Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Passage, by Justin Cronin

I picked this up from the new book shelf - remembered it was a hit last summer. Cronin has entered the speculative fiction/dystopia genre with this very long tome. I generally like speculative fiction, but have avoided all the vampire novels. This one features multitudes of very nasty vampires, the subject of the 'army experiment gone awry' described on the jacket. The characters in the first third of the book are better developed than the later characters, when the author jumps forward 90 years. The second half of the book wanders around for far too long, with many plot detours. I was hoping the vampires would be vanquished in the conclusion, but this is just a setup for a trilogy. 766 pages, hardback

What Came Before He Shot Her / Elizabeth George

For fans of Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series, you will know why this was a hard book to read. I put it off for quite a while but finally decided to read it just because I love E. George. I'm glad I did; it wasn't as horrifying as I'd feared. If you don't read George, this book provides the backstory to the random murder of Lynley's pregnant wife, an act that probably cost George some fans. As a stand-alone novel, What Came Before He Shot Her presents a gritty look at life for the disenfranchised in the London housing projects. Read on my Kindle, hard copy has 548 p.

The New Low-Maintenance Garden, by Valerie Easton

I've gotten bitten by the gardening bug--maybe literally bitten... Anyway, this book is 267 pages of great information and beautiful pictures of all the ways you can go from lawn green to Earth "green" and how to maintain some wallet green. Great information and now I'm ready to take charge of my yard.

Death by Deep Dish Pie by Sharon Short

This one said, "A hilarious, one-of-a-kind mystery" on the cover. There was no way I could pass up a claim like that! All is not well in Paradise (Ohio, that is). The head of the Breitenstrater Pie Company falls over dead eating one of his own pies and the second in command is missing. Local laudromat owner and stain removal expert, Josie Toadfern, takes it upon herself to get to the heart of the matter and clean up the mess! This is book two in the Stain-Busting mystery series. I didn't find it as hilarious as claimed, but it was still a fun read and I learned a few cleaning tips. 260 pg.

Hold the Cream Cheese, Kill the Lox by Sharon Kahn

Herman Guenther, a master lox cutter, has secrets that were serious enough to get him killed with his own slicing knife . Ruby follows the clues in Texas and then heads to Alaska and New York to try and figure out who wanted Herman dead and why. This is fourth book in the Ruby, the Rabbi's Wife series. I hadn't read any of the earlier books and it didn't seem to matter (although I am curious as to what happened to her husband....) This was a good book to take on a looooong car ride since it didn't require too much concentration. 239 pg.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"Like No Other Lover" by Julie Anne Long

This is the first book I've read by this author, and it's not a typical historical romance.  The hero is an entomologist and explorer who actually wears glasses full time.  The heroine at first seems like a scheming gold-digger but, as the story progesses, we come to understand her desperation.  The novel takes place during a two-week-long house party in which unexpected and sometimes silly things occur.  One is when the heroine, trying to impress a suitor, accidentally shoots off part of the anatomy of a statue of David!   Like I said, not your typical historial romance.  I'm definitely going to read more by this author.  Oh, and there's a cute kitten in it, too!  371 pages. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Duchess By Night" by Eloisa James

This is the first book that I've read by this author.  I had high hopes because I read the column that she writes on new books in a Barnes and Noble newsletter that I receive.  I picked this up at the library after reading the blurb on the back that described Harriet, a bored, widowed duchess who masquerades as a man in order to attend a "rollicking fete" without compromising her reputation.  The event and its host bring her plenty of surprises, both good and bad.  I enjoyed the descriptions of Harriet dressing in men's clothing and how much she enjoyed wearing pants, but the book was overly long and had a bit too much extraneous description for my taste.  Parts of it were well done but other parts seemed rushed resulting in an uneven novel.  368 pages.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Avalon High, by Meg Cabot

I love Meg Cabot, I love YA lit, and I love modern-day versions of classic literature....so it was basically a guarantee that I'd love this book. I listened to it on audio, and the narrator was great...believable as the 17-year-old heroine, with a mild, non-irritating voice.

