ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT
Perry Gonzales is a scholarship student at an elite Beverly Hills private school with her sights set on an elite college. The story is told in the form of letters to the admissions officer there and with wonderfully dark humor that will appeal to adults as much as it will to teens. Perry has built a business as a tutor and somewhat babysitter to the kids she attends school with, discovering their "sins" and telling their cautionary tale so that others might learn from their mistakes. She explores all of the deadliest sins with elements that will make any freshman gasp with immediate comprehension.
Wrath is my particular favorite where the oldest son finds such anger when his mother gives birth to twins that he cannot be trusted to be alone with them, so his mother hires Perry so she can get an hour or two of sleep. But being angry does have consequences and in this case, they are quite dire. Lust takes the form of a teen so spoiled that she does everything in her power, from hunger to breathing strikes, to have the Judas Brothers perform just for her. Pride takes a parent's demand for absolute perfection creates absolute devastation for perfect scholar/athlete. Greed, of course, has a horrible ending as well as envy, gluttony and sloth proving that karma always comes back.
I fell in love with Perry's voice and her relationship with her mother. As a single mother, Ylena Marie, works as a nurse to support her daughter and gives no quarter. Whenever Perry finds she cannot cope or resolve an issue, her mother is there with wisdom and just the right words. The ending really caught me off guard with a big surprise. I was also excited to see that this book has been optioned by MTV which is wonderful news since my favorite show, Awkward, plays along the same lines with a very cerebral main character. Well, now that I have officially read every book Gigi has written, it is time for me to look to next year when I better get another one!
I really stayed up late one night reading this and didn't want to leave the author's words, so I read all the way through the afterword as well.
ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT
Josephine has a brilliant mind and her imagination helps her create a program that lets users keep track of their memories using social networking, photos and even thoughts. Judith was the center of attention growing up while Josephine was always a bit strange but now that Judith has drifted from job to job, her sister hires her to help out at the new company, Genizah. The story weaves back and forth between the sisters and Solomon Schechter's tale of his life and ultimate discovery of a vast collection of Jewish historical artifacts in Egypt. Also, explain is the life of Maimonides, the author of A Guide for the Perplexed, and one of Schecter's main discoveries. There are several other minor historical characters scattered about as well.
The story really tells about the bond between sisters and brothers mixed with a thrilling contemporary of intrigue. As Josie travels to Egypt to help the new library at Alexandria catalog, she leaves her young daughter, Tali at home with her business-partner husband, Itamar. After helping to organize the library's catalog, she is kidnapped and thought to be murdered by a militant faction. The outcome is anything that you could expect. Told through multiple points of view, there is nothing that can prepare you for the ending. One of my favorite things to do is guess how a plot will turn out and I was completely off guard with this one.
I love historical fiction, especially when it is related to current events and Horn does an amazing job with bringing these tales together. The underlying themes of redemption and how blood is thicker than water are played out as each set of characters try to do the right thing for their families. One interesting note is the role Asthma plays in each set of characters and their stories. Maimodes, a physician in ancient Egypt, tries to help a ruler treat his condition and sends his brother to his death seeking herbs that will help control it. Schecter suffers from the condition as well and Josie also suffers from it.
The details and patterns that link each of these characters is amazing. I haven't read anything this thought provoking in a long time. I really didn't want this book to end and found myself looking a lot of things about the historical characters since I found myself fascinated by them. This would make a perfect choice for a book club since there are so many different ideas that can spark discussions about technology, current world events and family. I really enjoyed this one and I am going back to find more by this author.
Leah Sullivan grew up in Lucky Harbor with a domineering father and a mother who allowed him to bully her, so as soon as she could, she left and never looked back. Drifting aroung and never finishing school, she does succeed as a pastry chef so when her aunt has to have surgery, she comes back home to help out in her bakery. She has competed onSweet Wars, a televised reality baking show, which will have you rooting for her much like the people who live in Lucky Harbor to win. Her best guy friend growing up, Jack Harper has remained an ally with Leah but there has never been anything more than sworn friendship, even though the sparks are present. And considering, he is now head of the fire department, you know this is going to lead to a blaze of hotness. (I know, for some reason these books bring out the puns in me.)
Oh, and Jack's mother is fighting breast cancer, so when Joe brings Dee into the bakery to tempt her to eat, Leah blurts out that they are now seeing each other which makes Dee overwhelmingly happy. Jack figures something that makes his mother snap out of her depression is a wonderful thing and decides that he doesn't really want to lie to his mother so he gives it his all. Even the little details like Leah's friends and their snarky comments all ring true. Those girls have cornered the market on hot firefighter cliches! I love reading about how Leah, with the help of Jack just makes everything come together. It also wouldn't be a true "Jill" book without a bit of mystery and conflict. In this case, it is a strange building fires around the small community.
The situation that Leah creates with one little white lie is so believable that everything just falls together so naturally in this story. Every time I pick up one of Shalvis's books, I keep wondering if this will be the one that lets me down and every time I adore that one more than the last. I instantly get sucked into the characters and the winning dialogue with just enough detail that isn't overwhelming or sticky sweet. (ok, sorry, more puns). So dig in, grab a glass of wine, or in my case water, and read this charming story.