Mini-reviews: Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen; The Writing Class by Jincy Willett; and The Doll by Taylor Stevens

woodsrunnerTitle: Woods Runner
Author: Gary Paulsen
Genre: Middle grade historical fiction
Publisher: Listening Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Danny Campbell
Audiobook length: 3 hours and 41 minutes
First line: He was not sure exactly when he became a child of the forest.

Goodreads blurb: Samuel, 13, spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. He has grown up on the frontier of a British colony, America. Far from any town, or news of the war against the King that American patriots have begun near Boston.

But the war comes to them. British soldiers and Iroquois attack. Samuel’s parents are taken away, prisoners. Samuel follows, hiding, moving silently, determined to find a way to rescue them. Each day he confronts the enemy, and the tragedy and horror of this war. But he also discovers allies, men and women working secretly for the patriot cause. And he learns that he must go deep into enemy territory to find his parents: all the way to the British headquarters, New York City.

My 14-year-old Jonathan has enjoyed several of Paulsen’s books, and so I wanted to see for myself why he enjoyed his work so much. I now understand the appeal. Paulsen knows how to write about boys for boys. His character was a real boy, placed in an impossible situation, who rose to the occasion and yet still retained his youth. I also enjoyed the short sections between chapters, in which Paulsen gives the reader a little information about the history and conditions of the time period. The audio narrator was just okay, but it was a quick listen, so that didn’t bother me too much.

writingclassTitle: The Writing Class
Author: Jincy Willett
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Lumbers into class five minutes late, dragging, along with her yard-wide butt, a beat-up vinyl briefcase stuffed with old notebooks.

Goodreads blurb: Amy Gallup is gifted, perhaps too gifted for her own good. Published at only twenty-two, she peaked early and found critical but not commercial success. Now her former life is gone, along with her writing career and beloved husband. A reclusive widow, her sole companion a dour, flatulent basset hound who barely tolerates her, her daily mantra Kill Me Now, she is a loner afraid to be alone. Her only bright spot each week is the writing class that she teaches at the university extension.

This semester’s class is full of the usual suspects: the doctor who wants to be the next Robin Cook, the overly enthusiastic repeat student, the slacker, the unassuming student with the hidden talent, the prankster, the know-it-all…. Amy’s seen them all before. But something is very different about this class—and the clues begin with a scary phone call in the middle of the night and obscene threats instead of peer evaluations on student writing assignments. Amy soon realizes that one of her students is a very sick puppy, and when a member of the class is murdered, everyone becomes a suspect. As she dissects each student’s writing for clues, Amy must enlist the help of everyone in her class, including the murderer, to find the killer among them.

Here is another book that I allowed to languish on my shelves for far too long. This was a witty, quirky, creative book, with a unique format. The story is told from the point of view of the writing teacher, but also uses e-mails, blog posts, and writing assignments, as well as some pretty vicious writing from the murderer, cleverly done so as not to give the identity away. I was pretty convinced I knew who the culprit was, and I was wrong, which was a nice surprise.

dollTitle: The Doll
Author: Taylor Stevens
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
First line: Palms to the glass, watching the lot from his office window, Miles Bradford saw her topple

Goodreads blurb: Haunted by a life of violence and as proficient with languages as she is with knives, Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and hunter, has built her life on a reputation for getting things done—dangerous and often not-quite-legal things. Born to missionary parents in lawless Africa, taken under the tutelage of gunrunners, and tortured by one of the jungle’s most brutal men, Munroe was forced to do whatever it took to stay alive.

The ability to survive, fight, adapt, and blend has since taken her across the globe on behalf of corporations, heads of state, and the few private clients who can afford her unique brand of expertise, and these abilities have made her enemies.

On a busy Dallas street, Munroe is kidnapped by an unseen opponent and thrust into an underground world where women and girls are merchandise and a shadowy figure known as The Doll Maker controls her every move. While trusted friends race to unravel where she is and why she was taken, everything pivots on one simple choice: Munroe must use her unique set of skills to deliver a high-profile young woman into the same nightmare that she once endured, or condemn to torture and certain death the one person she loves above all else.

Driven by the violence that has made her what she is, cut off from help, and with attempts to escape predicted and prevented, Munroe will hunt for openings, for solutions, and a way to strike back at a man who holds all the cards. Because only one thing is certain: she cannot save everyone.

While I didn’t love The Doll as much as I loved the first two books in Taylor’s series, I still thoroughly enjoyed this latest Vanessa Michael Munroe adventure. These are dark books, not for the faint of heart. Michael’s history is truly horrifying, and it colors the way she takes on her assignments. I enjoyed that this one explored in greater depth the loyalty she feels to those she loves, the few people she has allowed into her life. This is a must-read series for fans of the thriller genre, and especially those who love strong yet flawed female characters.

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7 Responses to Mini-reviews: Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen; The Writing Class by Jincy Willett; and The Doll by Taylor Stevens

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    They all sound good but the opening line of The Writing Class drew me in!

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I’ve got The Doll loaded and ready on the iPod…just need to decide the right time to listen. Those audios are great, but they take everything out of me!

  3. irene says:

    they all sound like you’ve been up reading well into the night, because you were too afraid to go to sleep.

  4. Pingback: First lines of 2013 | BOOKS AND MOVIES