Brendan Halpin

When 14-year-old Rosalind’s mothers are killed in a tragic accident, who should step in as her new guardian but Sean Cassidy, the man whose sole contribution to her existence up to this point has been a sperm sample. Their new family – if you can call it that – is awkward to say the least. Still coming to terms with the loss of his own mother as a child, Sean knows something of what Rosalind is going through, and has his fingers crossed that that may be enough.

Adding insult to injury, everyone in Rosalind’s life seems to be bugging her, despite their good intentions; the grief counselor Sean’s arranged for her to see is fixated on her keeping a grief journal, her moms’ best friend is too wrapped up in her own loss to be of much help to Rosalind, and her friends’ not knowing how to deal with it is just making Rosalind feel worse, especially since she’s not sure how to deal with it herself. And then there’s Sean. How is Rosalind supposed to feel about this guy who all of a sudden is her dad? It seems like Sean can barely take care of himself; why would he want to parent a teenager he only knows through the annual letters and photographs Rosalind’s mothers sent him?

It doesn’t take long for Rosalind to bring out the parent in Sean; trouble at school, questionable friends and sneaking out at night force Sean into the role, whether he’s ready for it or not. And surprisingly, the events that look like they’ll drive a permanent wedge between Rosalind and Sean just might get them to start looking at each other like family.

Brendan Halpin is utterly convincing as the voice of Rosalind; he does ‘teenage girl’ better than some women authors I’ve read. The attitude, the slang, the introspectiveness, it all screams teenager. Her journal entries and emails are funny and heartbreaking at the same time. She’s an immensely likeable character, and you can’t help but want her to find some peace.

Sean is the perfect foil for Rosalind. Insecure but well-meaning, he keeps trying to put his best foot forward with Rosalind, but then ends up tripping over his own shoelaces. His attempts to reach out to Rosalind on her terms are endearing, and his defense of her to school officials when she gets into trouble is admirable. Both of these characters are so well-drawn, fragile and strong in their own ways, trying to work their way through a bad situation to establish a new family, that readers will certainly find themselves turning pages feverishly, to see if Rosalind and Sean are going to make it and hoping that they do.

Donorboy, Halpin’s third book (after It Takes a Worried Man and Losing My Faculties) is engaging and innovative as well. Brendan Halpin tells the story solely through journal entries, email correspondence, text messages, instant messages, transcripts, letters and other communications. It’s unexpected yet surprisingly effective, and absolutely in keeping with Rosalind and Sean’s unconventional family.

Make Time:
The Survival Guide for Women With Too Much To Do
Pamela Allardice

When I first saw Pamela Allardice’s Make Time: The Survival Guide For Women With Too Much To Do, I was skeptical. Here’s another book from a perfect wonder woman who’s managed to make life look easy and wants to tell the rest of us what we’ve been doing wrong, I thought. That is, until I read this line: “There have been many days when I’ve hurled myself out of bed at 6 a.m. and just run flat out all day without a break, finally collapsing over the finishing line at 11 p.m.” Um, okay; I stand corrected. Since that actually is my life, maybe she can tell me a thing or two about being a woman with too much to do after all.

From health and fitness to finances, family to entertaining, housework to careers, spiritual rejuvenation to just plain taking care of yourself, Allardice’s book covers it all in easily digestible chapters. Each chapter is made up of one-page pieces include timesaving tips on skincare, organizing your kitchen, recycling, getting a grip on home or office files, resume writing, how to delegate (at work and at home), and how to say no. Allardice provides real tools women can use to lay claim to some of the time that seems to disappear every day and feel more in control of the things that are important to them.

With text that’s neatly organized into catchy headlines, plus a pithy summary at the bottom of each page, Make Time’s got additional appeal in its pick up and go readability. For those of us who don’t have time to read books cover to cover about how to better organize our lives, this format is perfect; leave the book in your bag, toss it in your car, or leave it on a night table or kitchen counter. If you can’t read it page by page, it’s still handy for a quick reference or source of inspiration.

Allardice liberally spikes her book with quotes from notable women that will make you laugh, think, and probably cringe, sometimes all at once. Anecdotes from her own harried life as a mother of two working 50 hour weeks make it easy to relate to her, and the friendly, informal tone she uses makes readers feel like ‘one of the girls’. Allardice provides real life solutions – small changes and suggestions that are practical, can make a difference in your efficiency or outlook on life, and don’t require superhuman effort.

Make Time is a well-rounded book with something for everyone, from a quick-and-dirty brownie recipe that’s perfect for last-minute bake sales, class parties or entertaining, to how to prioritize tasks. Allardice includes a list of what to keep in a first aid kit, how to deal with interruptions at work (or while working at home), how to shop for banking services and insurance, and tips on how to control clutter and clean out your closet.

Most of the information in Allardice’s book won’t be new to readers; a lot of it is common sense. But we all know how easy it is to lose our focus in the daily rush of home, family, work and social life. Having convenient reminders here in one easily-usable handbook like Make Time is well worth it.

Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer.

© Melt Magazine 2005