rretzler's 75 - Trying this once again! - Part II

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rretzler's 75 - Trying this once again! - Part II

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2rretzler
Sep 27, 2015, 7:20pm

115. The Gauguin Connection by Estelle Ryan
116. The Dante Connection by Estelle Ryan
117. The Braque Connection by Estelle Ryan
118. The Flinck Connection by Estelle Ryan
119. The Courbet Connection by Estelle Ryan
120. The Pucelle Connection by Estelle Ryan
121. The Leger Connection by Estelle Ryan

This series is about Genevieve Lenard who has high functioning autism and a very high IQ. She is very skilled at reading non-verbal communication (think of the TV show Lie to Me) and works for a successful and exclusive French insurance company to detect fraud. In the first book, her boss, Phillip Rousseau, volunteers her to work with Colonel Manny Millard of the European Defense Agency on a case involving weapons theft from Eurocorps, a European policing agency. In the coat pocket of a murder victim connected to the weapons theft, the police find a strip cut from the edge of a Gauguin painting. Soon after Genevieve's apartment is broken into by Colin, an art thief, who is secretly working for Interpol and who has a long history of animosity with Colonel Millard. The three, along with Colin's best friend, Vinnie, who has connections to weapons dealers, and Francine, another friend, who is one of the best computer hackers in the world, must work together to find out how the stolen weapons and the Gauguin paintings are related in order to stop what may become an international incident.

The books continue to develop the relationships between the characters as they must work together in other cases while becoming an elite team working for the President of France. Each new book picks up a small loose thread from the previous book. All of the books are complete in and of themselves, so you are not missing anything if you stop after any book. You could also probably read them out of order, but I would not recommend that as the relationships themselves build throughout the series.

Along with a focus on different artist, another interesting thing about these books is that there is a contemporary social issue in each - internet security, drones, bioterrorism, etc. I thought the issues were well-researched and well-presented.

I found that I enjoyed these books. I enjoyed the way in which Genevieve's strengths and weaknesses were portrayed, and how the team must learn to work together. Genevieve is very rigid and law-abiding, as is Colonel Millard. They both must learn to work with Colin, Vinnie and Francine whom they feel are criminals, even though Colin and Vinnie work with Interpol. The plots may be a little formulaic but each book had its own definite plot. The series would likely be classified as more of a thriller versus a mystery, but the team typically finds itself confronted with a mystery at first.

I find myself fascinated by anyone who is able to read non-verbal communication. What makes these books different from the show Lie to Me is that Genevieve is incapable of lying due to her autism and incapable of social niceties, so she usually confronts those who are untruthful to her. Don't we all wish we could do that?

If you enjoy mysteries/thrillers, I would recommend reading at least the first of the series, The Gauguin Connection, as it a new and interesting take on the genre.

3rretzler
Editado: Nov 6, 2015, 10:06am

122. Don't Open Till Christmas by Leslie Kelly
123. Behind the Red Doors by Leslie Kelly
124. That's Amore! by Leslie Kelly
125. Overexposed by Leslie Kelly
126. One Wild Wedding Night by Leslie Kelly
127. Asking for Trouble by Leslie Kelly
128. Trick Me, Treat Me by Leslie Kelly

My annual foray into the romance novel. These were mainly rereads of a "cute" series about the Santori family of Chicago and how several of the family members met their spouses. The author actually has what I would consider to be a decent story with each of these which I enjoyed. If you are looking for a romance novel, you could do worse than these.

4rretzler
Sep 27, 2015, 7:57pm

129. Redshirts by John Scalzi

Finally! I bought this for my husband when it first came out thinking that we would both enjoy it. He started it and did not get very far. Since I had a mountain of other books to read, I let it sit, but kept hearing good things. I noticed it on the bookshelf the other day and thought that it was about time I picked it up. I'm soooo glad I did! I enjoyed it immensely. It reminded me a little of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair so I wasn't really surprised by the overall premise. I thought Scalzi provided another great take on this premise. I won't mention what it is because I don't want to give away the book.

7ronincats
Oct 8, 2015, 10:33pm

Ahem. Your read to acquired ratio seems to be slipping.

That said, what did you think of the Abdul-Jabbar book?

