Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Wolf HollowWolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a thoughtful, well-written middle grade novel with a touch of suspense, a bit of angst, a reflection on social status, some vicious bullying, a rich, historical setting, and a lot of heart.

Pages: 304

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Summary: "Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She's on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she's made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother's scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her. Now Parker wants a new life."

Parker is a wonderful main character! I loved her, and I don't think I've ever related to a character more! Her personality and interests were very similar to mine, and I really enjoyed her point-of-view. 

The subject matter of Stealing Parker is way more serious and intense than Catching Jordan, and it took me by surprise, in both good and bad ways. 

242 pages

Monday, September 26, 2016

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

  A real treat. Mystery writer P.D. James loves the works of Jane Austin. Here she blends her skill as an author of mysteries with her love of Pride and Prejudice to craft a beautiful literary mystery. 

Set six years after Elizabeth and Darcy marry and are enjoying life at Pemberley, Darcy's magnificent estate, they are planning the annual ball in honor of Darcy's mother, Lady Anne. Close friends have arrived the night before to help with final preparations when Elizabeth's disgraced sister, Lydia arrives in an hysterical state announcing that she is sure her husband Wickham has just been murdered in the woods. As always Jane and Bingley are there to lend support while Darcy tries to shelter his sister Georgiana from any details. 

It will take all of Jane and Darcy's wit to find out what has really happened and rescue all the inhabitants of Pemberley from any ensuing scandal. 

Pages: 291

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

!!!!!!!! *^%#%^*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is book 5 in the YA fantasy series called Throne of Glass, and every single book that Sarah J. Maas writes is better than the last.  I hope it never ends, but this is how I feel about waiting a whole year to get my hands on book 6:

Visions Trilogy by Lisa McMann

Crash (Visions, #1)Crash by Lisa McMann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This concept was fascinating (the MC gets visions of a future disaster in which someone she cares about dies, and she has to decide if/how to try and stop or change it). It's also a quick read, and Lisa McMann has always been a solid YA writer.

Pages: 256

Bang (Visions, #2)Bang by Lisa McMann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book 2 is nice and edgy, which keeps things interesting.

Pages: 272

Gasp (Visions, #3)Gasp by Lisa McMann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a solid conclusion to a very readable trilogy with enjoyable characters.

Pages: 304

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Summary: "Sloane Emily Jacobs and Sloane Devon Jacobs, from very different worlds but both with problem families, meet in Montreal where they will stay in the same hotel while attending camp, one for figure skating, the other for ice hockey."

Oh dear, I really wanted to like this book. Lauren Morrill's first novel, Meant to Be, is incredibly witty and laugh-out-loud funny, but Being Sloane Jacobs comes no where close to that level of entertainment.

I was intrigued by the Parent Trap-like set-up, as well as the ice hockey/figure skating crossover, but it never quite fulfilled the potential of either of those stories. It was actually a bit boring. I was never eager to pick up the book to see what would happen next, as it never really hit hard on the emotions or suspense of the story. 

The dual perspectives was also confusing at times, as each Sloane's thoughts were not unique enough to feel like you were reading two different girls from two very different backgrounds. 

330 pages

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Fog has enveloped London and hinders the police and Albert Campion investigating blackmail letters, impersonation and then murder. Who is behind this plot to prevent Campion's friend, Meg from happily marrying Millionaire Geoffrey Levett? Why would they want to cause her grief by sending her photos of her dead, first husband on the eve of her wedding? Campion's efforts to help a friend led him to a much deeper and darker plot.

This is the first of the Albert Campion mysteries I have read. I have enjoyed the PBS broadcasts of shows based on these books so thought I'd give this one a try. This is a good, old-fashioned British mystery novel and I enjoyed the story. I plan to read more of her books in the future. This is technically book number 14 in this series, but each novel is a story alone story and they can be read in any order.

