Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Madam Bovery by Gustave Flaubert

Charles Bovary is mediocre and dull. He becomes a second-rate country doctor. He marries an older widow who soon dies, leaving him quite well off.  He falls in love with the daughter of a patient and marries her in an elaborate wedding.  But marriage doesn’t live up to Emma’s romantic expectations. She has dreamed of love and marriage as a solution to all her problems.  She grows bored and depressed when she compares her fantasies to the humdrum reality of village life.
She finds herself trapped in an unsatisfactory marriage.  She attempts to escape the tedium of her life through a series of adulterous affairs which are thwarted by the reality that the men she chooses to love are shallow and self-centered and thus are unable to love anyone but themselves. In love with a love that can never be , Emma finds herself caught in a downward spiral. She eventually commits suicide.

copyright 1856
445 pages

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Growing up in Boston, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus and Dave Boyle were friends. When they were 11, Dave was abducted and sexually molested. The boys grew apart as the years pass, but 25 years later when Jimmy's daughter is murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. He is now a homicide detective; Jimmy is an ex-con, and Dave is trying to keep his demons at bay.

Sean's personal life is in disarray, and he must now go back into his past, confronting the violence of the present, and the nightmare of the past. He and Jimmy clash over the case, because Jimmy want to bring it to a conclusion with brutal justice. And Dave...well, Dave came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered with blood.

This is psychological suspense at its finest, but  read only if you're prepared to be shocked.

401 pages

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

Rise and Shine is a tale of two sisters.  Meaghan Fitzmaurice is a successful television journalist, happily married, and the mother of a wonderful son.  Her younger sister Bridget has had many careers over the years and has finally found her life's calling as a social worker.  They have settled into their proscribed roles over the years but everything changes when Meaghan slips up and makes a derogatory comment on-air.  The gaffe was but a symptom of a personal unraveling. The beautiful life is falling apart and Meaghan runs off to the Caribbean. Once again Anna Quindlen creates a realistic story of women coping with changing circumstances and re-negotiating personal relationships. And it has a happy ending!  337pages.

The Hare with the Amber Eyes: a hidden inheritance by Edmund De Waal

I was given this book for my birthday-something I probably would not have discovered on my own. I was immediately drawn into the story of one family and their collection of Japanese netsuke.  De Waal starts his family biography in Japan with the death of his great uncle Ignaz and his inheritance of the collection.  Then he takes us back to the beginnings of the collection in Paris during the 1870s when the craze for all things Japanese was just beginning.  De Waal traces back his family's start as wheat traders in Odessa, the accumulation of wealth, the establishment of the family banking business in Paris, and the expansion into Vienna.  The family's wealth did not insulate them from anti-Semitism. Their collection of netsuke and other fine arts was often their entree into high society. Sadly, the rise of Hitler marked the downfall of the family.  Many family members were murdered in the Holocaust and their wealth appropriated by the Nazis.  The netsuke collection was miraculously restored to the family thanks to a loving family servant. Today the netsuke are an actual, physical link to past family members. The miniatures were handled by them and each one evokes a family memory. In the end, the Hare with the Amber Eyes is a different kind of Holocaust memoir- one told by the silent witness of a family's lost possessions. 354 pages.

"Dog Breath: The Horrible Trouble With Hally Tosis" by Dav Pilkey

This is a funny children's book about Hally Tosis, a small dog with awful breath.  It's so bad that her human parents want to give her away, but the two kids in the house try to find ways to get rid of Hally's bad breath.  But when their efforts fail and she's about to go, a surprise in the form of burglars keeps the family together.  Kids and adults will enjoy the silly story and colorful pictures.  32 pages.

"From Out in the Cold" by L.A. Witt

Neil and Jeremy were best friends, but a misunderstanding had them going their separate ways.  Years later, Jeremy is a homeless veteran racked with flashbacks from his military experiences.  He ends up on Neil's doorstep, but little does he know that his one time best friend also suffers from a traumatic event that occurred one year ago.  With no where else to go for the holidays, they drive from Chicago to Omaha, their hometown, to visit Neil's parents.  As they work through their problems, meet with old friends, and deal with their shared past, they come to realize that they are each what the other has been missing.  This was a well written and sympathetic exploration of emotional trauma.  206 pages (Kindle edition).

