Saturday, May 31, 2014

January - December 2003 Reading

I'm reading through my stack of journals and I love finding my notes on the reading I did before I began this blog!

Break In
Dick Francis
Kit Fielding #1
Audio - Great Story
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 3.93
cag: 4

Jockey Kit Fielding, esteemed winner of many races, becomes embroiled in his sister Holly's financial disaster, when a "rag" London paper starts rumors about her husband's training stables.  Twists, turns, intrigues - with Kit Fielding as the clever hero.  A great read.

Crispin, The Cross of Lead
Mid Grades HistFict
Goodreads rating: 3.57
cag: 1/Didn't like it

As is my usual reaction to an Avi book, I am not impressed or thrilled.  There were so many wonderful books published in 2002, I cannot understand why this was chosen for such a prestigious award.  And although last year's winner, A Single Shard, was good, I found nothing special about it, either.  Both go back many, many centuries.  Hmmmmm....
     A young boy who has only been called "Asta's Son" finds himself orphaned and on the run when the steward of the landowner accuses him of theft and puts a bounty on him.  He leaves the confines of his tiny village and meets up with a gentle giant, a "jester" named Bear.  Much of the plot seems drawn out and throughout the first half of the book there are numerous references to religion, Jesus, god.  And as in Charlotte Doyle, Crispin changes too much too fast to make the story believable to me.  Great descriptions of Medieval England, though.

Pictures of Hollis Woods
Patricia Reilly Giff
166 pgs.
Middle Grades CRF
Goodreads rating: 3.98
cag:  5/I loved this book!

Hollis Woods, abandoned as a baby, has always wanted to belong to a "real" family.  She has toughtened, and runs from homes and situations.  This story is written, not exactly in two voices, but flips back and forth between her first person telling of the present and descriptions of pictures she's drawn of the previous summer, when she lived with a family she loved, in a house on the sideof a mountain on the edge of the Delaware River in a town called Branches.
     Hollis is a gifted artist.  Her story unfolds as this fairly short book progresses.  Josie, the elderly ex-art teacher she now lives with is getting Alzheimers adn they "run away" (with Henry the cat) to the house in Branches, where Holly had been so happy, during a snowstorm and Christmas.  Great story.  A 10!

Say Yes
Audrey Couloumbis
Finished 3/4/03
Goodreads rating: 3.71
cag:  4

A quick read, really good story.  Heartwarming.  Copyright page blurb:  "I her efforts to hand on following the disappearance of her stepmother, Casey resorts to anything, including robbery."  But this book is so much more! I can totally imagine Casey, at 12, figuring out how to live in her NYC apartment alone.  I can imagine her friendship with Paulie, and even her going along with robbing the old lady.  Sylvia returning, apologetically, is real.  Sylvia abandoning Casey is a little harder to swallow.  Another great story.

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found
Sarah Nickerson
Finished 3-13-03
Middle Grades Mystery
Goodreads rating: 3.88
cag:  3.5

Margaret must find out the real story behind her father's drowning five years before.  So she sneaks off to the Washington state island where he grew up - and drowned.   This mystery , written in several voices, grabs you, although I almost put it down at first.  I persevered and I'm glad I did.  Margaret and her new friend Boyd put together pieces of the mystery - using handmade comic books about "Ratt man and the Drowing Ghost" that keep mysteriously appearing.

Back Story
Robert B. Parker
Spenser #30
Finished 3/21/03
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 3.79
cag:  4

Wonder why this title?  Spenser and Hawk track down the story behind a 28-year-old shooting that took place in a Boston bank during a hold up by the Dread Scott gang - which no one has heard of since.  It had been hugely covered up - FBI coverup, too, and involved a huge mob kingpin, Sonny Karnofsky.  References to the hippy movement, a trip to Lynnfield (and to Parker's old house where Tony deBeurs used to live) a quick trip to Kennebunkport and LaJolla - a bit of work with Parker's Jesse Stone in Paradise - lots included in this one.  Oh, and new Pearl!  What happened to the old one?  Good story.

Dick Francis
Kit Fielding #2
audio, 1986
Finished 3/29/03
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 3.95
cag: 4

This is a sequel to Break In - with Kit Fielding again outsmarting the bad guy - this time thwarting the evil efforts of a Frenchman, partner to Princess Cassillia's husband, who wants signatures to allow him to produce plastic firearms.  Maynard Aladeck still lurks, trouble in paradise with his lady-love,  Danielle, and more horse racing combine to make an interesting read which makes the driving miles fly by!

The Visitant
Kathleen O'Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear
Book #1 in the Anasazi Mystery series
Finished 4/6/03
358 pgs. a long one
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 4.10
cag: 3.5/very good

I finally finished this!  I listened to the first tapes a year ago, then lost the last one.  Reading the last part - with, I admit, a few holes from "memory loss" - was very satisfying.  Two stories flip back and forth.  Modern-day archaeologists in New Mexico dig up ancient bodies while we look bak and get the whole story about how...and why...they get there.  Browser, young, strong, a warrior, is the protagonist and sleuth who pieces together and tries to prevent a series of murders of femalse and solves the disappearance of his young wife.

