Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery 288 pages

I love children’s lit, and I regularly re-read the novels of L. M. Montgomery, especially when I’m in the mood for a bit of escapism or am craving a break from modern material. I scanned my shelves a few weeks ago and couldn’t remember if I had ever finished Marigold, so I started in. All of Montgomery’s books are sweet and idyllic, and Marigold is no exception. However, Marigold is more insular and solitary than the most famous of Montgomery’s heroines , Anne and Emily - Marigold’s only friend throughout most of the book is imaginary - so that creates a slightly different variation from Montgomery’s norm. Reading this book made me want to go back to a few of my other Montgomery favorites, though - hence, my entries for The Story Girl and The Golden Road that I'll be posting next.

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith 256 pages

In the spirit of the short story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” attributed to Hemingway, SMITH magazine editors invited its reader to submit six-word memoirs. Alternating between entries that are touching, sweet, ingenious, bitter, weird, this is a nice overarching attempt to distill the human experience. I laughed, I cried – great book.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 272 pages

My first Agatha Christie book – loved it! I was completely bamboozled and engaged. This was one of those rare books that I finish in about a day…I just HAD to know the identity of the killer on the island. I guessed wrong several times, was completely taken in, and ended up being well satisfied by the conclusion. Now, Murder on the Orient Express for my next Christie, you think?

Monday, March 28, 2011

True Grit, by Charles Portis

So, I picked this one up because of all the talk about the movie, which I haven't seen--but my parents thoroughly enjoyed. While talking about the movie experience they both noted how they thought the Cohen brothers had stuck close the book. I'm one for reading the book and then maybe seeing the movie on dvd. It didn't take long to get sucked into this story and at 240 pages it ended far too quickly--I was still dreaming of crazy law men and the rough west far after finishing this book.

Emily the Strange: Dark Times

Ok, I might have a problem--I'm OBSESSED with these books. She is just so snarky and dark and WONDERFUL. This graphic novel is written and illustrated by a fine trio, Jessica Gruner, Rob Reger and Buzz Parker. The illustrations might be just as much fun as the dialogue! This installation of Emily's life comes in at 248 pages in the hardcover (only numbers I could find!) and follows her on her "journey" of home schooling all the way back to the 1790's, and is well worth the short amount of time it takes you to read.

Freedom / Jonathan Franzen

I read this novel on my lunch hours, so at 562 pages it took me a while. I found it difficult to engage with the characters at first as they seemed a bit one-dimensional, but as I read they grew on me. Franzen has an ability to lead the reader deeper into the lives of his characters without making one feel pulled, or even noticing, really. As the tale unfolded there could have been many endings; the final path wove themes of maturity and hope, and yes, freedom. The last sentence unexpectedly brough tears to my eyes. 562 p.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fowl Play by Patricia Tichenor Westfall

When I go on the road, I try to buy a book or two from each of the libraries I visit whenever they have a sale in progress. This time around I picked up Fowl Play, the first installment of the Molly West Mystery series. I chose the book because of its focus on a rural community and the word play in the title. Some of the characters are amusing and endearing. Some of the insights into rural Appalachian life were interesting. The mystery itself was okay--not great. It felt like a rushed ending. If anyone would like to read the book, it is in my office for the taking. 252 p.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"The Betrayal of the Blood Lily" by Lauren Willig

Although this is the sixth book in the "Pink Carnation" British spy series, it's the first one that I've read.  More of a historical mystery than a historical romance, it is set in early 19th century India where Britain has insinuated itself into Indian socity, culture, and politics.  I was pleasantly surprised at the author's creative expressions and unusual phrasing, but the cast of characters and Indian terms made it a little difficult to follow.  The hero of the novel was much more likable than the heroine, and the contemporary secondary story woven in with it sometimes got in the way, but overall, it was an intriguing and refreshing concept.  401 pages. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Mechanic's Tale: Life in the Pit-Lanes of Formula One

By Steve Matchett

I'm getting primed for the Formula 1 season!

While I knew Mr. Matchett worked for Benetton Formula 1 I did not know how he got started there. How does one get their foot in the door of a race team? Mr. Matchett walks the reader thru the process. From being a lowly BMW Mechanic at his local dealership to sending out CV's while watching the F1 race on TV finally, to interviewing with a few F1 teams before Bennetton hiring him.

The books tends to lose focus after he got hired however, it seems like he lost steam to write the book? I'm not sure.

He does share a story about his first Grand Prix and being surprised about how many hours the mechanics were required to work. He said he was so sore from being on his feet for 14+ hours he doubted if this was the life for him or not.

304 Pages

Room by Emma Donoghue

This book was an amazing read. I can't get into much detail without giving anything away, but the premise alone intrigued me enough to wait on the MRRL hold list for months to get a chance to read this.
"Room" refers to an 11x11 space inhabited by 5-year-old Jack and his Ma, and the only place Jack has ever known. They are being kept in a "21st-century prison" by Old Nick, a psychopath who kidnapped Ma seven years ago and rapes her regularly. The novel is narrated by Jack, who doesn't believe there is a world outside of Room.
I've heard the audio version is great, too.
336 pages.

Cross Fire by James Patterson

An assassination duo that seeks vigilante justice, a killer obsessed with prime numbers, a wedding and the return of arch nemesis, Kyle Craig, and you would think this 17th installment of the Alex Cross series would be hard to put down. Yet, I did put it down again and again. I'm not sure why I wasn't as drawn to Cross Fire as I was to I, Alex Cross. But, it was still an okay read. 448 p.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth, by James Tabor

Pretty much the story of how one alpha male beat other alpha males in discovering the deepest cave on Earth. Some of the story is fascinating. The author offers a glimpse not only into the lives of cavers and the challenges they face in plumbing a cave, but also the logistics involved in planning a cave expedition. The logistics can be tricky in a simple exploration, but when the author covers the necessities required for a long (think weeks) exploration, the numbers are staggering. Just the poundage of rope required took my breath away. And the description of the privations endured by a single night's stay in a cave was enough to convince me never to go on a single cave expedition. Like the book i read on life in space, this book covered aspects of cave life to an amazing level of detail. The reader was professional, but too stiff for my taste. The whole time, it sounded like he was reading for a movie commercial or for a radio spot.
audio: 10 hours
print: 304 pages

At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

At Home is a rambling stroll through history, using the author's vicarage home as a launching point for each chapter. I thought this would be a more targeted history of the things we commonly find in our homes, but this was only partly the case. Bryson takes a common item, and uses it to tell selected stories from the history of the world. Though i was hoping for a more thorough explanation of why we have certain objects in our home, this was a thoroughly enjoyable telling of the stories that brought many common things to our lives. I particularly enjoy how Bryson takes many of our national heroes and exposes some of the dirt in their lives and characters. Among the fascinating things you can learn here: how vitamins came to be called vitamins; why there are 4 tines on a fork; the rationale for Edison's (yes, that Edison) concrete house and why it failed; the extent of the human excrement market prior to the 1900s; guano mania; the exquisite mechanics of stairs; why we have the expression "room and board". I loved it. I can enjoy history from this perspective. This is another example of an author who can narrate a book well, even if his prose is a bit rambling.
audio: 16.5 hours
print: 512 pages

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vagabond, by Bernard Cornwell

Sequel to The Archer's Tale, in which Thomas of Hookton, a skilled English archer, sets out to avenge his father's murder and seek the Holy Grail, which his father claimed to possess. This framework allows Thomas to take us through England and France in 1347, during the Hundred Years' War. Plenty of action plus court intrigue to keep the story going. Cornwell is a master at capturing the flavor of the period, as well as creating a compelling character in Thomas. 402 p.

Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

This is the second in the 'Girl with the dragon tattoo' series. Continues the story of Lisbeth Salander, the reclusive computer hacker, explaining more of her background and childhood which factors into her unique view of society and people in general. Larsson weaves a good tale, with plenty of twists and plot turns, some a bit unbelievable. This title also continues the heavy dose of violence and sexual focus of the first title. The story ends with the heroine seriously injured - a lead-in for the final book. The translation is smoothly done; I found the Swedish setting part of the intrigue of the book. 724 p. (pap).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

This is the autobiography of the youngest person ever granted a divorce.  Nujood and her impoverished family live in Yemen where arranged marriages for girls are the norm, but she fights back by leaving her abusive, much older husband and obtaining help for a divorce.  Nujood's family does not even know the birthdays or true ages of their children.  She's been told that she's about 10, but her father tries to use this against her by saying that she's really 13 when she begins divorce proceedings (as if being forced to marry at 13 is acceptable).  Luckily, Nujood finds a sympathetic female attorney as well as caring judges who help her obtain her divorce.  Her groundbreaking fight has encouraged other girls in arranged marriages to try to get their own lives back by leaving their husbands.  This part of the world and their customs are so foreign to me that it seems like a different planet populated by evil aliens who prey on the young and all females.  Amazingly, all of this happened just three years ago.  183 pages.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Fool and His Honey by Charlaine Harris

I wound up checking out another book in the Aurora Teagarden series just because it was easily available. It's amazing what you miss when you skip a few titles. I quickly discovered that Aurora is now married, but that hasn't slowed down her sleuthing adventures. In this book, Aurora and husband Martin, have a newborn baby thrust upon them. In appears that the father of the child has been murdered and the mother has disappeared. The question is the usual, "whodunit?" with a "what about the baby?" thrown in. 272 p.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chariot Makers : Assembling the perfect Formula 1 car.

