Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reading Roundup!

I've been reading up a storm since the beginning of the month.  Here are my reactions to what I've read so far:
 Book #1

Savage Run (Joe Pickett, #2)Savage Run by C.J. Box
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a page-turner.  Joe Pickett once again raises the hackles of his superiors when he tries to charge an influential rancher with poaching.  At the same time, Stewie Woods, the head of a militant environmentalist group, is apparently murdered in a freak explosion.  A series of freak accidents kill other environmental leaders.  Things come to a head when Joe discovers that his wife once dated Stewie, and that perhaps he's not really dead.

This is the second in the Joe Pickett series.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the mountains, and the fast pace of the plot, kept me glued to the book.

View all my reviews

Book #2

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood graduated from Smith College in the early years of the 20th century, and after a yearlong Grand Tour of Europe, returned home ready for more adventure.  The two women are hired as schoolteachers in a rural school in northwestern Colorado.  This fascinating book recounts that particular adventure.  I am fascinated by the time period of our history - the opening years of the century just prior to WWI.  Although the east coast of the US has long been established, our west is still largely unsettled.  Life is hard, but the 2 women meet it head-on with great enthusiasm.  It was also interesting to read about teaching a century ago.  Communities showed their appreciation for education and for teachers in very concrete ways, and those who taught were held in great esteem. As is still true today, teaching was not easy, and it consumed a great deal of the teacher's personal time - not just in lesson-planning and grading, but also with involvement in their students' lives.

This isn't a very long book.  The acknowledgments, notes, and bibiliography are almost as long as the narrative!  It is well-researched by Dorothy's granddaughter, and it's also a loving tribute to both women.

Book #3

This one I listened to rather than read, but I'm counting it!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was one of the most chilling books I've encountered in a very long time.  Experiencing it as an audio book was also an interesting experience.  I think in some ways, it added to the creepiness.  Eleven-year old Dillon Raines, also known as Butcher Boy, is sentenced to the Drummond Youth Center after his conviction for murdering his parents and baby sister with an ax.  He has no recollection of the the night other than terror, and he battles to keep his sanity as he comes to grip with the horrific crime.  Pollyanne Deschamps, growing up in a trailer park in Mississipi, runs away from home at 15 and winds up in New Orleans.  Many years later, she meets a fascinating man, Marshall Marshand, and they eventually marry.  However Marshall is surrounded by mystery, and he has an almost suffocating relationship with his older brother Danny.  Almost from the start of their marriage, Marshall begins to act oddly, and Polly begins to suspect that her husband isn't who he claims to be.

I've read a lot of other Nevada Barr books (Anna Pigeon series) and this standalone novel is a total departure from her usual storytelling.  The reader kept me glued to my computer all Sunday afternoon so that I could finish listening to it!

Book #4
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fast-moving, creepy, suspenseful, scary, kept-me-on-the-edge-of-my-seat kind of book!  This is the first "Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles" book in a series that has become a TV program.  I picked it up because I've been watching and enjoying the show on TV and wanted to see where it came from.  Although it's been billed as a "Rizzoli and Isles" novel, Maura Isles doesn't appear in it at all.  That doesn't matter.  Rizzoli is a Boston homicide detective, the first female detective in the department.  She carries a huge chip on her shoulder because of this and because of family history.  The detectives are investigating a gruesome series of murders which may be connected to a presumed-solved case in Atlanta, Georgia.  During the course of the investigation, a mutual respect between Rizzoli and another detective has been growing, but that is completely shattered when Rizzoli makes a questionable shooting.  Because Tess Gerritsen, the author, is a physician, the medical details are graphic and accurate.  If you're a squeamish sort, you might choose to skim or skip some of them!  I find the TV Jane Rizzoli softer and gentler than the original, and easier to like.  But the grittiness is what makes the book work.  I've already started the 2nd book, The Apprentice.

Book #5

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm not sure why I like this so much.  It's gritty, depressing, and Jane Rizzoli isn't the most likable protagonist.  In this second installment, Jane has physically recovered from the injuries inflicted by Warren Hoyt known The Surgeon, a serial killer.  Now a copycat killer seems to have emerged.  Because she hasn't yet dealt with the emotional damage, the case becomes a mental battle.  And then Warren Hoyt escapes from prison and teams up with the killer.  This is a tense, fast-moving story and it doesn't leave much to the imagination.  

Book #6

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I think I've read all of the Elm Creek Quilts novels.  I might have missed one or two along the way.  I was not enamored of this one.  It's set in the future.  Sarah and Matt's daughter Caroline is now 25 and it's the week of her wedding.  Most of the book consists of Sarah's reminiscences of her life at Elm Creek Manor.  Not much of a plot exists, and quite frankly, it was on the boring side.  It feels like a "wrap-the-series-up" novel.

Book #7
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was one of the best Inspector Rutledge books yet.  An influential diplomat has been attacked and left for dead and the main suspect is the diplomat's ex-fiance Stephen Mallory.  Mallory served at the front with Rutledge, and despite their shared negative history, Mallory asks Rutledge to prove he's not the perpetrator.  Once again, Rutledge battles his supervisor and his past, represented by Hamish.  I especially liked this installment because I was misled as to the true perpetrator.  I also liked how Rutledge was forced to deal with his past.  

Book #8
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Rafe Kardashian's first day of middle school is worse than he ever imagined it.  Killer Miller, the resident bully, singles him out from the very start.  Rafe however, has a plan suggested by his sidekick, Leo the Silent.   Rafe will go out of his way to break every single one of the school's rules.  This is a humorous, yet poignant view of middle school seen from the perspective of a kid who doesn't fit in.  His homelife is troubled, and academics are not Rafe's forte.  The book is peppered with drawings reminiscent of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and these drawings figure into the grand conclusion.  This was an exremely fast read (about 45 minutes) for me, and I can't wait to share it with my 6th graders.  It definitely belongs in the classroom library!


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