Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Summary: "The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship's artificial intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all."

I need therapy after finally finishing this book. It was incredibly creative yet horrifying and agonizing.

Illuminae is zombie horror disguised as sci-fi, and while it was intriguing, it was depressing as well. 

Amie Kaufman is a beautiful writer, but she has a sick way of twisting your insides out in ways you've never experienced with a book before. 

Proceed with caution. 

599 pages

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From Pulpit to Podium to Policy by Richard Tobias

There is only one word for this book…polemic. Even if I agreed with the premise (which I do), its tone is off-putting and strident. The more I read, the more upset I became. It is so one-sided as to be offensive. There are better approaches to the topic that are less dogmatic.I really can’t recommend this book.

Posted for Donna Riegel

160 pages

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe

The author has done a long of research on her selected authors (Sontag, Sendak, Updike, among others) to depict the progress of their deaths. Its not as morbid as it sounds.  Reviews were overwhelming positive (“meticulous”, “poetic”, “[a] meditation on morality”). I don’t share those sentiments.  While the book was interesting reading, and I did finish it, I don’t know that it was all that “poetic”, though it was “meticulous”. I guess it rather much depends on whether or not you consider her subjects “great writers”. Even if I was to concede that Dylan Thomas is in the category, I pretty much changed my mind after reading Roiphe’s. Thomas came off as a drunken bore.  Of course, that’s merely my opinion.

Posted for Donna Riegel

321 pages

Animals in Photographs by Arpad Kovacs

Arpad Kovacs is the Asst. Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. This book was produced in conjunction with an exhibit held in 2016. The title pretty much says it all. The pictures include daguerreotypes, early Victorian photos, and up to modern photos.  The book description says there are photos with “vibrant color”…but quite frankly, I couldn’t recall even one color shot. It is the black and whites that are the most engrossing. There is one shot called “Mother and Child” that is the most haunting and heart-rendingly sad photo I have ever seen about animals. The picture is very disturbing, but it captures your attention. The image will stay with you for a long time. I would recommend with caution.

Posted for Donna Riegel

112 pages

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Devil's Triangle by Catherine Coulter

If you like the older James Bond movies, give this book a try.  The villains are outlandish and crazy, and the plot has a lot of action scenes, some of them a bit hard to believe and far-fetched.  Sorry, not much sex in the book, and the characters are pretty well stereotyped.  I'd call it a fun beach read for those who like action novels.  495 pages.

100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le

The subtitle of this book is 'what our ancestors ate and why it matters today.' Le explores how humans became omnivores, how we developed our tastes for some foods and think others are off limits.  He takes us on a worldwide explorations of cultures and developments, ending with some conclusions that are pretty mainstream, like 'get enough exercise', and others that are off beat, like 'eat less meat and dairy when young, and more when elderly'.  This is well researched, and an interesting read, although he does ramble at times.  294 pages.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Summary: "Desperate to uncover the Sultan's secrets by spying on his court, gunslinger Amani is taken captive by the forces of the Sultan, whose agenda seems less tyrannical than originally believed."

I cannot figure out why this book is almost 200 pages longer than the first one. It is slow and full of unnecessary drama and filler. While the first book is fast-paced and action-packed, this installment is quite the opposite. The first one is full of excitement and intrigue, but I was disappointed that it turned into another revolutionary story - isn't this story-arc overdone at this point? How many overthrown governments are readers really supposed to care about? 

Anyway, I'm still glad I read it, even though it was a chore to do so. The last 100 pages are incredible, and the ending is heart-wrenching in the most delicious and terrible way. 

518 pages

Monsters of Appalachia by Sheryl Monks

Monsters in Appalachia: StoriesMonsters in Appalachia: Stories by Sheryl Monks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of Gothic Southern/Midwestern short stories range from poignantly realistic, a daughter tanning with her mother, to mystical realism, an elderly couple cohabitating with Biblical monsters at the End of Days. Through her characters, Monks explores the balance between morality and circumstances, choice and complacency.

180 pages <

Monday, June 5, 2017

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

The One Safe PlaceThe One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is not for me. It's middle grade, but it's definitely lower middle grade. I thought that the ages of the characters (which I never really figured out or somehow missed), were upper middle grade, but the voices of the characters were incredibly young, more like 8 or 9 years old, which is fine but not what I was expecting based on the description and cover. Also, the characters actions and voices often seemed at odds for me, which I struggled with throughout. It's like the two never meshed in a way that felt honest.

The writing is what really killed it for me with this one. It just needed a lot more editing and better character development. There's a major disconnect, like the characters are caricatures, or ideas, instead of real people. I just didn't care about any of them.

As for the rest of the writing, there's a line that stuck with me from the first part of the story that basically sums up my dissatisfaction with the writing throughout the story. The whole book just sounds rough around the edges, like it lacked good editors. It's full of telling, instead of showing. The line said something about drinking water, and it read similar to, "it tasted orange and brown and gritty."...even though you can't taste orange. You see it. And if you tell me something tastes orange, I immediately think Koolaid or orange soda.

