Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1)The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a taphophile and history-lover, I can't get enough of this series. Better yet, it is set in one of my favorite places, Charleston, SC.

368 pages

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Colder War by Charles Cumming

A classic old-school espionage novel, with some intriguing plot twists.  Tom Kell, an out of favor British agent is sent to investigate the suspicious death of another British agent in Turkey.  Kell is tasked with searching out a potential mole in the British or American services in Turkey - and the plot begins its twists and turns.  Cumming is great at bringing us into the world of spies, where nothing can be accepted on its face.  382 pages

Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity by Gary Nabhan

Ever wonder why some people love hot peppers, and others can't tolerate even mild ones?  Or why some ethnic groups have a greater propensity to certain diseases like diabetes? Nabhan explores some of the recent research behind the interaction of genes and foods, and how sometimes a food may cause not only unwanted harmful reactions but also helpful ones.  For example, fava beans cause an allergy type reaction among many people living in the Mediterranean/North African area, but also help to protect from malaria.  Nabhan also explores how genes, diet, ethnicity and place can influence how we interact with different diet types.  He explains why more attention should be paid to each culture's traditional food sources, as the foods to which people from that area and culture are best adapted in complex ways.  This also helps to explain why the latest diet fad will fail many people, because it is not well suited to their body's genetic predispositions.  210 pages

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Lily and DunkinLily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This middle grade novel is about Lilly, a trans girl who is still attending 8th grade as a boy, while trying to figure out how best to express to the world that she’s a girl, and Dunkin, a boy with bipolar disorder who just moved to the neighborhood with his mom after something mysterious occurred with his father. The story is told in alternating POVs.

I really wanted to finish this book and give it 5 stars, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. And it’s really bothering me. In fact, for the past 30 minutes, my mind has been whirling, and I have been interrogating myself, much like this:

Was this a good book: YES

Was it well-written: YES

Did it address important topics: YES

Do I appreciate the diversity: YES

Were the characters interesting: YES

Does the world need more books like this: DOUBLE YES

So I’d recommend this to everyone:
*lectures self*
*reviews previous questions*
*hesitates and lectures self some more*

What? WHY NOT?
*shrugs and cowers*

Is it the (probably unintentional) gender stereotyping: Maybe

Was that hard to swallow: Yeah, sometimes.

Did it bother me how some of the plot points and subplots seemed unnecessary and distracted from the story more than they added to it: Kinda. . . sorta. . . yes, okay.

What about the friendship between the two main characters: It didn’t feel as authentic as I wanted it to.

Whoa! That was quick. Who are you to judge their friendship: Well, I’m nobody….except the reader. So I kind of showed up to judge, in a non-judgey sort of way. . . right?

How about that ending: Acceptable but lacked a certain resolution and stirred up more cans of worms

Um, is that an appropriate use of that idiom: *rolls eyes*

But really, are any of these issues solid reasons not to love and promote the book: Probably not. . . but maybe? I don’t know! Stop pressuring me!

Okay, fine. Calm down. What’s the real problem here? Are you just hating on middle grade, because you prefer YA: No, that’s not it. I like how middle grade it is.

Are you letting stupid little things take away from your complete enjoyment of this story: Potentially

Are there better stories out there on being transgender and on bipolar disorder: Yes, but maybe not for this age level . . .?!?!?

So should an almost great story be labeled as satisfactory, considering that’s better than no story at all: I want to say yes, because it seems like any representation should be better than no representation. But my heart keeps thudding, may-be-not. May-be-not. May-be-not. . . Po-ten-tially? Per-haps? Pro-ba-bly?

Then what in the world is your problem: I DON’T KNOW.
*holds book at arms length*
*reconsiders for far too long*
*shakes head*
*sighs again*

*Whispers into the void:*
Unmet potential leaves me twitchy.

Conclusion: Any book that leaves me with this much internal struggle is probably worth reading and discussing.

Pages: 352

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb

Prayers the Devil AnswersPrayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prayers the Devil Answers is inspired by the true story of a female sheriff and the role she played in the last public hanging in Kentucky history. The book is well-researched and includes storylines centering on the Great Depression, Appalachian folklore, and the WPA. I would like to read another book by this author.

353 pages

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Beast by Brie Spangler

BeastBeast by Brie Spangler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a captivating Beauty and the Beast retelling (and I use retelling lightly, as there were only a few parallels) that captured my full attention from the first moment.


Dylan is a hairy, hulking “beast” of a 15-year-old brainiac, and Jamie, the “beauty,” is a smart, stunning trans girl with a love of photography. 

The catch is that Dylan is so busy feeling sorry for himself in his first group therapy session that he doesn’t listen when Jamie talks about being trans. Then when the rest of the girls in group ask what he thinks about that, he covers up the fact that he wasn’t listening by saying it sounds great. That’s the beginning of a miscommunication spiral that winds itself tight, as the two fall into a sweet romance. The last 1/3 of the book is what happens when the spiral unravels.

Pages: 305

Pages: 305

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

MonstrousMonstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an unusual MG fantasy novel that has both an innocence and depth that I found fascinating. Basically, it's the love child of a dark fairy tale and a Halloween horror story.

It's also a novel of contradictions. The story is dark but with just enough rays of hope to make the ugliness feel beautiful. The MC is indeed monstrous, with animal features, instincts, and a strong fight or flight mode, but she's also so desperately human that it almost aches to read about her wants and desires. There are good guys who do bad things and bad guys who do good things. All of this added such interesting textures and layers to the story.

