Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout

When a young woman shows up on Nero Wolfe's doorstep claiming to be his daughter, Archie Goodwin is astounded. After all, Wolfe weighs about a ton, detests women, and has never so much as hinted that he has any family! Turns out, Wolfe did adopt a little girl many years ago in Montenegro, but has since lost touch with the woman who was raising her.

Now, she and another young woman are in New York, and are murder suspects. They need Wolfe to help get them out of an untenable situation. Will he take it on?

271 pages

Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck

Madame Wu is the much-admired matriarch of a prominent Chinese dynasty. On her fortieth birthday, she decides to find her husband a concubine, because that part of her life is over now. She moves out of her husband's quarters into quarters of her own, and begins to pursue her own interests. She begins to pursue intellectual pursuits, studying with a local priest. She has always been considered a woman of great wisdom, and now is becoming even wiser.

She allows her children to pursue their own lives and passions, and gives her husband permission to become his own person also. He is at first opposed to this entire enterprise, but comes to enjoy the life his wife has now gifted him with. The household continues to run efficiently, but now has more emotional connections.

This is a very interesting book. When I attempted to read it as a teenager, I found it boring. This time, I found it fascinating.

316 pages

The Free by Willy Vlautin

Amazon description:

While serving in Iraq, veteran Leroy Kervin suffered a traumatic brain injury. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, and unable to form new memories, he eventually attempts suicide. Lying in a coma, he retreats deep inside the memories locked in his mind. Freddie McCall works two jobs and still can't make ends meet. He's lost his wife and kids, and the house is next. Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative—and dangerous—proposition. Pauline Hawkins is a nurse at the local hospital. Though she attends to others' needs with practical yet firm kindness, including her mentally ill elderly father, she remains emotionally removed. But a new patient, a young runaway, touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

320 pages

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

In  France in 1939, Vianne Mauriac is living in the quiet village of Carriveau with her husband and young daughter when he is sent to the Front.  It is unthinkable that Germany will invade France, but they do.  The French government immediately capitulates, allowing Germany to establish two countries; Free France, and occupied France. Carriveau is in the occupied section, and a German officer billets in her home. She is forced  to accept if she expects to survive.

As the war progresses, the German take everything from the French; they take the good food, leaving the citizenry to slowly starve. They take their dignity, their hope, and in many cases, their lives. They take any valuables they might own, and people are forced to burn their furniture to survive the cold winters. In the end, of course, France is on the winning side of the war, but life will never be the same for those who live through it.

440 pages

Thirty and a Half Excuses by Denise Grover Swank

Summary: "Life in Henryetta, Arkansas is turned upside down with the arrival of a televangelist, but it's the death of a little old lady on Rose's street that catches her attention. The Henryetta police deem her death natural causes, but Rose suspects foul play and so does an unlikely supporter - the president of the Busy Body Club, her eighty-two year old neighbor Mildred." 

Thirty and a Half Excuses is the 3rd installment of the Rose Gardener Mystery series, and it made me cry! I loved the first book in this series because it was ridiculous and hysterically funny but this one....whew. What a tearjerker! I hope the rest of the series has more quirky and lighthearted moments! 

351 pages

"Noah" by Cara Dee

I read Cara Dee's story "Aftermath" a few years ago and really liked it, so I wanted to read another of her books.  Noah is having a very bad two days.  First, he catches his girlfriend of four years cheating on him, and the next day, the plane carrying his parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew crashes killing all on board.  He's never been so depressed or felt so alone.  However, his 23-year-old step-nephew is left, and when the young man moves in with Noah, things start to look up.

This book was very different from "Aftermath" but was still a compelling read.  Julian and Noah don't really know each other but they bond while trying to get through the tragedy.  My only complaints are that big chunks of time were glossed over (one chapter started with "Nine months later"), and there was too much cussing for my taste.  I'm no prude but I found it distracting and too crude for the characters.  259 pages (Kindle edition).

"Derek" by B.G. Thomas

This novella is the story of how the end of Derek's marriage to a woman makes him finally come to terms with the fact that he's gay.  The story takes place in Kansas City, where the local LGBT community helps him adjust to his truth.  There's are some hippy and new age vibes to it, but I thought it added to the atmosphere of acceptance.  72 pages (Kindle edition).

"On Solid Ground" by Melissa Collins

A vet with PTSD and a tattoo artist with a drug addicted sister try to find love in California.

I really wanted to like this book.  It had many good reviews, but it just did not live up to my expectations for several reasons.  One of the main characters jumped to conclusions and became mad very easily; he acted quite immature and did not seem to have the capability for a healthy relationship.  The story was told in the present tense, which I always find a bit odd to read.  One character had been raped, but the story did not deal with any lingering effects of the trauma.  There were also a number of inconsistencies, so it could have used better editing.  However, there was a service dog, a cute kid, and an upbeat ending, so there were some positives.  328 pages (Kindle edition).

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Summary: "If Hannah Wells wants to get her crush's attention, she will have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice, even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the school's hockey team (Garrett Graham) in exchange for a pretend date."

I read this book in a day - I couldn't put it down! I can't explain why The Deal is so good, but it just IS. I loved the hockey references and Garret + Hannah's flirty conversations. Elle Kennedy does an excellent job of building up their friendship/trust before moving on to the romance phase. If you're going to read a New Adult romance, make sure it's this! It's fun and fresh and has some steamy romance! 

TW: This book does mention rape and abuse, so be careful if those are trigger warnings for you. 

The Deal is the first book in the Off-Campus series. I believe the other books in the series follow Garrett's hockey teammates. 

330 pages

The Summer Before the War By Helen SImonson

The Summer Before the War: A NovelThis delightful novel, by the author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is filled with the colorful characters of a small, English village on the verge and at the beginning of World War I. The plot centers on a young woman who has moved there to teach Latin and the well-to-do family who sponsored her employment. The family just happens to include a handsome nephew who is down from his medical studies in London.  But as interesting as the characters are, it is the overall action of English country life, which is forced to change significantly as the reality of war sets in. The changes the war brings are large and small, and Ms. Simonson deftly captures all.

496 pages

The Long Way Home, By Louise Penny

The Long Way Home: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelThis novel finds Inspector Gamache happily retired and living in Three Pines.  The mystery that finds him is very different than what he is accustomed; there is no murder.  Several books ago, the village's artist, Clara Morrow realized that her husband Peter had been lying about some very important things for all of their relationship.  She made him leave but with the proviso that they should come back together after one year to reassess, and after that one year she expected him to come home.  But he didn't, nor did he make any effort to contact her.  At first she was angry, but then she began to worry and tracking him became  the Inspector's mission.  Together with Clara, Jean Guy
Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers (the local retired psychiatrist) they journey further and further into Quebec to find the missing man. 
 Despite the marked difference in this book's format, it is another worthy accomplishment for Ms. Penny.  Each character has some quest they need to complete and the journey for Peter provides the opportunity.

400 pages

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, By Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelThis Inspector Gamache mystery finds the Inspector and Jean Guy in a remote monastery, where no outsiders ever visit, yet one of the monks has been brutally murdered.  They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate, and they sing; it is their choir leader who is murdered. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as "the beautiful mystery."  As Inspector Gamache and his trusty assistant solve this murder, cracks begin to show in their relationship.  These cracks result in a terrible break, which continues in the next book, How the Light Gets In.
400 pages