8rretzler
Oct 13, 2015, 5:40pm

>7 ronincats: Roni, most definitely my read to acquired ratio is slipping! ;-) I just can't resist buying books! Plus in October, I've been reading a lot of articles, scholarly studies, etc and there is no way to keep track of those on LT. ;-(

Well...as far as Mycroft Holmes, I went into it perhaps a little predisposed NOT to like it because I could not imagine that Kareem would actually be a good author, but I was determined to keep an open mind. At first, I could not get into it. I'm not sure whether it was the plot, the dialogue or something else. The first several chapters were merely background and there was not much hint of the story to come. Also, it felt to me that the authors were trying to use Victorian dialect like the original Conan Doyle stories, and it felt perhaps a little forced. So, at first, I really made myself keep reading - I didn't dislike it enough to put down, but there wasn't anything that really grabbed me either. However, somewhere around chapter 10 or 11, around 20% into the book, I found myself interested. After that, I did not notice the language so much and the story really started to flow for me. It turned out to be an enjoyable read - certainly not the best book I've ever read, but definitely not the worst book either. A few items to note if you are a Conan Doyle fan, Mycroft is a little unrecognizable in this book. It may be because he is in his early twenties and in just in his first government position, but he is described as a good-looking young man and he seems to be athletic as he rides horses and teaches Sherlock how to box (by actually boxing with him). He also has a fiancee in the book! If this turns out to be a series, I would probably read the next book just to see if it would help me be a little less wishy-washy about this one. Not a really ringing endorsement, but it was a solid 3 star to me.

9rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 6:18pm

130. Dishing the Dirt by MC Beaton

This is the 26th book in the Agatha Raisin series. I have found this to be a fun, light mystery series, although the earlier books are much better quality than the most recent. This one, however, is perhaps a little better than the last.

10rretzler
Editado: Oct 28, 2015, 6:23pm

131. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

A very cute upper elementary book about Flora, a 10-year-old girl, who discovers a squirrel who has super powers! Flora's parents are getting a divorce and she lives with her mother, who seems to care more about her work than Flora. It won the Newbery Medal in 2013. I enjoyed it.

11rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 6:37pm

132. The Morisot Connection by Estelle Ryan

The newly released 8th book of the Genevieve Lenard series (see above). It was not a bad book, just more of the same. At this point, after having read all of the books in the series, its more about the relationships to me - the stories themselves are getting a little stale.

12rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 6:46pm

133. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

This was a reread of one of my favorite series. I've introduced it to my 13YO son and am reading them at the same time so that I can discuss plot points with him. He seems to like the book almost as much as I do.

13rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 6:50pm

134. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

My 10YO is in the Newbery Club and he had to read a couple of prior Newbery winners. This is a reread for me. Although this book seems to be realistic fiction, it actually turns out to be science fiction. I highly recommend it.

14rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 6:52pm

135. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

My sons and I are making our way through the Harry Potter series together. Both have seen the movies many times, but have not yet read the books. There's not much I can say about this book that has not already been said. We all really enjoyed it.

15rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 7:03pm

136. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

This is a potential Newbery contender for 2015. It is about a girl, Allie, who is dyslexic, but no one realizes it yet. She has come to a new school and seems to be in trouble all the time until her class gets a new teacher who recognizes that not only is she dyslexic, but that she is also very intelligent. I read this with my 10YO for Newbery Club. It was very timely as we are just now discovering that he also has dyslexia, although it does not affect him as severely as it does the girl in the book.

16rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 7:04pm

137. Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

(From above) I went into it perhaps a little predisposed NOT to like it because I could not imagine that Kareem would actually be a good author, but I was determined to keep an open mind. At first, I could not get into it. I'm not sure whether it was the plot, the dialogue or something else. The first several chapters were merely background and there was not much hint of the story to come. Also, it felt to me that the authors were trying to use Victorian dialect like the original Conan Doyle stories, and it felt perhaps a little forced. So, at first, I really made myself keep reading - I didn't dislike it enough to put down, but there wasn't anything that really grabbed me either. However, somewhere around chapter 10 or 11, around 20% into the book, I found myself interested. After that, I did not notice the language so much and the story really started to flow for me. It turned out to be an enjoyable read - certainly not the best book I've ever read, but definitely not the worst book either. A few items to note if you are a Conan Doyle fan, Mycroft is a little unrecognizable in this book. It may be because he is in his early twenties and in just in his first government position, but he is described as a good-looking young man and he seems to be athletic as he rides horses and teaches Sherlock how to box (by actually boxing with him). He also has a fiancee in the book! If this turns out to be a series, I would probably read the next book just to see if it would help me be a little less wishy-washy about this one. Not a really ringing endorsement, but it was a solid 3 star to me.

17rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 7:13pm

138. A Sense of Deception by Victoria Laurie

This is the 13th book in the Psychic Eye series about Abby Cooper, a psychic who consults with the FBI. Her husband is on the FBI team that she works with, along with her business partner's husband. Her business partner is a no nonsense private investigator. This is a fun series and a very easy read. If you are looking for a serious mystery, this book is not for you. I normally do not read "fluff" mysteries, especially ones that take place in the US, but for some reason this series has hooked me. There is usually quite a bit of action and the plots are fairly well thought out.

18rretzler
Oct 28, 2015, 7:16pm

139. Death Perception by Victoria Laurie
140. Doom with a View by Victoria Laurie
141. Vision Impossible by Victoria Laurie

These are also books in the Psychic Eye series with Abby Cooper. I had read the first few books of the series and then skipped to more recent leaving out about 5 books in the middle. This is my attempt to complete the series. Unfortunately, the other two books are not available currently from my library, but I will finish the series when they become available.

19rretzler
Editado: Nov 5, 2015, 4:21pm

142. Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Another potential Newbery contender for 2015. I read this with my 10 y.o. son for his Newbery Club. This one is a fantasy about Micah who lives with his grandfather after his parents are killed in an accident. Micah's grandfather tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus and the Lightbender who once promised Grandpa Ephraim a miracle. Grandpa Ephraim is dying and Micah, along with his friend, Jenny Mendoza, try to find Circus Mirandus and the Lightbender to save Grampa Ephraim.

I enjoyed this book, however, there were some parts which did not completely make sense to me. In his youth, Grandpa Ephraim meets Victoria, the bird woman, who worked at Circus Mirandus. Victoria is not a nice person, however, Grandpa Ephraim marries her and they have Micah's father. This makes no sense to me as Ephraim is a very good person and I don't see how he would not have seen through Victoria at once. There were also a few things that the end of the book did not address. I don't know if the author was paving the way for a series, or whether there were just questions left unanswered. The story is original though and I think Cassie Beasley is a good writer.

Seeing that I gave the Victoria Laurie books 3 1/2 stars, this book was more enjoyable than that (although for a completely different audience). It was not quite a four star for me - perhaps 3 3/4?


20rretzler
Nov 5, 2015, 4:01pm

143. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

This is the second book in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde and in this book we start to get into what this series is really about, which was only teased about in the First Book. This is also a reread along with my 13 y.o. son.

In this book, the ChronoGuard change Thursday's time stream so that her new husband, Landon, never grows up. In Thursday's real time, Landon was in an accident when he was 2 and his father died saving him. In the changed time stream, Landon has died at age 2 and his father is still alive. Thursday learns to "book jump" and goes into the Book World, where she is mentored by Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations.)

I love Fforde's wit, and I love this series!

21rretzler
Nov 5, 2015, 4:15pm

144. El Deafo by Cece Bell

This was a Newbery Honor book in 2014. It is an autobiographical graphic novel which tells the story of how the author lost her hearing as a little girl and the issues she faced in growing up with a hearing loss. The author deals with her hearing loss the struggle to fit in with humor and warmth.

I really enjoyed this book. It is very easy to see why it was a Newbery Honor book, and the Newbery medal winner must have been very good indeed for this to win only an honor last year. The illustrations were really cute.

Interestingly, Cece Bell is married to Tom Angleberger of Origami Yoda fame! What a talented couple!

22rretzler
Nov 5, 2015, 4:18pm

145. Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner by Linda Kreger Silverman

If you know anyone who is a visual spatial learner instead of an auditor sequential learner, I highly recommend this book. Linda Kreger Silverman is one of the foremost experts on visual spatial learners and she has a lot of tips about how to recognize one, as well as how to assist with the learning process.

23rretzler
Editado: Nov 6, 2015, 9:50am

146. Adventures in Cartooning; How to Turn Your Doodles into Comics by James Sturm

This is a reread of a sort-of picture book that we picked up at the Scholastic book fair one year. In it, the author basically teaches us how to turn ordinary doodles into comics, just as the title advertises! It's a cute book.