Without giving much away, this has parallels to some stories in the King Arthur/Avalon realm, and while predictable, it shakes up SOME expectations of what will happen.

Apparently the Disney Channel made this into a movie in 2010, but they took extreme liberties with the plot line. I don't think I'll be adding that version to my Netflix queue. ;)

304 pgs.

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, by Elizabeth Berg

Subtitle: And Other Small Acts of Liberation

I listened to this on audio, and it was a pleasant enough collection. I have mixed feelings about the author reading his or her own work. Sometimes it's great, but most of the time I understand why actors are hired for the job. In this case, Berg had a surprisingly annoying voice (I had 'pictured' it as so nice!), but not so irritating that I had to stop listening.

I was hoping this was a series of weight-related fictional anecdotes, but only two focused on the struggles of healthy eating and weight loss. I'm always on the lookout for good books about that issue!

The rest of the stories ranged from reuniting with an old high school boyfriend to watching a friend die to an adolescent realizing how awkward she is, a woman who can't get over her ex-husband and one who takes her friend away from her confining nursing home; thirteen stories in all...none are particularly uplifting, and I was disappointed at this as generally Berg is good for comfort reading. I found myself disgusted as most of the individual heroines.

256 pages.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"The Sins of Lord Easterbrook" by Madeline Hunter

Christian, Marquess of Easterbrook, is a virtual recluse due to his usual and disturbing ability to read the emotions of most people he is near.  However, when a woman from his past appears in London on a mission to save her father's trading company headquartered in China, Christian has to face his "curse" if he wants a future with her.  This story is the sequel to "Secrets of Surrender," which I posted earlier this month.  The author is a wonderful storyteller who makes the reader care about her characters and their unusual predicaments.  This was a quick and enjoyable read.  370 pages.

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories" by Robert Lewis Stevenson

I was looking forward to the chilling account of the doctor who experimented on himself and turned into another person representing his own id but was very disappointed.  Stevenson's writing was sometimes hard to follow due to the many run-on sentences and strange phrases.  Only the final story had any appeal to me.  This Scholastic library edition contained not only "Dr. Jekyll," but also three other short stories:  "The Bottle Imp," "Markheim," and "The Body-Snatcher."  216 pages.

"Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, MD

I had heard this book was a huge best-seller in the business world but I was so disappointed with it.  First of all, the type of cheese that was moved was never discussed.  If somebody had moved American or Velveeta, I wouldn't have cared, but a good smoked mozzerella would be a tragedy to lose.  Then there were the tiny people the size of  mice.  What?  Really?  Why?  And most distressing of all . . . we never found out who moved the cheese or where it went.  94 pages.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

So Shelly by Ty Roth

This is the third of the books Naphtali recommended to get to know what is new and popular in teen literature. The book is definitely for mature readers and tackles tough topics: suicide, death, life, love, self-esteem, codependency and purpose. Some readers probably won't get past the sex and language. But, if you look deeper it could provide fodder for good discussions. In some ways, it might be good to start with the Afterward, so you have a deeper context for the story. 328 p.

Shutter island, by Dennis Lehane.

Shutter Island was enjoyable, but i thought I would like it better than I did. It had the right combination: set in an era with fedoras and spectacles; located on a remote island in an asylum; a great storm blowing in; deranged inmates roaming the grounds and trying to communicate crucial information in cryptic codes.
The problem.... I don't know if I had heard it at some point, but I guessed the ending within the first hour of the book. I almost never am able to do that.
Basically, without spoiling the ending (but you'll likely guess it as well), Shutter Island follows Teddy, some sort of special government operative, and his partner as they try to track down an inmate (excuse, me, Doctor - patient) who has gone missing. A surprise (or more likely not) awaits you at the end of their journey.

audio: 4.75 hours (abridged)
print: 385 pages

Mystic river, by Dennis Lehane

People as damaged goods. Insidiousness of crime. Local corruption. These seem to be major themes of Mystic River.
I didn't like this as a mystery - it reveled in crime and criminals too much. I didn't like it as a police procedural - the cop was too clean.
Or maybe it just made me too uncomfortable with the thought that there are some folks for whom other people are completely expendable, if they get in the way of the pursuit of power or money - even on the small scale of a single neighborhood.

