Monday, June 30, 2014

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

So much fun to read a novel from a man's point of view as he looks for love in a very scientific kind of way.  Sounds kinda goofy, and it is--in a wonderfully funny way.  Don Tillman is a total square.  He's in his early 40's and a genetics professor.  He has decided it is time to find a wife, and goes about this in a very scientific way:  he produces a 16 page questionnaire to find suitable candidates.  Among the questions asked to filter out the "unsuitable" candidates:  do they drink?  smoke?  Are they on time or late?  Are they vegetarian?  

Don lives his life by a very scheduled, regimented  plan.  He looks at everything scientifically and not emotionally, which is part of his charm.  Yes, he is charming in his total dysfunction.  And along comes Rosie, a PhD candidate in Psychology who asks Don to help her find out just who among a field of academics is her natural father.  And guess what?  Rosie is everything Don doesn't want, yet he finds himself feeling attracted to her, thrown off his regimented plans, and examining his burgeoning emotions.  All which throw him in a tizzy.  It's so much fun to read Don's thought process through this whole unexpected awakening to love. And Rosie is equally charming in her complete normal-ness.  She herself is in a bit of a quandary over finding such a odd duck appealing--truly, opposites attract.  

Can Don help Rosie find her real father?  And what of his wife project?  Will he ever find a suitable candidate?  This is a sweet story of two people making their way towards each other in a completely awkward and humorous way.  And really, isn't that how love usually goes?  You will love this novel!  Perfect for summer.  

Rating:  7/10 for a refreshing look at finding love with a cast of characters who are completely charming.  You'll find yourself cheering them on to a happy ending.  

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Glad to see Suzanne and Loretta have teamed up again to write another novel!  Their previous book, I'll Be Seeing You took place during World War 2 and was all told in letters between two women who become pen  pals while their husbands are serving overseas.  Neither author had met the other until after the book was finished.  Just goes to show the talent both ladies have; can you imagine writing a novel with someone else you've never met?  

This time, the setting is 1925 New York City.  I've discovered a budding interest in the 1920's; I think it's due to my Dad.  He was born in 1928, and I've only seen a few photos of him as a small child.  But in those photos are some fantastic cars and my father as a little boy who looks amazingly like his great-grandson.  My Dad died in 2004, so I can't ask him about life during those turbulent times, but I can imagine what it was like thanks to books like Empire Girls.  

Ivy and Rose are two sisters living in upstate New York with their father.  He suddenly dies, and they find out the house they've always lived in is about to be claimed by the bank for back taxes.  They also find out their father had another child; their older brother Asher.  A picture their father kept shows Asher in front of a place called Empire House.  He looks just like Rose; and to top it off, their father left Asher the house.  If they don't find him, they will lose the house.  

Off to New York City Ivy and Rose go, determined to find Asher and have him sign the house back to them.  Ivy is a singer and wanna-be actress; Rose is the homebody who writes, cooks, and sews.  They are like oil and water together. They find Empire House, which is run be Nell.  She's tough as steel and rents the attic out to the sisters.  With little money, they have to get jobs to live in New York City and save to pay the taxes on their home.  But what about Asher?

Ivy and Rose keep running into dead ends.  No one is willing to even admit they knew Asher.  Why all the secrets?  How will Ivy and Rose find him?  

There's a lot in this novel to talk about.  World War I is not far in the past; two sisters who have never been close and must work together; and two young women who are discovering who they are in the most wonderful, vibrant place around: New York City.  You'll be surprised at how Ivy and Rose change and their struggle to decide how each feel about Asher; is he a welcome part of their family of two?  And most of all, you'll fall in love with 1925 New York City.

This is a fun, quick read.  I have decided I need to try an orange blossom drink very soon.  Here's a link to the recipe:  prohibition cocktail.  You'll see what I mean when you read the novel.  There are reading group questions in the back of the book, as well as an interview with Suzanne and Loretta.  

Rating:  7/10 for a vibrant portrait of a bygone era; two main characters who you grow to love, and secondary characters who round out a perfect summer read.  

