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Beginner's Luck (Hallie Palmer, #1)
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Beginner's Luck (Hallie Palmer #1)

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  439 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
“There could be no doubt left in anyone’s mind that my life had all the makings of a country-and-western song.”

The second of seven children (with another on the way), Hallie Palmer has one dream: to make it to Vegas. Normally blessed with an uncanny gift for winning at games of chance, she’s just hit a losing streak. She’s been kicked out of the casino she frequents durin
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Ballantine Books
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Oct 31, 2010 Janina rated it really liked it
This book is unlike every other YA contemporary I’ve read before. It deals with the same issues (such as coming-of-age, not fitting in, not knowing what you want to do with your future, having a crush on someone who seems to be out of your league …) many other novels do, but it does so with its very own charm.

Every single character in this story has his or her major quirk or flaw. They might even come across as completely ridiculous from their descriptions. But despite that, they are never overd
Finished for the first time on November 28th 2008.

Three aces (and five stars or more)!

Small-town Ohio. Sixteen-year-old Hallie Palmer, poker pro and high-school-drop-out escapes her life as the second child of eight in a christian family as she accepts a position as a live-in "yard-person" in the unconventional Stockton household, which consists of Judge Stockton, who - in the last stages of Alzheimer's - is being cared for
by his wife Olivia, an eccentric activist, atheist and successful write
Richard Hunt
Feb 11, 2013 Richard Hunt rated it really liked it
There's probably a more precise word for "unplanned pleasure" or "happenstance magic." Maybe whimsy, although that sounds a little flimsy (I'm no rhymin' Simon but that's the best description, honest).

Anyway, what a lifetime in books means is that there are many, many books on the shelf that haven't been read. So you've got a spot of time (which more likely means that you're avoiding doing the dozen other things on the to-do list, and truly ducking the one or two or three pending-crises on the
May 07, 2012 Liz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely my favorite fiction series of all time, I have read these books over and over. A lot of humor, a decent dose of melancholy, and a heartwarming story weaves through each book. Each stands alone but you won't want to put them down until you finish them all. This one is still my favorite, probably in my Top 10 favorite books of all time.
Funny...a very independent 16 year old, who tries to be emancipated...who loves gambling, and is very good at it...great characters.
Apr 28, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it
Hallie is a sixteen-year-old who marches to the beat of her own drum, and finds herself trapped in a Procrustean world of rules and regulations, school bells and deadlines, and no one to appreciate her for who she is. Then she meets the tenants of Nuthatch Lane, and she has never felt so normal!

There is the senior Unitarian Ms. Olivia, a vegetarian pornography-writing smuggler and poet who is fighting for freedom of speech and separation of church and state. She's a wild bohemian who is always l
Hallie is one of a whole gaggle of children, and when we meet her, she’s at her wit’s end with her family, with her high school, and in general with the way her life is going. So when she gets kicked off the soccer team for skiving off school for the umpteenth time, she decides she’s had it – she’s not going to go anymore. In fact, she’s going to use the money she has saved so far and buy a car and head off to Las Vegas. She’s kind of a mathematical genius and a pretty good gambler on top of tha ...more
Roebling Point Books & Coffee
Feb 13, 2013 Roebling Point Books & Coffee rated it really liked it
There's probably a more precise word for "unplanned pleasure" or "happenstance magic." Maybe whimsy, although that sounds a little flimsy (I'm no rhymin' Simon but that's the best description, honest).

Anyway, what a lifetime in books means is that there are many, many books on the shelf that haven't been read. So you've got a spot of time (which more likely means that you're avoiding doing the dozen other things on the to-do list, and truly ducking the one or two or three pending-crises on the
Mar 09, 2012 melydia rated it really liked it
When high school and her ginormous family get to be too much for her, Hallie drops out and gets a job as a yard person for the rather eccentric Stockton family. Here she meets kooky aging activist Olivia; the Judge, her husband suffering from Alzheimer's Disease; her fabulous son Bernard who deals in antiques; and Gil, Bernard's relatively sane husband. (And a chimp, but that's not important right now.) Though a longtime and pretty successful gambler, Hallie soon finds herself spending all her t ...more
Jennifer Hummer
Oct 06, 2014 Jennifer Hummer rated it it was amazing
I would never have known about this book had a friend not sent it me in the mail and demanded that I read it. It is a pure delight.

Laura Pederson, like (YA God) John Greene, showers us with crossword puzzle-y facts that you never knew you really ought to know. Culture, cooking, antiques, literature, religion, and poker are just a few topics you will suddenly become strangely articulate in. And (oh yeah) it's a beautiful coming-of-age story as well.