24rretzler
Nov 5, 2015, 4:28pm

147. A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson

This is the first book of the Very English Mystery series and was released earlier this year. It is set in the 1950s and is trying to be a mystery along the lines of the English cozy, a la Agatha Christie. It certainly doesn't come close to a Christie, however, it was an interesting and easy read, and I thought the author did a decent job of setting up the mystery. It was definitely possible to figure out who did it, although not necessarily why.

The second book of the series was just released. At one time on amazon.com before the release of the second book was a short story that is listed here on LibraryThing and on Goodreads, but it is not to be found on amazon any more. Apparently it was a story to bridge the gap between the first and second books, so it will be interesting to read the second book to see if anything is missing. The big mystery to me is why the book was taken off of amazon!

25rretzler
Editado: Nov 6, 2015, 9:49am

148. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R R Martin

This is a book of short stories in the Song of Ice and Fire series (ie A Game of Thrones). The stories take place 100 years before A Game of Thrones begins and are about the journeys of Dunc and Egg, who will eventually become better known as Sir Duncan of the Kingsguard and Aegon Targaryen, King.

It has been several years since I have read the Song of Ice and Fire series, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed George R R Martin's writing. He is another writer that I read effortlessy, finding myself drawn into the story instead of reading it.

26rretzler
Editado: Nov 5, 2015, 5:53pm

149. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith

This is the 16th book in the Precious Ramotswe/No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series. Mma Ramotswe is convinced that she should take a holiday away from the agency and Mma Makutsi must handle the case that comes up during Mma Ramotswe's holiday.

This is another solid book in this enjoyable series.

29rretzler
Nov 5, 2015, 5:53pm

150. Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia Macneal

This is the 5th book in the Maggie Hope series. Maggie is a spy in the British government during World War II, currently working for Winston Churchill. She accompanies Churchill to the US in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor while Churchill attempts to convince President Roosevelt to become Britain's ally in the war. While Maggie is visiting the White House, she is asked to go to the home of Mrs. Roosevelt's temporary secretary who has not shown up for work. Mrs. Roosevelt comes with Maggie and they discover that the secretary has apparently committed suicide. However, things are never as they seem, and Maggie helps to uncover and then thwart a plot against Mrs. Roosevelt.

I was so looking forward to this continuation of the Maggie Hope series after the last book, however, I was somewhat disappointed. I thought the series started out very strong and I have eagerly anticipated reading each new book as it comes out. When Maggie went to Germany in the last book, it was a little unbelievable, but this book seemed a little more unbelievable. At times, Maggie does not act as I believe a young British woman in the 1940s would act. One must overlook some of the actions of the characters in order to enjoy the book which has a pretty good story line. It did keep me intrigued throughout. I also thought that the author did a great job of understanding the events of the time and portraying those in the book.

It wasn't as good as some of the previous books in the series, but it wasn't bad either. I will keep reading this series for the time being.

30rretzler
Nov 5, 2015, 6:14pm

151. A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

This is another 2015 Newbery contender that I read with my 10 y.o. son for Newbery Club. Lily lives with her grandparents in Maine, in a small town in blueberry country, where migrant workers pick the berries during the harvest season. Lily's blind dog escapes its leash and Salma, a migrant worker's daughter, helps Lily catch him. They become friends and Salma decides to compete in the town's Blueberry Queen pageant against Lily's former best friend.

This was an enjoyable book, but I did not like it as much as I like Rules by the same author. There was just not enough to really hold my attention.

31rretzler
Nov 5, 2015, 6:36pm

152. A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

This is the 19th in the Inspector Lynley series. In this book, DS Havers is still in trouble with Superintendent Ardery after her escapades in the last book. She must toe the line and Lynley believes that the creativity that made her a good detective has been hampered by needing to be on her best behavior. When an author that Havers has recently met dies and her editor is poisoned, Havers believes that she must be involved in the investigation in order to prove herself to Ardery.

Elizabeth George is another author that I thoroughly enjoy. Her plots are so intricately woven and detailed. She also takes the time to develop her major characters in each book. I can't say that I am thrilled with the way that she has taken Lynley's life, ever since she killed off his wife, but I still really like the series.

32rretzler
Editado: Nov 6, 2015, 9:48am

153. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

A reread of a classic picture book. Sal and her mother go to Blueberry Hill in Maine to pick blueberries. Sal wonders off and gets mixed up with Little Bear! Kuplink! Kuplank! Kuplunk!

