Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Rosie Project Review

The Rosie Project was one of amazon's best books of October. It sounded intriguing and as it was totally different in tone from Allegiant, I went for it. The novel is by Graeme Simsion, a brand new author from Australia, where the book is already very popular.

The Rosie Project follows Don Tillman, a socially challenged genetics professor who works at a university in Australia. Don readily admits that socializing isn't his thing. But yet, he decides that he is ready to get married. He wants a partner but is beyond obsessive about what that wife will be like. After a few dates, he decides to come up with a questionnaire for his future spouse, including their BMI, view on smoking and alcohol. He relies heavily on his friends, Gene and Claudia, a couple in an open marriage. Their relationship and Don's reaction to it causes a lot of unintentional humor. Gene is on a quest to sleep with one woman of every nationality. Because Don is so direct, he keeps telling Claudia what Gene is actually up to when he claims he is working or whatever.

Despite their own problems, Gene and Claudia help Don on his quest. Gene ends up sending a woman named Rosie to Don's office. Don assumes that she is a candidate for the wife project, which Gene was helping to sort. He also automatically dismisses her as being totally unsuitable for a variety of reasons (she is a "barmaid", as Don calls her, so she isn't intellectually equal to him, plus she smokes). However, when Rosie asks Don for help in identifying her birth father, he ends up spending more and more time with her. Soon, Rosie is shaking Don out his routines. Don had previous had a standardized meal plan where he made the same dinner on the same day every day of the week. Rosie quickly changes that as well as introduces Don to making cocktails, dancing and traveling outside of his comfort zone in more ways than one.

Don is quite the character. It seemed clear to me that he has Asperger Syndrome or some other form of high functioning autism. In fact, early on in the book, he takes on a lecture that Gene was supposed to give to children with Aspergers and their families and I kept waiting for him to realize, oh wait, I have all of these characteristics too. That does eventually come up in the book, but it takes a while. Rosie is a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype but she is still a lot of fun and it's enjoyable seeing Don's world turning upside down.

One of the best parts of the book is that the author has links (at least in the kindle version) to all of the recipes that Don makes in the book. I'm dying to make his lobster and avocado salad! Anyway, this is a sweet, quirky romantic comedy. Apparently Simsion is writing a sequel. I'll probably read it although I felt like The Rosie Project wrapped up really nicely and doesn't really need a second book. But in any case, it's a fun read!

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Allegiant Review


Last winter I read Veronica Roth's Divergent and Insurgent, the latter of which I did not enjoy as much as the former. Before I started Allegiant, I checked out The Transfer, a short story set before the series started that focused on Tobias on his own choosing day and then in his first moments as a Dauntless initiate. It's the first of three short stories starring Tobias. The Transfer was a good reminder of the Divergent world before I dove into Allegiant, which picks up in Chicago right after the events of the last book. Tobias is his mother Evelyn's right hand man, helping her control the city with her factionless followers, while Tris is in jail and faces a trial. This part is over quickly, though, and Tris is freed and approached by the Allegiant, a group of residents who want Chicago returned to the way it was, factions and all.

The Allegiant decide to send some of their group, including Tris, Tobias, Uriah, Christina, Cara and Tris' betraying brother Caleb out of Chicago in search of the people who left the video saying that they needed the help of the Chicago residents. Once they get out of the city, they are quickly approached by some people who take them back to a former airport, near the city, that is now the seat of a branch of the government. The Chicago crowd learns that years before this, genes started to be identified as causes of behavior and scientists worked to eliminate those genes. However, removing certain genes (or rather working to emphasize certain genes), like the murder gene, had unintended consequences. So people who had cowardice removed became aggressive and sometimes murderous. Those who were super intelligent often lost compassion. A war broke out between those who were genetically damaged and those considered genetically pure. Eventually the experiments started. Chicago, as it turns out, was a giant experiment to see if the genetically damaged would eventually be cured. Tris, as a divergent, is genetically pure since her genes started to heal themselves, giving her personality aspects of the different factions.

Tris accepts this, but Tobias is torn apart by being considered genetically damaged, a diagnosis that brings to the surface his childhood abuses at the hands of his father. This drives a wedge between Tris and Tobias (yet again), especially after Tobias lets himself get dragged into a terrorist attack on the airport by those fighting for the rights of the genetically damaged. Unfortunately this attack led to the near fatal injury of one of their group. Tris, meanwhile, learns interesting information about her mother, and gets asked to take a seat on the bureau's council. In that way she learns that the federal government wants to shut down the experiment in Chicago, which is one of the only remaining of the original experiments trying to cure the genetically damaged. The bureau's response is to wipe the memories of everyone in Chicago in order to reset the experiment and keep it going. Since Chicago is an experiment, video cameras monitor all the action there 24/7, just like The Truman Show. The Chicago group is upset about this decision, except Tobias, who secretly wishes his parents' minds would be wiped. Tris and Tobias manage to mend fences (finally consummating their relationship) and team up with their friends with a plan to inoculate some of their family members and friends in Chicago, while also attempting to steal the memory serum from the airport's weapon's lab in order to wipe the bureau workers' minds. This way they can teach the government that genetically damaged people aren't bad and deserve equality.

I had read before this book that it had a shocking ending, which I completely agree with. I certainly was not expecting what happened, given that this is a YA novel. Even Katniss got a happy ending in Mockingjay. The ending was certainly hopeful for many of the characters but not all of them make it to the end. Let's just say that the selflessness of Abnegation ran strong in some of the protagonists even to the very last moment... even when it mean sacrificing themselves. While Allegiant really only touched on the actual Allegiant group briefly and most of the action took place outside of Chicago, this novel was much better than Insurrection, the second book in the series, but still not as good as Divergent. I'm intrigued by the movie that is coming out next March. One of my friends reminded me about it today so now I'm excited to see it with her next year. Overall, Allegiant was a satisfying end to the series, even if it did have a shocking twist for the characters.

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble