Sunday, July 29, 2012

63. Miracle Cure by Harlen Coben (audio)

I've found that mysteries and thrillers are the best books to listen to while I'm driving to work and back each day.  This book was particularly compelling with its twists and turns.  I was quite far into the story before I began to suspect who the culprit was.  It's a good thing not to be able to solve the mystery too soon.   Here's a synopsis from the back of the book:

"They're one of the country's most telegnice couples:  beloved TV journalist Sara Lowell and New York's hottest basketball player Michael Silverman.  Their family and social connections tie them to the highest echelons of the political, medical, and sports worlds -- threads that will tangle them up in one of the most controversial  and deadly issues of our time.

In a clinic on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a doctor had dedicated his life to eradicating a divisive and devastating disease.  One by one, his patients are getting well.  One by one, they're being targeted by a serial killer.  And now Michael has been diagnosed with the disease.  There's only one cure but many ways to die . . ."

I find it interesting that the book cover does not spell out the name of the disease which is AIDS, but it was published in 1992 when the disease was much more controversial than it is today.  I also just read recently that they may have found a cure for AIDS which this book is all about.  The difference is that in 1992, so many people wanted to ignore AIDS because of its link to the gay community.    But, all that aside, the book is a great mystery, with a scary hit man and a surprising person who orders the hits.  I especially enjoyed the police detective who investigates the murders.  Max is a boyish-looking, Jewish, closet-gay man who hates violence, doesn't carry a gun, but is intellectually brilliant at putting the pieces together.  Great character.  While the book is dated (no cell phones), it is still a good read.  Rating:  4.5

Sunday, July 22, 2012

62. White Midnight by Dia Calhoun

From Amazon

Rose Chandler, a fifteen-year-old bondgirl who lives on Greengarden Orchard, fears everything: the dark, the moon, other people, and the Dalriadas from the Red Mountains who are at war with the Valley folk. But Rose especially fears the Thing locked in the attic of the Bighouse, home of Mr. Brae, the Master of Greengarden. Rose loves Greengarden and dreams of saving it from Mr. Brae’s neglect. That love gives her the courage to confront her fears one by one, until at last she comes face-to-face with the Thing in the attic. There, when Rose lights a candle in the dark, a nightmare beyond her worst imagining comes true, and she learns Mr. Brae has betrayed her. Then the Thing – and the intensifying war – present Rose with a terrible dilemma. Will she have to give up the land she loves in order to save it?

I didn't realy enjoy this book.  I found Rose tedious with her fears, although I was glad to see her overcome them in the end.  The Thing was obnoxious as was Mr. Brae.  But the worst was Rose's relationship with her family.  That was just sad.  Rating:  3

61. A Wild Ride Through the Night by Walter Moers (audio)

Twelve-year-old Gustave is the captain of his own ship when it becomes entangled between sister tornadoes.  That is how he meets Death, who gives him six tasks to complete to avoid becoming another soul used to feed the sun.  During the his quest, Gustave runs into dragons, monsters, treacherous terrain, and is even abandoned on a small asteroid in the middle of the universe.  It is a fun story and made even better by  the terrific narration of Bronson Pinchot.  (Remember Balki?)  He does incredible voices and portrays each character so well.  He makes Death's voice so deep and sinister, the donkey sounds a little like the donkey in Shrek and the most fearsome monster of all is scary but also very funny.  Very fun book to listen to.  I'm not sure I would have liked it as much is I had read it, but Pinchot made it great.  Rating:  4

59. Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

This novel tells the story of the daugher of the Emperor of Hindustan who built the Taj Mahal as a mmonument to his deceased wife.  Princess Jahanara is raised to be strong-willed and diplomatic like her mother.  But she is married off to a cruel, disgusting man in an effort to strengthen the empire.  Then her father asks her to oversee the construction of the immense building.  She meets and falls in love with the architect, further complicating her already dramatic life.  Not only must she hide her love, she tries to help her older brother become the strong prince he must be to withstand the machinations of her other brother.  So the book is more about Jahanara, her love life and the struggles she has with her brothers than it is about the actual monument.  In the end, I found it just okay.  Rating:  3

58. Magic Street by Orson Scott Card


In a peaceful, prosperous African American neighborhood in Los Angeles, Mack Street is a mystery child who has somehow found a home. Discovered abandoned in an overgrown park, raised by a blunt-speaking single woman, Mack comes and goes from family to family–a boy who is at once surrounded by boisterous characters and deeply alone. But while Mack senses that he is different from most, and knows that he has strange powers, he cannot possibly understand how unusual he is until the day he sees, in a thin slice of space, a narrow house. Beyond it is a backyard–and an entryway into an extraordinary world stretching off into an exotic distance of geography, history, and magic.

Passing through the skinny house that no one else can see, Mack is plunged into a realm where time and reality are skewed, a place where what Mack does and sees seem to have strange affects in the “real world” of concrete, cars, commerce, and conflict. Growing into a tall, powerful young man, pursuing a forbidden relationship, and using Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream as a guide into the vast, timeless fantasy world, Mack becomes a player in an epic drama. Understanding this drama is Mack’s challenge. His reward, if he can survive the trip, is discovering not only who he really is . . . but why he exists.

Fantastic, creative, hard-to-put-down.  While Ender's Game is still my favorite book by Card, I really enjoyed this book.  Mack is such a mesmerizing character, coming from a true evil that he struggles with and that goes against everything he is raised by his adoptive parent to be.  Rating:  4.75

Saturday, July 07, 2012

54. - 57. The Shadow Children Series, Books 1 thru 4 by Margaret Peterson Haddix

My cousin, Tracy, recommended this young adult series to me; and I found it to be very thought provoking.  The books tell the story  of a future society where the government has become a dictatorship, and the ruling class has all the money and most others are extremely poor.  Because of a famine at some past time, families are only allowed to have two children.  Third children have been outlawed.  Still hundreds of third children are born and kept hidden in their homes.  If discovered, the penalty is death.  Luke is one of these children.  When he faces potential discovery, a rich neighbor helps him to escape to a boys school with a fake ID.  The four books follow Luke as he adjusts to living without his family and finds other third children along the way.  The books are well-written, full of suspense and pathos.  The author does a fantastic job in creating characters who are trying to adapt in a society where they are unwanted and frightened of any changes in their life.  Imagine being scared of the outdoors because you have always lived inside with the blinds pulled.  There are three more books in this series that I look forward to reading soon.  Rating:  4.75

53. Straight on Till Morning by Mary S Lovell

Beryl Markham was a South African horse trainer and pilot.  She most famous for being the first woman to fly aross the Atlantic from East to West.  The author spent about a month interviewing the woman in her late eighties and going over all her memorabilia to write this book.  It is a portrait of a most unconvetional woman for her time.  Born in 1904, Beryl grew up in Kenya with her father who left her mostly to her own devices.  She had a gift with animals and became a well respected horse trainer.  Later she learned to fly and became very proficient, enough to make her celebrated flight.  She also was a pretty amoral person, using others to gain her own ends and had a many affairs during her lifetime.  While her abilities and accomplishments were very impressive, she doesn't seem like a very likeable person, even though the biographer seemed to admire the older woman she interviewed.  Rating:  3.5

52. One Last Chance by Jerry Borrowman (audio)

Artie Call is a juvenile delinquent in Boise in the early 1930's, but with a sad story.  He is coerced into helping some really bad, bigger and meaner guys into robbing a mansion while the owner is out.  Unfortunately, the owner, Mary Wilkerson, surprises them and Artie saves her from being beat to death by the others.  They are sent to prison, but Mary takes Artie under her wing and begins to reform him.  With the help of her chauffuer and the cook, Artie gains confidence in himself and his ability to resist temptations.  His bigget trial is the local banker, David Boone, who refuses to believe that Artie can change and accuses him when his home is vandalized. 

Reading about Boise in the 30's was fun.  It was definitely a simpler, more innocent time; but I found Artie to be almost too good to be true.  Things just fall into place for him.  At least, David Boone realistically resents his good fortune even if his persecution of Artie seems out of place.    There were some heartwarming moments, but I found the dialog to be stilted and the characters were unbelievable.   Artie is the bad boy with a heart of gold who turns out good and Mary is the curmudgeonly rich old woman who is redeemed by loving the young boy she saves.  So-so read.  Rating:  3

51. The Rope by Nevada Barr (audio)

From Amazon:

Anna Pigeon has been a ranger with the National Park Service for many years, but she had a very different life before tragedy sent her west seeking something new. Now Nevada Barr finally tells the previously untold story of Anna’s first foray into the wild, and the case that helped shape her into the ranger she became. Thirty-five years old, fresh off the bus from New York City, and nursing a shattered heart, Anna Pigeon takes a decidedly unglamorous job as a seasonal employee of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. On her day off, she goes hiking into the park never to return. Her co-workers think she’s simply moved on - her cabin is cleaned out and her things gone. Anna herself wakes up, trapped at the bottom of a dry natural well, naked, without supplies and no clear memory of how she got into this situation. As she slowly pieces together her memory, it soon becomes clear that someone has trapped her there, in an inescapable prison, and that no one knows that she is even missing. Plunged into a landscape and a plot she is unfit and untrained to handle, Anna Pigeon must muster the courage, strength, and will to live that she didn’t even know she still possessed in order to survive, outwit, and triumph.

I have always enjoyed the Anna Pigeon series and reading about the national parks.  It was fun to read how she became a ranger and to learn that she wasn't always the tough infallible crime solver we see in later years.  The audio story was very gripping, just the thing to keep me awake on the drive to work and back.  Rating:  4.25

Saturday, June 23, 2012

50. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Hannah owns her own cookie shop which keeps her very busy along with dodging her mother's matchmaking efforts.  But she still finds time to help her brother-in-law, Bill, solve two murders that have rocked their small Minnesota town.  The whole plot is a little unbelievable as Hannah goes about town, questioning everyone with very little push back considering she is not a police detective.  And Bill lets her because solving the murder will help him get a big promotion.  Why his boss doesn't know that Hannah is the true crime-solver is beyond me.  Still, Hannah is likeable and her cookie recipes look great.  Rating:  3.50

49. 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie (Audio)

From back cover:
For an instant two trains run together, side by side.  In that instant, Elspeth witnessed a murder.  Helplessly, she stared out of her carriage window as a man remorselessly tightened his grip around a woman's throat.  The body crumpled.  Then the other train drew away.

But who, apart from Jane Marple, would take her story seriously?  After all, there were no suspects, no other witnesses  . . . and no corpse.

This is another great story written by the mystery master.  I love Christie's books and am amazed at how she was able to write so many with such differing plots.  This mystery was quite intricate and it really challenges Miss Marple's abilities.  But she enlists a friend, thirty-two-year-old Lucy Eylesbarrow who owns her own cleaning service, to help find the body.  Marple has figured out where a body would have been thrown from the train and Lucy gains employment with the family who owns the estate.  Eventually the body is found and the murderer discovered but it is a wild ride going through all the clues.  I would never have figured it out.  Through the book, two of the suspects show a romantic interest in Lucy.  After making the arrest, the chief inspector asks Miss Marple is she knows who Lucy chooses.  And she answers, Of couse, she knows.  And the book ends with that statement.  I'll bet Dame Agatha had a good laugh leaving us all hanging.  Rating:  4.25

Thursday, June 14, 2012

48. Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

With every book featuring them, I enjoy Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg more.  They're hilarious.  In this book, the two witches have decided to travel to Ank Morpork to find Agnes, a girl from their village who they believe should join them as a third witch.  Agnes, who is a very large girl with a beautiful voice and loads of common sense has gone to the city to join the opera.  Yes, there are shades of the Phantom of the Opera in this story, but so funny.  Opera characters are strange even by Discworld standards.  There are some murders which Granny and Nanny help to solve and they are able to make their pitch to Agnes.  I'm not sure if she changes her career, maybe in another book.  I surely hope to read more about the witches as they have really grown on me.  Rating:  4.75

47.Replay by Sharon Creech

Leo is not sure he fits in with his family who calls him fog boy or Sardine.  He spends a lot of time fantasizing which adds some fun to the book.  While searching through the attice, he finds his father's journal written at the age of 12 and it opens his eyes up to the man who seems so sad most of the time.  The book culinates witht eh family viewing Leo in his school play where he has the part of "old crone."  While this was not my favorite Sharon Creech book, it was still a fun read and a great book for kids.  Rating:  3.75

46. Death of a Dustman by M C Beaton

"When Mrs. Freda Fleming, tyrannical member of the Strathbane Council, appoints the dustman (trash collector) of Lochdubh to be the "environmental officer," Fergus Macleod becomes a bigger bully than he was before. He also specializes in blackmail as he uses the bits of information he finds in the rubbish against the local residents. No one is surprised when his body turns up in a recycling bin. That's when policeman Hamish Macbeth steps in to investigate, but he has a difficult time trying to get the locals to talk. And then, another murder complicates the entire process. Beaton once again entertains fans of the series with delightful escapades of the Scottish populace and a good mystery. She uses Hamish not only as the main character, but also as a foundation for learning about the culture, activities, and other people in the village. Clarry Graham, Macbeth's constable who specializes in cooking, lends additional humor to the story line."  Amazon review

Another Hamish McBeath mystery with colorful characters and a great mystery.  Rating:  4

45. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

In 1945, Marjorie and her college roommate, Marty, move to New York City to live and work for the summer.  They are able to get employment at famed Tiffany's, and this book tells about their adventures during that summer.  Even though teh country is still at war, the girls still manage to have fun, experience the city and learn more about the rarified world of Tiffany's.  Hart's memoir is a fun look at the end of WWII that gives a different perspective from other things I've read about this time.  Rating:  3.75

44. Maggie Again by John D Husband

In 1926, Maggie moves from Indiana to New York City.  Her three best friends, Tom, Alfie and Gordie hop a train to visit her and disappear.  At the age of 74, Maggie remembers her friends and wonders again what happened to them. And then, they are in New York, still 14, 15 and 16 years old.  This is a fun time travel story that was totally unexpected to me.  I really enjoyed reading about the 1920's, the stock market crash and then following Maggie through the years.  A great "what if" story.  Rating:  4.25

Sunday, June 03, 2012

43. Elizabeth and Hazel by David Margolick

This is not the kind of book I tend to read, but both my sisters recommended it along with my brother who left me his copy.  So I decided to read it to not be left out of any family discussions and am glad that I did.  The book covers one of the Little Rock Nine and the girl yelling at her in the picture that became a famous icon of that era.  Both girls are fifteen, one are wanting to get a better education so willing to brave the crowds of segregationists who oppose her attendance at an all-white school; and the other wanting to gain attention and be part of the in-crowd.  Mostly the book focuses on Elizabeth Eckford and her struggles attending school and the post-tramatic-stress syndrome she suffers for the rest of her life.  Hazel Bryan transferred out of the school shortly after the picture is taken and comes to grips with her shameful part in the episode later in life.  Their interactions are well-documented and the whole story is presented in a very interesting way.  The book educates without being boring.  I would have liked a different ending, but you can't get that with a book covering history.  It is a sad commentary on how cruel people can be and stresses the need for all of us to take an active part in making sure all Americans have the same advantages regardless of their race.  Rating:  4.5

42. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (Audio)

"I've lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn't supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It's been in Magnus's family for three generations. And now the very same day his parents are coming, I've lost it. The very same day! Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive :) !!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her "happily ever after" begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone's owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn't agree. He wants his phone back and doesn't appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other's lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents... she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life."  Amazon Synopsis

I admit that I found the narrator of this audio book to have a very annoying, chirpy, high-pitched voice.  It was hard to get into because of that.  However, the story is hilarious and I soon got into it.  I enjoyed the experience very much except for one problem. . . the profanity was over the top.  It's hard to ignore that with audio so I'm taking off a full point for it.  So it's a great story, fun characters and hilarious story . . .  with too much swearing.  Dang.  Rating:  3.75

41. How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

"Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eye, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit. But for 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all—especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, it isn’t at all what she thought it would be like, and she’ll have resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment?"  Amazon Synopsis

I've read several reviews of this young-adult novel that really praise it.  I found it very creative and different, but also annoying.  The story centers almost exclusively on Charlie's quest to rid herself of a fairy and get a new one.  There is a strong lesson about friendship which was nice and another one about accepting yourself or changing what you don't like.  But, in the end, Charlie still needs a fairy to really excel.  I wished it that part had been a bit different.  Rating:  3.5

Monday, May 28, 2012

40. When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

"Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

"In a small town square of a sleepy Georgia town, seven-year-old Annie sits at her lemonade stand, raising money for her own heart transplant. At a nearby store, Reese flips through the newspaper, thinking about the latest boat hes restoring. As a beat-up bread truck careens around the corner, a strong wind blows Annies money into the road. Reese looks up in time to see Annies yellow dress fluttering in the wind as she runs into the road. What happens next will change both of their lives forever. Richly atmospheric and evocative, with the kind of characters that move into your heart and take up residence, Charles Martins new novel will resonate with fans of God-haunted southern fiction, and with anyone who enjoys a solidly crafted, heart-touching story."  Amazon Review

"The human heart is remarkable in that it is designed to pump continuously  for a hundred and twenty years without ever needing to be reminded what is was meant to do.  It just does it.  In all my reading and study, I have come to know one thing without any shadow of doubt:  if anything in this universe reflects the fingerprints of God, it is the human heart."

I loved this book.  I learned so much about the human heart . . . really fascinating facts about the organ we all take for granted but simply can't live without.  But the book also explores the heart as the center of our feelings, thoughts and experiences.  It is beautiful how Martin intertwines these two views in a wonderful story about love and redemption.  Through the whole story, Reese fights against what he is meant to do until a final gripping experience shows him the way.  Rating:  5

Monday, May 21, 2012

39. Village School by Miss Read

Miss Read is the schoolmistress at a small school in the village of Fairacre.  In this book, you meet Miss Read and the teachers she works with and all the children in the school.   Although a time is not given, I think it takes place shortly after WWII.  The school does not have running water and toilet facilities.  They burn coke for warmth and the children all walk to school.  There is not a lot of wealth in the village.  It's small and everyone knows everyone's business.  It's a feel-good story, the first of a series, but not one I feel the need to continue with.  Rating:  3

38. Half Magic by Edward Eager

Jane is the oldest and Mark is the only boy. Next comes Katharine.  Martha is the youngest and very difficult.  Their mother works all day and they are spedning the summer being watched by Miss Bick, who is a bit sour.  It seems like they are facing a long, boring summer until Jane finds a nickel and puts it in her pocket.  She wishes there were a fire to liven things up and suddenly fire engines are racing down the street to put out a snalll fire on the next block.  The children figure out that the nickel is magic but only grants half the wish.  They take turns making wishes but make sure they wish for twice what they want.  Of course, sometimes they forget the formula and chaos ensues.  It all makes up for a fun, humorous read and a great book for kids.  Rating:  3.75 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

37. Death of a Valentine by M C Beaton (audio)

A Hamish Macbeth Mystery

From the back cover:
"Amazing news has spread across the Scottish countryside.  The most famous of highland bachelors, police sergeant Hamish Macbeth, will be married at last.  Everyone in the village of Lockdubh adores Josie McSween, Macbeth's newest constable and blushing bride-to-be.

While the locals think Josie is quite a catch, Hamish has a case of prenuptial jitters.  After all, if it weren;t for the recent murder of a beautiful woman in a neighboring village, there wouldn't be a wedding at all.  For it was a mysterious Valentine's Day package -- delivered to th victim before her death -- that initially drew Hamish and Josie together on the investigation.  As they work side by side, Hamish and Josie soon discover that the woman's list of admirers was endless, confirming Hamish's suspicion that love can be blind, deaf . . . and deadly."

I enjooyed the murder investigation part of the novel quite a bit.  Hamish is a good detective who just wants to do his job and avoid promotions.  The mystery is interesting without the solution being too obscure. The characters of his village are humorous as they matchmake and gossip.  However, the thing between Josie and Hamish was incredibly annoying.  I can't say too much without giving away the ending, but this was not my favorite Hamish book, although I did enjoy listening to the story in a Scottish brogue.  Rating:  3

Sunday, May 13, 2012

36. Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Thre three witches are back but one, Magrat, has had a falling out with the other two.  She moves to the castle where she is soon to be wed to the king.  A more odd royal couple does not exist.  Magrat is a witch and Verrance used to be the fool to a past king.  They know nothing about ruling and so study books to learn about the proper etiquette of their jobs and tasks, including producing the future heir.  In the meantime, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are busy trying to prevent a takeover of the land by elves.  In this book, elves are not the fun and fey creatures I've read about in other fantasies.  They are beautiful, mean, cruel and devious.  Four wizards including the Librarian (an orang-utan) travel to Lancre from the Unseen University to attend the wedding and become enmeshed in the unleashing of the fury of the elves just before the wedding takes place.  As usual, the book is filled with the most hilarious quips and antics.  Here is one quote I marked:  At circle time, when the walls between this and that are thinner, when there are all sorts of strange leakages . . . Ah,  then choices are made.  then  the universe can be sent careening down a different leg of the well-known Trousers of Time."  I find Pratchett's imagination and humor to be breathtaking.  Rating:  4.75

35. A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow (audio)

This audio book was just the ticket for my 45-minute drive to and from work each day.  Kate Shugak is a great character; and I've read all the other series up to this point.  There have been a few that didn't live up to my expectations but this one was great.  Most of the story takes place in the Park in the state of Alaska where Kate is serving as the head of the Niniltna Native Association.  Along with trying to work with the life-changing discovery of gold on state-owned lands in the Park, she must also investigate a couple of suspicious suicides.  As always, there is humor in the way Kate deals with her fellow human beings, especially those she doesn't care for.  She is a strong, capable woman who those who know her treat with a touch of fear and a great deal of respect.    Thankfully, there were only a couple of sex scenes which I was able to fast forward through without any problem.  However, the profanity was profound, to say the least, and lessened my enjoyment of this book.
Rating:  3.75

34. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman

Not really an autobiography, this book is a collection of writings and speeches by Richard Feynman, an outspoken Nobel Prize-winning scientist.  While the introduction by Albert Tibbs laments the fact that the book doesn't include enough of Feynman's scientific accomplishments, I found there were more than enough for my taste.  Let's face it, I am not fascinated by details of physics.  By his own admission, Feynman is not just a brilliant physicist (he never says that about himself), but he is also a bit of a womanizer, a liberal, and a very curious guy who likes to learn about an eclectic range of subjects.  You can get an idea about Feynman's wide range of interests from the titles of the chapters.  Here's a few:  "Who Stole the Door?", "Meeeeeeeeeee!", "Safecracker Mets Safecracker", "Certainly, Mr. Big", "But Is It Art?", and "Alfred Nobel's Other Mistake." 

Here's the description from the back cover:
"Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize in physics, was one fo the world's greatest theoretical physicists and thrived on outrageous adventure.  His eyebrow-raising behavior once shocked a Princeton dean's wife to exclaim:  "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!"  Feynman was surely the only person in history to solve the mystery of liquid helium, to be commissioned to paint a naked female toreador, and to crack the uncrackable safes guarding the atomic bomb's most critical secrets.  He traded ideas with Einstein and Bohr, discussed gambling odds wiht Nick the Greek, and accompanied a ballet on the bongo drums.  Here, woven with his scintillating views on modern science, is Feynman's astonishing life story -- a combustible misture of high intelligence, unlimited  curiosity, eternal skepticism, and raging chutzpah."

I've enjoyed reading the biographies of Richard Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein; but I think this may be my last.  The stories were mostly humorous and interesting; but by the end, I was tired of the book.  Rating:  2.75

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

33. Bleeding Hearts by Susan Wittig Albert

China Bayles is back, working her butt off at her herbs shop, cartering parties with her new catering business and running a tea shop in the back room.  But she manages to find time to help the principal of the local high school investigate the rumor that the school's popular and winning football coach was involved with a student at his former coaching post.  She learns that the girl has committed suicide a few years after the affair and has a hard time finding any hard evidence.  In the meantime, she is dealing with her teenage stepson's girlfriend problems and worrying about the man her business partner, Ruby, is madly in love with.  There's a lot going on here, but it's all worth reading.  I even like the herbal tips and recipes included in the book, although I will probably never get around to using them.  If you like the China Bayles series, you should like this one as well.  Rating:  4

32. Killrod: The Cross of Lorraine Murders by Bill Ison

From back of book:

"A sculptor in the film studios, Hart St. James, wakes up with a bloody head next to Hollywood's most luminous film star.  Kelly Moran is dead, her skull brutally crushed and her eyes taped open.  The unlikely relationship between a movie star and a studio craftsman hass not survived their first night together.  Why?

St James, a Vietnam veteran, is determined to find out who and why by following the slender, treacherous threads of a trail that ultimately leads to a professional assassin and the very inner workings of the federal government."

