Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project

Synopsis

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics at a university in Australia. He is brilliant, but socially inept. It quickly becomes clear that he is on the autism spectrum, but despite researching the condition for a lecture, he does not recognize the symptoms in himself. He gave up on the prospect of marrying years before, but the story begins with his realization that he should find a suitable match for himself and avoid disastrous dates by creating a questionnaire for single women. His intention is to screen out all unsuitable matches and find a wife who is perfect for him. Don dubs this “The Wife Project.” While the wife project is initially unsuccessful, his friend and colleague, Gene, convinces him to go on dates to get practice and improve his social skills. Shortly, a girl by the name of Rosie walks into his office, and into his life. Despite a disastrous start to their first date, and Don’s quick conclusion that Rosie is an incompatible match for him, Rosie  sticks around and Don learns that she would like to learn the identity of her biologic father. Thus begins “The Father Project” and a friendship between Don and Rosie. Throughout the project, Don must ask himself why he is helping Rosie for no logical reason, if he is capable of changing, and if he is capable of feeling the emotion of love.  Continue reading Book Review: The Rosie Project

Book Review: Me Before You

Jojo Moyes is becoming one of my favorite authors. I reviewed “The Girl You Left Behind” not that long ago and now I’m reviewing “Me Before You” (which I keep wanting to call “You Before Me”). Both books are very different, but both very good, which makes Moyes’ an incredibly versatile author. I’ve got “One Plus One” out from the library as well, but I’ll probably be reading a couple other books first. 

Me Before YouSynopsis

Louisa Clark has lived in the same small town her entire life. At 27, she is still living at home with her parents and has been dating the same man for six years (with no sign of a marriage proposal in sight). She is forced to look for a new job when the cafe she worked at closes its doors. After a few failed job attempts, she gets an interview for a position as a caretaker for a young man, Will Traynor, who is quadriplegic after an accident. Despite her lack of qualifications, she is hired for the job.

Before the accident, Will was a successful businessman in London who traveled the globe and lived for adventure. As a quadriplegic, he constantly depends on others for his care. The loss of his former life makes him bitter, miserable, and without a desire to live. At first his demeanor makes Louisa miserable, but she is determined to keep the job in order to help support her family. Eventually Louisa is able to do something that no previous caretakers had been able to do: break down Will’s barriers, make him smile, and make him laugh. As the two develop a quirky friendship full of witty banter, Louisa becomes determined to show Will that his life isn’t over.  Continue reading Book Review: Me Before You

Five on Friday

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I’m going to start this post of right with sharing my Blogger Love. Get ready, there were several great reads this week!

All the Joys - Blogger Love

 

Overcoming Our Insecurities by Melissa from the Rambling LLama posted at Life with Mrs G and the Artist – If you read one post this week, this is the post it should be. Melissa is brave in so many ways, but especially for sharing her story of childhood abuse. 

Journal Swap Creative by Sage the Blog & Love the Here and Now – Cassie and Anne came up with the brilliant idea of a journal swap. This is open to anyone on the internet, not just bloggers! I’ve already signed up, and I’m already looking at different journals. The deadline to sign up is March 9th, so head over to either one of their sites to sign up now! I’m excited to find out who I’m paired with and swap a journal with them – it’s just a really fun idea. Plus there are a million cute journals out there. I’m waiting to find out who I’m paired with and learn a bit about them before I make my final choice!

5 Easy and Small Changes to Make Your Blog Better – Seriously, Sarah? – I love posts like these because I inevitably learn something I didn’t know before or figure out a way to improve the layout or look of my blog. Sarah had several great suggestions and I’m updating my blog accordingly!

Thoughts on Being an Only Child – Cupcakes and Cashmere – I’m an only child. Dave’s an only child. My only cousin is an only child. I’ve had many wonderful friends who are only children. I don’t know if I’ve met an only child that hasn’t loved being an only child. Given that Cupcakes and Cashmere has a huge (gigantic) following, it’s nice to know that Emily is touting the awesomeness of being an only child. Only children have gotten such a bad reputation…it’s actually been used as an insult towards me. Like I had any control over the matter. It’s a stereotype I would love to see come crumbling down.  Continue reading Five on Friday

Book Review: Orange is the New Black

Here’s the deal…I really enjoy the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. I knew the show was based on a book, so I was intrigued. 

Orange is the New BlackSynopsis

If you’ve seen the Netflix show, then you pretty much know the background of the story. If you haven’t seen the show, I promise I’m not giving away any major spoilers. The premise is this: Piper Kerman graduated from a private all-women liberal arts college on the East Coast, and is unsure of the direction she wants to take her life. She ends up becoming involved with a woman who traffics drugs internationally. Paper tags along for some of her international travels, and is finally asked to assist one time by transporting money from the U.S. to Europe. Piper complies, but she finds the ordeal stressful and ends up cutting ties with the woman. She returns to the U.S. where she gets a job, meets a guy, falls in love, and generally lives a normal life. Several years later, her past catches up to her. The drug ring that her ex-girlfriend was involved with is brought down, her name is mentioned, and she gets arrested. A plea deal is arranged, and in return for pleading guilty she agrees to a 15-month prison sentence. Due to good time, she spends just over a year in prison, primarily at a minimum security federal women’s prison in Connecticut. The book is her memoir – of the people she meets in prison, her thoughts on the effectiveness of the prison system, and general stories about the time she spent locked up. Continue reading Book Review: Orange is the New Black

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left BehindSynopsis

Part One of this book focuses on the life of a woman named Sophie Lefevre who is living in a German-occupied French town during WWI. She lives with her sister, young brother, niece and nephew at the family’s hotel while her husband, Edouard, and brother-in-law are off fighting in the war. She and her sister are made to cook and serve dinner to the local Kommandant and some of his troops each night. Before the war, Edouard, an artist, had painted a portrait of Sophie. Sophie insisted on hanging the picture in the hotel, and it caught the eye of the Kommandant. Despite her antipathy towards the Germans, Sophie’s feeling towards the Kommandant eventually soften. When she finds out that Edouard has been taken prisoner, she approaches the Kommandant and requests that he help return Edouard to her in exchange for the portrait that has enthralled the Kommandant. 