By:Steve Matchett

Enough about history and politics! It was time for me to read something about one of my other passions: Auto Racing. I'm a huge fan of racing and race online when I can find time. It's what actually got me into watching auto racing. I follow NASCAR and Formula 1. I started watching NASCAR but have really started to dig Formula 1. For those that don't know Formula 1 is a series that is based mainly in Europe and mainly has drivers not from America. It's hard to get an audience in America without an American driver hence why NASCAR is so popular. For a tech geek like myself F1 is much more interesting. The teams are allowed to use computers and are allowed to use a wide array of aerodynamic devices. The cars have so much force they could drive upside down! The steering wheel alone has so many buttons and knobs that I don't know how the drivers know what they all are!

If you got thru that last paragraph kudos. Now on to the book.

Chariot Makers is written by a man who spent his early adult life working on F1 cars. From working on F1 cars he started commentating on SPEED Channel (the American provider of F1 coverage).

The book starts out with Mr. Matchett in an airport with four other men all of whom are fans of F1 and travel to a few races a year and are fans of Steve. They start talking about what era was the best for F1 with Steve.

Steve tells them that there is no one era of F1 and to build the perfect car a person would have to take parts of cars from all different eras to get the PERFECT Race car.

The talk continues as the five men fly to Europe on the Concorde.

If you're a fan of racing or engineering you should check out this book.

256 pages

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris

I chose this book because I had heard good things about the author. Since I am not into vampires (the author is the writer of the popular Sookie Stackhouse series), I thought I would try a book in her Aurora Teagarden Mystery series. Aurora is a part-time librarian and avid amateur sleuth. Her skills are put to the test when she inherits a house, a fortune...and a skull...from the recently deceased Jane Engle, a member of the former "Real Murders" club. While it wasn't a "can't put it down" selection, I did enjoy it and will likely try another title in the series. 272 p.

You Can Go to the Potty

"You Can Go to the Potty" is a 32 page book that is a delightful read. Landon wanted me to read it again and again!

Zoo Picnic (with googly eyes)

Landon got "Zoo Picnic" this weekend when we went to the St. Louis Zoo. It's a cardboard book and it has googly eyes! It is 6 pages long.

e-luv, an internet romance: Dave Roberts

This was another book I read along with my husband for his class. I loved this class when I took it several years ago, and how it forced me to read genres I wouldn't have tried normally. I'm very "comfort zone"-y when it comes to reading for pleasure.
But Romance....Romance is my BAG. I love a sassy chick-lit so hard. As long as she ends up with someone she digs at the end (and without religious undertones), I am so there. So I was really looking forward to this week's read.
I've noticed something in the last few years...I tend to not enjoy books written by men as much as those written by women. I'm always surprised when I love a coming-of-age or a romance written by a male (Mike Gayle is a good example, or Wally Lamb). I wondered how this book would sit with me. Since 'internet romance' is one of my favorite sub-genres, I figured it had to be somewhat my cup of tea, though.
Boy oh boy. UGH. UGH ugh ugh. I *hated* this book. I hated Trevor, the main character (he reminded me a little bit of Ignatius in Confederacy of Dunces); I hated the plot; and I hated the end. The only reason I kept reading was because it went along at a fast clip and I really wanted Trevor to redeem himself.
I don't usually do research before I read a book (I don't want to get spoiled or influenced), but I should have checked to see how many people have talked about this book online. I see now that it's very few. Those that liked it called it hilarious, but I didn't see that at all.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

I didn't really want to read this, but my husband chose it for a class and I decided to try it, too.

I was totally pleasantly surprised. The book just RACED by. I closed it when I was done, thinking "What a book!" and I was definitely sad that it was over.

It's set in Jackson, Miss. in 1962, and centers around two black maids working for white families, and one white woman who decides she wants these maids' voices to be heard in print--kind of in response to Gone With The Wind. The women work at the book in secret, always afraid of getting caught. I really liked the changing points of view...every few chapters, the perspective switched, and it really kept me on my toes. It meant quite a few cliffhangers, too, but the momentum of the book never kept me waiting.

I looked up some reviews after I was finished, and while the majority of what I found was glowing, I found PLENTY that were not. They were largely by African-American readers, offended by Stockett's presumptuousness and giving them a voice when she wasn't black herself. I was completely disappointed at this, and felt guilty for having enjoyed the book so much. I'm going to suggest it to my book club tonight, and hope to get more thoughts on this issue.