Even though the main character ends up in bed with the murder victim, there is very little sex in this book which I liked.  The violence is not graphically described although it is definitely there, since some of the main clues in this case come from the way the victims are killed.  Still, Hart St. James is a great character, flawed, luckily still alive, and smart enough to take on a very canny killer.  This book is one of the better thrillers that I have read in a while, smart and gripping.  Rating: 4

31. Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech is one of my favorite authors for children's books.  She creates such authentic characters with interesting storylines that you don't have to be ten years old to enjoy.  Dallas and Florida are thirteen-year-old twins who have lived at the Boxton Creek Home for Children as long as they can remember.  The couple who run the home have a long list of strict rules which the borther and sister have a hard time obeying.  So they are always in trouble.  And when they get placed in a foster home, it doesn't last and they end up back at Boxton.  When an older couple decide to go on separate trips, they ask for the twins to accompany them.  Before the trips begin, the twins live with the couple in their cabin in Ruby Holler, practicing hiking and river rafting.  The way the couple treats these two orphans is so heartwarming and, when the actual trips begin, hilarity ensues.  Rating:  4.25

Saturday, April 21, 2012

30. Murder at the Portland Variety by M J Zellnik

Libby Seale is a seamstress at the Portland Variety creating works of art for the various performers there.  She become friends with the magician's assistant, Vera, and vows to learn the truth when Vera is murdered.  With the help of a handsome reporter, Peter, she starts to dig into the mystery of the young women disappearing from the growing city of Portland.  Libby is pretty non-traditional  for 1894 and Peter is attracted to her intelligence and determination.  Naturally, there is peril as the two come up against some of the most important men in the city.  It's a fun mystery with a budding romance in the background.  This is the first book in the Libby Seale series.  I look forward to reading more. 
Rating:  4

29. A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (audio)

I love Louise Penny's mysteries and I think Chief Inspector Gamache is the ultimate police crime solver.  This is the first time I have listened to one of her books and it was fantastic.  The narrator, Ralph Cosham, has a slight Canadian French accent that brings true realism to the story of a small town near Montreal in Quebec.  I may never say Montreal the same again, it is so much prettier in French.  The narration also brings to life the wonderful and eccentric characters that inhabit the town of Three Pines and provide backdrop to the genius and humanity of Armande Gamache.  These books don't just tell the story of a murder and how it is solved by the crack homocide team of the Surete du Quebec, they also explore human nature and the many ways people connect or not.  Along with the murder of Lillian Dyson, an old ex-friend of Clara Morrow, on the night of her solo art show, the book also follows the struggles of Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's second-in-command, as he deals with the aftermath of a shootout where he and Gamache were both gravely injured.  I can't wait to read the next book to see if he is able to overcome his inner demons.    Plus, it has been a while since I read the previous books; and I keep wanting to go back and remember things that are referenced in this book.  Re-reading these books is something I look forward to.  Rating:  5

28. Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett always makes me laugh and this book is especially funny.  Three witches from Wyrd Sisters are back trying to save the world from "happy ever after" story endings.  I t seems there is another witch who is making sure that all the stories in the city of Genua end just the way they should, little choice to the actual people who inhabit the story. 

"Servant girls have to marry the prince.  That's what life is all about.  You can't fight a Happy Ending."

Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax and Magrat Garlick have all kinds of adventures as they fly their brooms from Lancre to Genua to help Magrat take over as the fairy godmother to the luckless serving wench about to marry a really creepy prince.  What fun!  Rating:  4.5

Monday, April 16, 2012

27. Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy

I copied this review from Dawn at "She is Too Fond of Books".  A great review from a great blogger.

Back of the book blurb: Sarah Lucas imagined the rest of her days would be spent living peacefully in her rural Vermont home in the steadfast company of her husband. But now, with Charles’s sudden passing, seventy-five-year-old Sarah is left inconsolably alone.

As grief settles in, Sarah’s mind lingers on her past: her imperfect but devoted fifty-year marriage to Charles; the years they spent raising their three very different children; and her childhood during the Great Depression, when her parents opened their home to countless relatives and neighbors. So, when a variety of wayward souls come seeking shelter in Sarah’s own big, empty home, her past comes full circle.

She is Too Fond of Books’ review: Every Last Cuckoo is about so much more than grieving and coping with loss, although Kate Maloy incorporates these main themes wonderfully into her novel. The characters experience love and loss in many iterations, including the ultimate loss – the death of Charles, husband to Sarah; father to Charlotte, David and Stephie; grandfather; good neighbor; lifelong friend.

We know from the first page that Charles dies; we watch in slow motion as Sarah rushes to him in the woods, alerted to his downed state by the agitation of their dog Sylvie. Maloy intersperses the scenes of Charles’s death as present-tense two-page vignettes throughout the first third of the book; the rest of Part One gives us the history of Charles and Sarah: the families that formed them, the shared history that shaped them, and the stories of the family they created together.

Maloy personifies grief; anyone who has experienced a death or deep shock will recognize these feelings of the reality hitting you again and again:

"Grief slipped away, only to attack from behind. It changed shape endlessly. It lacerated her, numbed her, stalked her, startled her, caught her by the throat. It deceived her eye with glimpses of Charles, her ear with the sound of his voice. She would turn and turn, expecting him, and find him gone. Again. Each time Sarah escaped her sorrow, forgetful amid other things, she lost him anew the instant she remembered he was gone."

The book considers the troubled relationships between Charles and their son David, and between Sarah and their daughter Charlotte. A similar strain is mirrored between Charlotte and her 15-year-old daughter Lottie; Sarah “was a drawbridge, separating mother and daughter until the traffic on their troubled waters could pass.” This talent for meditation serves Sarah well.

Part Two looks at how the family copes, and how Sarah eventually thrives after Charles’ death. Hers is a journey of self-discovery and reflection, stepping outside her normal routines and reaching back into her own experience of “family” to offer something more than she knew she had to offer.

Maloy writes compassionately about friendship and companionship of “the older generation.” Sarah is both physically and mentally very active, yet she is at odds with her aging:

"… She had lived many thousands of days, so it was not surprising that scenes from an hour here or a moment there should surface at random. Her memories were beads jumbled loose in a box, unstrung. Everything – people, events, conversations – came and went so fast that only a fraction of the beads were ever stored at all. Few were whole, many cracked; more rolled away beneath pressing, present moments and were gone forever. What was the point?"

