Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I believe I was in 4th or 5th grade when I read 'Little Women'. I loved it then. I related to Jo, who was a tomboy, as was I, and read voraciously, as did I.  Last year, I 'took one for the team' by reading Neil Gaiman books, even though I don't care for fantasy. This year, I decided to do my share by reading books written over a hundred years ago by going back and re-reading some classics. I started with 'Little Women'.

I confess, I  wasn't as enthralled by it as I was when I was 10, but I still enjoyed it. It was like visiting an  old friend, one that I was happy to re-connect to. The March sisters, Meg, Jo,  Beth and Amy have been beloved by girls everywhere for many generations.

It was published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869.  It follows the four girls from childhood to womanhood, and may been based on the author and her three sisters. The story begins during the Civil War with the girls and their Mother trying to keep the home fires burning while their Father is away acting as a chaplain with the Union army.  The family used to be wealthy, but Father had lost his money several years before, and the girls now consider themselves poor, as do their neighbors and friends. They do have a servant, Hannah, though, so the term is relative, and Mother tries to teach them that  money is not what makes a person wealthy.  

This is truly 'gentle and nostalgic fiction', reflecting a simpler life which I'm sure many of us yearn for at times. Entertainment consisted of writing and acting out plays, going on outings with friends, reading, and the occasional party. The girls fight, make up, befriend their neighbors, sew, garden, go for walks and do other 'old-fashioned' activities. I'm sure it would seem tame to today's girls, but I bet they would really like the book if they gave it a chance.

Published in 1968-69
560 pages

Celia, A Slave by Melton A. McLaurin

On June 23, 1855 a 19-year-old slave named Celia was raped several times by her owner, Robert Newsom. Newsom lived in Callaway County, Missouri, and had bought Celia from a slave  owner in Audrain County in 1850. She was 14 years old, and according to some accounts, he raped her on the way back to his own farm. In the following 5 years, he moved her into a cabin not far from his house, and called her his 'concubine'. She gave birth to 2 children, at least one of them the son of Robert Newsom.

At some point, Celia became involved with another of Newsom's slaves, a man named George. In the spring of 1855, Celia discovered she was pregnant again. George insisted she put an end to the sexual exploitation she was being subjected to by her owner. She went to the Newsom's daughters to beg them to get him to stop. She also begged Newsom himself to leave her alone, at least while she was 'sick'. The result was his visit to her cabin on June 23. She tried to escape, but when he cornered her and forced himself on her, she clubbed him over the head with a large stick, killing him. She then burned his body in her fireplace.

She was eventually found out and taken to Fulton to be tried for murder. She was found guilty by an all-male jury,  and  hanged. McLaurin uses her story to focus on the role of gender, exploring how female slaves were sexually exploited as slaves, why white women couldn't stop the abuse, and male slaves couldn't defend slave women. He also looks at the way the legal system was used to justify slavery.  In the end, this is a compelling narrative of one women pushed beyond the limits of her endurance by an inhumane system.

195 pages

The Science of Skinny by Dee McCaffrey, CDC

Like many other books on good nutrition, the author encourages eating whole foods, organic if possible, including plenty of fruits and veggies.  Most of the book details the damage done to the human body by sugar, flour, food additives and pesticides. Unfortunately the author often takes a preachy tone, and also cites outdated studies.  If the author, who is a registered food and environmental scientist, is to be believed, this is a truly scary title to read just before Halloween.  Be sure to wash your apples before eating to remove the pesticides.  450 pages.

Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson

This is a short novella, featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire, from the Longmire series now on TV.  The book was featured in One Book Wyoming, and given to the state librarians who attended the conference last week.
This short piece recounts an incident early in the Sheriff Longmire chronicle in which the newly elected Sheriff and his predecessor risk flying a child injured in an auto accident through a blizzard to get treatment at a hospital in Denver.  The story is pretty tight, and brings out the colorful characteristics of its characters.  It takes place at Christmas, for extra plucks on the heartstrings.  A short fun read.  146 pages.

"Rules for a Proper Governess" by Jennifer Ashley

Book seven in the Mackenzies & McBrides series centers on Sinclair McBride, a tough, Scottish barrister working and living in London with his two motherless children.  Sinclair's wife, Daisy, died seven years ago, and his daughter and son have run off every governess he has ever hired.  But when East Ender Bertie Frasier picks his pocket of the watch his late wife had given him, Sinclair meets the woman who will change his life forever.  Bertie becomes the children's governess even though she hasn't had much formal education; the kids like and mind her, which is what Sinclair needs immediately.  There is also the mystery of the sinister letters that he continues to receive from an unknown enemy threatening to expose Daisy's past and put his kids' futures in jeopardy.  Is the author someone he has successfully prosecuted or Daisy's own brother, who hates Sinclair and wants to take away the children?  Or could Bertie's abusive father be behind the threats?