Part Two of “The Girl You Left Behind” is mixed between being set in the present time and the continuation of Sophie’s story during WWI.  In the present time, the portrait of Sophie Lefevre is owned by Liv, a young widow. Her husband, David, was an architect and the painting was given to her by him as a wedding present. On the anniversary of David’s death, she is drowning her sorrows in a bar when her purse is stolen. The bar owner’s brother, Paul, is a former policeman and offers to help her. The two eventually start dating, but when she eventually invites Paul into her home he sees the portrait of Sophie. He works for a company that looks to find stolen artwork and return it to their original and rightful owners. Coincidentally, Paul is working on the case to find the portrait of Sophie for Edouard’s family, who had noted that it was missing in a recent audit of his works. The painting had not been seen since WWI, when it was presumably stolen by the Germans. After breaking the news to Liv about her painting’s history, they get into an embroiled legal battle over the rightful owner of the portrait. Determining the rightful owner means finding out everything possible about the painting’s history, including how it came to be in the possession of the woman owned it before David. The book jumps back and forth between Sophie’s life at the end of the war and Liv’s attempts to find out what happened to Sophie and the painting almost one hundred years ago. 

Review

LOVED this book! I enjoyed reading Part One, but it honestly left me wondering why people had given this book such wonderful reviews. While it was enjoyable and interesting, it wasn’t particularly special on its own. Part One is basically there to provide you with the basic background of the story, while Part Two is where all the drama and suspense occurs. However, Part Two would not be nearly as amazing without all the character development done by the author in Part One. By Part Two I was so engrossed that I couldn’t put the book down…which is how I managed to read the thing within 24 hours!

I’m usually annoyed when a book has a predictable ending. This book was interesting because some parts of the ending were very predictable while others were a complete surprise. I also liked that some parts of the story don’t have a perfectly happy ending. I hate when books tie up all their story lines with wonderful happy conclusions because it makes the story seem too perfect and unbelievable. Unless it’s a fairy tale, it shouldn’t all end happily-ever after. That said, I don’t like books that are gruesomely depressing either. This book leaves you feeling happy overall at the end, but there are enough solemn moments to make the story realistic. If you look at the entire cast of characters, you end up feeling bad for several of them. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so I’ll just say this: if you haven’t read this book, move it to the top of your reading list!

One little thing about this book that took me aback for a second was how the narrative is written. Everything about Sophie is written in the first person and the past tense. However, the parts about Liv are written in the third person and the present tense. Did that stick out to anyone else who has read this book? I’m assuming that was completely intentional by the author, but it kind of threw me for a loop when I started reading Part Two. I know Kate Morton switches between first person and third person when switching between the past and the present in her books, but I’m pretty sure Morton writes her “present time” narrative in the past tense. I think most novels I’ve read are written in the past tense, because I’m having a hard time thinking of one written in the present tense. My point is – I found it a little jarring at the beginning of Part Two to go from the first person past tense to the third person present tense. I felt like I kept having to reread some of the sentences because my brain kept wanting to put everything in past tense and that wasn’t what I was reading! It was fine after a while, but it did interrupt the flow of the book a little bit. But, if that’s your biggest complaint about a book….it’s got to be pretty good, right!?

This is the first book I’ve read by Jo Jo Moyes. My mom told me she had read “The Last Letter from Your Lover” and had a “meh – it was ok” review of it, which kind of surprised me because I thought “The Girl You Left Behind” was fantastic. That said, my mom and I have slightly different book preferences. I’ve added “One Plus One” and “Me Before You” to my reading list. I’m hoping that I find Moyes’ other books are as good as this one!

Until later, Ashlen

Book Review: A Walk Across the Sun

A Walk Across the Sun

Synopsis

“A Walk Across the Sun” starts off with two completely separate story lines. The first is of Ahalya and Sita, teenage sisters who are suddenly orphaned and lose everything when a tsunami rips through their home in India. In their attempts to return to the safety of their convent boarding school, they are essentially kidnapped and sold into slavery. The other story line is of Thomas, a lawyer from Washington D.C. When his personal and professional lives crumble around him, he decides to take a one-year break to work with an NGO in India that fights human trafficking. Thomas’ work in India is where the stories intersect, as he works to rescue and get justice for Ahalya and Sita. 

Review

I’m going to preface my review with this: I don’t usually enjoy depressing books. Fictional stories involving human trafficking and the abuse of children would normally fall into the category of being too depressing for me to read. I had heard good reviews of this book, but I was skeptical when I first started reading. However, the author (Corban Addison) does a good job of portraying the horrors of modern day slavery without being overly graphic. While some books may be more realistic in their graphic portrayals of issues like rape and slavery, sometime’s it’s too much…to the point where I need to put the book down. If I can’t get through the book, then the author cannot successfully convey their message about the issues they are trying to depict. Addison did a good job walking that fine line. 

While I found the conclusion of the story to be somewhat predictable, the plot had enough twists and suspense to keep me engaged throughout the entire book. The time it takes me to read a book is usually directly correlated to how much I’m enjoying the story (in other words, how much I’m willing to put the book down to do other things!) and I read “A Walk Across the Sun in about 2 or 3 days. 

Overall:  4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Until later, Ashlen