Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Agate Hill by Lee Smith

416 pages

A sad, strange, interesting book. Set in the years directly following the Civil War, this book follows the life of Molly Petree, an orphan of the war. We meet Molly on May 13, 1872, her thirteenth birthday, and at that time she is living under the care of her uncle at his estate, Agate Hill, in North Carolina. Molly’s life is chronicled through letters, journals and court records, found and researched in the present day by a young woman whose father and his partner have purchased Agate Hill to refurbish as a bed and breakfast. We are introduced to high and low society through the people Molly meets in the Carolinas and Virginia, those who drift in and out of her life and those who become her family.
I often found that while reading this book I felt a little on edge, and while I found the conclusion to be fairly complete and satisfying I wanted something more from the book as a whole than what I got. I know I liked this book, in a certain way, but I also struggled to decide what I thought it lacked. I’m still not sure.

Can you keep a secret? By Sophie Kinsella

400 pages

An entertaining piece of fluff. Like eating cotton candy. Sometimes I rolled my eyes at the predictability of it all, but I couldn’t put it down

Emily's Quest by L. M. Montgomery

240 pages

The last volume of Emily, this book is darker than the rest. I think Montgomery channeled her own feelings of isolation in this one – being a writer, especially a female writer, around the turn of the last century, and living in a small country town had to have its hardships. Emily marries later in life than the norm at the time, with preceding years filled with the joy of publication juxtaposed against personal hardships, much like Montgomery’s own life. I always feel relieved at the end of the book because Montgomery chose to create a happy ending for her alter ego…I have a feeling that she was tempted not to do so.

Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery

336 pages

More of Emily, in her high school years with all the sweet old fashioned love-blooming, heart-breaking, mortifying and glorious moments that that go with the territory.

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery

352 pages

I knew better than to start another of her series, but I did it anyway. I actually re-read the Emily series more that I do the Anne series, probably once every other year or so, because they are my favorite of Montgomery’s books.
Emily is sent to live with her stern Aunt Elizabeth, kind Aunt Laura and “simple” Cousin Jimmy on New Moon Farm after her father dies. Certainly the standard Montgomery structure – orphan is sent to live with older adults/relatives, finds herself revels in the beauty of an old-fashioned Prince Edward Island farm, makes friends – is followed with the Emily series, but there is something about the character of Emily that draws me in every time. Emily is a writer, so part of the charm of the Emily books are the chapters devoted to her diary entries, which are hilarious when she is younger and touching and heart-rending as she grows.
This series is supposedly the most autobiographical of Montgomery’s works, and there is a slightly darker edge to it than the others. Emily can be obsessive, obstinate and wildly dramatic. And, always, always she is unrelentingly devoted to words and creating the best work with what she knows and what she sees.

The Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery

213 pages

Once I get going with one of Montgomery’s books, I have to finish the series. This is the second volume of the King family, the end of the tale started in The Story Girl. We get the satisfaction of learning more about each character, watching them grow and mature a bit, and also get a hint of what the future holds for each of them.

The Story Girl

231 pages

Every time I read The Story Girl I am reminded why this is one of L. M. Montgomery’s favorite of her own books. It combines the arch of the wonder of childhood play – all the games and worlds and dramas created and inhabited by children as they stretch their imaginations together – along with the prosaic and stable background of old family traditions and narrative. The King family of Prince Edward Island is introduced by newcomers Beverly and Felix, two boys shipped to their father’s people for a time while he works a stint in another country. The new cousins meet siblings Dan, Felicity and Cecily, the hired boy Peter, and their other cousin, Sara Stanley, the Story Girl herself. Sara has a gift of weaving a spell with her voice and storytelling skill, and all the old histories of the family are introduced through her tales, as well as stories of ancient mythology, Native American heritage and fairy tales.
This is just a sweet, beautiful book…it makes me miss things I’ve never experienced, as strange as I know that sounds.

"Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love" by Larry Levin

Oogy was used as a bait dog by a dog-fighting ring when he was only two months old.  The left side of his head was was so badly damaged that he was nearly euthanized, but through the love, compassion, dedication, and trust of special people, he was able to recover and become a cherished part of a family.  Oogy went through hell and came out on the other side still a loving, curious, playful, and, most amazing of all, trusting dog.  The reader can feel the love Levin has for his special boy, and he claims that the bond they share has made him a better father and man.  I'd recommend this book to any animal lover (obviously) or anyone needing an uplifting true story.  214 pages.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Clifford Goes To Dog School

Clifford Goes To Dog School by Norman Bridwell. This is another new book of Landon’s. We read it for the first time last night and we really like it!