This was another winner from Ashley, whose descriptions of London, Scotland, and the book's many characters were vivid and realistic.  Sinclair is a broken, depressed man who continues to mourn his late wife at the expense of everyone and everything else in his life except his work.  Bertie is a strong, forthright, and honest heroine even though she has been forced into crime by her awful father and his cronies.  The mystery added a nice touch, and it was great to see the many Mackenzies and McBrides from the previous books.  306 pages.

Hellhound on His Trail


Author: Hampton Sides
Audio Hours: 15.2 hours
Pages: 480

Cover blurb:
On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel. The nation was shocked, enraged, and saddened. As chaos erupted across the country and mourners gathered at King's funeral, investigators launched a sixty-five day search for King’s assassin that would lead them across two continents. With a blistering, cross-cutting narrative that draws on a wealth of dramatic unpublished documents, Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers, delivers a non-fiction thriller in the tradition of William Manchester's The Death of a President and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. With Hellhound On His Trail, Sides shines a light on the largest manhunt in American history and brings it to life for all to see.

My take:
This is a great book. Vibrant and detailed without being too boring. I listened to the book and wasn't bored at any point. The author is thorough, he does a great job intertwining all the accounts and information without it being too cumbersome for the reader. Anyone will like this book, especially those with an affinity for history.

The Good House: A Novel by Tananarive Due

Image result for the good house tananarive dueAngela Toussaint's late grandmother owned a wonderful old house on a hill in Sacajawea, Washington, which is so treasured that the locals call it the Good House. Family troubles lead Angela to move her husband and son there during the summer of 2001, hopeful that the house’s magic might save her failing marriage.  Unfortunately, an unexpected tragedy tears them apart instead.  Two years later, Angela has reinvented herself by becoming a talent agent in Los Angeles, and she is ready to move on, which entails selling the old house. When she returns to Sacajawea, Angela discovers there have been more senseless tragedies, and she speculates on their connection to the house and an entity her grandmother battled in 1929.  Assisted by Myles Fisher, her high school boyfriend, and clues from beyond the grave, Angela races to solve a deadly puzzle that has followed her family for generations and end the legacy of tragedy.  This is a page-turner by the talented Tananarive Due, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

496 pages
21 hours, 27 minutes

Not My Father's Son

Not My Father's Son: A Memoir

Author: Alan Cumming
Audio: 6 hours and 28 minutes
Pages: 304

Cover blurb:
Dark, painful memories can be like a cage. Or, in the case of Alan Cumming, they can be packed away in a box, stuck in the attic to be forgotten. Until one day the box explodes and all the memories flood back in horrible detail. Alan Cumming grew up in the grip of a man who held his family hostage, someone who meted out violence with a frightening ease, who waged a silent war with himself that sometimes spilled over onto everyone around him. That man was Alex Cumming, Alan's father.

My take:
I have always admired Alan Cumming, he is not afraid to try roles and put himself "out there". Always entertaining and funny.
I experienced this book through audio, Alan narrates it himself. His voice is lovely to listen to and he puts emotion into the reading. I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Robert B. Parker’s Bull River by Robert Knott

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch return a murderer and bandito to Mexico City for trial.  In this novel there is not a woman to rescue.

Audio:  7 hrs. 37 min.
Print:  352 pages

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Secrets of Mary Bowser: A Novel by Lois Leveen

This novel is based on the remarkable true story of Mary Bowser, a young woman who was enslaved in antebellum Richmond, Virginia by the wealthy Van Lew family.  Bet Van Lew, the headstrong daughter of the family had strong abolitionist sentiments, which led her to emancipate Mary and her mother but the law forbade emancipated slaves to live within the state.  Mary traveled to Philadelphia to be educated, and her mother, wishing to remain with her still enslaved "husband" pretended to still be in bondage.  During the period of her life in Philadelphia, her mother passed away, which led Mary to feel a higher calling than that of the bourgeois free blacks she saw around her in Philadelphia.  With the aid of friends who worked with the Underground Railroad, Mary returned to Richmond to pose as an enslaved house girl in order to spy in the home of none other than Confederate States president, Jefferson Davis.  A memorable story of a brave woman history had forgotten.   496 pages
Product Details

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

People are disappearing from a hospital following surgery, including Stephanie's latest skip, Geoffrey Cubbin. This book contains the usual cast of outrageous characters. If you don't know bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, it is time for you to be introduced. A fun read!!  322 pages.

Mischief in Mudbug by Jana DeLeon

Sabine LaVeche has been diagnosed with cancer and needs to find a family member as a bone marrow donor. She knows she is in a bad state when she starts hearing AND seeing Helena Henry, the deceased mother-in-law of her best friend, Maryse, The last time Helena appeared, Maryse was in danger. A lighthearted mystery with a bit of romance thrown in. I was glad when this title showed up on MOLIB2GO just in time for vacation. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Mischief in Mudburg is book two in the Ghost-in-Law Mystery series. 304 pages.