464 pages.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"A Little Bit Sinful" by Adrienne Basso

Eleanor and Bianca are in London for Bianca's first season.  A spinster at nearly 26 (?), Eleanor is there to serve as escort as well as ensure that their evil father doesn't sell Bianca to the highest bidder in order to pay off his many debts.  But surprisingly, Viscount Benton shows an interest in Eleanor that she reluctantly returns.  Unfortunately, Benton has reasons other than love to pursue Eleanor, revenge against her father being the foremost.  This historical romance had very good character development, writing, and pacing but few surprises.  377 pages.

Fletch Won by Gregory McDonald

I picked up this book while browsing the library shelves because I vaguely remember a movie called Fletch starring Chevy Chase -- and I thought I liked it. I.M. Fletcher is a wise-cracking reporter tired of writing headlines, obituaries, and wedding notices. When he is assigned to the society pages, it is a slight move up in the newspaper world. When the would-be benefactor Fletch is to interview winds up dead in the newspaper's parking lot, Fletch sees a chance to move up to the hard news. Are he and his wit up to the task? Check it out (and get ready to laugh!) 272 p.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Flush the Potty!

Flush the Potty! by Ken Wilson-Max is a children's potty book with a button that makes flushing sounds (unfortunately the button no longer works on the book I have checked out). It is a cardboard book and is 10 pages long, although only 5 of the pages have words. Landon and I both enjoy reading this book when he sits on the potty!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

This book contains a cast of characters from high society who can't seem to get their lives in order. Enter Bertie Wooster, determined to put everything right without the assistance of his butler, Jeeves, whose advice everyone is seeking. Needless to say, what starts out bad turns worse with Bertie at the helm. Can Jeeves save the day? You'll need to read the book to find out for sure. A humorous read. 256p.

The tiger: a true story of revenge and survival, by John Vaillant

This is part story about tracking down a vicious man-eating tiger, part history lesson and part call for conservation. Vaillant does a good job narrating his own work, but with all its hero-worship and alpha-males, it was a bit too much chest-thumping for me. The story to which all Vaillant's wild tangents are anchored is the hunt for a man-eating tiger. Full understanding, and the whole story, is revealed only once Vaillant has related a number of other anecdotes regarding other tigers and explained several related facts habitat and political pressures. For all that, and if you can keep with it, you will learn interesting factoids about tracking tigers, why some tigers become man-eaters, the history of tigers and conservation in Russia (and what crushing poverty will drive people to do), as well as insights into life in the Russian hinterlands. A little Chinese medicine is thrown in for good measure.
audio: 12 hours
print: 352 pages

"Crimson & Steam" by Liz Maverick

I picked up this paranormal romance while browsing the shelves; it turned out to be part of the "Crimson City" series by Maverick and other authors.  This one centers on Marius, the leader of one of the main vampire families in a futuristic Los Angeles, and Jill, a reporter who is his human soul mate.  He can read her thoughts and emotions yet will not give in to his love for her due to his marriage alliance with a werewolf princess.  There's also a touch of steam punk with the inclusion of mechanical men (mechs), former humans partially turned into machines by the United States government.  This futuristic tale shares space with the backstory of how the vampires, werewolves, and mechs came to be created in mid-nineteenth century London.  I found the two plots to be very interesting and creative but the ending felt rushed, cheating us readers out of a satisfying conclusion.  320 pages.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On the Line / S.J. Rozan

Not exactly a mystery, this title is more of a rollicking suspense story. The partner of PI Bill Smith has been kidnapped, and Bill is led through a series of baffling clues placed throughout New York City, purporting to lead to his partner. Along the way, it becomes clear that the kidnapper is losing control, so time becomes more precious and Bill and his unlikely band of helpers must rely on the wonders of modern technology to find the bad guy and rescue his partner. A fun read. 309 p.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Panda Bear: A Hand-Puppet Board Book (Little Scholastic)

This is a really cute 6 page children's book by Jill Ackerman that can be sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star". Landon and I really enjoy it!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Where There's a Will by Mary Roberts Rinehart

While browsing the Detective and Mystery Stories found in Project Gutenberg, I came across author Mary Roberts Rinehart. The name seemed familiar, so figured I'd give her a try. I wasn't sure at all what to expect. I kept waiting for the "murder victim". Turns out, there wasn't one! This book read like a melodrama. I felt like booing the villain, cheering the hero and hoping that true love would triumph in the end. This book is on the humorous side and an easy read. 144 p.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Metamorphosis: Franz Kafka

This was another public domain novella from DailyLit that I received in installments on my RSS feed. I didn't know what to expect, and I found the story surprisingly moving. The reader only really gets to know Gregor, and he is easy to love. His disorientation, selflessness, and desperation for his family is heartbreaking.

I received 22 installments, but that doesn't translate to pages. I found an RTF (on Project Gutenberg) that listed the work as 31 pages.