Thursday, March 18, 2010

From the Archives: Mini Reviews from 2005

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. The following are my thoughts on a few books I read in early 2005.

War by Candlelight by Daniel Alarcón
Harper Collins, 2005~ Fiction (Short Stories); 208 pgs

War by Candlelight is a compilation of nine short stories by Daniel Alarcón that touch upon such subjects as war, poverty, political strife, family, love, and death set in Peru and New York. The cultural aspect plays a powerful role in each story; the stories are haunting. There were several stories I wish would have gone on a little longer as I would have liked to know more about the characters and their lives. Rating: * (Good)

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Little Brown & Company, 2001 ~ Fiction; 496 pgs

White Oleander is written from the view point of Astrid, the daughter of a poet, who finds herself in the foster care system after her mother is convicted of methodically murdering the man who spurned her. This is a coming of age story about a young girl who longs to be loved, recognized, and to have a family. Astrid meets many people who will shape her life, teaching her how to survive, stand up for herself, and make her life what she wants of it. White Oleander is a poignant novel that touches the heart. I cried for Astrid as she struggled against the anger and love she felt for her mother, and her need for love and family. Definitely worth picking up and reading. Rating: * (Very Good)

Sleeping Beauty by Phillip Margolin
Harper, 2004 ~ Crime Fiction; 329 pgs

A serial murderer attacked seventeen-year-old Ashley Spencer, her father and a close friend one night, brutally killing her father and the friend. In his true crime book, author and attorney Miles Van Meter outlines the crime and the subsequent events, including the attack on his twin sister, which left her in a coma; the murder of Ashley’s mother; and the trial to follow. Mr. Margolin takes readers through a series of twists and turns as his tale unfolds. Mr. Margolin begins his book while Mr. Van Meter is on a book tour, discussing the latest edition of his book, Sleeping Beauty. I liked the way Mr. Margolin interwove the present with the past throughout the book as the story progressed. It made for an interesting perspective into the lives of the characters involved. I found Sleeping Beauty difficult to put down and the novel kept me guessing until near the very end. Rating: * (Good)

State of Fear by Michael Crichton
Harper Collins, 2004 Crichton, Michael ~ Suspense/Thriller; 603 pgs

In Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, eco-terrorists are determined to make sure the threat of global warming is taken seriously. It is a race against time to uncover the diabolical schemes that will lead to the deaths of many people. Mr. Crichton touches upon the controversial issue of global warming as well as the dangers of politicized science. I enjoyed this novel on many levels, intellectually as well as for its entertainment value. It was a suspenseful roller coaster ride and thought provoking all in one. At times I felt it was a bit too preachy and his characters were lacking, but, even then, Mr. Crichton did a good job of interweaving the scientific explanations with the story to make it palatable for the layperson. Rating: * (Good)

More Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon
William Morrow, 2000 ~ Fiction; 269 pgs

Hannah Gray returns to her summer stomping grounds to remember the story of her first love and the ghost that would irrevocably change her life. One summer Hannah, her stepmother and half-brother rent a house, an old schoolhouse that had been moved from Beal Island to the mainland. Hannah would soon come to find out that a frightening woman whose story she wished to know haunted the house. A terrible murder had taken place many many years before and Hannah wondered if it could be related to the ghost. She sought to uncover the story behind the murder. Meanwhile, she met a wild sort of boy who swept her off her feet, her first love, a love she hoped would never end. Beth Gutcheon’s novel had sadness weaved deep within its prose. It is a beautifully written story about grief, love, expectations not met. I was especially drawn to the story of Claris and Daniel whose minds I would like to have had more of a glimpse into. I probably never would have thought to read this book had it not been selected as a group read for an online book group I belong to. It was definitely well worth my time! Rating: * (Good)

Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian
Shaye Areheart Books, 2004 ~ Fiction; 422 pgs

A family came together for summer fun in New Hampshire only to have it end in tragedy, when a gun accident leaves Spencer McCullough irreparably disabled and a family torn apart. Chris Bohjalian has written a powerful novel about how one family struggles through a terrible tragedy, pits family member against family member, and yet reminds us all of the value of family. The author also takes on controversial topics such as gun control, animal rights and hunting in such a way that leaves the reader to seriously ponder his or her own views on the subjects, while not coming across as being too preachy in favor or against a side in these causes. I was greatly moved by Mr. Bohjalian’s novel, which was extremely well written and at times captivating. I look forward to reading more by this author. Rating: * (Very Good)

Missing Monday by Matthew Costello
Berkley ,2004 ~ Horror; 345 pgs

In Pasadena, California, a scientist is brutally murdered for the secrets he holds. His wife, Caryn Stern, is on the run, knowing her very survival depends on not being caught. Janna Wade in New York wakes up Tuesday morning with absolutely no memory of having lived through Monday. According to her friends, nothing was amiss and Janna had lived her life normally. Frightened she is going crazy, Janna is desperate to learn what happened to her lost Monday. Congressman Frank Arcangelo has a little free time since Congress has recessed for the season. He is determined to look into how certain cases fall through the cracks, the cases that may not seem like cases or that are unusual and not easily seen for what they truly are.