Audio: ca. 15 hours
Print: 416 pages

Rival rails: the race to build America's best transcontinental railroad, by Walter Borneman

I was hoping to learn a little more about the history of railroads in the US, and the practical challenges inherent in building a rail network at the time. This book provided some of that, but focused more on business and political aspects instead. Maybe this is for more serious enthusiasts. Unfortunately, I'm not so hardcore.
If you want a depressing reminder of the tradition of politics yielding to business interests, or the sweeping greed and egomania of business tycoons, this might be the book for you.
Audio: 15 hours
Print: 432 pages

The English patient, by Michael Ondaatje

I hadn't seen the movie or read this before, but a friend called it to my attention. This is a series of jumbled stories and remembrances from the main characters in the book. 4 people come to live in an Italian villa at the close of WW2. Gradually, more of each person's situation is revealed, and we eventually learn the identity and the full story of the charred remnant of a man - the English patient.
I liked this book less for the story itself and more for the beautiful reading and the snippets of old prose thrown in.
Audio: 8.5 hours
Print: 305 pages

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larson

The final segment in Larsson's trilogy recounting the saga of Lisbeth Salander, the anti-heroine of the series. This story begins with Lisbeth's recovery in a hospital from the bullet wounds she suffered at the end of the previous volume. She has been arrested for crimes detailed in the 2nd volume, but which she did not commit. Larsson switches back and forth between Lisbeth's recovery and her own work to discredit the prosecution's case against her, and that of her friend, a magazine editor, who is also conducting his own investigation. There's less action in this story, and more focus on tracking down the secret government agency which caused much of Lisbeth's persecution in order to protect her father, a Russian spy who defected. All the loose ends are tied up in the end. Lisbeth remains a troubled loner, with her own sense of right and wrong that doesn't mesh well with conventional society. She's intriguing but not a character that engenders much sympathy. A satisfying conclusion to the series. This is translated from the Swedish, and I'm amazed at the fluidity of the language, in dialogue and description. 563 p

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Sensitive Kind of Murder by Jaqueline Girdner

I saw this book at a Trails Regional Library book sale and figured it was worth reading since it came recommended by Carolyn G. Hart as "fresh, vivid, and off-the-wall original." I translated this to mean it was humorous and that sounded good to me! This book is indeed filled with some quirky, but loveable, characters, although I didn't experience any laugh-out-loud moments. When a member of Wayne's male support group is murdered, Wayne and Kate decide to investigate. In the process, they become targets themselves. A Kate Jasper Mystery, Book 12. 260 pg.

"Across the Plains in '49" by Reuben Cole Shaw, edited by Milo Milton Quaife

Originally a series of articles published in a small town newspaper in 1895, this book contains the recollections of Shaw, a Bostonian who makes his way to California to find his fortune in gold.  The book was edited and printed in 1966 with a long historical introduction and many footnotes by Quaife.  It seems that Cole wrote of his adventures from memory nearly 50 years after they happened, and Quaife points out his many mistakes.  That doesn't detract much from the author's descriptions of crossing the country on foot and horseback from Independence, MO, to Sacramento, CA.  He was quite taken with the beauty as well as the harshness of the many different types of geography he encountered.  His group met up with Native Americans a number of times, and his description of them are interesting.  174 pages.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

U is for Undertow, Sue Grafton

Last one for the day I promise, I've been on a reading rampage--only because the house is clean, I swear! In this book our favorite PI Kinsey Millhone is looking into the kidnapping and possible murder of a small child that took place in 1967--in her current year 1988. Oh the twists and turns! 384 pages.

T is for Trespass, Sue Grafton

I started reading these books in high school I think. My meme (my mom's mom) belonged to about 10 different mail-order book clubs. She would pass the books along after she was done with them. I stumble into reading this series every once in a while and wonder why I ever stopped--I think I'm hooked again! This time Kinsey Millhone has two investigations competeing for her attention, a car accident that might have been a ploy for a law suit and a "nurse" who's using the elderly to her advantage. 384 pages.

