Books Read in 2007

 Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy
This is another of those stories that Binchy does so well, a character study of several characters, taking each of them through the same lifespan in different chapters.  Binchy creates a wonderful image of small town Ireland and the people living there in the 1950s.  I have to admit that she's not my favorite writer and so I would not rate this very high, but only because it's a genre that I get tired of.

Blessings by Anna Quindlen
Really gripping story of a young man who finds a newborn abandoned on the steps of the wealthy woman for whom he works, and how this child changes the lives of all of them--the young man, the old woman, the daughter of the maid--in ways that you would not predict.

Celebrity Detox by Rosie O'Donnell
Love her or hate her, there is no denying that there is no false anything about Rosie.  This book deals with the issues that accompany the heady drug of "celebity."  It also documents her year on The View (minus the Hasselback brouhaha, which is not discussed).  It becomes quickly apparently that Rosie walks that fine line between fat, poor kid from the Bronx and wealthy megastar.  She agonizes over it throughout the book--and it's an excellent background into which to put all stars who make it big.  In fact, as I was finishing it, I was watching a "Biography" special on Kelsey Grammer.  Those interviewed were talking about his being shoved into the spotlight, becoming a megastar and being unable to handle that fame (witness Brittney Spears and all the other youngsters in the headlines these days).  This book is raw truth on one level and a love letter to Barbara Walters, whom Rosie sees as somewhat of a substitute for the mother she lost at age 10, whose death she has never quite gotten over (as if any of us ever "get over" loss at any age).  This won't be everybody's cup of tea, but I loved it.

Harvest by Tess Gerritsen
Wow.  The last 1/3-1/4 of this book was read lickity split, wanting at the same time to sit there reading and to run away and put the book down.  If it had been a movie, I would have been watching from another room.  What a thriller! Strange things are going on in Boston's Bayside Hospital and Dr. Abby DeMateo is being framed.  Working with her boyfriend she is determined to clear her name and find out who is behind the strange things with the transplant team.  Once you reach a certain point in this book, you will not be able to put it down.

A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life by Jon Katz
Katz has taken a lot of flak for his story of Orson, a trouble dog ultimately put to sleep for attacking three people, but I found this the story of a man fiercely devoted to trying to change the behavior of a "broken dog," to the point of buying a farm and spending hundreds of hours doing everything he could to discover how to fill the dog's life so that he would not feel the need to lash out unexpectedly.  This is written with great love, and having been in the position of having to make that difficult decision about how far to go to keep a dog alive, I could sympathize and applaud him for his actions throughout his relationship with Orson.  This is a good dog story-- but lay in the Kleenex before you get to the end!

Midnight Club by James Patterson
I'd say that Patterson had written another thriller, but this was actually one of his earlier books, published in 1989.  This book is so old that the climax takes place in one of the World Trade Center buildings.  It's a good read (as are all of his books), but doesn't have the same gripping quality that his later books do.  Still, I couldn't put it down once I passed a certain point.  He says this is one of his favorite books.

5th Horseman by James Patterson (andMaxine Paetro)
This is such a page turner, I finished it in one day--in addition to going to a big celebration for my son's 40th birthday!  I sat up until 12:30 a.m. to finish and then had to write a newspaper article!  Yes, it's a page turner.  The ladies murder club is back in rare form again, trying to find who is killing patients at a San Francisco hospital.  The only thing that bothers me about the book is that Patterson seems to have his streets all wrong.  I concentrated as much on trying to figure out where he WAS as the story itself.  But if you didn't grow up on Leavenworth St. in San Francisco, that probably won't be a factor in the enjoyment of the story.

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
This isn't a knee-slapper, but it is gentle down-to-earth humor with memorable characters, a view of the hereafter, and a bonus cookbook section at the end.  What more could you want?  Besides, how can you not like a character named Elner Shimfissle?

Life Support  by Tess Gerritsen
I am so pleased to have found Tess Gerritsen.   I'm really enjoying her writing and her stories...and there are a lot that I haven't read, so I'm set for the next year!  This is a medical thriller, my favorite kind.  Everything is going wrong for Dr. Toby Harper, with patients dying for unexplainable reasons, and her career being sabotaged by a couple of other doctors, while she's also trying to deal with her mother, who is suffering with Alzheimers.  She must find a deadly virus that is rapidly spreading before she is totally discredited.  I was up until 2:30 a.m. finishing this book last night!

Maximum Ride -- School's Out--Forever by James Patterson
Damn.  I knew I shouldn't have read this book.  This is #2 in Patterson's Maximum Ride trilogy and you come to the end and it just. stops.  You have to go and get book 3 to know what the hell the whole thing was about in the first place!  This is another page-turner, but too much fighting for my taste.  If it weren't that I had invested time in reading the first two, I probably wouldn't read #3, but now I have to. 

Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin
Anybody who has followed Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City will know at once that Michael Tolliver was one of the central characters in that classic series of books.  It's now 25 years later, Michael is living with AIDS (as opposed to "dying of AIDS" in earlier books).  He's in a stable relationship.  Mary Anne  is off in New York with her new husband and her ex, Brian, is still in San Francisco raising their daughter, Shawna, who is about to embark on a writing career.  The book brings you up to date on who is doing what, what has happened to Anna Madrigal, the strange woman who owned the house on Barbary Lane.  Toss in Michael's uber-religious brother and his weird wife, and their mother, who is dying and has an odd request to make of Michael.  It's a story of family -- and what makes a real "family".  Another classic for Maupin and a must read for Tales of the City fans.

Edwina, the Invincible by Marie Clyde
This charming little book showed up in my mailbox the other day.  It's written by a friend of mine--and I had no idea she'd been published.  Edwina is obviously her alter-ego, a woman of a certain age, very proper but a little off kilter who has adventures around the area of San Francisco where I grew up, sometimes along with her niece.  It's a collection of short stories and each one is a little gem.  Marie's way with words does not surprise, but it does delight.

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
The story of two sisters, Rose, the responsible one and Maggie, the irresponsible one who takes advantage of everybody and who feels the world owes her a living.  Their mother died when the girls were young and Rose has taken care of Maggie ever since, because their grieving father was incapable of giving the girls the emotional security they needed and his wife, the evil Sydelle hated them.  Now adults, Maggie is still sponging on Rose, who is still resenting it, but letting her.  A catastrophic event causes a breakup that sets both women on new life paths and brings about their ultimate reconciliation.  This is a great read, a page turner, and a tearjerker.  Highly recommended!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I had to read this book immediately, not because I am some sort of a Potter nut who would line up at a book store at midnight to buy it (mine came via Amazon), but because I hate having surprises spoiled for me and I knew I had to finish the book before I turned on the television or looked at anything on the Internet.  I just didn't want to know what happened.  I was sitting at the train station at midnight last night, waiting for Walt's train to arrive, and people were coming back from the bookstore with their books in hand, reading the final chapter.  Not me!  Tho I was tempted, I persevered and read the thing straight through from front to back without peeking.

All I can say is J.K. Rowling knows how to spin a yarn, for sure!  Having now come to the end of the saga, we can see how things that seemed so innocent in Book 1 turn out to have great importance in Book 7.  We can see how things were woven together with such fine stitching that we were unaware of it at the time.  There is sadness in the book.  We know that key characters die.  I cried at spots.  But in the end, she finished it in the only logical way possible, not only to bring the saga to a logical conclusion, but to ensure that there will be no clamor for one more book.  This story is finished.

I can hardly wait to see what she decides to write next!

Bill Bryson's African Diary by Bill Bryson
Bryson wrote this book as a fund-raiser for CARE in Africa.  It's very short, only 50 pages, with wonderful photos by Jenny Matthews, but Bryson can say more in 50 pages than most writers can in 500.  You will get a good overview, for example, of the complexities of helping the very poor in Kenya.  You will also never get on a light-weight airplane.  Ever!  Buy the book, even if you have no interest in reading it.  All proceeds go to CARE, a worthwhile organization which certainly can use them.

Maximum Ride--the Angel Experiment by James Patterson
James Patterson is really a versatile writer.  Offhand, I can't think of another author who works, successfully, in so many different genres.  Patterson is best known for his thrillers, featuring Detective Alex Cross, or the series about the "Women's Murder Club."  "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" is one of his ventures into romantic fiction.  And he also writes science fiction designed for young adults.  "Maximum Ride--the Angel Experiment" is one of those books.  As with all his books, this is well crafted and holds the reader's attention as it tells the story of a group of "mutant children" led by the 11 year old "Maximum Ride."  The children are trying to find Angel, one of the group, who has been abducted by the "Erasers," and returned to the mysterious "school" somewhere near Death Valley for further tests.  The one thing that I can tell you about the conclusion is that you will be at the book store the next day purchasing the sequel.

It's OK to Miss the Bed the First Time by John Hurley
Actor John Hurley (Seinfeld) has written a little book about life lessons he has learned from the dogs he has had throughout his life.  Hurley writes well and the lessons are cute.  The book is illustrated with photos of his dogs.  It's a nice book, not a great book, but cute.

Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen
This is a new author for me, and based on this book, I'll have to read more.  It's a medical thriller -- what is causing the children of Tranquility, Maine to become violent?  It twists and turns and just when you think you have it figured out, you don't.    I love stuff with lots of medical jargon and so this fills that need for me as well.