Missing Monday is a fast paced thriller, which carried me off into the story immediately. Although there were many characters to follow, it was easy to keep them straight. This novel was suspenseful however not very horrifying, despite its being labeled as a horror novel. The description and summary of the novel suggest that Janna Wade would play a larger role in the book, and I was slightly disappointed that she was not more involved in the story. The author had me guessing the entire book, always keeping the secrets just out of reach, dangling in front of the reader like desperately desired chocolate. Rating: * (Good)

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I kept a reading journal too in which I wrote mini reviews. The first 3 books I read in 2005 were:

    In Her Shoes - Jennifer Weiner
    Confessions of Max Tivoli - Andrew Sean Greer
    Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre

    Out of those, I liked VGL the most.

  2. I never kept a reading journal prior to the blog, but I did have a list of books I'd read, which I'd lost so it didn't help me much. LOL

    I think War by Candlelight sounds good.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  3. Thanks for sharing these. I haven't kept a reading journal before either.

  4. I'm so impressed that you kept a reading journal like that! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  5. Wendy, of the books you've listed, I've read 3 of them. I think. Maybe not the Beth Gutcheon book. I've read others of hers. In any case, I did read Sleeping Beauty and like Phillip Margolin. I haven't read anything of his for a long time. The first one of his I read was powerful - seems like it was something about a killer leaving a rose or something - Gone, But Not Forgotten, that was it. And State of Fear was good, but Crichton got weird for me. I never could duplicate the feeling I got from reading Jurassic Park for the first time. Awesome. And no one had heard of it when I read it. I remember telling my husband that this is going to be a big book.

    Thanks as always for sharing your past reads!!

  6. I like your reading retrospectives, Wendy - I wish I'd kept a record of my reading before I started blogging! Have you noticed ways in which your reading preferences have changed over the last few years?

    I think I have the Bojhalian book somewhere in TBR Purgatory; I should dig it out one of these days. I've read a couple of Beth Gutcheon novels, but not the one you mentioned - it was totally the wrong time for them and they cut too close to home, and because of that association, I'll probably never read her again.

  7. I can't resist a good true crime book so I am adding Sleeping Beauty to my TBR on Goodreads!

  8. OK, the sequel is "In Ashes Lie." Both really really fun.

  9. Lenore - I haven't read the three books you mention. I do have In Her Shoes on my shelf to read. It's not my typical choice of reading material, but I've heard such great things about Jennifer Weiner. One of these days I will give her a try.

    Anna - Oh no! I wish I'd started keeping track of my reading earlier than I did.

    I enjoyed War by Candlelight. The author's written more since then and I keep meaning to check it out.

    Serena - It's the only journal writing I've been able to stick to!

    Kathy - It's fun--and a bit embarrassing in some cases--to read over what I had to say about what I was reading all those years ago.

  10. Kay - I have another of Phillip Margolin's books around here somewhere to read. I'll have to look for Gone, But Not Forgotten. I haven't yet read Jurassic Park, but I want to. My husband read it and enjoyed it quite a bit. He thinks it was before the movie came out too. :-)

    Florinda - My tastes have broadened, I think. I seem to be reading more contemporary and literary fiction than I used to, but I still like to return to my old favorites as well.

    I fell in love with Bojhalian's writing and need to put one of his other books at the top of my TBR pile.

    I have another Beth Gutcheon novel, sitting on my desk in fact, that I've been meaning to read. I'm trying to think if there are any authors I won't read because of bad memories or experiences. I'm drawing a blank. I can think of a song though that I can't listen to and will change the channel or leave the room when it comes on if I am able. It dredges up bad memories. So, at least in that way, I understand what you mean.

    Kathleen - Sleeping Beauty is actually fiction but is about a nonfiction writer. My summary is pretty bad, I confess. LOL

    Clea - Thanks for the title! I will be ready for a fun read soon. I'm suddenly drowning in darker books right now.

  11. I love to visit my reading journal from before I started blogging. Thanks for sharing part of yours. I'm particularly interested in the Bohjalian novel because I loved his Skeletons at the Feast.

  12. I enjoy your mini reviews! All the books you listed here sounds really good and I'm particularly interested in the Crichton one. I know my brother loves his works.

  13. Beth - It is always interesting to look back on what we read years ago, isn't it? I have yet to read Skeletons of the Feast, but it's sitting here somewhere waiting its turn. :-)

    Alice - Thank you, Alice. :-) I really want to read Jurassic Park one day. I hear it's really good.


Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.