254 Pages

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula this literary mystery weaves all of the atmospheric creepiness of the original classic with the detail and writing style of an Victorian English novel. Charles Maddox is called in to investigate a potential donor for Oxford University before they accept this unknown Austrian lord's sizable donation. Arriving at Baron Von Reisenberg's home in the Viennese woods, Maddox expects a boring task of reviewing paperwork,  financial and family records, instead the dark brings mysterious noises and nightmares. This is the darkest of the Maddox mysteries, but this chilling tale of suspense, science and possible supernatural fiends will keep you reading.

Lynn Shepherd is also the author of the award winning The Solitary House, which is reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel; A Fatal Likeness inspired by the lives of romantic writers Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron as well as my favorite so far, Murder at Mansfield Park.

238 Pages.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Moonshot by Alessandra Torre

Summary: "Baseball wasn't supposed to be a game of life and death...The summer that Chase Stern entered my life, I was seventeen. The daughter of a legend, the Yankees were my family, their stadium my home, their dugout my workplace. My focus was on the game. Chase & he started out as a distraction. A distraction with sex appeal poured into every inch of his six foot frame. A distraction who played like a god and partied like a devil. I tried to stay away. I couldn't. Then, the team started losing. Women started dying. And everything in my perfect world broke apart."

Well, I don't know what to say about this book. I don't know if it should even count as 399 pages because the chapters were so short, and the way it's printed leaves quite a few blank pages.

Anyway, it's a baseball romance novel similar to Whatever Life Throws at You, except Moonshot adds a weird layer of murder and mystery. Whatever Life Throws at You is above and beyond Moonshot in almost every way. The characters in Moonshot have absolutely NO depth. None. As the reader, I didn't learn anything interesting about Ty or Chase, and I didn't really care about them. All Ty thinks about is baseball and Chase, and literally nothing else! She has no real aspirations or dreams or drive to do anything with her life except be attached to the Yankees.

Even though I'm highly critical of this book, I did finish it in just one day. But I think it was more out of stubbornness to get it over with so I could figure out who the killer is and move on to a better book.

I was shocked by some turn of events and the killer is quite surprising! But I just can't deal with the way the last half of the book is written. It's just cringe-worthy and frustrating. The reviews on Goodreads let me down!

399 pages

"God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked" by Darrell Hammond

In his record setting 14 year stint on Saturday Night Live, Hammond did 107 impressions, most famously Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Chris Mathews, and Sean Connery.  I watched many of those episodes live and in reruns and was always impressed with how accurate he was with so many diverse and very real people.  In this autobiography, Hammond explains what he looks for and how he prepares each new impression as well as all of the hard work so many people contribute to put a new episode of SNL on air each week.  As a long time SNL fan, I really enjoyed his explanations of how the writers, performers, make-up, hair, wardrobe, interns, hosts, and Lorne Michaels work together to make it all look so fun and effortless.  He doesn't throw any of his former colleagues under the bus and even has good things to say about the hosts with whom he appeared.

However, the most compelling part of Hammond's autobiography is his continuing fight with mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and cutting due to his physical and psychological torture by his parents all through his childhood growing up in Melbourne, FL.  His mother was a cruel and damaged person who took out her demons on her son, even when he was a toddler, by cutting his tongue with a knife, slamming his hands in doors, and more.  She said awful things to him and purposely scared him.  Hammond's father was a vet from WWII and Korea who suffered from flashbacks and untreated PTSD and constantly threatened to kill people who made him mad, even his own son.  His rages were terrifying, and Hammond coped by drinking beer at a young age and escaping into baseball, which his father loved.  His impressions also started at a young age, as that was how he was able to connect with his mother, who also liked to do impressions of their neighbors.  The only love he felt as a boy was from the family's African-American maid, Myrtise, to whom this book in dedicated.

Hammond's road to SNL was a long one; he was 39 when he was hired.  How he got there and stayed so long while battling mental illness and substance abuse throughout his tenure is fascinating, sad, horrifying, and incredibly impressive.  I highly recommend this book, especially to SNL fans.  Hammond is a true survivor.  273 pages.