Reading A Handful of Stars put us in mind of Blueberries for Sal so we dug it out and read it again. Robert McCloskey just has a way with words that is timeless and his art is amazing.

33rretzler
Editado: Nov 6, 2015, 9:47am

154. Sumo Mouse by David Wisniewski

A reread of a picture book. Sumo Mouse helps to rescue the mice of Tokyo from the evil feline Dr. Claw. But who is Sumo Mouse? Only Yama the barber knows for sure.

Fun illustrations. Superhero mouse. The boys always enjoyed this book more than I did. I thought it was only so-so.

34rretzler
Editado: Nov 13, 2015, 2:44pm

155. Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Reread of an extremely cute picture book. Officer Buckle gives safety lectures to the children at Napville School, who are extremely bored by his presentations. The police give him a dog, Gloria, to help out, and the kids are no longer bored by Officer Buckle's safety tips.

This book won the Caldecott Medal. I've always enjoyed it and the boys have too.

35rretzler
Nov 13, 2015, 2:30pm

156. The Religious Body by Catherine Aird

This is the first in the Inspector Sloan series by Catherine Aird. It is a cozy mystery set in England in the 1960s. Inspector Sloan is called to a convent to investigate the murder of a nun. The nun was last seen at evening prayers after the convent was locked for the evening but was missing and found dead in the morning. To complicate matters, her glasses are missing and are found on a Guy Fawkes dummy on a bonfire the next evening.

I thought the mystery was a good one. The clues were there to lead you to the murder, but it wasn't necessarily obvious. I have read many, many English mysteries, but in this one some of the slang (either that or just the writing itself) was a little difficult for me to follow. Perhaps it was also an issue with the ebook - the scenes would change but there wasn't really a break in the physical text to indicate that the scene had shifted. I had to go back and reread many times to follow what was going on in the story.

I have the second book in the series and am going to give it a chance because overall, I thought the plot an interesting one, and liked the Inspector.

36rretzler
Nov 13, 2015, 2:33pm

157. A Glimpse of Evil by Victoria Laurie

Another book in the Psychic Eye series. I have one more to read before I am finally caught up. This one is not much different from the others, except that Abby is employed full time as a consultant to the FBI, but is almost immediately suspended when she has to shoot a man to protect herself and another agent from being killed.

These are very light, easy reads and have a decent plot.

37rretzler
Nov 13, 2015, 2:40pm

158. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

This is the third book in the Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is a forensic archeologist who teaches at a University in Norfolk, England. In a previous book, she had a one night stand with a married police inspector, and now has a daughter that she has decided to raise on her own.

In this book, six bodies are found on a beach and are determined to be German soldiers from World War II, but the mystery is how they appeared bound and shot on the coast of England.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Ruth is a flawed but sympathetic character trying to raise her daughter on her own and having doubts about her abilities as a mother, while struggling with how she feels about Inspector Nelson, who is almost happily married. The plot was good and there were good clues, but also some misdirection as well. The author does a great job with research about whatever topic she introduces into her books - Roman ruins, German invasions, etc.

38rretzler
Editado: Nov 17, 2015, 12:37pm

159. A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths

The fourth book in the Ruth Galloway series. In this book, Nelson's wife, Michelle, has found out about Ruth and her daughter, and forbids Nelson to have anything more to do with them. However, when Ruth finds the dead body of a museum curator, she must work with Nelson to decide whether it was natural causes or murder until Nelson himself becomes very ill. Meanwhile, Ruth's new neighbor is a descendant of the Austrialian Aborigines, who wants to make sure that the Aboriginal skulls held by the museum are returned to their native land.

Again, this is a well researched book with a good plot. I really enjoyed it and have purchased the rest in the series.

39rretzler
Nov 17, 2015, 12:37pm

160. Ruth's First Christmas Tree by Elly Griffiths

A short story in the Ruth Galloway series.

40rretzler
Editado: Nov 17, 2015, 12:51pm

161. A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

The fifth book in the Ruth Galloway series. Ruth's old university friend has died in a house fire just after sending Ruth a letter asking for her assistance in what he believes is the archeological find of a lifetime, The Raven King's (i.e. King Arthur) burial place and bones.

I really enjoyed this one, particularly because I am fascinated by anything vaguely Arthurian. This was an interesting story and an easy read as well.

