sometimes the story lagged but I mostly enjoyed the book.  I wanted to find out what secrets certain characters were keeping and that kept me reading to the end.  Meaney was able to bring a human side to the more despicable characters and make them likeable.  As for my final verdict, I was charmed by the characters. I would probably only recommend this to bookworms and not the casual reader.  But who knows, my husband never picks up a book and really enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo.  So tell everyone to read it.  They just may like it.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sorry for the complete lack of content.  My computer has been having problems and I need to get it fixed.  I've been reading lots and have a lot of reviews I need to catch up on.  For now, I'm trying to work on my iPad but I hate typing things and the functionality kind of sucks for writing long blog posts with pictures and links.  I'll be back soon.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Bride Wore Size 12

Title: The Bride Wore Size 12
Author: Meg Cabot
Published: William Morrow; September 2013
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Source: Library digital loan
From Goodreads:
"Heather Wells is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.

With her upcoming nuptials to PI Cooper Cartwright only weeks away, Heather's already stressed. And when a pretty junior turns up dead, Heather's sure things can't get worse—until every student in the dorm where she works is a possible suspect, and Heather's long-lost mother shows up.

Heather has no time for a tearful mother and bride reunion. She has a wedding to pull off and a murder to solve. Instead of wedding bells, she might be hearing wedding bullets, but she's determined to bring the bad guys to justice if it's the last thing she does . . . and this time, it just might be."
I was turned on to Meg Cabot after watching The Princess Diaries. I loved her Boy series (The Boy Next Door, Boy Meets Girl, and Every Boy's Got One) and Queen of Babble series.  They are fun, easy, quick reads and the characters are very likeable.  I read about half of the Princess Diaries series about ten years or so ago.  Meg Cabot's books are the sweet, fluffy cupcakes of the literary world.  I've also read the first two books in the Heather Wells series and liked them a lot.

This book begins about a month before Heather's wedding.  So of course, I expected Heather to be up to her ears in wedding prep.  I remember what the month before my wedding was like.  I was finishing up last minute details and double checking that everything was in place.  It was pretty much all I thought about.  There were really only a few mentions of the wedding until the end of the book, when she and Cooper finally tied the knot.

Granted, she is the assistant hall director of a dorm residence hall (nicknamed Death Dorm) at a fictional New York City college.  She's busy with making sure all the incoming freshman are settling in and keeping said freshmen's parents happy with roommate assignments.  Oh, and one of her students is a prince of a fake Middle Eastern nation.  When a RA is found dead in her room, it adds that much more to Heather's already full agenda. 

I wanted to love this book.  Since I really liked a many of Cabot's other works, I was certain that this would be along the same lines.  The first few books of this series were engaging and really fun.  I liked the idea of an adult spending the majority of her time around college students.  This book just seemed to fall flat.  I kind of feel like Cabot just wanted to finish the series up because she was tired of it.

I can't really say why this book wasn't as good as the first few in the series.  Maybe I'm the one who changed, although I still love fluffy chick-lit and a good murder mystery.  I just wasn't feeling it.  The murder mystery didn't have me reading well into the night to find out who committed the crime.  I only finished this book a few days ago and I can barely remember the details. 

Underwhelmed.  That is the best word to describe how I feel about this book.  If you are a fan of the Heather Wells series, I would recommend this just to have some closure for the series.  Otherwise, pass it by for some of Cabot's better series.

Buy at Amazon/Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Rosie Project

Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Published: Simon & Schuster; 2013
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Humor
Source: Amazon Kindle store
From Goodreads:
"An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory, for those of you who don't watch) searches for a wife.

That is how I would describe this book.  Don Tillman is socially inept, due to not being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.  I can't write much more about the story that the goodreads blurb doesn't say.    At least not without giving away the entire story.

I fell in love with the characters and the storyline.  It was charming and sweet.  I loved seeing the evolution of Don's feelings towards Rosie.  His goofy mistakes due to his lack of interpersonal skills were funny.

The book is written from Don's point of view.  This was really the only way to write a book about a character like him.  How else would the reader know why he was doing the things he did without knowing his thought processes?  I especially loved his attempts at using logic to explain Rosie's very obvious emotional responses to him.

This book is great.  I breezed through it in less than a day.  It's fun and light-hearted without making fun of autism spectrum disorders by taking low blows.  This book makes you smile and think.  It would make a great book club selection, especially after reading a more literary novel.  Buy this book because you will want to reread it.


Saturday, January 18, 2014


Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Published:Katherine Tegen Books; 2011
Genre:Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Source: Amazon Kindle store
From Goodreads:
"In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

When I went to see Catching Fire back in November, the preview for Divergent looked pretty good.  My friend and I agreed to go see it together in March.  I knew  I would have to read the books first.  I got a new Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas so this was one of the first books I bought.

Honestly, I was a little dissappointed in the first installment of this trilogy.  I wish that there was more back story.  What events lead up to this point? Why did the citizens decide that people should be divided into factions?  I also didn't understand why people would have to choose one particular virtue.

I don't want to give away what faction Tris decides to join, but I had a hard time understanding what her faction did.  I get that they had certain jobs but I didn't think that the size of their faction could find employment for that many people.  Her faction seemed much more reckless than actually embodying the spirit of their virtue.

