Book Review | You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss

you all grow up and leave me cover.jpgRelaying her experiences as one of the teenage tennis players coached by Gary Wilensky, You All Grow Up and Leave Me relives Piper’s coming of age in early 1990’s New York City. As a Jewish girl attending private school, she shares specific memories from her adolescence including times with friends, family and Gary, as well as her emotional journey into adulthood. While the book is billed as focusing on the “Gary story” of teenage obsession, it’s actually more of a memoir of Piper’s coming of age and personal social issues.

Weiss’s writing style drew me in more than the story of this memoir. Her words lay bare a character from the past who only she could access and share. The directness of the text is very appealing. Weiss does a good job interweaving all of the facets of her early teen years in a story that becomes more than just a memoir because of it’s relation to a publicized scandal. This book would appeal to readers of coming of age memoirs or those interested in true crime. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

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Book Review | The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

the girl he used to know book cover.jpgRead this book if you enjoy a well written love story. Annika is on the autism spectrum and doesn’t function like the other kids at University of Illinois. Once she joins the chess team, she meets Johnathon, who she eventually dates. Their story is romantic in how they relate to one another. Although they are eventually driven apart, they reconnect after 10 years, at different points in their lives and welcome the idea of starting anew.

The Girl He Used to Know is a very enjoyable read. It brings laughs and tears. The story alternates between the present in 2001 and their college years in 1991. This format works well to create a space for unexpected events to come out. Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum will especially enjoy this novel and be able to relate in many ways. General fans of love stories will appreciate how this one is heartfelt in it’s own way. Publication is slated for April 2019, but Worldcat says some libraries may already have it. Check a library near you!

*Fans of The Girl He Used to Know may enjoy Oola by Brittany Newell (2017), Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016), or The Only Story by Julian Barnes (2018).

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love

Dear Heartbreak- YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love book cover.jpgTo be released on Tuesday, Dear Heartbreak is a collection of letters written by teens concerning their heartbreak struggles and the corresponding responses from YA authors. The authors provide encouragement, life tips and personal anecdotes to address the teens’ issues. Topics dealt with include loneliness, self confidence, disability, assault, depression, termination of a relationship, lack of a relationship and self love, among others. Clearly some letters and responses will be more relatable to readers experiencing those specific issue. As each letter response comes from a different YA author, this book could also provide solid future reading suggestions based on the discovery of these new (to the reader) authors.

Though not quite yet published, check to see if a library near you has ordered this title, and if you can place a hold on a new copy.

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

For further reading, young adults dealing with stress or troubling situations may appreciate the insights offered in Be Mindful and Stress Less: 50 Ways to Deal with Your (Crazy) Life by Gina Biegal (2018).

Book Review | The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

impossible fortress cover.jpgReturn to the 1980’s for some of the first consumer computers to hit the market. The Impossible Fortress introduces a few teens not yet old enough to buy the Vanna White Playboy. As the boys try to figure out their best shot for getting a copy, Billy begins programming a computer game with Mary to submit in competition. Billy develops feelings for Mary, which causes a ripple effect influencing the ragtag heist.

A fast paced story with ample chapter breaks, this book can be read quickly. While it reads like a YA novel with emphasis on action and plot, many references to 1980’s things will be lost on someone born after 1980. For adults, the characters may not be relatable and their repeated stupid choices will be very frustrating. Rekulak incorporates some topics that make the book unique, but they aren’t fully played out. In summary, the book is a quick read with a decent story, but it’s value is decreased by the author’s seeming lack of choice between an adult novel and a YA piece. Recommended for outcast teens, those interested in 1980’s computer programming, and video game geeks. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

The Polygamist’s Daughter : a memoir by Anna LeBaron

lebaron daughter cover.jpgBased on her experiences as one of more than 50 of Ervil LeBaron’s children, The Polygamist’s Daughter relays Anna’s life story from it’s beginning growing up as a cult member to her exit from the cult as an adult. The book recounts many of Anna’s specific memories about activities that she was involved in as a youth, as well as her emotional and spiritual journey into adulthood. The first part of the text focuses on her difficult time living with a type of host family in Mexico. Next she moves often in the US between Colorado and Texas as she attends school. Finally, she breaks away from the cult and finds God and a family of her own.

As a memoir, this book serves as a keyhole looking back on another time. The recounted details were mostly interesting and kept the story going. Times in Mexico and unconventional activities provided the best insights in this text. Though the book flowed decently, adjectives are often overused and result in frequent repetition. The repetitive sentences also appeared in several chapters, making the book ultimately seem more like a YA text than an autobiography. A shorter, more direct book may have been a better choice. The religious emphasis is quite heavy in the book’s second half. This book would appeal to those interested in polygamy, religious coming of age stories, or Christian non-fiction. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Best & Worst of the 46 Books I read in 2017

During 2017 I expanded my reading horizons to include many books I wouldn’t normally choose. The selection contained mostly novels, a few memoirs, other various non-fiction works, an art book and a screenplay. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books based on my overall enjoyment of the texts. Most, but not all of the books I read during 2017 were released in 2017. The overall selection was heavily influenced by copies I received freely from publishers through Goodreads giveaways. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My six favorite books:

Taduno’s Song – An African musician must find his lost voice in order to rescue his lover from a corrupt government.