Hallie is a charming character, endearing in h
Ash R.
Jan 27, 2009 Ash R. rated it really liked it
This book is about a girl who is growing up, and wanting to try many things that aren't the best of luck to her. She has a weird relationship with her parents and doesn't always make the right decisions. Everyone makes mistakes, but Hallie has gone out of the way in doing mischief.

I can relate, and I am sure everyone else in the world can too. They make a mistake, some bigger than others, but they all lead you to places you don't want to be. You learn from your mistakes, you that them, progress
May 10, 2015 Debbie rated it did not like it
"Beginner's Luck" was based on an interesting premise and I really wanted to like the book. Unfortunately, the book didn't even come close to living up to its potential. The writing was quite poor with each character lacking a unique voice. For a YA novel, it was filled with description and not a lot of believable dialogue. My biggest complaint, however, was that the book is a liberal manifesto including anti-family bias, pro morning after pills, pro gay marriage, pro emancipated minor, anti edu ...more
Nov 10, 2010 Suzanne rated it really liked it
I liked this book about Hallie exploring the meaning of family. Hallie is a teenager in a family of 7 soon to be 8 kids. She feels lost and alienated from her parents. Hallie is an adept gambler due to her superior math skills. Many parents, including her own, view her as the town miscreant. Hallie drops out of school and leaves home. She gets a job as a lawn girl for the town's most eccentric family consisting of the Judge who is senile, Ms. Olivia, the town rabblerouser, and their son Mr. Bern ...more
Book Concierge
Feb 09, 2016 Book Concierge rated it liked it
Hallie Palmer is bright, bored and feels a misfit at school and in her large Catholic family. When she decides to try her luck at the track in order to get enough money to go to Vegas, she loses everything. But then she finds a job as a "yard person" for the Stocktons - an eccentric family to say the least. Here she meets Judge (the patriarch who has Alzheimer's), his wife Olivia (who is always protesting something), their son Bernard (a gay, antiques dealer), and Gil (Bernard's boyfriend). Slow ...more
Jan 29, 2008 Stephy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women
Recommended to Stephy by: Greta
Hallie Palmer sounds like I did at 19, she needs a friend, a mentor; and finds not one, but two. Mrs. Oilivia's a cross between a rock and a dear old thing, and her son, who still lives with his mommy. This scandalizes her parents. Always a good thing, in my book. Love them and let them go. It puts me in mind of "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Fried Green Tomatoes".
I thought it peculiar that Hallie's mother never had a name, in the whole book, but it turned out she never got one, and i didn't care, af
Jul 26, 2009 Amy rated it liked it
This marks the first time in memory that I really noticed inconsistencies/mistakes in the text. Not just typos, but time changes or details that didn't fit right. I decided that the main character was slightly flexible and vague in favor of the secondary characters (which were wonderful, I will admit). If I'm even *thinking* about this kind of stuff while I'm reading, I'm annoyed. I did like it well enough to stick with it and finish though. Not sure how Kirkus gave this one a good review (seems ...more
Bailee Koehler
Mar 18, 2011 Bailee Koehler rated it it was amazing
This book is about a girl who can't figure out where she fits in. She is good with cards and math. She has 7 siblings and another on the way. One day at the Star-Mart, she finds an ad for a yard person and responds. Thats when she meets the Stocktons. Their family is made of a spunky elder mom, her husband, The Judge, who has Alzheimers, their 30ish year old child, Bernard and his male lover, Gil. This unique family helps her find her true meaning and what she is meant for.
Through all the up
Apr 13, 2008 Cat rated it really liked it
This is a really entertaining, witty, rollicking book. One of my students recommended it to me, and at first I was annoyed by the teenage narrator's silly gambling lingo, but then the cast of characters enchanted me, and I enjoyed the message about the families we make (in addition to the ones we are born into). I read almost all of it at one sitting, and it really was a pleasure. Very atmospheric, and not just with the quirky-yet-lovable characters, but also the garden descriptions, food descri ...more
Dec 04, 2014 Danielle rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Protagonist Hallie is sixteen and decides to leave her home and quit school. She becomes a yard person for an eccentric lady and her grown son. There's also a chimp. I enjoyed Hallie and the Stocktons, and the education Hallie got by living with them. The chimp was a bit of a stretch, but overall a fun story. Even though there's a YA protagonist, it is not marketed as, nor does it read like, a YA novel. Will keep my eye out for the sequels.