This was Roth's first book that she wrote rather quickly.  You can tell.  The plot of the book just seems to meander along until the sixty pages or so.  However, once I reached those last pages, I was hooked and am definitely going to read Insurgent.  The meat of that last part of this story was very exciting.  I needed to find out how Tris' and company are going to deal with the very major complications.

Roth's writing did have some good points.  I found her depiction of Albert to be incredibly touching and a realistic portrayal of an adolescent placed in that situation.  She wrote very descriptive scenes that weren't overly wordy.  Her training scenes were exciting and I couldn't put the book down in the middle of them.

If you loved The Hunger Games trilogy and want to read this thinking it will be like them, it's not.  It's nowhere near as good as The Hunger Games.  It is an entertaining read and I have higher hopes that Insurgent and Allegiant  will fill in the gaps that annoyed me and will meander less now that the antagonist has been identified.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Published: Little, Brown, & Company; August 2012 
Genre: Fiction, Chick-Lit
Source: Amazon Kindle store (on sale for $3.99)
From Goodreads:
" Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world."

I ended up giving five stars to this book not because it is great literature.  I gave it five stars because it is a fun, quick read.  When I found out that Semple wrote for one of my favorite TV show, Arrested Development, I could see the similarities.  She is great at doing funny satires of people.  I also recommend checking out her website just for the absolute cuteness.

The first half of this book is a mash-up of emails, letters, FBI reports, and other correspondence which even includes one emergency bill.  All of these are written in the month or so leading up to a trip to Antartica for Bernadette, her husband Elgie, and her daughter Bee.  In between these articles is a commentary from Bee, kind of like behind the scenes tidbits.  The second half is Bee's search for her mother.

This book was full of stereotypes from the green computer geek to the pushy, wealthy stay at home mom.  It makes fun of this social section of the Seattle area without seeming mean-spirited.  I read this within a day and would love to read it again later when I want something light and easygoing.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Brave New World

Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 (first published in 1932)
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Source: Library Used Book Sale
From Goodreads:
 "Aldous Huxley's tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric version of a "utopian" future - where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment."

I picked this book up solely based on the cover.  I knew absolutely nothing about this book.  It has been wallowing on my bookshelf for the last year or so.  I finally decided to pick it up because I have a whole bunch of books that I promised myself I would read last year.  I wish I would have read this sooner.

I was very surprised to find out that this book was first published in 1932.  It is way ahead of it's time.  If I hadn't looked at the original publish year, I would have thought it was written in the last twenty years.  In this society, people are genetically manipulated to be a member of a caste system (Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Epsilons).  They're created in a lab and gestate in bottles, where things are added to physically create the differences that caste members have.  That's just the beginning of lifelong conditioning for each person.

The story focuses on Bernard, an Alpha who is not as tall as the other Alphas.  He understands why society runs the way it does but questions certain things.  A lot is explained about how society runs.  Bernard is attracted to Lenina, another Alpha.  He takes her on a trip to see the Savages, Native Americans in New Mexico, who live rather "primitively".  There reactions to the people there are worth reading about.

Buy this book.  Seriously.  Brave New World should be a must-read for everyone.  I would even have this as required reading if I was a high school English teacher.  That is how much I recommend this book.  Just read it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Big Fat Disaster

Title: Big Fat Disaster
Author:Beth Fehlbaum
Published: Merit Press, 18 April 2014
Genre:Young Adult
Source: NetGalley*
From Goodreads:

"Insecure, shy, and way overweight, Colby hates the limelight as much as her pageant-pretty mom and sisters love it. It's her life: Dad's a superstar, running for office on a family values platform. Then suddenly, he ditches his marriage for a younger woman and gets caught stealing money from the campaign. Everyone hates Colby for finding out and blowing the whistle on him. From a mansion, they end up in a poor relative's trailer, where her mom's contempt swells right along with Colby's supersized jeans. Then, a cruel video of Colby half-dressed, made by her cousin Ryan, finds its way onto the internet. Colby plans her own death. A tragic family accident intervenes, and Colby's role in it seems to paint her as a hero, but she's only a fraud. Finally, threatened with exposure, Colby must face facts about her selfish mother and her own shame. Harrowing and hopeful, proof that the truth that saves us can come with a fierce and terrible price, Big Fat Disaster is that rare thing, a story that is authentically new."

WARNING; This book has triggers regarding suicide, abuse, eating disorders, and rape.

I didn't know what to expect from this book.  I must not have read the description very well because I thought it would be a a bit more light-hearted.   Okay, I admit that I went into this book thinking she would have something bad happen to the family and she would love herself and lose weight and the story would have a happy ending.  I probably would not have read it if I would have read it if I had read it if I had paid attention to the blurb.

This book doesn't pussyfoot around the issues covered.. Rape, bullying, fat-shaming, depression, suicide, disordered eating.  I had some triggers and admit that I was up at three in the morning crying because of the raw emotion regarding the main character Colby's depression and suicide attempt.  It frightened me how easily I could identify with Colby and her feelings.

I was hooked from the get go.  Even with the difficult content, I was rooting for Colby and hoping she would find a happy ending.  Her dad basically abandons her and her mother and sisters after his affair and embezzlement come to light.  Her mother constantly fat-shames her and very obviously favors Colby's thinner sisters.  She's bullied at her new school.  Her cousin shows open disdain for her.  It's a lot to put on one person's shoulders.   In the end, there wasn't the happy ending I expected but there was plenty of hope for Colby to have a good life.

*I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.  Any opinions are my own.