Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Turning Angel by Greg Iles

Penn Cage is back!  This time out he's trying to prove the innocence of his childhood friend Dr. Drew Elliott. The good doctor is accused of raping and murdering a seventeen year-old girl.  It gets worse.  Much worse.  Iles takes the reader on a journey into drugs, sex, and blind ambition.  Some of the scenes are uncomfortable to read and seem designed more to titillate than to advance the story line.  But I think Iles is genuinely trying to touch upon some very uncomfortable topics-how an older man can talk himself into justifying a relationship with an underage girl, how a young man can be so damaged by war that he becomes a psychopath, and how hard it is to set limits on your own behavior when society seems out of control.  501 pages.

Calculated in Death by J D Robb

I think the trick to reading and enjoying J D Robb's "In Death" series is not to read more than one a year!  I've been catching up on the last couple of years' titles and they are starting to feel just a tad formulaic!  I have only myself to blame!  Anyway, in this latest book in the series, a successful accountant is found murdered and her body staged to make it appear that she died as a result of a botched mugging.  Lt. Eve Dallas and her partner Delia Peabody are not so easily fooled however.  They soon figure out that the body was moved and begin to uncover connections between the accountant and the owners of the building where the body was found. The case starts out slowly but soon gathers momentum as the killer makes mistakes and the body count rises.  No surprises at the end but some enjoyable moments with Eve and her "family" along the way.  386 pages.

The Quiet Game by Greg Iles

Penn Cage is a very successful writer of John Grisham type legal novels.  But his wife has just died after a long battle with cancer and he decides to return to his childhood home of Natchez, Mississippi to heal.  He and his young daughter Annie are just getting settled when Penn inadvertently rips open an old unsolved murder.  Many people try to pressure him to stay away from the case but the more they press Penn, the more resolved he becomes to uncover the truth.  Fans of John Grisham will love the action and legal maneuvering in this story.  There are few explicit sex scenes that seemed a little out of place.  Overall though, I thought this book was a very engrossing read and it made me want to visit Natchez! 564 pages.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

When this book was published in 1948, South Africa was under the grip of apartheid, which was nothing less than brutal, institutionalized racism known as segregation. Against this backdrop, Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo sets out for Johannesburg from his small rural village. A fellow minister has written to him asking him to come help his sister, who is ill.  He finds that his sister has turned to prostitution, and persuades her to return to the village. 

His son Absalom also went to Johannesburg and never returned; Kumalo now sets out to find him. As he searches, he begins to see the gaping racial and economic divisions that are threatening to split his country. Eventually, he discovers that his son has spent time in a reformatory and that he has gotten a girl pregnant.  Then Absalom is arrested for the murder of Arthur Jarvis, a prominent white crusader for racial justice He has confessed to the crime, but he claims that he did not intend to murder Jarvis. With the help of friends, Kumalo obtains a lawyer for Absalom and attempts to understand what his son has become.

Arthur Jarvis’s father, James, is a wealthy land owner.  In an attempt to come to terms with his son's murder, Jarvis reads his son’s articles and speeches on social inequality and begins a radical reconsideration of his own prejudices. He and Kumalo meet for the first time by accident, and after Kumalo has recovered from his shock, he expresses sadness and regret for Jarvis’s loss. Absalom is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.

Kumalo is now deeply aware of how his people have lost the tribal structure that once held them together, and he returns to his village troubled by the situation. It turns out that James Jarvis has been having similar thoughts.  He becomes a benefactor of the village.

On the evening before his son’s execution, Kumalo goes into the mountains to await the appointed time in solitude. On the way, he encounters Jarvis, and the two men speak of the village and of lost sons. 

316 pages

Blackberry Pie Murder by Joanna Fluke

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Hannah says she will not go out and find anyone dead.  In a severe thunder storm she hits and kills a man.  Her mother is getting married but keeps changing her plans.  On the ranch a daughter returns but her sister believes she is a fake. 