"Cover Me" by L.A. Witt

Nick Swain is a paramedic answering a call in a bad neighborhood where several people have been shot when he has a gun shoved in his face and threatened with death for trying to treat one of the victims.  Although he makes it through the call, the friend of another victim who died at the scene labels him a racist and threatens to kill him, too.  The media then steps in to publicize all of this, and Nick's normal life is turned upside down.  He begins to have panic attacks and feels like he's being followed.  Andrew Carmichael, a police detective whose wounded partner Nick treated at the shooting, tries to help him cope while tracking down the two men who threatened Nick.  But Nick is becoming unwound, and when a bullet is left on the dashboard of his car, he feels doomed.

This was an exciting and well written story, especially the descriptions of Nick's anxiety and fear when he has to go back into the bad neighborhood to answer another emergency and is nearly mobbed.  He and Andrew connect with their high stress and dangerous jobs, and the author did well in explaining the helplessness both men feel in their situations.  I'd like to read more since this is the first book in a series.  325 pages (Kindle edition).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Split Second by Kasie West

Summary: "Seventeen-year-old Addie struggles to retrieve her lost memories and makes a startling discovery that challenges everything she's ever known about herself, her family, and her world." 

Split Second is the sequel to Pivot Point by Kasie West, and it's the final installment of the series. I read them fairly close together and it's a good thing I did. It's easy to forget the details of the story. 

I love the characters of these two books more than the actual story-telling. Split Second introduces Connor Bradshaw, and he upped the intensity of the book and the complexity. He was a nice addition! 

However, the story was a bit confusing and forced. Oh well! I still enjoyed both books and will continue to read all of Kasie West's books! 

360 pages

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Our Kids The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

This book was cited in this year's Kid's Count data issued by our Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis at MU.  Putnam explores how the 'American Dream' of opportunity has evolved from his generation, 1950s, to the experience of current young people age 18 through early twenties.  He focuses on the differences in parenting, families, schooling, and community.  The comparisons are stark, and highlight the stratification of neighborhoods into high income/low income with little interchange between them.  He describes consequences of that de facto segregation, using interviews with contemporary young people and their parents, contrasted with the experience of members of his generation. The basic insecurity, whether of shelter, family, inadequate schools, and drugs and crime in communities, of the lowest income families has meant that many children are growing up in very precarious situations.  And yet we expect these kids to conform to the ideals of the American dream, to understand how to navigate college or trade school and move into stable jobs.   Putnam offers some solutions, in the final chapter, but focuses most on local action, and not much on the more sweeping changes that would be needed to have any true impact. 368 pages

Friday, September 16, 2016

Liar, Liar by K.J. Larsen

Summary: "Pants on Fire Detective Agency: We catch liars and cheats.' Burned by her run-around ex-husband Johnnie Ricco, Caterina DeLuca took the skills she mastered during marriage and opened her own private eye agency. Now she's a second-story woman, armed with a camera, ready to print 8x10 glossies for use in divorce court. The men in her big, whacko family, all Chicago cops--one a crook--aren't sure what to make of Cat's career choice. But hey, it's serve and protect! Then one day Rita Polansky retains Cat. Rita's liar-liar husband is the mysterious, but seriously hot, Chance Savino. Cat is hot on his heels when an exploding building hurls her out of her stilettos and into the hospital..."

Liar, Liar is the first installment of the Cat DeLuca mysteries. I listened to it as an audiobook, but wish I had read the print version. The narrator's voice was scratchy and awkward. Cat is about to turn 30, but the lady narrating the book sounded much older. It was a bit off-putting. 

Anyway, the entire set-up and story was a less-funny, less-unique version of the Stephanie Plum books. Cat's life had some funny moments, but overall, the mystery was lame and confusing. I found myself not caring about it by half-way through the book. She's also incredibly gullible and dim during a few cringe-worthy moments. Chance's encounters with "DeLucky" as he calls her were fun but did not occur often enough. 

I may give the rest of the series another shot in the future. 

237 pages

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Pottermore Presents, #3)Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the perfect mix of old and new information for the hardcore HP fans who want just a few more insights and a bit more world building, because they can never seem to get enough.

Pages: 79