Also, you can't taste gritty. You feel it. I know that sounds nit-picky, but when I'm trying to understand a scene or moment, the word choices and senses impacted matter. Good choices have a strong impact and pull people into the story. Weak or bad choices are off-putting and lead to a disconnect for the reader. Basically, this story lacks imagery and description , and while I'm not a huge fan of excessive description, there has to be some level of successful scene setting in a story like this that's not all telling, as I want to see what's happening, not just read lists about things.

That basically sums up the writing throughout the book. It's just not as effective as it could/should be, because sentences and phrases are tossed around without any careful consideration for what is actually occurring. A good editor should have pushed for clarity and pointed out more of the issues, in this story, like the poor use of clues, the too obvious setups and story line, and all the telling instead of showing. I'm giving the author credit for having good intentions and just having some blinders on to the writing issues, because I think this story could be significantly better if it had been edited more thoroughly.  However, the actual editing, in the end,  is done by the author, so the reality is that it's not clear where the fault lies. The only thing is clear is that this needs more work.

I guess what it boils down to is that I just can't connect to this book, and typically I love this genre.

Maybe it's just me.

Pages: 304

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry

The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieThe Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not bad. Fast-paced. This book would be good for reluctant readers.

For me, the story was thin. I don't hate it. I just would only recommend it to young, reluctant readers, rather than to everyone. It has mystery, but it lacks depth.

Pages: 213

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

This is the story of the people who stayed behind during the Dust Bowl. Much has been written about those who migrated to get away from the misery, but we know little about the majority of the residents who stayed in place and rode it out.

The government encouraged farmers to plow up the natural buffalo grass, that anchored the soil of the Great Plains, and plant wheat. During World War I, they supplied Europe and America with millions of tons of grain, and became prosperous. However, in the process they destroyed the land, and when drought came in the 1930's, the winds blew away what was left. Residents lost everything they owned, including the land, and many died from malnutrition and 'black pneumonia'. The drought went on for eight years.

Having grown up with parents who lived through the 'Great Depression', I thought I knew a lot about it, but I learned that I didn't know it all! This book is a cautionary tale about our stewardship over the earth. If we destroy it, it may destroy us.

353 pages

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Leave MeLeave Me by Gayle Forman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Initially, I did not love this story, but it grew on me by the end, enough that I felt slightly more satisfied that I hadn't completely wasted my time.

My major complaint, beyond the initial disconnect, is that the story doesn't end far from where it started. None of the major issues are resolved, or even addressed. None of the mysteries are answered. Threads start and then just drop. Kerplop. Never to be picked back up.

While some of the characters are interesting, the majority of them don't change or grow.

(Spoilers removed)

Pages: 343

Boy by Anna Ziegler

BoyBoy by Anna Ziegler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this free from SYNC, and since it's a play, it transitions well to audiobook. It's dramatic and heart wrenching.

This takes place in the 1960s-1980s and is based on a true story. Back in the 60s, a well-meaning (but rather misguided) doctor convinces 2 parents to raise their infant son as a girl, after a tragic accident. They don't tell the child that he was born a boy, like his twin brother, and instead, they try to shape him into girl using sterotypical "girl talk" and "girl activities" to try to cultivate "female" interests.

This play explores gender identity, and the understandings of gender, from past perspectives, which were less than accurate. It's a short, painful read with touches of humor and hope.

Pages: 55

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Clash of Kings  (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 in A Song of Fire and Ice series

This book was slow for me, especially in the first half. I enjoy the many different story lines, but they drug a bit. It lacks strong forward motion for a while, and that left me with a feeling of random wandering. In return, my attention wandered, and I cheated on this book with other stories, which slowed my pace.

However, I do love many other things about the story lines, characters, and world, so I am still debating whether or not to continue reading this series. I think I need to take a break before moving on to book 3. I want to know what happens, but I feel exhausted.

Pages: 761

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall's first unexpected trip to the past led her into the arms of an 18th century Scottish warrior named Jamie Fraser. Now they are happily reunited, but Claire has left someone behind in the 20th century---her and Jamie's daughter, Brianna. Brianna has fallen in love with a Scottish historian named Roger Wakefield MacKenzie, a man who also has ties to the same mysterious stones that led Claire to Jamie. As Roger is helping Bree research what has happened to her parents, he stumbles upon a disturbing discovery he is determined to hide. Unbeknownst to him, Bree has uncovered the information herself. It leads her to the stone circle known as Craigh na Dun, resulting in Bree plunging headfirst into the past to meet the father she never knew, setting off a chain of events that could leave her stranded forever ... or perhaps just where she was always meant to be.

Book 4 in the Outlander series. 880 pages.