Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

I'd heard a lot about this book over the years but had never picked it up before now.  I've always found economics boring or incomprehensible, and some of the topics covered here were both (such as cheating in sumo wrestling!).  Lots of statistics were reported to back up the findings and could be a bit mind-numbing but there were some results that really surprised me, especially about teaching and child rearing.  The most interesting part dealt with the unusual names that African-Americans have given their children over the last couple of decades, why they do it, and the consequences for doing so.  Levitt is an economist, and Dubner is a journalist.  320 pages; about 6 hours on CD.

"A Reason to Believe" by Diana Copland

This very well written mystery revolves around detective Matthew Bennett trying to solve the murder of a young girl in her own home.  He is directed to her body by an apparition who matches her description, which knocks him for a loop since he doesn't believe in the supernatural.  Not wanting to reveal what he saw to his fellow police officers, he reluctantly goes to see Kiernan Fitzpatrick, a medium who happens to be on tour in Matt's town.  Together, the two men visit the little girl's mother to get more information and all heck breaks loose when the media finds out.  Matt also has to deal with the homophobia of his supervisor and several coworkers and his lingering sadness over the shooting death of his boyfriend, who was also a detective, over a year ago.

I was surprised by how much I liked this book and can't recommend it enough.  Not only was the writing very good but so was the character development and sense of place.  Matt and Kiernan were quite different and intriguing main characters who find themselves drawn to each other while trying to find the girl's killer without getting killed themselves.  I will definitely try to read more my this author.  217 pages (Kindle edition).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Freeman by Leonard Pitts

Have you ever wondered exactly how average people responded to emancipation when the American Civil War ended?  Slavery was an inherently American institution, which was so firmly interwoven within the economy, the society, the psychology as well as religious, philosophical, and ethical mores of the country, and was suddenly it was over.  It must have been overwhelming in many ways! Indeed, scholars have and can continue to spend their entire careers examining the period, its impact then, and the continued effect upon this country.
It is well known that many of the formerly enslaved hit the road  -- everywhere in land, all manner of black folks set out trying to find lost mothers, fathers, children, siblings -- lost lives.  It is also well known that this is the period wherein many schools sprang up throughout the South to educate the formerly enslaved, which delighted the knowledge starved blacks and inflamed those who felt this upset the natural order of things. Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Miami Herald, has taken these two elements and fashioned a remarkably powerful piece of historical fiction that depicts just how it must have been for some.
Sam Freeman sets out from Philadelphia, where he has been working in a library since his discharge from the Union army, and begins walking to Mississippi to find his wife, Tilda.  He has not seen her in 15 years, and like most on similar searches, he has no idea if she is alive or dead, if she has taken another husband, been sold elsewhere.  He knows only that he loves her and must be with her, if it is at all possible.
Prudence Cafferty Kent, a white widow from Boston, along with her black foster sister Bonnie, head to Buford, Mississippi to open a school.  These are the main characters, and their story -- their quest for redemption, will capture you and keep you enthralled until the novel concludes.  Hopefully, it will keep its readers thinking about the damage of America's peculiar institution long after completion.   

432 pages, 15 hours, 46 minutes

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kansas City Style: A Social and Cultural History of Kansas City as Seen Through Its Lost Architecture by Dory DeAngelo and Jane Fifield Flynn

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Quality Hill neighborhood for 20 years was the most prestigious.  Kansas City Stockyards started from a small beginning 'til by 1886 more than 100,000 were processed through their yards.  Many individuals and  organizations contributed information and photos for this book.  The Grillett Special Plate cost 40 cents at Wolferman's Store.  232 pages.

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Product DetailsThis is a haunting story of love and friendship set in antebellum Virginia and Ohio.  The baby Lisbeth is handed over to Mattie, her black, enslaved wet nurse, moments after birth, which begins the bond that is carried through both women's lives. Elizabeth is the privileged daughter of southern plantation owners, and Mattie is, of course, enslaved. Mattie cares for and loves the child just as she loves her own, and Lisbeth spends more time with Mattie than her own distracted mother. As Lisbeth grows into womanhood, Mattie finds that she must seek freedom for her own family and she escapes, which produces some of the most harrowing scenes in the text. Lisbeth later, upon the realization of just how horrifying slavery really is, escapes herself with an abolitionist minded husband. Both women find themselves in Ohio, where the story takes on a melancholy tone, as race and class still impact their existence.