Spider Bones, by Kathy Reichs

I'm a "Bones-a-holic"! Honest, there is no cure. I've got the whole series. Kathy Reichs just draws you right in. There is a bit of science and history thrown in to the crime solving, right up my alley!!!! 320 pages.

One Day, by David Nicholls

This book is going to be a movie this summer, currently slated for release in August. My friend received the book in a bag from ShoWest while he was there--lucky duck! It's an interesting concept that follows two friends on July 15 of every year beginning in 1988. Emma and Dexter are two very interesting people--slightly on opposite sides of the spectrum--that some how make a friendship work, through some ups and downs of course. 448 pages

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado

I picked up this book at Dollar General for $3 and decided to use it for my Lenten/Easter devotional. It explores what it means to love based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I don't know why, but it never struck me how important the first descriptor in the list is: love is patient. Later on, when the verses go into what love is not, I started to think about what the opposite would be. For instance, "love is not rude" could become a positive behavior of "love is respectful". The book comes complete with a discussion guide which helps the reader look at current relationships with an eye toward making them better. I found it an enlightening read. 214 p.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

From the time of her father's death, Sally Lockhart feels that all is not right. In trying to unravel the mystery, Sally is pursued by villains but also finds strong friends to help her along the way. The book is set in the underworld of Victorian London. The author has a way with words that quickly draws you into the tale. I can see why it was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book, a Booklist Editors' Choice and a Winner of the International Reading Association's Children's Book Award. This is only book 1 in the series. I hope to read the rest as well! 230 p.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Secrets of Surrender" by Madeline Hunter

This is the second book by this author that I've posted on this blog (see "Sinful in Satin").  I picked up this one at MRRL's big book sale back in March not knowing that it was the third book in a series.  That didn't matter since it was a great stand-alone book anyway.  Roselyn Longworth has been humiliated by her family and an aristocrat whom she thought loved her.  Kyle Bradwell is a smart, self-made man from a mining town who helps her stand up to those who would continue to hurt her.  However, they both have secrets that could ruin their budding relationship. 

I enjoyed this novel as much as I did "Sinful in Satin" and would like to read the others in the series as well as Hunter's other historical series.  She has a way of describing scenes and characters that really pulls the reader into their world.  And this story featured one of the most evil villians that I've ever read in a historical romance.  Highly recommended.  372 pages.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Pied Piper by Ridley Pearson

Someone is kidnapping children and leaving a calling card of a plastic flute. Lou Boldt, a no-nonsense, logical police lieutenant is assigned to the task force to track down the kidnapper and restore the children to their families. But things get complicated when Boldt's own daughter is taken and her safety is only assured if Boldt will sabotage the task force. This is book 5 in the Boldt and Matthews series. I picked up this book at a library book sale because I had heard of the author, but hadn't read any of his books. 528 p.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Shadow Market, by Eric Weiner

A thought-provoking description of how financial markets and politics are heavily influenced by the multi-trillion-dollar networks of largely unregulated investment vehicles controlled by foreign funds, corporations, private equity funds and hedge funds. These wealth sources are buying up large portions of the world's resources, from companies to agriculture, to secure monopolies and manipulate markets. Books like these show how complex and interconnected our economy is, and how easy it is for pundits and politicians to distort the discussion from the real issues. 266 p.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"To Save the Devil" by Kate Moore

This second book in Moore's "Sons of Sin" series centers on middle son Will Jones.  The former spy and Bow Street Runner is trying to bring down a dangerous man who hides behind the so-called "charities" that he runs.  In the first chapter, Will meets a mysterious woman, known as "Helen of Troy," who has reasons of her own for going after the same evil man.  I enjoyed this book as much as the first one ("To Tempt a Saint") due to the vibrant characterizations and nearly non-stop action.  It takes place in Regency England but not among the aristocracy or upper-class, which is a nice change.  I highly recommend this series and will definitely read the final book when it is published later this year.  284 pages.