The novel is full of metaphors, beautiful word pictures that are striking, but not overdone. A few months after Charles’ death, one afternoon finds Sarah sitting at the kitchen table as a snow spring falls. Maloy describes the sounds of the house – the high-pitched breaths of the dogs, refrigerator hum, snow sliding off the roof; then she adds:

"Otherwise, all was muffled inside the house, inside the blizzard. Sarah imagined herself a tiny figure, sitting and sipping tea inside a glass globe. Someone had shaken her life up hard, and now everything was still except for the whiteness falling around."

It was a pleasure to read Every Last Cuckoo and to see just where Sarah’s journey would take her. Maloy’s use of language made it hard to put down; when I was done, my paperback was flagged with dozens of passages I want to re-visit.

You’re probably wondering about the unusual title, Every Last Cuckoo. No, it doesn’t mean crazy, mad, off your rocker. It connects to the brood parasite nature of some species of cuckoo birds; it will all make perfect “aha!” sense when you read the novel! 

I think Dawn captured the essence of this book perfectly.  I loved her quotes and loved this book.
Rating:  5

26. and 27. Relentless . . . I'll Find You by Clair Poulson

Clair M. Poulson served as a law enforcement officer in the neighboring county where I live and is now a Justice Court Judge.  Both of these books are thrillers involving law enforcement against truly evil men. 
Relentless  Erika is  eighteen-year-old who grudgingly goes on vacation with her family to Colorado.  She is taken hostage by an escaped murderer who is truly crazy but very wily.  Most of the book follows the chase around the Rockies while poolice try to rescue Erika as her kidnapper outsmarts them time after time.   Erika relies on her faith and prayer to get her through.

I'll Find You  At the age of six, Jeri witnesses her best friend, Rusty, being kidnapped.  She vows to find him and seventeen years later, she does . . .  he is a convict in a prison.  Again, there is a truly evil man who Rusty met in prison who puts Jeri in peril and only a miracle saves her.

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities in these two stories.  Both are LDS fiction which I enjoyed.  I found them both to be quite gripping and tense and not preachy at all.  Maybe the characgters are a bit too sterotyped . . . the evil characters are so bad and Jeri, at least, is sooo good.  Erika is a bit spoiled  but quickly redeemed.  Rusty was more complex as he tries to remember his earlier life and put the horrifics of his life after his kidnapping beyond him.  All in all, I liked these books.  Rating:  4

Sunday, April 15, 2012

25. Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace

Geraldine Porter is a retired widow who devotes her time to helping out in the community and creating show-box-sized Victorian shadowboxes.  She serves as chairwoman of the local Dollhouse and Miniatures Fair and soon finds herself involved in the murder of an unknown woman.  Naturally, Gerri finds herself sleuthing despite the warnings of her nephew, a local policeman. 

While I found Gerri to be quite charming, I couldn't really get into this book since miniatures is not one of my interests at all.  I've got too many books to read to get started in a series about this craft.  All in all, I just found this mystery to be cute and just okay.  Rating:  3

Sunday, April 01, 2012

24. Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle

From book jacket:

Arriving in the English countryside to live with her mother and new stepfather, Jenny has no interest in her new surroundings--until she encounters things on this ancient estate with ties to another world . . . one darker and older than anything she's ever experienced.  And meets a friend in greater pain than any she has ever known.

Tamsin died more than 300 years ago.  As a ghost, she has haunted the lonely estate without rest, trapped by a hidden trauma she can't remember, and a powerful evil even the spirits of the night cannot name.

And before Jenny can help Tamsin find peace, she will have to delve deeper into the dark world of the night than any human has in hundreds of years, and face danger that will change her life forever.:

I really liked this book.  It starts off with Jenny being a typical 13-year-old brat sulking about her move to England.  There is some comedic, light moments, but things gradually start getting a bit more interesting when  the ghosts appear.  Then interesting become intense and then just plain dark and gripping.  Beagle does a fantastic job with the pacing and drawing you into the ghost story, building up the suspense to a wonderful crescendo of horror and resolution.  While I never felt scared, I was definitely drawn in and could not put the book down when I came close to the conclusion.  Great ghost story.  Rating:  4.75

Thursday, March 29, 2012

23. The Year the Lights Came On by Terry Kay

This is my second book by Terry Kay and I love the way he writes.  You are present as he tells about a rural Georgia town in 1947 and the life of the young boys living there.  There is a definite division between the people on each side of Highway 17; and it creates great tension at the school between Colin's group, Our Side, and the Highway 17 gang led by Dupree Hixon.  Eleven-year-old Colin has a great bunch of friends including his older brother, Wesley, who is a natural leader, and Freeman Boyd, a wild child who knows the swamp better than any one else around.  Wesley figures out the main difference between the two groups is that they have electricity.  The knowledge that soon the Rural Electrification Administration would be running lines to the rest of the county leaves Our Side feeling a bit smug about their secret.  Kay creates a great story about an era when things were simpler but harder, more innocent and also about how progress in the shape of electricity changed the culture and lives of the people involved.  I find that I really enjoy coming-of-age stories of young teenage boys set in bygone times.  I can't remember reading similar stories involving girls.  Why is that?  If you want to read a well-written book with a great story, pick this one or even another Kay book, The Valley of Lights (not a series).  Rating:  4.75

Sunday, March 25, 2012

22. April Fool Dead by Carolyn Hart

I love the "Death on Demand Mystery" series.  Annie Darling owns her own mystery bookstore called Death on Demand located on a South Carolina small island.  It's amazing how many murders there are on this island and Annie gets involved in each one.  The mysteries themselves are pretty fluffy.  The fun is in the characters, especially with Annie and her gorgeous husband, Max.  That relationship is sheer enjoyment.  I also enjoy the contests that Annie hosts at her bookstore.  Each month she commissions a set of five pictures that depict different mysteries.  Annie is also always discussing different books that make the reader want to go out and read them.  If you love mysteries, these books will give you lots of ideas of ones to check out.  In this  particular mystery,  Annie creates a contest advertising an upcoming book signing and puts flyers around the island.  Someone creates similar flyers, only they are targeting actual residents of the island.  Soon a school teacher is shot in her home and a student is pushed off a pier and drowns.  Through it all is Laurel, Max' ethereal mother, who drifts in and out and helps the police end a drug-running operation.  There is too much going on and the mystery wraps up too neatly.  Even so, I enjoyed the book as much as the rest of the series.  Annie and Max are just a great couple to read about.  Rating:  4