A Corner of the Universe
Ann M. Martin
Finished 4/6/03
Middle Grades CRF
Goodreads rating: 4.03
cag: 3.5

I was a little apprehensive about his - never been a fan of Babysitter's Club - took a little while to get into, but once I did, it went quite quickly.
     Setting:  1950's.  Characters are well developed and writing is clever and clear.  Story is about the summer that Hattie Owens discovers that she has a mentally handicapped 21-year old uncle that's been a family secret for her entire life.  He has to return home to their small town, and there's a very tragic twist that's handled in a non-sensationalized way, with good foreshadowing and storytelling, including a rigid, high class grandmother, a carnival friend, and small town summer activities.

Moment of Truth
Lisa Socttoline
Rosato & Associates #5
Audio book, 2000
Finished 4/15/03
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 3.80
cag: 2.5/so-so

Jack Newlin, prestigious Philadelphia lawyer, pleads guilty to his wife's murder, trying to protect his pregnant 16-year old daughter, who he thinks did it.  But when he discovers she didn't, it takes his own inexperienced lawyer, Mary DiNunzio, to find the eveidence to prove his innocence.  One bad thing after another happens - either characters are really good or really jerks.  Passed driving time, but not a favorite.

Gooney Bird Greene
Lois Lowry
Middle Grades CRF
Finished 4/17/2003
Goodreads rating: 3.89
cag: 4

fom the book blurb:  A most unusual new student (2nd grader) who loves to be the center of attention entertains her teacher and fellow second graders by telling absolutely true stories about herself, including how she got her name."  A great "how to write a memoir" read aloud!!

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Anne Brashares
Listened to on audio - great reader
Goodreads rating: 3.71
cag: 4

This was a keeper!  It's the story of four girls - very close friends - and the first summer of their lives when they're scattered and not together.  It becomes four individual stories all intertwined - these special pants are shared, as are their stories.  Carmen: half Puerto Rican, spending the summer with her dad and his new family in South Carolina.  Lena: in Greece with her grandparents (who live there), painting and "dodging" a local young man, Kostas.  Tibby:  who stays home in Washington DC and befriends a young girl with leukemia while working at the local Wallman's.  Bridget:  pursuing a male counselor at the soccer camp she's attending in Baja.  Good writing, meaty stories.  I think this would really appeal to YA females.

Sweet Hush
Deborah Smith
Adult CRF
Goodreads rating: 3.94
cag:  7/10

Hush McGillen's hard-fought life is rocked when her beloved son comes home from Harvard with his secret bride....daughter of the president of the U. S.  The first part of the book tells of Hush's roots as a poor apple farmer and how she worked to become the most prestigious apple farmer in the south.  The second part is the story of Nicholas Jacobek - orphaned nephew of the president,and how he became a powerful Marine operative.  The third part is the present, the relationship that's instantaneous between the two, and the uncovered lies that Hush has protected for many years.  The president's wife - a strong force in the story - goes head to head with Hush - and whether it's meant to or not, becomes comical and fun.  Don't usually like romance novels and I'd say this comes close, but this held my attention and entertained me well.

A Wild and Lonely Place
Marcia Muller
Sharon McCone #16
Listened to on audio
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 4.02
cag  6/10

Sharon McCone must find the diplo-bomber before he blows up the embassy of an Arabian country - where the granddaughter of the ambassador, Habiba, could get caught in the crossfire.  In the meantime, Sharon's boyfriend Hi (Hye? High?) is battling a weird disease he picked up in the tropics - and she gets in some flying time in their small plane.  A fairly decent mystery.

Hot Money
Dick Francis
Audio read by Simon Prebble - love listening to him, great accent
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 3.97
cag: 4

Ian Pembroke has been estranged from his father since his father's latest marriage...until that wife is found murdered and attempts are made on Malcolm's life.  So Ian begins investigating his extensive family - because one of them wants an early inheritance!
     Although there are LOTS of suspects, Francis introduces them slowly and cleverly, unfolding the plot well and, as usual, keeps things interesting.  Not his best, but you sure want to hear the whole thing!

Four to Score
#4 Stephanie Plum
Janet Evanovich
audio - C. J. Critt, read very well
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 4.15
cag: 8/10

Stephanie Plum is hunting down Maxine Nowicki, whose boyfriend charged her with car theft.  But Maxine is being elusive, leaving a coded treasure hunt for him to follow, and he hires Stephanie to help him find Maxine.  Steph's got a new sidekick, too; 6 1/2 foot tall cross-dresser transvestite "Sally" Sweet, who along with Steph's black ex-hooker friend Lulu and Grandma Mazer forage into territories like Atlantic City.  And in this one she movies in with Joe Morelli for a few days and there are some pretty steamy scenes.  Great laugh-out-loud parts, too.