41rretzler
Nov 17, 2015, 12:51pm

162. The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

The fifth book in the Ruth Galloway series. This one takes on the topic of a mother accused of killing her infant sons, and an infant kidnapping. It also visits the topic of baby farms and grave snatchers in Victorian times.

Another interesting and well researched book.

42rretzler
Nov 17, 2015, 12:56pm

163. The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

The seventh, and to date last, book in the Ruth Galloway. A World War II plane is found buried while apartment housing is being built. The man found in the pilot's seat is not the pilot, who parachuted to safety, but the English-born, American aircraft gunner son of a local family whose plane went down in the sea two weeks before the found plane. Ruth and Nelson must figure out how the remarkably well-preserved body made its way from the sea to the wrong plane.

Again a very interesting and well researched book. It's remarkable that the author is able to come up with so many reasons why bones can be found!

43rretzler
Editado: Nov 21, 2015, 2:34pm

164. Henrietta Who? by Catherine Aird

The second book in the Inspector Sloan series. This book was about a college girl, Henrietta, whose mother is a victim of a hit-and-run drive, her father having been killed in WWII when she was an infant. Unfortunately, during the post mortem exam of the mother, the coroner determines that the mother has never given birth and never "been married." Henrietta has never seen her birth certificate which seems to have been stolen from a locked desk in her mother's locked house the day of her death. There seems to be no record of her mother having married her father, or her father having been killed in the war.

This is another mystery in the golden age style. It was fun to read. There were lots of clues, lots of deception, a little romance and a satisfying conclusion. I will definitely continue to read this series. It appears that the last book to date was written in 2013, so hopefully lots of fun ahead!

44rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 11:09pm

165. A Night Divided by Jennifer A Nielsen

A Night Divided is the fictional story of a young German girl, Gerta, whose family is divided when the Berlin wall goes up. Her father had taken a short trip to the West with her middle brother, leaving Gerta, her oldest brother and mother at home. Unfortunately, the wall went up overnight and as her father had a Stassi (secret police) "file" and was branded as a troublemaker by the East Germans, he and Gerta's middle brother were not allowed to come back home. Almost four years go by before Gerta has any contact with her father or brother, but one day she sees her brother on the other side of the wall on her walk to school. The next day, she also sees her father, who is singing a song and doing a dance that Gerta remembers from her childhood. Gerta believes that her father is trying to tell her that she must dig. Soon after, she receives a picture of an abandoned building and she searches to find it in her East Berlin neighborhood. Once she finds it, she discovers a WWII bomb shelter hidden in the basement. The walls of the bomb shelter are dirt and she believes that her father wants her to dig a tunnel to West Berlin. When her mother goes out of town to take care of Oma Gertrude, her own mother, Gerta tells her oldest brother, Fritz, and they begin to dig a tunnel under the wall and the death strip.

This was one of my younger son's picks for reading for the Newbery Club. It was also the book choice for the Grand Discussion, which is basically a book club in the fall and spring for 5th graders and their parents. I have to say that I really loved this book. Of the books that we have read so far for Newbery, this one, IMO, stands far above the rest. The author had obviously done her homework about the history of the Berlin Wall and the living conditions inside the East Germany. The book is packed with suspense and full of twists and turns. Gerta's family was under suspicion by the Stassi, and their apartment was bugged. One of her brother's friends (and Gerta's best friend's brother) is killed by the Stassi while trying to escape to the west hiding inside a special compartment in a car. One of Gerta's neighbors is a Stassi informant, and another neighbor is killed by the Stassi because he is holding anti-communist meetings. In their efforts to escape East Germany, just about everything that can go wrong does, but somehow they manage to persevere.

The Grand Discussion lead to quite a bit of interesting and thoughtful discussion about freedom and those things we take for granted in our daily privileged lives. It also lead to a history discussion - one that most of the parents could easily participate in having lived through the Cold War and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. I enjoyed it from that perspective as a teaching moment, but one that was actually interesting and fun, instead of dry, boring facts. Everyone at the discussion really liked the book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is told from the perspective of a 12 year-old girl so that aspect might not appeal to everyone, but it is a very well written book. (Although you might become a little bored by all the dirt...)


45rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 8:17pm

Today is my 5th Thingaversary!! So, I bought the requisite 5 books, plus an extra!

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer
The Shadow at Greystone Chase by Clara Benson

46rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 10:28pm

166. The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird

Classic detective novel set in the late 50's/early 60's. A wealthy English family must open its home to tourists in order to pay the upkeep. One of the tourists finds a body in a suit of armor collection in the dungeon. Inspector Sloan is once again called in to solve the mystery.