42/60 tbr box.
Jun 26, 2008 Linda rated it really liked it
This is a great book...the author is amazingly descriptive, you have to get used to things like "the maroon-and-chestnut-colored rug with its fancy floral patterns in blue, yellow, red, and beige whirling around as if someone tossed a gigantic bouquet down from the ceiling fan..."

The main character, Hallie, is quite likeable as are the Stocktons. I'm not sure if this is her first book, but she is definitely on my "author" list now!
Sep 17, 2010 Ann rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, 2006
Sixteen year old Hallie, second child of seven and adept gambler, decides to quit high school. A chance ad at the Star-Mart lands her a gig as a lawn care specialist at an unusual home populated by the bohemian activist Olivia, her son Bernard, his partner Gil, an alcoholic chimp named Rocky and the ailing Judge (Olivia's husband who has Alzheimers). Soon, she's been adopted into this eccentric family and discovers that despite quitting school, her education has just begun.
May 27, 2012 Joan rated it liked it
I usually stay away from coming of age type books, but this had some fun characters that made it worth reading until the very end. The author ruined the book for me by having the pinnacle point be at the girl's senior prom. Really?! First, it was out of character for the girl and second, are we women still that caught up in all the social expectations that the prom is the defining moment of a girl's teen years?
Feb 11, 2016 Wendy added it
An absolutely hilarious read about a teenage girl and her effort to be herself. She runs away from her overcrowded home and starts working for an eccentric rich family. The experiences she has during this time period provide line after line of humor. Not really a plot-driven story but it will have readers turning the pages to find out what could possibly happen next. My only letdown is that I would have liked to see how her collage turned out and if she was trying to send a message with it.
Jan 15, 2016 Jack rated it did not like it
I am on page 115, Currently in the book Hallie, the main character really is not enjoying school. Her hate for school really sparked when she was kicked from the soccer team. Unusually Hallie spends her free time gambling and detecting. Hallie decides to drop out of school and takes a job as a yard person for an eccentric family named the Stocktons. Hallie quickly moves in because the accept everyone for who they are.
Mary Lu
Jun 15, 2011 Mary Lu rated it really liked it
Hallie is a teen who is good at gambling but does not enjoy school. She decides to drop out, to her parents' chagrin, and become a full-time yard person for the eccentric Stockton family. The household includes a chimp who mixes cocktails, a gay couple, and people and animal rights crusader Ms. Olivia.

While Hallie is a teen, this is not a teen novel. It's a great summertime read with an appealing main character who faces some unusual challenges.
Sandy D.
A quirky but rather sweet coming-of-age story about a 16 yr. girl who is sick of living with her younger siblings and obeying the bell at her high school. She answers an ad for doing yard work, and ends up in the one of the weirder households in her small town in Ohio, living with an old bohemian activist, her gourmet cooking gay son and his lover. Better than it sounds.
Katie Shockley
This book is about a girl who doesn't like living with her mom and try's to get imastapated from her family. And she lives with this family but they don't know it till the end. So she sneaks around in the summer home. And she meets this boy named crag i really liked this book i recomend it. this book is ment to entertain you.
Jul 05, 2014 Eleanor rated it really liked it
The story of Hallie Palmer who runs away from her family of seven children. She has is a gambler who decides she has had enough of school and her home. After losing most of her money, Hallie answers an ad for a yard person and lands at the home of the Stocktons. Olivia Stockton and her son Bernard are quirky characters who teach Hallie about life and what it means to be a family.
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
This was a sweet read...sweet in terms of the character being sort of naive and unknowing about things going on in life.

She to me was happy go lucky even though her situation wasn't that great. She did love her "adopted" family...they were a different combination of characters but very loving. I loved how they set up the house for the prom....cute.

A nice light read for a summer day.
Mar 08, 2010 Suneeta rated it liked it
A light, entertaining read about a high school girl who drops out of school, leaves home and goes to live with a very eccentric family. Great characters but parts were a bit too descriptive and wordy for my taste. I chose to read this only because the author used to sit behind me in my high school biology class.
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Laura Pedersen was born in Buffalo, New York (one of "God's frozen people") in 1965, at the height of The Folk Music Scare. (For details of misspent youth see essay at 'Is there a Nurse in the Church?'). After finishing high school in 1983 she moved to Manhattan and began working on The American Stock Exchange, a time when showing up combined with basic computation skills could be parlayed into a ...more
More about Laura Pedersen...

Other Books in the Series

Hallie Palmer (4 books)
  • Heart's Desire (Hallie Palmer, #2)
  • The Big Shuffle (Hallie Palmer, #3)
  • Best Bet (Hallie Palmer, #4)

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