The Misfits
James Howe
Goodreads rating: 3.76
cag: 10/10 (or 5 stars) Loved it.

Wow!  This was a wonderful book!  Although 275 pages long, it was a very fast read.  It is told by Bobby Goodspeed, in the first person.
     This is the story of four friends (the "Group of Five"  they call themselves), who have all been taunted and called names all their lives.  They are all 7th graders.
     Bobby - quiet, overweight, mom died of cancer when he was 8, works as a tie salesman (at age 12!) at a local department store
     Addie - very tall, outspoken, tries to stand for what's right
     Joe - now recognizes himself as gay - certainly his own person - changes his name all the time
     Skeezie - James Dean wanna-be greaser
The premise of the book is a 7th grade student council election that these protagonists enter as a third party - the NO-NAME party, trying to get name-calling to stop for at least one day.
     There's some wonderful writing and some very funny places...great insights and looks into the future....

The Watson's Go to Birmingham - 1963
Christopher Paul Curtis
Middle Grades Hist Fict
Goodreads rating: 3.90
cag: 9/10

A brilliant story, told by 10-year-old Kenneth/Kenny Watson.  It's the story of his family in Flint, Michigan...and particularly though, about his older brother, Byron/By.
     Told almost in short stories or vignettes, the writing is clever, the voice clear, the stories very funny and warm.  The last few are tough, but a great way to frame the Civil Rights movement - Birmingham, Alabama, when the bombing at a Baptist church killed four little girls.
     This includes some southern/black dialogue.  A wonderful book.  I particularly love the tough guy older brother and the innocent younger one...oh the ties that siblings form without even realizing it!

Jerry Spinelli
Goodreads rating: 3.70
cag: 4.5

Zinkoff, an exuberant kid who loves school, is not admired by his peers, but he doesn't seem to notice or care.  As we follow him through the grades to middle school, we are invited in for a peek inside his head - and it's an interesting journey.  There's some great descriptive writing here, too.....

The Murder Book
Jonathan Kellerman
Alex Delaware #16
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 3.88
cag: 3

Alex Delaware and his friend, Milo Sturgis (a gay cop) work together to solve a 20-year old murder.  Milo had been pulled off the case and transferred when he was a young cop, and now a mysterious photo album of bodies has appeared.  Young Janie Ingalls, murdered during or after a Bel Air teenage party, which had been hushed up and never solved.  LA setting - I can almost see it now!

Surviving the Applewhites
Stephanie S. Tolan
Middle Grades CRF
Goodreads rating: 3.62
cag:  5/5

Great story - Newbery Honor - The Applewhite family is artistic, creative, eccentric, and wonderful.  E. D., the protagonist, is home-schooled at their home, Wit's End, in rural North Carolina.  Jake, a rebellious, spike-haired, multi-pierced kid whose parents are in jail, comes to stay with them and the story is then partially told from his point-of-view.  The entire family all become embroiled in a community production of The Sound of Music.  A riotous, super book!

The DaVinci Code
Dan Brown
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating: 4.18
cag: 5

Started this at the end of the summer and finished for my book group.  Quite a a book!  I loved Angels and Demons, which Fran gave me and I read when Steve was sick.  It was so intricate, interesting, and thought-provoking....and this may be even more so.  Same protagonist.
     Secret societies that DaVinci, Newton, Boticelli belonged to - the Holy Grail not a cup but Mary Magdalene...Jesus' wife and mother of his child....whew!

And at the end of the journal, a list of books I haven't summarized:

High Five - Janet Evanovich, 1999
The Deadhouse (Alexendra Cooper #4) - Linda Fairstein, 2001
A Stone In My Hand - Cathryn Clinton, 2002
10 lb. Penalty - Dick Francis, 1997
Stone Monkey (Lincoln Rhyme #4)- Jeffrey Deaver, 2002
Decider - Dick Francis, 1993
True Confessions of a Heartless Girl - Martha Brooks, 2002 (5)
Keeper of the Night - Kimberly Willis Holt, 2003 (5)
Summoning God -Gear, Katherine O'Neal & W. Michael, 2001
Dust - Arthur Slade, 2001
Shadow Spinner - Susan Fletcher, 1999
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee, 1960 (5)
Shrink Rap (Sunny Randall #3) - Robert B. Parker, 2002
Buddha Boy - Kathe Koja, 2003
Dave at Night - Gail Carson Levine, 1999
Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan, 2003
Gathering Blue (The Giver #2) - Lois Lowry, 2000
Following Fake Man - Barbara Ware Holmes, 2001
Last to Die (Jack Swyteck #3) - James Grippando, 2003

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