32 pages

Beddy-bye, Baby

Beddy-bye, Baby: A Touch-and-Feel Book by Karen Katz. Landon has had this book for a while and still enjoys it!

12 pages

Chuggington Books

Landon received Koko on Call (Chuggington) and The Chugger Championship (Chuggington) for Easter, both are by Michael Anthony Steele. We have already read both of them a couple of times.

Koko on Call (Chuggington), 24 pages

The Chugger Championship (Chuggington), 24 pages

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Play Dead / Harlan Coben

Generally, I like Harlan Coben's work, but this is, I believe, his first novel and his lack of maturity as a writer shows. Still, I read it through to the end and while I thought I'd solved the mystery, there were some twists I didn't anticipate. 539 p. (paperback)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Tempted" by Lori Foster

This is a compilation of three stories previously published by the author.  The main character in each is one of a trio of siblings, two brothers and their younger sister.  The book is a contemporary romance, so each story is about the siblings falling in love.  I used to like Foster's writing but as I've read other authors I've come to realize that her character development is rather weak and her stories are not very believable.  521 pages.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

This is the first book in the The Saxon Stories, which tell the tale of Alfred the Great and his descendants through the eyes of Uhtred, an English boy born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria, captured by the Danes and taught the Viking ways. The story begins with the Danes invading Uhtred's north England home, killing his father in battle, and his capture. His captor takes a liking to him, and teaches him to be a warrior. As he matures, he fights for the Danes, but plot twists lead him back to the English side, to serve King Alfred. This book concludes with Uhtred, now a man and married with an infant son, winning a decisive battle against the invading Danes. Cornwell plays up the contrast between the English Catholics and their priests, who heavily influence King Alfred, and the pagan Danes with their lusty warrior ways. A great start to the series. 329 p.

Margaritas and Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

I guess I am in the mood for old television shows. Remember Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury? Is this title Angela heads to San Miguel de Allenda for some much needed rest after a tiring book tour. Unfortunately, her very first taste of Mexico enroute to the city is a hold up. Is the worst over? NO! Her publisher, Vaughan, is kidnapped. Jessica is going to have to work fast if they are going to find him alive. I could almost hear Angela speaking the lines. 255 pg.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Santa Paws"

This anthology of Christmas stories revolves around dogs bringing together lonely people looking for love.  The first two, by Victoria Alexander and Nina Coombs, were the best and most enjoyable.  However, I had to force myself to get through the other two stories; the third one was especially boring with too much inner dialog of the characters and very little believable action.  389 pages.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Lover Unleashed" by J.R. Ward

This is the ninth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which features a group of deadly vampires who are born to protect their race from those who would expose and exterminate them.  This book focuses on Payne, the twin sister that Vishous didn't know existed until she needs help to heal from a devastating injury.  Human surgeon Manuel Manello is recruited to treat her and will have his memories scrubbed after he has done so, but no one counted on the way he is able to restore Payne's body.  And she's not willing to give him up so easily once she has recovered.

I own all of the books in this series, and this latest does not disappoint.  Ward does a great job of keeping the plot moving with all kinds of action, plot twists, complicated relationships, sex, and unique characters that are not easily forgotten once the books are finished.  Payne is an unusual  character who has been out of centuries of suspended animation for only a few months.  She is not familiar to the ways of humans or their world, but she gives Manny, to whom she refers as "Healer," a reason to enjoy life again after years of living through his profession.  My only complaints are that the author uses too much street jargon and that some of the major characters in the other books are rarely mentioned again.  Overall, though, this is a great series.  489 pages.

The Case of the Careless Kitten by Earle Stanley Gardner

Spotting this title at a library book sale brought back immediate memories of the long-running TV show Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr and the short-lived series starring Monte Markham. I also remember reading quite a few of the titles in high school, so figured I'd see how one reads today. Mason still seems overly confident in his abilities, but then again he does always manage to figure out "who dunnit" in the end. I like sifting out the pertinent clues from the red herrings that show up along the way. 211 p.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wishful Thinking by Alexandra Bullen

This is the second book Naphtali recommended so I could get a sense of what is popular with girls in grades 6-12. Hazel, our protagonist, has felt rejected all her life, not knowing either of her parents and never feeling like she really belonged anywhere. Then on her 18th birthday she is given three dresses, each with the ability to grant a wish. Her first wish finds her traveling back in time where she gets to know her biological mother who gave her up for adoption. As their relationship grows, Hazel discovers that life doesn't have easy answers and sometimes something that you hoped for all your life may not really be what is best for you. This is a good coming of age novel with a positive message. It is actually book 2 in the series and I plan to go back and pick up book 1. 256 p.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Third World America, by Arianna Huffington

If you're a reader of The Huffington Post, you're well acquainted with Arianna's viewpoint. Here she chronicles the stagnation and decline of income of the middle class. As the middle class declines and there is greater distance between the wealthy and the rest of us, there is also risk that America's infrastructure - roads, schools, bridges, water lines - will fall into such disrepair that many of us will be living in our own 'third world America.' Good food for thought as we move into another election cycle. 240 pp.