252 pages

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Image result for half of a yellow sun When the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria seceded in 1967 to form the independent nation of Biafra, a bloody, crippling three-year civil war followed. That period in African history is captured with haunting intimacy in this artful page-turner from Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She tells this heart-breaking, gripping story primarily through the eyes and lives of Ugwu, a 13-year-old peasant houseboy who survives conscription into the doomed, unprepared Biafran army, and twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, who are from a wealthy and well-connected family. Tumultuous politics power the plot, and several sections are harrowing, particularly passages depicting the savage butchering of Olanna and Kainene's relatives. But this dramatic, intelligent epic has a beautiful and personal side as well:  rebellious Olanna is the mistress of Odenigbo, a university professor brimming with anticolonial zeal; while business-minded Kainene takes as her lover fair-haired, blue-eyed Richard, a British expatriate come to Nigeria to write a book about Igbo-Ukwu art.  How this group is impacted by the brutality of war will stay with the reader for a very long time.  It is a searing history lesson in fictional form, intensely evocative and immensely absorbing. 

543 pages -- 18 hours, 56 minutes

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

High Five by Janet Evanovich

Summary: Stephanie Plum helps out her family by searching for her missing Uncle Fred, but of course, gets caught up in a much more dangerous mystery over some sketchy trash bags. Favorite characters Lula, Grandma Mazur, Ranger and Joe Morelli all make memorable appearances. 

This book added some crazy, temporary characters to Stephanie's gang, which was quite entertaining. I really enjoyed it, and I absolutely love that Stephanie Plum is a huge fan of Wonder Woman!

292 pages

Friday, December 5, 2014

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

Summary: Two bounty hunters vie to capture a revenge-seeking waitress wanted for car theft. One hunter is Stephanie Plum of New Jersey, the other is her arch-enemy Joyce Barnhardt.

I really enjoyed this installment of the Stephanie Plum series - it was hilarious! Trips to the shore with Grandma Mazur, Lula and Sally Sweet (a beautiful drag queen) could not be more entertaining. And, of course, there is a LOT of Joe Morelli - Stephanie's yummy cop "friend."

294 pages

Started Early Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

This is the fourth in the Jackson Brodie series, but the book could certainly stand on its own merits. Jackson Brodie, an ex-cop/retired PI, is a very likeable character, despite his unfortunate relationships with women. However, he is only part of this tale woven together from the strands of three disparate lives coming neatly together in the end. Here is how one Amazon reviewer describes Atkinson’s writing: Though they are often called ‘mysteries,’ Atkinson's novels are far more character-driven than the norm, and more literary in execution—intriguing on several levels simultaneously.” If you like a good mystery, but are only hooked by excellent writing and character development, you will enjoy this book as much as I did. 400 pages.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

Summary: "In the crosshairs of a political bribery investigation, Dempsey Jo Killebrew suddenly finds herself unemployed and the victim of a sleazy smear campaign by her former boss. Dempsey decides to take up her father's offer of flipping a recently inherited family home in Guthrie, Ga., where she quickly slides into the renovation groove, fits in with the locals, and embarks on a romance."

I initially thought I would enjoy this book because I love politics & renovation stories, but I actually kind of hated it. I was quite disappointed in the story development and the dullness of the characters. The story was hard to believe and the characters were not easy to relate to or root for. I would not recommend it.

422 pages

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Well, I broke my vow never to read another series in progress by a long-winded but great story-telling writer (Robert Jordan or George R. R. Martin anyone?). My nephew told me that he started reading the first book and couldn't put it down.  I started to read it and could (and did) put the book down several times before I was hooked.  WARNING-don't start reading this series unless you have the time and patience to enjoy a leisurely told tale. A innkeeper from a backwater town rescues a chronicler from an attack of demon spiders.  The chronicler realizes that the innkeeper is the famous arcanist, Kvothe and asks permission to write his biography. 661 pages.

Star Wars: Survivor's Quest by Timothy Zahn

Mara and Luke Skywalker are back! They've been asked to view the recently discovered remains of Outbound Flight.  There's lots of intrigue, plots, and counter-plots involving the Chiss, the Rebel Alliance, and a mysterious alien race liberated by Outbound Flight fifty years earlier.  An enjoyable adventure! 416 pages.