Saturday, March 24, 2012

21. Summer of Light by W Dale Cramer

Mick Brannigan is happy with his life as a construction worker, husband and father of three.  It's true that his youngest, four-year-old Dylan, is suffering from a condition making it difficult for him to process his sensory perceptions causing behaviorial problems.  Fate seems to take a hand in Mick's life when he loses his job and becomes the primary caretaker for Dylan and the other two children.  He takes on odd jobs around the neighborhood, cutting down a tree which falls into a house, destroying it and the chainsaw borrowed from another neighbor.  He has a freak accident and drives his car into a pond.  One things leads to another; but through it all he helps Dylan learn to deal with his condition, finds another vocation and develops faith in a God who does know what is happening in our lives.  The religious message is not heavy handed at all.  I truly enjoyed the humor in this story and how Mick deals with his frustrations and the growth in his life.  Rating:  5

20. The Stargazey by Martha Grimes

I have always enjoyed Martha Grimes's Richard Jury series.  Richard is a New Scotland Yard superintendent who surrounds himself with a fascinating set of friends.  My favorite is Melrose Plant, an many-titled peer of the realm who has renounced his titles unless it is useful while helping Jury solve his cases.  The book has just the right blend of mystery, suspense and humor.  I'm not going to go into the plot itself.  I just recommend any Richard Jury book.  Rating:  4.25

19. Cheerful Money by Tad Friend

Tad Friend comes from a long line of Wasps  and this book explains what that means as he tells his life story.  The reader gets to know his illustrious ancestors and how Wasps dominated American life for many centuries. 

From back cover:
"As a young man, Tad noticed that his family tree, for all its glories, was full of alcoholics, depressives, and reckless eccentrics.  Yet his identity had already been shaped by the family's age-old traditions and expectations.  Part memoir, part family history, and part cultural study of the long swoon of the  American Wasp, Cheerful Money is captivating examination of a cultural crack-up and a man trying to escape its wreckage."

I found this book very interesting and educational.  It was fun to read about America's oldest families and the changes they have gone through in the last fifty years.  Rating:  3.75

Sunday, February 26, 2012

18. Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer

I liked this romance novel because it involves a forty-something woman, Julie, who is a mother and a journalist who is attractive but still forty-somethng.   She hates to cook because that is something her mother pushed her to do all her life.  Now she wins a ticket for a dessert class and finds herself in a class with the man she has had a crush on most of her life until they had a serious parting of the ways six years before.  And you can probably figure out the rest of the story line from here on.  Even though it is totally predictable, there are some fun characters in the book including Julie's mom and her daughter that keep the book interesting and humorous.  Rating:  3.5

17. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Can you believe I never read this book when I was a young girl?  I found it on my mom's bookshelves and finally got around to it.  It struck me as a weaker version of Anne of Green Gables, which is one of my all-time favorite books.  Rebecca is remarkably like Anne in her ability to bring cheer to those around her.  She gets into all kinds of scrapes that mortify and anger one of the old maiden aunts whom she has been sent to live with.  The other aunt, Jane, is an old softie who is always trying to make things better between Rebecca and Aunt Miranda.  There is a alluded future romance that you never get a chance to find out more about; but, all in all, it's a very cute book and fun to read.  Rating:  3.75

16. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is the second book that Cassie gave me for Christmas.  It is such an elegant book that I had it sitting on the end table for weeks.  The inside is just as pretty with the black and white striped end papers and the black sky with white stars page at the beginning of each chapter. 

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead."  From Amazon

I found the prose in the book to be just as elegant as its appearance.  The descriptions of the circus were so captivating that you are drawn into the magic of this elusive circus.  However, I didn't feel that I really got to know the characters.  Besides Celia and Marcus, there are other members of the circus, the true fans who follow it whenever they can determine where it will next appear, and finally Bailey, a young boy who is completely enchanted with the circus.  While I read the book, I felt a vague sense of menace which never truly materialized, so it felt slightly incomplete for me.  Rating:  4

Monday, February 20, 2012

15. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I orginally bought this book to read for the Twisted Fairy Tales challenge.  I don't even know if this challenge is still being held; but it's way past time for me to read it.  I think I put it off because the back cover describes Ella as having the unusaul gift of being obedient so she can never say no to any order given to her.  For some reason, that made me uncomfortable; and it certainly causes a lot of grief for Ella.  However, she is aspirited young woman who finds ways to rebel even though she has to follow the orders.  I have not yet seen the movie based on this book starring Anne Hathaway and wonder if anyone recommends it.  I like the actress and think she would make a great Ella.  Over all, I found this book to be a fun and light read.  Rating:  4

14. The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

From back cover:

"At first, Tally doesn't want to go to the boarding school called Delderton.  But soon she discovers that it's a wonderful place, where freedom and self-expression are valued.  Enamoured of Bergania, a serene and peaceful European country led by a noble king who refuses to bend to the Nazis, Tally organizes a ragtag school dance troupe to attend the international folkdancing festival of 1939 held in Begania.  There she meets Karil, the crown prince, who wants nothing more than ordinary friends.  But when Karil's' father is assassinated, it's up to Tally and her friends to help Karil escape the Nazis and the bleak future he's inherited."

This is a wonderful book for older children.  The illustrations are beautiful and the story is enchanting.  I found each of the characters to be interesting and unique.  Rating:  4.5

13. So Well Remembered by James Hilton

I absolutely loved Hilton's Random Harvest so I was excited when I found this book on my mom's shelves.  It's an old book, published in 1945; and in excellent condition.  However, the story is not nearly as wonderful as Harvest.  The story is about George Boswell, an amiable man who has a dream for his small manufacturing town and proceeds to chamr those around him into following his dreams.  He begins as the lowly son of a factory worker who educates himself and begins to serve on the town council.  He also meets Livia Channing, whose father was an owner of the largest factory in town and who put hundreds out of work  through embezzlement or mismanagement.  (Never really sure what he did)  George marries Livia and the marriage ends badly a few years later.  Then it's WWII and George meets a young man who is a patient in a local hospital after a horrible war injury.  He turns out to be Livia's son and George becomes involved with his life and trying to make things right for him as well.  It's just a slow tale of a good man who does his best for those around him.  Rating:  3.75

12. Maggie --Her Marriage by Taylor Caldwell

When I was young, I read all of Taylor Caldwell's book and loved them.  Somehow I missed this one which is okay because I didn't love it.  There is not really a sympathetic character in the book with the possible exception of Maggie's husband, John.  He is the most powerful man in the county but falls in love with Maggie, the daughter of the blacksmith.  She is in love with her cousin who is a dreamer and weak.  After sending him away to find his fortune as a poet, she marries John and proceeds to alienate everyone around her with her airs and demands.  She eventually figures things out in the end, but by then I didn't care.  Rating:  2.5

11. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

This is the sad tale of the seige of Sarajevo which took place in the years 1992 through 1995.  As the inhabitants of the city are bombarded continuously from the surrounding hills, they learn to run across intersections and to hide in the shadows of crumbling buildings.  After a bomb hits a street where people are lined up for food, killing 21; a cellist carries his cello to the square and plays a beautiful piece of music for an hour at the same time for 21 days.  The author follows the lives of three strangers--a bakery worker, a young father, and a female sniper who is charged with protecting the cellist from the army on the hills.   The book follows each as they strive to carry on their lives in the most daunting of circumstances and how the music comes to affect them and other survivors in the ravaged city.  I found the story to be gripping and very well-written, but bleak, even though the cellist is a inspiring focal point.  Rating:  4

10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

"It was as black in the closet as old blood.  They had shoved me in and locked the door.  I breathed heavily through my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm.  I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight and I released each one slowly into the darkness.  Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful aftg another of the stale, musty air."

So begins my first venture into the Flavia de Luce mystery series.  I pictured a tall, blond twenty-something woman who was in deep peril because of her nosing into some dark secret.  I was so wrong.  Flavia is ten or eleven and a budding chemist with a passion for poisons.  She's hilarious in her oddities.  She is thrilled when a dead body turns up in the garden of her family's dilapidated mansion and annoys the police with her observations and sleuthing.  Naturally, she is right more than not.  A wonderful mystery with Flavia as a truly delightful character.  Rating:  4.75

Sunday, January 22, 2012

9. Into the Green by Charles de Lint

I have enjoyed the de Lint books I've read in his Nowford series and always look forward to reading his stories.  His books deal with fairies and magical creatures but are not all sweetness and light.  There is a darkness and menace tha make the books more interesting.  Into the Green is not a Newford story and takes places in a fictional set of islands where houseyfolk dwell uneasily with witches.  Angharad is the heroine of the book.  She is a witch, a tinker, and a harpist which makes her a triple threat against an evil lurking in the land that threatens the life of all witches and magical people.  She has to outwit witch hunters and an assassin who is using her to attain his goals.  Rating:  4.25

8. No Longer Strangers by Rachel Ann Nunes

Zoologist Mitch Huntington is shocked to learn that his closest friends have died in a boating accident leaving him the guardian of their daughter, Emily Jane.  It's kind of cute reading about how the young bachelor learns to care for the young toddler and leanrs to love her.  Of course, there is a twist when the deceased wife's estranged sister shows up from a photography gig in the Amazon and wants to take custody of her niece.  There are all kinds of difficulties as the two spar over the baby and Mitch's religion, LDS, which he shared with Emily Jane's parents and vows to raise her in.  It's a very predictable Mormon romance and I found it just okay.  Rating:  3

7. What Remains by Carole Radziwill

Carole Radziwill is a woman who grew up in a small town north of New York City who grew up and married a prince.  The prince is Anthony Radziwill, first cousin and best friend to John F Kennedy, Jr.   This memoir tells about Carole's younger years, how she met and fell in love with Anthony and became close friend to Carolyn Bessett, the woman who captured John's heart.  Right from the beginning, you know that Anothy dies of cancer three weeks after the plane crash that took the lives of John, Carolyn and Carolyn's sister.  What I really liked about this book is that is not overly sentimental and doesn't focus on the star power of the Kennedys.  She is matter-of-fact in covering the tragic time in her live and tells some great stories of her years as a journalist before she met Anthony.  I found the book to be interesting, informative and a good read.  Rating:  4

6. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Levine takes the traditional fairy tale about Snow White and gives it a serious twist.  It is almost unrecognizable as the original, but very entertaining and inaginative.  Aza is a homely girl, but one of the best singers in a country filled with singers.  She has an unusual talent of throwing her voice.  The king's new young wife learns of this talent and forces Aza to throw her voice to the queen to cover her feeble vocal abilities.  The king's nephew befriends Aza even though she is not a beauty and he learns to love her until the throwing voice deception is discovered.  The character that most closely resembles the original fairy tale is the mirror whihc houses an evil spirit trying to escape his prison.  All in all, it is a fun story with a happy ending.  Rating:  4

3, 4, & 5. Indigo's Star, Permanent Rose and Caddy Ever After by Hilary McKay

I read the first book in this teen series, Saffy's Angel, a couple of years ago and finally got around to the remaining three.  Indigo is fourteen and the only boy in his unconventional family.  He goes to school and gets beat up almost every day.  Then an under-sized American boy joins the school and stands up to the bullies along with older sisgter Saffy.  The bullies turn their attention to Tom but he never loses his spirit.  Rose is the youngest sister in the family and she becomes entranced by Tom.  The boys become close friends and find a way to triumph over the bullies.  In the next book, Tom has returned to America; and Rose is devastated.  She begins to shop lift because of the thrill but doesn't consider it stealing as she doesn't keep the items.  Mostly Rose's book follows her determination to find Tom.  The final book is about Caddy who has become engaged to a man that no one else cares for.  He is too normal.  As in all the books, the reader is kept up-to-date on all the members of the family, but Rose is truly the main character in the final three books.  I really enjoyed reading them and recommend them for young teens.  Rating:  4.5

2. The Body in the Gallery by Katherine Hall Page

Another in the Faith Fairchild mystery series, we find Faith involved in another murder when a young woman is found as part of an art exhibit that Fath catered.  This story also follows the mishaps of Faith's son, Ben, as he becomes an unruly teenager.  This problems with Ben lead to problems with husband, Tom, as he desires a more traditional wife.  I enjoyed the mystery as always with page's books, especially some of the small New Englad town's more eccentric characters.  Faith's family struggles were a bit distracting and I would have liked the book better without them.  Rating:  3.5

1. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

This book covers two different stories that the author travels back and forth between.  The first is the story of Sarah, a ten-year-old Jewish girl living in Paris during the Jewish roundup by the Parisian police force.  To protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard and promises to come back for him.  The second story takes place sixty year later and involves Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup.  She learns about Sarah and becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her and her family.

I found the story to be very intriguing and as sad as any Holocaust book I've read.  Both Sarah and Julia are compelling characters who draw you into their stories.  Rating:  4