 Judge and Jury by James Patterson
A very good book to read right after the last episode of The Sopranos.  This is the attempt to bring a mob boss to justice and, believe me, it ain't easy!  This is another of James Patterson's page turners.  I started it on the plane from California to New York and finished before we got there.  Some is predictable, some is not, but it's always gripping.

Cause of Death by Patricia Cornwell
This is an old one that I think I read before, but it's the old ones that I like best, before Marino and Lucy got to be such dislikeable people.  Kay Scarpetta is on the case of a reporter who died in a diving accident--or was it an accident?  With Scarpetta on the case, you know there is more than a simple "death" involved.   Even cliches keep you guessing to the very end.

A Place Called the Bla-Bla Cafe by Sandy Ross
The Bla-Bla Cafe was a beloved out-of-the-way club in Studio City where, in the 1970s, a lot of entertainers got their first major break into the entertainment industry.  It's kind of a "vanity book," which will be interesting to people who performed there or were part of the audience, but for anyone who is looking for information about the big names mentioned (Leno, Letterman, Williams), all you'll find is their names included in a long list of names of people you've never heard of before.

Paula Deen: "It Ain't All About the Cookin'" by Paula Deen & Sherry Suib Cohen
This is a book I picked up at Costco just as an impulse purchase.  I watch Paula "More Butter is Better" Deen's show on Food Network and knew something about her years of suffering with agoraphobia and I was curious to read her story.  The other night I picked it up to glance at and was surprised at how fascinated I was.  I ended up reading the whole thing that night.  I will admit that the final chapters, after she had become established as a Food Network star and it was just more-of-same were less interesting and I kind of skimmed through them, but the story of her childhood, her disastrous marriage, and all the lean years leading to where she is today were just quite compelling.  Co-author Cohen has succeeded in keeping the sense of the homespun delivery that has endeared Paula to her fans for years.

Mutant Message from Forever by Marlo Morgan
Described as "a novel of Aboriginal wisdom," this book traces the story of a pair of twins, Jeff and Bea, who are born in the bush, taken from their mother at a mission station on the first day of their life.  Bea is raised in a mission school, Jeff is given to an American family, who move him to the U.S., where his upbringing leads him eventually to a prison death row.  Bea, in the meantime, in her 30s walks into the bush and meets with native Aborigines, who teach her the way of her people.  This is an interesting combination of story and philosophy and gives a glimpse into the lives of a people many of us will never encounter.  It also helps to understand the plight of the Aboriginal people in Australia--and how their situation came to be.  Many parallels to what was done to Native Americans in this country.

The Cat Who Turned Off and On by Lilian Jackson Braun
Well, after all these "Cat Who..." books, I'm starting to get tired of the genre already.  I need to take a break.  This book has Jim Qwilleran and his cats moving into "Junktown," the supposed slums of the city, though also the location of all the town's antique stores.  It was too much antique, too little believability in this one.  But Qwill and the cats solved the murder(s) that the police were ready to sweep under the rug, so feline intuition wins yet again.

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun
I'm becoming rather fond of Jim Qwilleran and his cats.  Braun's books are easy reading and just the right size to tuck in a bag when you're going out somewhere!  This is Book #2 in the lengthy series (I shouldn't run out for a long, long time) in which Qwilleran investigates strange incidents regarding his new assignment, as editor of the home decorating supplement to The Daily Fluxion.  Braun dances around all these male interior decorators hinting, but never overtly alluding to the sexual orientation of any of them.  But then this book was  written in the 1960s. I'm assuming that overt comments would offend Ms. Braun's sensibilities and probably scandalize her readers. YumYum also joins the Qwilleran family.

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
Someone brought this small (156 pages) book to my mother to read and I decided to read it.  I realized about 1/4 of the way into it that I'd seen it made into a movie with Rob Lowe.  But I stayed the course and finished the thing.  A nice, sweet story, a nice tear jerker, and now it's on to more meaty fare again.

The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall
I don't know if you'd call this an inspirational book or a motivational book.  It's the sort of book that could easily get "preachy," but I found that I could get past it because it came with a (somewhat) understandable story and the message that it was trying to tell was pretty clear and I think it did a good job of it.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Family secrets of Nazi Germany are at the core of this powerful novel told in two narratives that alternate between New Heidelberg, Minnesota, in the present, and the small town of Weimar near Buchenwald during World War II. Trudy is a professor of German history in Minnesota, where she's teaching a seminar on women's roles in Nazi Germany and conducting interviews with Germans about how they're dealing with what they did during the war. But her mother, Anna, won't talk about it, not even to her own daughter. Trudy knows, she remembers, that Anna was mistress to a big Nazi camp officer. Why did she do it? Was he Trudy's father? The interviews are a plot contrivance to introduce a range of attitudes, from blatant racism to crippling survivor guilt. But the characters, then and now, are drawn with rare complexity, including a brave, gloomy, unlucky rescuer and a wheeler-dealer survivor. Anna's story is a gripping mystery in a page-turner that raises universal questions of shame, guilt, and personal responsibility.  [review copied from Amazon review--because I'm too lazy to write my own]

Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
I finished the two books I brought on my trip with me too quickly, so I had to buy another book.  I picked this (and 2 more) up on the "3 for 2" table at Borders.  This is the most bizarre memoir you are likely to read.  Burroughs had an upbringing that can only be described as quirky to the nth degree.  All the comments on the jacket talk about this being "hilarious" and "something funny on every page." I definitely didn't find it that.  It was amusing, entertaining, and takes "dysfunction" to places nobody ever dreamed it would ever go before.  Some graphic gay sex stuff in it, but don't let that be a turn-off.  It's the ultimate survivor story.

Cross by James Patterson
As the name might indicate this is an Alex Cross book.  Darn Patterson anyway.  Just when I think I'm finally caught up, out comes another one, and I see that there is already another new Alex Cross book in the book stores.  In this one we finally hear the details of Alex's beloved wife's murder, which has been haunting him all these years, and he does battle with the executioner who ruined his life.  As with all the Alex Cross books, this one is a page turner.

Voice of the Night by Dean Koontz
A long time ago, I read a book by Dean Koontz.  He's such a prolific writer and so many people have recommended him that I was surprised at how disappointed in the story I was.  It was too supernatural for my tastes, all about the ghost of a woman's husband who was terrorizing her.  I was later told that some of his books are much better than others.  So when I found this book lying around the house, and I needed something small to fit in my purse, I took it along.  Turned out to be a good one.  Gripping story of two young boys, one the most popular in the school, the other the nerd that nobody likes and the unlikely friendship which develops, which turns out to be the undoing of one and the near undoing of the other.  Guaranteed to keep you reading!

The Partner by John Grisham
I listened to this book on tape on the various trips back and forth to my mother's.  I think I'd read it before, but I couldn't remember the end.  It's the story of Patrick Lanigan, who steals $90 million and then disappears into the back country of Brasil.  Grisham always spins a good yarn and the end of the book is worthy of O. Henry.

From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, The War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman and Melinda Roth
This is an amazing book.  Someone from the SPCA recommended it to me and who could resist the dog picture on the cover?  It's the story of how a puppy found in Faluja gets adopted and shipped back to the United States, a seemingly impossible task since the "prime directive" of the Marines is non-involvement:  don't make friends with locals, don't adopt pets.  It softens the men, it is felt.  Somehow, however, Lava gets lucky and ultimately relocates to California, but the tale of how is as riveting as any mystery you're likely to read.  But more than that, reading about the conditions in which our soldiers are living and the situations that are day-to-day occurrences makes you realize that there ain't no way we are ever going to "win" (by any definition of that term) this war.   I highly recommend this book.

4th of July by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
This is the fourth in Patterson's books about the "Women's Murder Club" series.  In this one, Detective Lindsay is being taken to court for wrongful death and while the case is being prepared, she moves into her sister's home in Half Moon Bay where, of course, there are a string of murders being committed.  Lindsay and her pals work together to catch the bad guys.  It's traditional Patterson fare, but an enjoyable, quick read.

My favorite part had Lindsay jogging through San Francisco in the most unbelievable route ever devised.  It was obviously written to paint a mental picture of the locale, but I lived in that neighborhood and find it impossible to think of anybody actually jogging that route!

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
After reading two "Cat Who..." books last year, chosen because those were the ones which I found lying around, I wanted to read about how Qwilleran got to be the guy he was in the books I have already read, and how he happened to get his two cats, KoKo and Yum Yum.  And now I know!  I have two more books by Braun to read (books #2 and #3 in the lengthy series).  They are good diversions.

Snow in April by Rosamunde Pilcher
This is a book on tape that Peggy sent to me for Christmas.  It's exactly the right length to play on one round-trip from Davis to San Rafael, so I was able to get through the whole thing on my trip to see my mother today.

While an enjoyable story, it was a rather odd choice for me.  A 20 year old girl runs away from her London home with her 11 year old brother, they head for Scotland, run into a blizzard on a lonely road, the car crashes, they make their way to an isolated mansion where they learn that the telephones are out and the road to town is closed off.  And nobody dies.  Nobody gets murdered.  It's just a nice love story with a hint of bodice ripping involved. 

I had not read Pilcher before and found myself enjoying her writing style, and her use of words.  I am always enamored by someone who can turn a phrase effectively!

Books read in 2006