Saturday, November 30, 2013

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Two teens thrown together by fate and the school bus become friends (then more) despite the odds - doesn't that sound like a book you want to read? YOU TOTALLY SHOULD!!

Eleanor's new to school, and things at home suck: becoming invisible may be the only way she'll survive her mother's explosive new husband. On the other hand, Park's been in the same neighborhood his whole life and lives a common middle-class existence with minimal family drama. It's not an easy or fast friendship but music and comic books become a common language and a bridge to understanding.

These are kids you relate to and root for - hell, odds are you knew or may have been one of them at some point in your life. And their story is stellar.

And a note: while it's marketed as a teen book, the 1986 setting meant that as a 40-something reader, the music and cultural references were especially poignant for me. Do not miss this one!

(I can see now why some people were so hard on Rowell's book Fangirl - which I read first although it came out second. I absolutely loved that book, but now that I've read this one I can see how Fangirl might falter in a direct comparison. I still think it's a great book ... but this one is EPIC and certainly would be a hard act to follow.)

Man In the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

An unnamed time-travelling dystopian-future dude has to stop someone (himself?) from killing him a year from now at the birthday party he throws himself every year. But if he dies next year, why are there still older versions of himself at the party - shouldn't they never exist?

Sometimes I suspect I'm not smart enough for science fiction; I was continually confused and a little delirious about who, what and which version of the narrator was bending which paradox. The narrator's habit of giving differently aged versions of himself nicknames based on some notable characteristic or experience (The Drunk, Seventy, Screwdriver, and The Inventor) aid the unpuzzling - but also make it easy to forget it's all just future and past versions of the same guy.

The reason I persevered is the storyline that takes place from the party - about a woman he meets the night of the murder, then backtracks six months in time to attempt to steer her away from the party. That six-month story was way more interesting to me - and by the time we caught up to the party again, I simply had to finish to find out what happened.

This book was a tough row to hoe for me, but I suspect there are time-paradox fans who will find it much more though-provoking and engrossing than I.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

An angsty New York teenager is swept down a strange back alley, invited to take a special test, discovers a latent capacity for magic, and as a result gains entry to a secret university. Harry Potter much? Well, not quite - this one takes place in New York, and the students are in college. Also, the book is written for an adult audience.

But the parallels are a bit distracting as a reader, and honestly Grossman's writing doesn't hold up well to a comparison with Rowling. The book felt thin, and yet at the same time much too large. It covers six or seven years total - and a lot happens in that time - and yet because there's so much to cover, nothing gets much attention. It felt like we're reading the first run-through of what the author hopes will become a series, but we've gotten it before the writer has taken the time to break it up into more than one book and to flesh out the story and characters.

The final section - where the gang finds a way into the magic land of a favorite children's book series - is anticlimactic in its desultory plotting. It feels impermanently tacked onto the prior three-quarters of the book, which focus mostly on Q's internal struggles.

A friend gave me this book after she just couldn't get into it. While I did read the whole thing, I thoroughly understand her surrender. There is a sequel, "The Magician King," but I think I'll take a pass on that one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don's more than a little set in his ways: he has a 7-day meal plan designed for nutritional needs and to perfectly offset his activity level, and his minimal wardrobe is calibrated to his activity level with no concern for fashion or style. He'll make allowances and adjustments as required, but why bother when the calendar is optimized for efficiency?

But Don's also beginning to feel lonely. After a couple disastrous first dates he begins to hone a complicated questionnaire to eliminate time wasted with unsuitable potential partners (smokers, picky eaters). And then a chance encounter and a giant misconception blow Don's whole schedule to bits.

This book is light, funny, and incredibly well written. Don could easily be a bore or a joke or a jerk, but Simsion makes him likeable and sympathetic. You root for him to figure things out, and his endearing challenges make the breakthroughs a glad triumph.

Born Wild

by Julie Ann Walker

Wild Bill Reichert will never forget the way things ended with his little sister's best friend.  There was nothing he could do as she married "the right kind" while he was "sometimes literally drowning in SEAL training".  He's also never forgotten how sweet Eve Edens always was: how unlike her the cruel ending always seemed.  Now he's the best shot she has at staying alive.

Eve has her own demons related to that finale twelve years past.  As hard as it will be to overcome them, she must.  After multiple attempts on her life, it seems her only chance is to stick close to the one black - ops guy who wants little to do with her.  Self-defense classes can only go so far.

Both Eve and Bill are determined to stay alive, and protect their hearts.  Lucky for them, Billy's self-proclaimed specialty is, "hot, slow, and just a little bit dirty."  Ms. Walker comes through with another rip roaring tale of the secretive lives of Black Knights, Inc and the, impossibly sweet, warriors that live within the compound. 

Rumor has it

by Jill Shalvis

Get ready for a hot flash.  The sparks between Griffin and Kate were flying even during his sister's book (Rescue My Heart) which is an early title in the Animal Magnetism series. 

Grif's been medically discharged but would rather not mention that part as he returns for the wedding of his sister and best friend.  Kate's always had a huge crush on her best friend's big brother.  Of course, that means she and Adam are the only people tuned in to Grif enough to see his suffering. 

She's spent years caring for extended family while delaying the opportunity of a lifetime.  He once lit out of town like his tail was on fire.  Now she's got a chance at something great away from Sunshine, Idaho and he has finally returned to his roots. 

Although her self-confidence is often in question when he shows up, Kate knows what she wants: Griffin.  He knows two things: it's a bad idea and his sister will kill him if he touches Kate.  If you thought the sparks flew during that accidental topless Skype in the previous book, just wait until you see these two try to resist the pull in person.  All she wants is one night.  All he wants is to do what he sees as the right thing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Princess Super Kitty

by Antoinette Portis

You know that little girl (or big girl, or boy) who always wants to play dress up?  Portis has that person captured in this book. One costume is just not enough.  If it's good to be a kitty, it's even better to be a kitty and superhero rolled into one.  The fun builds as the story tumbles along.  This savvy main character knows just when to adapt the costume every time.

This book is great for the month of October when your little one changes her/his mind several times about the ultimate costume.  Why select just one? It's a cute, silly story that will allow creative kids to see even more possibilities.