I had not read anything by Catherine Aird prior to this so I am enjoying these mysteries. If you enjoy a classic mystery you will undoubtedly like them too.

47rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 10:28pm

167. A Late Phoenix by Catherine Aird

The fourth book in the Inspector Sloan series. Enjoyable.

48rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 10:29pm

168. His Burial Too by Catherine Aird

The fifth book in the Inspector Sloan series. More of the same.

Each book stands on its own. The clues are there and the books are well written.

49rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 10:29pm

169. I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming

This is the sixth book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. Clare is an Episcopal priest and Russ is the Chief of Police in the small town of Miller's Kill in Upstate New York. This book deals with the aftermath of Linda Van Alstyne's death. Russ's sister and her husband hire a group of Mexican immigrants to help out on their newly expanded farm, believing that they are legal. When the van carrying the immigrants to their new job crashes, the workers scatter before the police and ambulance come. Near the crash site, a young Hispanic male body is found with a bullet in the back of its head. The Miller's Kill police department must investigate and somehow Clare finds herself in the middle of the investigation.

This series is one of the few series I enjoy that is not set in the UK. Julia Spencer-Fleming is a very good author. Her stories are believable and there is always quite a bit of action and suspense. I also enjoy the relationship between Clare and Russ.

While this is not the last book in the series (I believe there are two more), I have already read the others, but somehow had never read this one. I am definitely waiting for the ninth book in the series as they just seem to get better and better.

51ronincats
Dic 8, 2015, 9:33pm

Happy Thingaversary!!

53rretzler
Dic 8, 2015, 10:00pm

>51 ronincats: Thanks, Roni!

54rretzler
Dic 8, 2015, 10:38pm

170. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E Wein

Continuing my interest with WWII related books! Code Name Verity is about Maddie, a young English girl, who learns to be a pilot and joins the Air Transport Auxiliary in order to fly damaged planes to airfields for repair or fly war pilots to other airfields. Maddie meets Julia, a young Scottish girl, and they become fast friends. Julia is always calm and composed and can take on just about any persona very easily. Maddie is very good with engines and navagation and together they make a good team who gets noticed by a Special Operations Executive. It is written as a journal of the two girls. Wein packs the book with suspense, heroism, friendship, loyalty, and a little misdirection, as well as some heartbreak. My words do not do the book justice.

This was a fantastic book. I did not want to put it down. It is a very easy read and I think it is fairly historically accurate.

55rretzler
Dic 8, 2015, 10:42pm

171.Letters to a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

This is just a short book with letters written by the characters in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. Several of the characters, including the main character, Clare Fergusson, were deployed to Iraq and this is a small book of letters written between the military personnel and their loved ones.

This book would not be understood or appreciated by someone who did not read the series. It really did not add anything, but was slightly interesting. I do enjoy the series though.

56rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 11:09pm

172. Milo Speck, Accidental Agent by Linda Urban

Milo is a boy whose mother has gone away and whose father works, he believes, as a salesman for a fencing company. One day, while helping his "grandmother" with the laundry, Milo accidentally falls into the dryer and is transported to the land of Ogregon. There he rescues Tuck, the head of the Tuckerman Agency and ultimately helps defeat Dr. El and to save the world (or at least many other children who might have also fallen through dryers to find themselves eaten by Ogres.)

As the author goes out of her way to mention, this book is a little like The BFG and The Phantom Tollbooth, although more like the former as the ogres reminded me of the BFG (although not friendly.)

This is another book that Keegan and I read for Newbery Club. It was an enjoyable and simply written book which was pretty humorous. I did enjoy it, but quite a bit of it was predictable.

57rretzler
Editado: Dic 8, 2015, 10:55pm

173. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I have had this on my wishlist for some time and decided after reading all of the recent mysteries that it was time for a little more fantasy. This was a very cute story about Sophie, the eldest of three sisters, and her attempt to go out and seek her fortune. For as we all know, the eldest child always fails and the other siblings must learn from the eldest's mistakes. Howl is a wizard who has a castle that moves around the landscape and who takes young women's/girl's hearts.

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. It had an interesting and unique plot with a lot of surprises throughout. It kept my interest the whole time. It is easy to see why it was made into a movie. I plan to put it on the list of books to read with my boys at some point, as this is the type of book that we enjoy. I am a little hesitant to read the sequels as I'm not sure what Diana Wynne Jones could possibly do with the characters going forward.

