I’ve been slowing down on reading library books lately (I’m trying to cut my ARC stack down significantly before year’s end) but I have read three so far this month, and I’d love to share with you my thoughts on them.

First is This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, a novel about a family of four adult children and their mother, who slowly unravel and spin out of control after the death of the patriarch of the family.  When Judd’s father passes away, his dying request is that his family spend the following seven days in the same house, together, like the cohesive family unit they used to be.  Tensions erupt, grudges come to the surface, and old family secrets are uncovered throughout this week of family “togetherness”.  I was pretty impressed with this novel, it captivated me and I was emotionally invested in this family from the first page.  There is no shortage of drama within these pages, but the characters read so much like real people who I just wanted things to get resolved for and everyone to rebuild their relationships.  Tropper provides a nice mix of plot points and character development, as these characters certainly have a lot going on in their lives (I mean drama with a capital D, seriously) yet he still managed to craft interesting characters that I wanted to get to know.  A solid novel, I enjoyed it immensely.

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach was quite the entertaining read.  It feels like I’ve been meaning to read something of Mary Roach’s forever, so Ibook cover finally snagged this one on audio and I was very pleased with it.  What’s great about Ms. Roach is that she isn’t afraid to ask questions – any questions – about subjects that interest her.  I personally wasn’t thinking about whether astronauts have sex in space, how they go to the bathroom, and if it might be terrifying to space walk; however now I know the answer to all those questions and I am happy I learned!  I was impressed with the author’s “immersion journalism” – she was super involved in what she was writing, she spent a ton of time at the space center and participated in simulations, interviewed astronauts, etc.  It’s clear from reading Packing for Mars that Ms. Roach is passionate about the space program, and the book itself is a compelling argument for keeping the space program alive in the United States.  I would absolutely recommend Packing for Mars, even if you aren’t particularly interested in the outer space exploration – it is interesting and funny either way.

9780316014557_94X145Sweethearts by Sara Zarr was such a great read.  The story is about childhood best pals Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick – both social outcasts who have found solace in one another’s company.  One day, Cameron disappears without warning, and Jennifer is forced to realize that she has no one in her life who really understands her.  So she reinvents herself, losing weight, changing her name, and becoming the happy, popular Jenna Vaughn in high school.  But when Cameron suddenly shows up in one of her high school classes, Jenna is flooded with memories of her childhood, and forced to examine with Cameron how differently their lives have turned out.  Sara Zarr is really great at writing these incredibly authentic, complex teenage characters.  I couldn’t help loving and rooting for Jenna and I really felt for her throughout the story.  She was literally caught between two versions of herself and couldn’t figure out who she truly was inside.  The book’s ending is pretty ambiguous, which I sometimes hate, but in this case it worked.  I would advise any lover of young adult fiction to pick up Sweethearts, it’s an excellent read.