Sunday, April 17, 2011

22. The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn

From back of book:
"The year is 1880, and Bertie, having just arrived in New York with her family, is grateful to be given work as a seamstress inthe home of textile tycoon, J. P. Wellington.  When the Wellington family fortune is threatened, Bertie's father boasts that Bertie will save the business, that she is so skillful she can "practically spin straw into gold."

Amazingly, in the course of one night, Bertie creates esquisite evening gowns -- with the help of Ray Stalls, a man from her tenement who uses an old spinning wheel to create dresses that are woven with crimson thread and look as though they are spun with real gold. Indebted to Ray, Bertie asks how she can repay him.  When Ray asks for her firstborn child, Berties agrees, never dreaming that he is serious . . . "

As you can tell, this is story is based on the old Rumpelstiltkin fairy tale.  It just doesn't have the tension or menace that the original story has.  In fact, it was pretty bland and the ending wrapped up too quickly and neatly.  I would call this a pleasant read but nothing too compelling.  A bit disappointing.  Rating:  3.5

21. The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

"Joey Margolis is a mouthy Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn. After one too many beatings from the neighborhood bullies, he claims NY Giants' 3rd baseman Charles Banks is his best friend. When he's pressured for proof, Joey writes to Banks to request a home run, starting a flurry of funny, emotionally authentic letters. The letter exchange - peppered by miscellaneous newspaper articles, report cards and psychiatrist's transcripts - continues over a period of seven years, chronicling Joey and Banks' tumultuous but fiercely devoted friendship. The unlikely pair crack jokes, poke fun, threaten, boss, cajole, confide, advise and offer support to one another as the two face extended tours, Bar Mitzvahs, first girlfriends, last girlfriends and absentee fathers.

It is not only Joey's coming of age that is revealed in their notes, but Banks' too. Yeah, there's some baseball talk, but although the sport is what brings the characters together, it's still secondary to the sincere, funny, totally believable relationship between a boy and his reluctant hero."  axisgrid
I loved this book, enough to use someone else's review because it said what I wanted to say so well.  I love the letter, ephemera, clippings, etc format.  It made the book a quick read but let you see into the characters minds so well.  And Joey, Charlie and the rest of the cast are fantastic characters.  The humor is wonderful and the story, heartwarming.  Definitely a keeper which I highly recommend.  Rating:  5

Sunday, April 10, 2011

20. The Catalpa Tree by Denyse Devlin

"When Jude is orphaned at fourteen, her father’s best friend comes to the rescue. Oliver wants to remain her friend as well as her guardian, but spirited Jude isn’t a girl you can shelter from the world – not after she’s already suffered so much heartache. And with each passing year, both Jude and Oliver struggle in their own ways against the ties that bind them. What place has love inside and outside of their relationship?"

Jude and Oliver are fantastic characters and the story really draws you in.  You admire Jude for the way she handles the death of her father and being forced into a family that isn't always comfortable for her.  Her growth as a teenager into a young woman is very believable and was so thoughtfully written.  She is not perfect, quite selfish and self-centered, moody and often irritating, but never boring.  I loved Oliver.  He is handsome and urbane; but loving, giving and humorously neurotic.  Although it is hard to become parent to a fourteen-year-old girl, he never gives up on her or their relationship.  I really enjoyed this book, right up to the end which I absolutely hated.  It made no sense to me and it was depressing.  I can't say much about it because I would hate to give the ending away.  Others may like it.  (Cassie??)  Rating:  3.5 (I deducted a full point cheating me out of a better end.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

19. Last Witness by Jilliane Hoffman

This is the second book starring C J Townsend, an Assistant State Attorney in Miami.  If you want to read this series, start with the first; I always felt I was missing something because I hadn't. 

In this book, cops are being brutally murdered and a pattern soon emerges.  Only CJ makes the connection between the murders and herself.  Her guilt and fear drives a wedge between her and her boyfriend, Domick, who is a Special Investigator with eh state working on solving the murders.  While there is a proper amount of suspense in the book, there is also a lot of explicit carnage, blood and violence.  I also had a hard time sympathizing with what CJ does to cover up past misdeeds.  She just didn't mesh with me.  The reader is given broad hints throughout as to who the murderer is so the solving of the myster is quite anticlimatic.  A bit of a disappointment.
Rating:  3

Sunday, April 03, 2011

18. Long Spoon Lane by Anne Perry

I haven't read any Charlotte and Thomas Monk book for several years and had forgotten how enjoyable this couple is.  Charlotte comes from an upper-society family but fell  in love with Thomas (gasp, he is a lowly policeman) in the first book in the series.  They defy family and society and get married.  In this book, they live in a normal home with their two children and a housekeeper.  Thomas has been forced to leave the police department and is now working with Special Forces in an attempt to curb the anarchists who are trying to create a new society.  The book is full of police corruption and intrigue at the higest levels of Parliament.  Thomas forms an uneasy alliance with an old enemy to thwart the ambitions of a mutaul enemy.  I like the historical aspects of this book (late 1800's, I believe) when the police were just beginning to be accepted.  Plus Thomas and Charlotte are wonderful characters.  It was a good book with a good mystery, danger, and action.  A great series.  Rating:  4.25

17. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Deilemna by Trenton Lee Stewart

Once again, the four kids find themselves in a perilous situation with the evil Mr. Curtain trying to take advantage of their gifts and gain control of the world.  At the time, the children and their families are all living with Mr. Benedict in order to protect them from Mr. Curtain and his minions.  (Minions is a delicious word, isn't it?)  Of course, things go awry and the children find themselves in a prison where they attempt to escape and send a warning to Mr. Benedict.  The fact the Mr. Benedict and Mr. Curtain are brothers, and both suffer from narcolepsy just adds to the humor of these books.  And there is plenty of adventure and drama as well.  Great books for older children to read.  Rating:  4.5