Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Hope's Boy" by Andrew Bridge

320 pages

Andrew Bridge's childhood was never stable. His dad was never in the picture, and his young mom, Hope, was so overwhelmed with him when he was little that she sent him to live with her mother in Chicago, while she lived in southern California. Andy loved living with his grandma, and he was happy. Then, when he was five, his mother decided she wanted him back. As much as he adored his grandmother, he was excited about being with his mother. It didn't take long, however, for it to become clear that Hope was not ready to be a mother. In fact, she could barely take care of herself. In only a few years, Andrew is taken into foster care, where he remains until he becomes an adult. Here, he chronicles his rocky time with his mother and subsequent journey through the foster care system. 

Andrew has a heartbreaking story, and it's totally inspiring how he came out of his situation and used education to make a better life for himself, and how he works to help foster children now that he's an adult. It's a story that's been told before, but I think it's important for people who have been in these circumstances to tell their stories so the rest of us know what happens to these children. It makes the statistics seem more real. It's not a book that I enjoyed reading--it made me sad--but I am glad I did.

Monday Mornings

by Sanjay Gupta
290 pages

Sanjay Gupta is a medical correspondent for CNN and a neurosurgeon.  He wrote this fictional account about Morbidity & Mortality conferences at Chelsea General.  These meetings happen on Monday mornings at 6 a.m., hence the title of the book.  The surgeons in this novel try their best to be good doctors, but mistakes happen.  Monday mornings are the time that these doctors are held accountable for their mistakes and must answer to their peers.  This process ultimately makes them better doctors, but it may test their confidence in their abilities.

This novel is more character-driven than plot-driven.  Several doctors are introduced during the course of this novel.  Each has his or her own flaws.  Many of them have put their careers above their families and personal relationships.  Many learn hard lessons as they seek to establish their legacies and find meaning in their lives.

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man

by Steve Harvey
232 pages

I am a married woman, so I admit, much of this book did not pertain to me.  However, I was intrigued by Steve Harvey's viewpoint on male-female relations when I saw him on Anderson Cooper, so I thought I'd give this book a try.  It does have a lot of useful dating advice, and I really wish it had been around when I was a single lady.  I would definitely recommend this book to any single ladies out there.

Steve Harvey basically lays it out for you.  He explains the games men play and the ways tell if a man is "marriage material."  He also spells out how to solve some of those tricky problems girls encounter, like how to get your man to pop the question and how to get him to quit being a momma's boy.  Overall, this book was insightful.

Living Dead in Dallas

by Charlaine Harris
291 pages

The gay cook at Sookie's bar is found dead in the back of a cop car.  On top of that, the vampires of Dallas have called upon Sookie to solve a missing vampire case.  In the course of events, an anti-vampire group begins to cause lots of trouble for Sookie.  Sookie must use her telepathy and gut instincts to solve these problems and keep herself safe.  In the mean time, her  romance with Bill is continuing to blossom and develop, but Sookie has trouble dealing with some of Bill's vampire tendencies.

Overall, this was an interesting read.  Sookie is definitely not a "worldly" girl, but she has spunk.  I'm still not sure how I feel about her romance with Bill, and I admit that I would like to see her with Sam.  However, I always side with the shapeshifter.  (I'm not a huge Twilight fan, but I am definitely on Team Jacob.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Uglies (Uglies #1)" by Scott Westerfeld

406 pages

Tally Youngblood can't wait to turn sixteen. Not because she'll get her driver's license, but because she'll finally go from Ugly to Pretty. In the futuristic society she lives in, everyone gets an operation when they turn sixteen. An operation that leaves their skin perfect, their faces completely proportional, their eyes large and beautiful. Every single element of their appearance is designed for flawless beauty. Plus New Pretties get to move from their dorms in Uglyville to New Pretty Town, where life is one big party. There is no fighting, crime, or jealousy in New Pretty Town because no one has any advantages over anyone else. It's a system that was put in place hundreds of years ago, after the Rusties nearly ruined the world with their wars and destruction of the environment. It's a system that Tally believes in. Then she meets Shay. Her new friend has heard rumors of another place, way outside the city, where people stay Ugly. It's called the Smoke, and people there believe it's better to keep their own faces, that being Pretty is shallow and unnatural. Tally doesn't buy it, but when Shay disappears and Tally is captured by the Specials--scary Pretties who run the city and want to Tally to lead them to the Smoke--Tally finds herself in big trouble. If she doesn't betray her friend, she will never become Pretty. 

This book really sucked me in, and it's one that will stay with me. At first, I thought the premise was ridiculous, but as I read it began to make more sense. There are real reasons why the world decided that it was smart to make everyone Pretty, and some of their reasons are valid. I like that this dystopia isn't totally black-and-white. The new society has some clear advantages over the old ways--they don't have any war or serious crime, and they take care of the environment instead of destroying it like the Rusties (us!) do. Still, there are obviously some serious moral problems with what they're doing, and even more things come to light as Tally discovers some ugly secrets about what's really going on in her city. This kind of stuff makes you think about what is worth giving up to get rid of the bad parts of human nature. Tally frustrates me sometimes, but I ultimately like her. She makes some big mistakes, but when you consider how difficult it is for her to go against the philosophy she was raised with, she is actually quite strong. The ending is a perfect set up for the next book in the series. This is a good one for people who like sci fi but want the story to emphasize issues and characters more than the technology or setting. There are certainly some fun futuristic elements, but the main focus is on the plot. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"A Girl Named Zippy" by Haven Kimmel

275  pages

In 1950s, Mooreland, Indiana, had a population of 300. In the 1960s, it was 300. In the 1970s, 300. You get the picture. It was a small town, and things didn't change much. But for Haven "Zippy" Kimmel, it's a special place. It's where she raised her cats, PeeDink and Smokey, as well as Skippy the Hamster. It's where she sat in church pews with her mother every single Sunday and "went to church" in the woods with her father. It's where her family bickered with the next door neighbor, who wanted to poison their rowdy dogs. It's where she grew up. In this memoir, Zippy shares all the ups and downs of growing up in small-town America.

You know how the most random things stick out in your memories? This is basically Zippy's recollection of some of those moments from her early years. Nowadays there are so many depressing memoirs out there, so it's super refreshing to read one that's about a childhood that was actually pretty happy. There are some downers--the legitimately creepy teacher and Zippy's dad's drinking problem, to name a few--but they make the story feel real. If everything was too perfect, it would seem like Zippy was leaving things out. And, for the most part, the tone is optimistic and upbeat. Even though her family didn't have a lot of money, they all had a good time. There are plenty of funny and heartwarming moments. My one complaint is that it's quite unorganized. The stories are all over the place and not necessarily in chronological order, so I often found myself confused about what happened when. I don't mind the randomness of the stories--as I mentioned earlier, our memories often work that way. I just would have liked to see those random things organized in some sort of order, either chronological or by topic. Still, it's an enjoyable read that made me think fondly of my own childhood.