Available as a paperback and e-book.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Indie Chicks Blog Tour: Unfaithfully Yours by Chrystal Rose

I know, this isn't my usual historical fiction!  But I am part of the Indie Chicks blog tour, and reading always means trying new genres and moving out of my comfort zone.  

Unfaithfull Yours is a memoir by Chrystal Rose.  She pulls no punches in this retelling of her struggle to remain faithful to her fiancĂ©  "Shark Boy".  Chrystal's life hasn't been easy:  shuffled between divorced parents, struggling to be heard and understood, and finding herself at a strict boarding school looking for the love she doesn't have growing up.  It all is told humorously and honestly as she moves around the country, working her butt off making a living (sometimes working 3 jobs).  When she's not working, she's partying.  Lots of drinking and fooling around.  Her memoir includes advice on why jerks are not what a woman needs--go for the nice guy.  She also includes a few practical guides to making your partner happy in bed.  Through it all, Chrystal moves from inexperienced and a bit lost to a strong woman who realizes, as Glinda in the Wizard of Oz so aptly put it to Dorothy:  "You've always had the power."  

I would recommend this memoir to young women who are learning who they are and what they want.  It is humorous and salty and chock full of sexual escapades and life lessons.  Fans of Chelsea Handler and Mindy Kaling will enjoy this quick read.  

And please, check out Indie Chicks!  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

I've read every Sarah Jio novel to date, and I have to say The Violets of March and now Goodnight June are my two favorites.  I just so loved this book; perhaps because it is about a bookstore and sisters, two things near and dear to my heart.  

June is a banker in New York City who has the unenviable job of delivering foreclosures to small businesses.  She's good at it, but deep down doesn't enjoy her job at all.  A letter arrives from Seattle, informing June that her Great Aunt Ruby has died and left June her bookstore, Bluebird Books.  June is grief stricken at the thought of Ruby being gone, and regrets that her job has taken her so far away and kept her from visiting Ruby--now it's too late.  June takes a week's vacation to visit Seattle and plans on clearing out Bluebird Books, selling the store, and returning to her life in New York City.

Once in Seattle, June finds a letter from Ruby, imploring June to remember how much she loved Bluebird Books, and how she's meant to take it over and keep reminding the children of Seattle how important books and bookstores are to this world.  In addition to the letter, June finds correspondence between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown from the 1940's when Bluebird was in it's infancy.  Ruby and Margaret met at school--Margaret the teacher, Ruby the student.  They formed an immediate bond, and kept up their friendship through letters and visits.  June suspects there is much more--were Ruby and her bookstore the    inspiration for Margaret's most famous book, Goodnight Moon?  

There is much more to this book, of course.  Ruby, Margaret, and June all have estranged sisters, and each struggles to overcome bitter feelings in order to form  loving relationships with their sisters.  Are any of them successful?  And June finds out so much about the Ruby before June knew her as Aunt.  It is true we all have such stories to tell about lives; stories lived in the spaces of our hearts and minds that are precious and not always obvious to others.  

I so loved this book.  It is, of course, most of all about being happy and living your life doing what you love.  If we could all do that, how much happier and brighter this world would be for everyone.  And anyone who is a fan of books, actual physical bookstores, and the transformative power of reading will also adore this book.  I have seen children's faces light up when they are given a book, or have eagerly waited for a favorite author's latest novel.  Books are truly one of the best things in life.  And bookstores--for all those who say they are dying, you are wrong.  As long as we continue to cherish books and the hallowed places that keep them for us, patiently waiting for someone to take them home and make them part of their lives...well, bookstores will always survive.  Have you been to one lately?  If not, maybe it's time.  Put down the mouse and find your nearest bookstore and remember the thrill of walking in as a small child, smelling the paper, and knowing somewhere on those shelves there was a book waiting just for you.  Magic.  

Rating:  8/10 for a unique story with characters you can't help but love.  

Available in paperback, e-book, and audio.