Saturday, April 24, 2010

House Rules (Jodi Picoult)

I am going to begin this with a disclaimer. As anyone who knows me is well-aware, Ms. Picoult is my favorite author, hands down. House Rules is her 18th novel, and while not her best, even my LEAST favorite would get a 4 in my rating scale. It absolutely kills me to give her anything less than a 5 because I love her so much. This is only the 2nd of the 18 that I would do that to (Salem Falls being the other). Jodi...please don't hate me.

Picoult's novels usually center around an issue and a trial. This time, the issue is a young man with Asperger's Syndrome. Jacob lives with his mother, Emma, and younger brother, Theo. Picoult researches her topics impeccably and this is no exception. When Jacob's social skills instructor is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. The fact that he is obsessed with forensics and shows up uninvited at crime scenes does not help him.

Picoult integrates her usual style seamlessly with classic murder mystery. The reader does not find out the truth until the last few pages. However, there is much ambiguity and a lot of questions remain unanswered. While this works for plays like Doubt and TV shows like The Sopranos, I hate when this happens in books. For this reason, and ONLY this reason, I have to give it a 4.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pictures at an Exhibition (Sara Houghteling)

There is nothing better than a great historical fiction piece to take the reader to another era. Pictures at an Exhibition accomplishes this for the most part. This is often the little known part of the Nazi reign of their invasion of France also resulted in one-third of all privately owned art being stolen. The Louvre was evacuated to prevent this from happening there.

This is the story of the fictional Berenzon family. The father, Daniel, is a well-respected French art dealer who spends his days educating his son, Max, in the differences between Mattisse and Manet. Max is in medical school, but cannot seem to find his place in life let alone the family business. With the Nazi invasion, the Berenzons are forced to flee, leaving their stash of priceless artwork in the hands of their gallery assistant, Rose Clement. When they return, the collection has vanished. Pictures at an Exhibition continues in Max's quest to retrieve the paintings and find Rose.

While parts of the book move slower than others, it lets the reader in on a haunting truth. The locations of 40,000 French art items pillaged by the Nazis remain unknown.


This review can also be found at

Friday, April 2, 2010

Getting In (Karen Stabiner)

Upon the arrival of a new baby, parents may begin to sock some money away in a college fund for 18 years in the future. With Harvard's cost for 2010-2011 estimated (on their own website) to be $50,724 for tuition, room, board, and fees, parents are going to need a lot of socks!

Getting In is a fictional story (but very true at many high schools) of students, parents, and guidance counselors working around the clock to gain admittance to competitive colleges. The sad reality is that one blown test can lower a GPA a few hundredths of a percentage point to prevent admission. Stabiner excels at giving the reader a glimpse into the brutal process, from questioning the taking of a non-weighted art class to being a valedictorian that only got on Harvard's waitlist. Stabiner clearly shows us that being a private school guidance counselor has to be one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

This book is very enjoyable, a quick read, and unfortunately, quite true. If you are the parent of a high school student, it will probably scare you to death.


This review can also be found at