The Clairvoyants– A Cornell student who sees spirits of the deceased unravels the mystery surrounding a missing persons case.

Songs of the Baka* – A writer and photographer share their travels to several uncommon destinations.

Spaceman of Bohemia* – A man on a solo mission in space is abandoned by his wife and encounters a strange creature aboard his ship.

Shelter in Place – A bipolar man falls in love with a woman who comes and goes after his mother is imprisoned for killing a man with a hammer.

The Fortunate Ones* – A painting stolen from a Jewish home by the Nazis during World War II resurfaces in Los Angeles decades later and brings together an unlikely pair of women.

After those six, my next nine top picks:

Under the Harrow – A suspense thriller involving the murder of a woman in England.

The One Eyed Man – After becoming a widower, a man lets his true self shine through resulting in his own reality TV show.

Brussels Noir* – Short stories, some bizarre, that take place in Brussels.

Soldier Boy* – Based on a true story, this YA book relays the stories of two boy soldiers in the Ugandan civil war.

Men without Women – Short stories from Japan focused on men without women.

Oola* – Thought-provoking story of boy meets girl and their hermetic existence.

Twig* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s America deals with life’s struggles.

A Fortune Foretold* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s Sweden deals with life’s struggles.

Sourdough – A tech industry workaholic is transformed into a breadmaker after being gifted a unique sourdough starter.

Four books that should have been better:

The King is Always Above the People* – Short stories involving Latinx characters.

O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – A collection art commissioned for the anniversary of San Francisco’s City Hall.

A Loving, Faithful Animal* – A girl in Australia comes of age in a broken home.

As Red as Blood* – Scandinavian teens find a bloody bag of money.

Four books I feel would be better to pass on:

We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – An Italian media mogul plots and schemes to hype an upcoming film failure.

Malafemmena – Short stories focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations.

Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – A memoir by a German major about her time abroad and PhD struggles.

A Life of Adventure and Delight* – Short stories of everyday life involving characters of Indian descent.

All titles appear below in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links above and below are to book reviews I’ve written. Carey, Currie, Maksik, Murakami and Sloan are the only authors I’ve read before this year. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you’ve particularly enjoyed.

So Much I Want to Tell You* – Anna Akana
The King is Always Above the People* – Daniel Alarcón
The Leaf Reader* – Emily Arsenault
Taduno’s Song – Odafe Atogun
Mexico Stories* – Josh Barkan
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Clairvoyants*- Karen Brown
Wrong about Japan – Peter Carey
The Hanging Girl*- Eileen Cook
We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – Pino Corrias
Book of Moon* – George Crowder
The One Eyed Man – Ron Currie Jr.
The Slave* – Anand Dilvar
Brussels Noir* – Michael Dufranne
Malafemmena – Louisa Ermelino
The Sunlight Pilgrims* – Jenni Fagan
O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – Jeremy Fish
Soldier Boy* – Keely Hutton
Songs of the Baka* – Dennis James
Spaceman of Bohemia* – Jaroslav Kalfar
White Fur* – Jardine Libaire
Bluebird, Bluebird* – Attica Locke
The Infinite* – Nicholas Mainieri
Shelter in Place – Alexander Maksik

The Beauty of the Fall* – Rich MarcelloBright, Precious Days* – Jay McInerney
Leopard at the Door* – Jennifer McVeigh
Men without Women – Haruki Murakami
Wolf Haven* – Annie Marie Musselman & Brenda Peterson
The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura
Oola* – Brittany Newell
Twig* – Madelon Phillips
A Fortune Foretold* – Agneta Pleijel
Rebels like Us* – Liz Reinhardt
A Loving, Faithful Animal* – Josephine Rowe
Fantastic Beasts Original Screen Play* – J.K. Rowling
Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – Rebecca Schuman
Lola* – Melissa Scrivner Love
A Life of Happiness and Delight* – Akhil Sharma
As Red as Blood* – Salla Simukka
Sourdough – Robin Sloan
Our Own Private Universe* – Robin Talley
A French Wedding* – Hannah Tunnicliffe
The Fortunate Ones* – Ellen Umansky
Fraulein M.* – Caroline Woods

*These titles were given to me through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review | A Fortune Foretold by Agneta Pleijel

fortune foretold coverA Fortune Foretold is an autobiographical novel that relays a story of Neta growing up in Sweden, mostly during the 1950’s. She and her two younger sisters progress through grade and high school as their parents strained relationship is tested and matters at home are a struggle. Family members also enter in various off-shoots over the course of the story.

The book begins in a challenging manner as the protagonist refers to herself mostly in the third person. Fragments of memories are revealed transporting the reader through the years of feelings and interactions Neta has with her family and friends. The second half of the novel is easier to follow than the first and the level of emotional involvement increases considerably. Not recommended for those looking for a pick-me-up novel, this would be more enjoyable for those interested in tumultuous family affairs, depression or coming of age timepiece novels. Overall, the text is well written and thought provoking. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Fortune Foretold, you may be interested in A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe (2017).