Pages: 432

Friday, March 24, 2017

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a sweet, quirky middle grade story about loss and finding family in unexpected places. It's best if you don't overthink anything. Once you do, it's a downhill slide that you won't recover from, so I recommend you put on your fiction blinders and cinch them tight before you read this novel.

I finished this story 4 days ago, and I gave it 4 stars in the moment. Today, I couldn't even remember the story well enough to write this review without going back through to read a synopsis to prompt my memories.

After careful reconsideration, I have reduced my rating by a star.

This story has a few things that may be interesting or amusing in the moment, but that in reality, I didn't actually appreciate. There's a bad counselor, a strange relationship to money/wealth/poverty that lacks depth and truthfulness, some truly unbelievable moments and occurrences for a contemporary story, a lack of character development in most side characters, and a depiction of loss and grief that doesn't resonate as well as it could.

HOWEVER, there are these sentences and moments throughout that are so perfectly charming and touching, that I think it makes it really easy to look past the flaws of the storyline. My advice to readers is to not overthink anything, and to enjoy this book for what it is, without thinking too hard about what it could have been. Once you do the second, it will be impossible not to fixate on everything that just doesn't add up.

PAGES: 380

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate TravellerA Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller by Frances Mayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In beautiful prose, Mayes examines how place influence personality and character. Her practice of reading books by local authors while traveling is one I would like to adopt. Her practice of traveling the world is one I'd like to adopt! This is a great book for lovers of travel writing, food, and living the good life.

448 pages

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Goodbye DaysGoodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful. Excruciating. Funny. Excruciating. Beautiful. Funny. Excruciating. Beautiful.

It’s strange how those so often go hand in hand, and that none of the 3 ever seems to exist without another lurking nearby.

Pages: 416

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard (Hogwarts Library books)The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an amusing set of short stories for the true HP fan, with commentary on the stories from Dumbledore. They're the HP version of fairytales. Ridiculously fun.

Pages: 128

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Marie Antoinette, Serial KillerMarie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is okay. It's kind of fluffy and obvious. If I had known it was a ghost story, I would have skipped it completely (not typically my cup of tea). However, it doesn't follow the pattern for a usual ghost story, in that there isn't much suspense, and it's never scary (which I found disappointing).

This is definitely not a thriller/horror. It's more of a contemporary story with a bit of a twist. I think that's the biggest mark against it. If you have a serial killer in the title (and the story), I should get the chills at least once while reading. My heart should beat fast, or I should get nervous about the fate of a character. Unfortunately, that did not occur. I felt like -- "Meh. Whatever"--so I think that was a missed opportunity. The book has only a very narrow range of emotions that it will make you feel, because everything is a bit superficial.

I don't hate it. I finished it. The writing isn't bad in a general sense, though there were too many characters, they didn't grow enough, and the majority lacked depth. The MC wasn't bad though, which is why I stuck with it.

Pages: 304

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer

The SeasonThe Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Technically, this is a Pride & Prejudice retelling. It’s cute and sassy with the requisite drama and minimal heaviness. It was just what I was in the mood for after reading about a lot of complex worlds and characters this past month.

It has a YA voice, with NA characters, which is unusual, but I didn’t mind the disconnect.

Pages: 326

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lifeblood by Gena Showalter

Lifeblood (Everlife, #2)Lifeblood by Gena Showalter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Book 2 in the Firstlife series)

I love creative worlds that explore the gray that exists between dark and light, but what is best about this series is the underlying themes and messages about the power of humanity to forgive, overcome, and/or evolve.

There are not just good characters and bad ones in this series. Instead, there are electric characters with depth who make a series of both good and bad choices for many different reasons. I can't help but like a book that presents its characters as more than just: the good guy, the bad guy, and their devoted side characters. This world of warfare should be dark, depressing, and brutal, but the story brings a feeling of hope and faith of overcoming past missteps to be a person who is no longer defined by them.

And on top of all that, there are some sentences and phrases in this novel that are so small but also so mighty. I believe they will cling to me for some time.

Pages; 443

Friday, March 17, 2017

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t realize there was another book after Me Before You. That story was emotionally brutal, so obviously I decided to further torture myself by reading the follow up.

It doesn't touch book one (Let's be realistic though--nothing was going to touch that. It's in a realm of its own), which has me wondering if maybe it would have been better not to continue this story.

However, that being said, I did "enjoy" this novel, as much as you can enjoy any novel that is about grief and moving on with life after hard times. I read it quickly, but I wasn't wowed by the last 1/4 of the book.

If there isn't going to be a 3rd book, I probably should have been stingier with my stars. Although, now that I reflect back on the impact the 1st book had on me, I'm questioning if it actually would have been better to leave this at 1 novel.

One thing to note if you listen to the audiobook is that it is cued to such a low volume for Overdrive that I struggled to hear even at the maximum volume for my headphones and my phone. Also, the narration is good but drags, which is typically not an issue. I listen to most audiobooks at double speed or faster anyway, but this is one that is very difficult to speed up due to the dips of volume in the speaker's voice, her accent, and a general lack of clarity in words and across sentences that becomes even more present at a higher speed. If you want to try the audio, maybe try Audible (instead of using Overdrive from your library), as they have more options and their files tend to play back at a level where you can at least differentiate all the words in a sentence without some falling away. I almost had to give up on the audio and switch to ebook, because it was so frustrating.

Pages: 353