58rretzler
Dic 8, 2015, 11:09pm

174. The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein

Another Newbery Club book. We seem to be enjoying quite a bit of fantasy with our Newbery Club picks. This is about Billy, whose parents are getting a divorce, and his mother borrowing the summer cabin of her boss, Dr. Libris, while she works on her doctoral thesis. Billy finds Dr. Libris's library, which has an intricately carved, locked bookcase. Some clues lead him to find the key to the bookcase, and as he is reading Hercules, he hears noises which sound a lot like Hercules fighting Antaeus coming from an island in the middle of the lake. Little does Billy know, he is the subject of an experiement by Dr. Libris.

Another very enjoyable book. Althought I enjoyed the book by Linda Urban, this book seemed a little more well-written - perhaps it was intended for a slightly older audience than Milo Speck, Accidental Agent. While parts of this book are unique, the main premise, book characters coming to life, has been done before. Although I did enjoy it, I don't think it is worthy of a Newbery.

I did enjoy Chris Grabenstein's other book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, which I believe I read earlier this year or late last year.

59ronincats
Dic 8, 2015, 11:19pm

>57 rretzler: She goes off on tangents, mostly, with Sophie and Howl just dropping in as side characters (and it is always lovely to catch up with them!). Fear not and go ahead with the other two connected stories, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways.

60scaifea
Dic 9, 2015, 6:57am

>57 rretzler: >59 ronincats: Yes, what Roni said - Fear Not and Read the Sequels!

61rretzler
Dic 9, 2015, 10:26am

>59 ronincats:, >60 scaifea:

Thanks, Roni and Amber. I will add the sequels to my list!

62ronincats
Dic 23, 2015, 5:40pm



For my Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Holiday image this year (we are so diverse!), I've chosen this photograph by local photographer Mark Lenoce of the pier at Pacific Beach to express my holiday wishes to you: Peace on Earth and Good Will toward All!

63rretzler
Ene 10, 2016, 4:32pm

175. A Youthful Indiscretion by Elizabeth Edmondson

This is a short story/novella which takes place between A Man of Some Repute and A Question of Inheritance. It really helped bridge the gap between the two stories.

64rretzler
Ene 10, 2016, 4:35pm

176. A Question of Inheritance by Elizabeth Edmondson

This book follows very closely behind the activity in A Man of Some Repute, which takes place after WWII. It was an enjoyable book and I would recommend it for anyone who likes a cozy mystery.

65rretzler
Ene 10, 2016, 4:55pm

177. The Shadow at Greystone Chase by Clara Benton

This is the final book in the Angela Marchmont series. It is interesting that when the first few books came out, they supposedly had been discovered by Clara Benton's descendants and were being published posthumously. Now, however, it appears that Clara Benton is actually a contemporary author trying her had at writing historical fiction. That being said, I enjoyed the series, and I will certainly miss reading about Angela Marchmont. The books were very well written and certainly kept my interest throughout all 10 books.

66rretzler
Editado: Ene 10, 2016, 5:05pm

178. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

What can I say about a book that has become a SciFi classic? This was a reread for me. I'm trying to get back into the series so that I will be up to speed when I read Eoin Colfer's sequel.

I will say that unfortunately I did not enjoy it the 3rd time through as much as I did the 1st time. I must say that I do enjoy Douglas Adam's humor, but it certainly is not for everyone (including my husband, who tends to like hard SciFi more.)

67rretzler
Ene 10, 2016, 5:05pm

Wrap-up on 2015

Well, I made it all the way to the end. There were quite a few books that I didn't review in the middle of the year, and unfortunately never got back to them. I decided trying to do a full blown review of plot, author, etc is just way too much for me. I seem to struggle with writing, but I love reading!

I added at least 322 books to my library (there are several non-fiction books that I do not believe I listed yet on LT) and I read 178 books! Next year, I plan to try to keep track of how many books I read off of my TBR pile, as well as books by genre.

68archerygirl
Ene 12, 2016, 7:51am

>67 rretzler: That's an impressive reading tally! I find doing full-blown reviews of everything a struggle, even though I'm a writer. Generally I only do a big review if I had a lot of feelings (positive or negative) about a read. It's hard to find a lot of words when a book was passable without being amazing.