Heretic, by Bernard Cornwell

Third and final installment in the Grail Quest series, this continues the story of Thomas of Hookton, an English archer during the Hundred Years' War. This story takes Thomas far from the action of the war, on his own quest both to find the Grail and seek revenge on his father's murderer. The story meanders, and the characters are more stereotypical. Cornwell is a master of the historical setting, creating a strong sense of time and place. I recommend the first two in the series, The Archer's Tale, and Vagabond. 355 p.

The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism, by Naomi Klein

I sought out this title after seeing a short interview with the author on The Daily Show. The interview took place during the protests in Madison Wisconsin over the union-busting bill proposed by the Governor and Republican legislature. In the interview, Klein described how disasters, such as the current recession and Hurricane Katrina are used by political and corporatist entities to advance their agendas: i.e., while People are disoriented, rush in and pass new rules. The book is a very detailed treatise documenting how economic shock therapy has been forced on countries and economies from Chile in 1973 to Russia in 1991, to most recently Iraq. The ‘shock therapy! is based on Milton Friedman's free market doctrines, but often incorporating forceful suppresion of local populations and resulting in throwing thousands into Poverty for decades. Klein is a journalist, not an economist: the work is billed as investigative journalism. I don't have a sufficient breath of understanding of economics or history to judge the theory as presented, but if even half of the examples described in the treatise are true, it’s no wonder much of lhe rest of the world looks at the U.S., IMF, and western capitalism and our offers of aid’ wilh great skepticism. I intend to look up some reviews of this work. Published in 2oo7. 466 Pages, with 6o Pages of notes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Memory Keeper's Daughter and Lake of Dreams

I read two books by the same author recently, and squeezed in Huckleberry Finn, in between the two. I found the titles on Goodreads or someone else's blog and thought they sounded good. Kim Edwards, the author, according to the reviews is as a born novelist and her writing is heart-wrenching, masterful, and gripping. Wow! That's enough to sell you on a book, right? So, I should say that I read ALMOST all of The Memory Keeper's Daughter before I decided I couldn't take it any more. I love beautiful prose as much as the next fellow, but when EVERY SINGLE PAGE drips with description, overcharged emotion, and mind-numbing detail, I wave the white flag of surrender. I will admit, the premise for The Memory Keeper's Daughter is an interesting one-a physician in the 1960's chooses to give away his newborn daughter with Downs syndrome, a twin to his son, while his wife is still unconscious from the medications administered during labor. However, the ensuing drama that unfolds in these people's lives, attributed solely to this doctor's one heartless and uncaring act, is just not believable, and in a story like this, I need to believe. The Lake of Dreams (400 pp.) is a slightly more plausible story, and the prose is not nearly as overwrought as Memory Keeper, but I still had serious issues trying to believe that anyone could become so obssessed with family history. I guess I shouldn't say that, having worked in archives for several years, but it did seem that some medication was in order for the main character. At any rate, there are many who have read and enjoyed these books. I only read them because of the reviews and my compulsive reading habit, which takes up all my blogging time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

As a Sex and the City fan (the series, but not the book), I didn't know what to expect from this. I knew I didn't enjoy Bushnell's style at all, so I didn't seek this book out--though I was curious. When I found the audio version in the YA section at DBRL, I leapt at it.

And--it was okay. While the story was entertaining enough, the narrator had an annoying voice, which was hard to get over. I never got used to it. I was disappointed at the almost complete lack of Carrie-Bradshaw-isms...there were no character traits or events that would make the reader connect 18-year-old Carrie to SATC Carrie except a single line spoken at the very end.

I'm looking forward to Summer and the City, which is being released in the next couple weeks. Hopefully that will focus more on the Carrie Bradshaw we know and love.

Hardcover version: 400 pages

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Dreams of a Dark Warrior" by Kresley Cole

In this 10th book in the "Immortals After Dark" series, Valkyrie Regin the Radient has lived a millennium without her beloved berserker, Aiden the Fierce.  Having died before he could become immortal, he's reborn into new identities only to die immediately after regaining his memories of Regin.  This time, Aiden has been reincarnated as Declan Chase, a damaged soldier who's pledged his life to killing all non-humans... including Regin. 