Audio:  9 hrs. 35 min.
Print:  304 pages

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward grew up in rural Mississippi during the 70's, 80's and 90's.  Her father was incapable of being faithful, although he loved his wife and wanted to support and care for his children. Her mother eventually kicked him out, and raised her, her brother, and two younger sisters alone, working as a housekeeper for wealthy white families. It was a life of unrelenting poverty, racism and hopelessness.

One of her mother's employers asked to send Jesmyn to a private school when he found out she was being bullied in her public school. Her mother agreed, wanting at least one of her children to have a chance to work her way out of their dismal circumstances. Jesmyn went on to get a master's degree in fine arts, and became a writer, winning a National Book Award for Fiction, and an Alex Award.

After writing two novels, she began writing this memoir, trying to  make sense of the deaths of five young men in her life over a five year span of time. Suicide, accidents, a shooting; all five, including her  brother, died in different ways, but the fact of their deaths seemed to be a symptom of the desolate lives they were living in this small southern state.

As I read, I kept thinking about the events in Ferguson, and that the life the author was describing explained much about the explosion of emotions that erupted after the killing of Michael Brown. Mississippi is dead last in the nation in so many measures of poverty, and Missouri is close on its heels. If we  want to  understand why  these things happen, this book can help.

Not an easy book to read, but highly recommended.

270 pages

"Punch Drunk Love" by Nico Jaye

This was a cute novella involving a kickboxing competition, crushes, Las Vegas, and a unicorn costume.  Oliver is a college student who has just earned his black belt and with it his way into competition at the Amateur Kickboxing Pacific Summit in Vegas with other members of his training center.  But he has a secret crush on his team's captain; can he keep his cool to concentrate on winning or will his nerves be his downfall?  And what happens if Oliver's secret is revealed?  Will something happen in Vegas that has to stay in Vegas?  55 pages (Kindle edition).

Fatal Debt by Dorothy Howell

Dana McKenzie works for Mid-American Financial Services and occasionally deals with the harsh reality of needing to call in the collateral for a loan. But she is also a person of heart so when one of her clients is killed, Dana agrees to find the widow's grandson who can help make the loan payment so at least the television doesn't have to be repossessed. Along the way she runs into Nick Travis, now a homicide detective but formerly her high school crush. This is book one in the Dana Mackenzie Mystery series. They have nicely set up book two. (170 pages)

Murder at the Art and Craft Fair by Steve Demaree

I was first introduced to Lt. Dekker and Sgt. Murdock, two portly but humorous homicide detectives, in 52 Steps to Murder. I quickly grew tired of all the weight-related jokes, mean-spirited comments about Dekker's neighbor, and constant references to food. Yet something keeps drawing me back to the series. After book three, I fast-forwarded to book six, Murder at the Art and Craft Fair. For the most part what I found annoying has been minimized and what is left is a quite enjoyable cozy mystery. 213 pages.

Dying for Dinner Rolls by Lois Lavrisa

Catherine Alice Thomson, Cat for short, is determined to find out who murdered her friend. and winds up putting her own life in jeopardy. Okay. Some of the plot is more than a little far-fetched, but that doesn't stop it from being entertaining. This is book one of the Chubby Chicks Club Cozy Southern Mysteries. 171 pages.

Coulson's Series by Anna J. McIntyre

The Coulson's series is a multigenerational saga about an extremely dysfunctional family. The series features romance, a little mystery and a paranormal twist. I first picked up the fourth book in the series, Coulson's Secret (304 pages) and was interested enough to go back to book one, Coulson's Wife (245 pages). I admit, if I had started with book one, I wouldn't have gone any further simply because I didn't find the characters as engaging. The digital versions of both titles could use some editing.


By Joy Baker

352 pages

Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view!  This a lovely re-telling of the story, focused on the real work that had to be done to run a household during that time, and what life was like for the classes providing for a household like the Bennets'.  The characters are well-rounded, and the arc of the story extends beyond the traditional end of the tale, extending through hardship to a satisfying conclusion.