"His Grandfather's Watch" by N.R. Walker

This lovely novella tells the story of two couples two generations apart.  Alex Harper works at his family's antiquities shop appraising and repairing watches and clocks.  Callum Winter, a young man his age and new to town, brings in his grandfather's pocket watch to find out when and where it was made.  Alex discovers an old picture of Callum's grandfather and a mysterious man as well as an inscription inside the back cover and helps Callum track down the story behind them.  Callum's only living relative is his grandmother, who has dementia, but slowly the tale of the watch is revealed. 

This is the second story that I've read by this author, and I liked them both very much.  It's a tear-jerker, too, especially the final chapter which further explains the history of the watch.  69 pages (Kindle edition).

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter is a graphic novel form of a classic vampire story.  Witter's adaptation scours the original text by Anne Rice to glean out Claudia's story from the novel and distill it into graphic novel form.  The story follows the novel, but tells the events from Claudia's point of view.  The art, which is sepia toned with red for the blood, is quite striking.  I loved the idea of Claudia from the beginning and seeing her take center stage is thrilling.  Highly recommended for fans of vampire lore and particularly for fans of Anne Rice's series.  Witter's adaptation is sure to find its way into the vampire lore cannon. 224 pages.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

‘The Purpose-Based Library: Finding your path to survival, success, and growth’ by John J. Huber and Steven V. Potter

A vision for public library service incorporating the view that survival depends on lean core services; success depends on community partnerships and value-added metrics, and growth depends on libraries communicating, reflecting, and pursuing their true purpose. (p. xviii).  The book employs a unique community pyramid similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to use in determining how the public library can impact the well-being of the community at each stage.  Steve Potter is director of Mid-Continent Public Library, and contributes examples from his library and other Missouri libraries about how to implement the recommendations in the book.  190 pages. 

Kingsman by Mark Millar,et al.

Kingsman by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and Matthew Vaughn is a graphic novel that, earlier this year, was made into a major motion picture starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson among others.  The book tells the story of a young man headed nowhere who is given the chance of a lifetime to become a secret service agent for Britain by his Uncle Jack.  Jack remembers being poor with few prospects and wants to help his troubled nephew.  The story progresses as Eggsy, the young nephew, goes through training, eventually working to try and solve the mystery of a string of celebrity kidnappings.  The graphic novel makes a nice impression alone and the art is quite nice throughout.  Even Pierce Brosnan as James Bond makes an appearance as one of the kidnapped celebrities.  Many aspects of the graphic novel are clever.   My only wish is that I had read the graphic novel before seeing the movie because the movie took some of the concepts of the book and just ran with them.  Still, if you have seen the movie the book doesn't disappoint as the story is told somewhat differently.  If you want to see the roots of the story in the movie, by all means pick up the book.  Definitely recommended.  160 pages.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman: a novel by Harper Lee is the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, though Watchman was actually written first.  Thought to be a lost manuscript, this story was recently rediscovered and published.  This reviewer's understanding is that it was published without the blessing of its author, who has lived a very reclusive life since TKAM's publication.  It appears that Lee had very little if anything to do with the editing process of this novel and it shows.  Amateur mistakes can be found throughout.  The crux of the novel isn't introduced until Chapter 8 and it starts off almost sounding like it is going to be a romantic story between Scout and Henry.  Once the race card is drawn, the novel actually seems to take off and becomes a more interesting read.  Parts of the story feel disjointed and some description of the main characters and setting are lacking.  I would recommend this only for people who are curious about the characters and their story.  This is not nearly as literary a novel as TKAM.  I went into this with low expectations and was not disappointed.  However, readers who are expecting another incarnation of TKAM will be sorely disappointed.  I do not hold this against Harper Lee, however. I hold it against greedy publishers looking to make a buck.  The book jacket claims the greatness of the manuscript, but I found it sorely lacking.  Not highly recommended. 288 pages.

Literary Rogues by Andrew Shaffer

Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors dishes out the dirt on authors ranging from the Marquis de Sade to the Beatniks and beyond.  Sex and drugs are not just for rock stars.  Before rock stars, writers filled the news with their scandalous exploits.  Today's authors have nothing on the writers of yore.  In fact, as Shaffer concludes his retelling of these tales, he wonders where the cowboys have gone.  The Kardashians seem so glib compared to Sade and some of the other writers discussed here.  This is a great book for anyone interested in literary history, particularly its seedy side.  The impact of the "rock-n-roll" lifestyle on writers and their writing is touched on in each story.  This book will make readers hungry to do more research on their favorite authors to find out more.  Highly recommended for literature and history buffs. 320 pages.