Like the other books in the series (yes, I've read them all), this one is full of creatures that humans only thought to be mythical.  Lots of action, snappy dialog, and steamy scenes make this another quick and fun installment.  I'd recommend reading the books in order as there are many recurring characters, and the plotlines tend to intersect between the books.  Kresley Cole does it again!  (For more info about the series, see Immortals After Dark.)  515 pages.  

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I'd read this book just after it won the Caldecott a few years ago, and LOVED it. When my Book Club decided to read it for this week's meeting, I jumped at the chance to pick it up again. It's described as a graphic novel, but I'm not crazy about that classification. Nothing against graphic novels, though--this is just more like a book accompanied by hundreds of ornate drawings. It's a quick read, because there's probably less than a hundred pages' worth of text...and many of the scenes are fast-paced, so the whole book can pretty easily be read in one sitting. You won't want to put it down anyway. :) It's like reading a fantastic, beautiful movie. Martin Scorsese, of all people, is directing the movie version. The cast looks intriguing, but I can't help but worry that Scorsese's turning the film into something more sinister than the book was meant to be. 544 pages

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swenson, baker and amateur sleuth, discovers Reverend Matthew dead in the church office and the confusion begins. Who killed Reverend Matthew and why? What does the mynah bird have to say about it? As always, the installment also offers some delicious recipes. Who knows, maybe I will try one out and bring it to work! 304 p.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Today is Monday

"Today is Monday" by Eric Carle goes though each day of the week and each day a different animal has a different food item. At the end all the children come together and have a meal. This book has been Landon's favorite the last few days.

32 pages

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Dhammapada/Translated by Eknath Easwaran

I try to read something from a world religion once a year. This was my outing this year. All told this book comes in at 216 pages and was enlightening to say the least. I found myself both confused and mesmerized by this Buddhist standard.

Deception / Jonathan Kellerman

Milo Sturgis (detective) and Alex Delaware (psychologist) pair up again to solve a brutal murder of a private school tutor. Lots of twists and false starts at finding the true culprits. Starts slowly, picks up steam, with satisfying resolution. Not an outstanding offering from Kellerman, but works for escapist mystery-reading! 338 p.

National Velvet / Enid Bagnold

I found this at home while once again trying to clear out some bookshelves, and decided to actually read it (it was my sister's) in honor of Elizabeth Taylor. This is a very simple and charming story with a somewhat anti-climactic ending. I don't remember the movie much, but am willing to bet it was dramatized quite a bit. I loved the vernacular and actually had to consult a dictionary a time or two for words like gymkhana. The novel is very visually evocative of small town English life in the 1930s. Glad I picked it up! 306 p.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

I asked Naphtali for some guidance on what middle school and high school girls are reading. I want to get a feel for what is on their mind, what they like, and what books influence them. This is one of four titles that Naphtali recommended.

Plain Kate is about a young girl gifted in woodcarving. She lives with her father in a town where belief in curses, witchcraft and magic are prevalent. When the community falls on hard times, including the death of Kate's father, people start pointing to Kate as the cause of all the problems, considering her a witch just because of her craftsmanship and mismatched eyes. The penalty for being a witch? Death! Kate flees for her life, trying to find a place where she can be accepted for who she is. This is a very dark, haunting tale with what feels like 320 pages dedicated to angst and 16 pages to humor and a life of "happily ever after." I found myself strangely compelled to the story and yet repulsed at the same time. My favorite parts involved the talking cat! 336 p.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Death and the Senator by Arthur C. Clarke

I found this title on the Adobe Digital Editions free download site. I've always liked science fiction and read a title or two by Arthur C. Clarke eons ago. So, when the short story Death and the Senator appeared on the list, I figured it would be a worthy read.

Senator Steelman is at the height of his political success - the lead candidate in the race for president - when he is given the news that his heart is failing and he will be dead within months. Overnight his life is changed. Gone are the political ambitions to be replaced by a new awareness of the importance of family and a simpler life. Then, quite unexpectedly Steelman is given the chance for a cure. The dilemma? He must rely on treatment at a Russian hospital facility in space. This is the same type of facility that Steelman blocked when NASA sought funding for one for the United States several years earlier. What will he do? What would you do? A thought-provoking title. 20 p

Friday, April 1, 2011

Death and Honesty by Cynthia Riggs

This is another one of the titles I picked up at a book sale while visiting libraries in March. This one features 92-year-old sleuth, Victoria Trumbull. I had heard good things about the series, the location sounded fun and the cover reminded me that spring is on the way, so figured it was worth a look.

Things are not right in Martha's Vineyard. The property taxes are escalating, bodies are piling up and a rooster is crowing like CRAZY! How do all the pieces of this puzzle fit together? Check out this eighth installment in the Victoria Trumbull Mystery series to find out. It will be available in my office for the taking on Monday. A quick read. 250 pg.