Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Dangerous in Diamonds" by Madeline Hunter

The fourth and final installment of the "Rarest Blooms" series features Daphne Joyes, the proprietor of The Rarest Blooms flower business and the Duke of Castleford, a rich, bored, and unrepentant rake.  He is immediately smitten with the beautiful and ethereal Daphne, but she wants nothing to do with him until her business and home are threatened by his unexpected inheritance of the land on which they sit.

I had been looking forward to this book because the Duke is so spectacularly bold in his delight of being scandalous and Daphne is so upstanding and does not suffer rakes with seduction in mind.  Unfortunately, it moved rather slowly and did not really hold my attention until about 150 pages into it when the two protagonists finally become three dimensional characters.  The evil Duke of Latham, who played a big part in Daphne's secret past, unites the couple in unexpected ways and brings the book to an intriguing and satisfying conclusion.  359 pages.

For my posts of the other three books in this series, see "Ravishing in Red," "Provocative in Pearls," and "Sinful in Satin."

Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith

This book was a free download from the Barnes and Noble site. It promised to be a combination light romance / family saga / Christian fiction novel. I found the writing humorous and gentle, reminiscent of Grace Livingston Hill. The story features middle daughter, Joan, dealing with sibling rivalry, an aging grandparent, a protective mom, questions of faith and a budding romance with the guy-next-door. Book 1 in the Sister-to-Sister series. 336 pages.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Blood of the Prodigal by Paul L. Gaus

When his grandson turns up missing, Bishop Eli Miller (Amish) takes the unusual step of reaching out to Pastor Caleb Troyer and Professor Michael Brandon (both English) for help. As the mystery unfolds, we are introduced to the characters and the community of Holmes County, Ohio. Considering how slowly the book moved initially I was a little surprised by the rushed ending. This is book one in the Amish-Country Mystery series. I'm interested in reading book two just to see what the pace is like now that the characters are established. 256 pages.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Provocative in Pearls" by Madeline Hunter

Second in the Rarest Blooms series, this story revolves around the relationship between the Earl of Hawkeswell and Verity Thompson, his bride who disappeared immediately after their wedding ceremony two years earlier.  Where and with whom has she been, and why did she leave?  Hawkeswell and Verity were virtual strangers on their wedding day, so neither knows what to expect from the other.  She wants an annulment while he needs her money.  Meanwhile, the ironworks that provided the large inheritance for Verity is being threatened by her evil cousin, and her childhood friend has disappeared.  Can she save them while trying to free herself from Hawkeswell? 

I didn't like the lead male character as much in this as I did in "Ravishing in Red," but Verity is a strong and likable leading lady who is courageous and independent.  Another quick and pleasant read from Madeline Hunter.  328 pages.

The Ruthless Realtor Murders by David A. Kaufelt

Real estate is big business in Waggs Neck Harbor with the realtors generally coming out on top. Unfortunately, a deal in the past still has a bitter taste in the present for someone seeking revenge. Will there be any realtors left alive before the culprit is caught?

I found the writing uneven and as a result I had a hard time getting into the storyline or really caring about the heroine. Book 3 in the Wyn Lewis Mystery series. There is no 4th, if that tells you anything. 244 pages.

Coalescent by Stephen Baxter

What if human society were organized like ant colonies or hives of bees? I occasionally read speculative fiction just for plots that turn our accepted notions of society upside down. Baxter proposes not only that a small colony of humans developed a hive type society, but that it began about 400A.D. and survived secretly, gaining in power, until present day. Baxter tells his story simultaneously in the past and present. I actually found the parts describing the origin of the society during the fall of Rome more interesting than the parts in present day. The characters in the past are fairly vividly drawn, while the present day characters are largely stereotypes. So, a few interesting concepts, but the execution was only fair. 485 p.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Ravishing in Red" by Madeline Hunter

This book is the first in the Rarest Blooms series, which revolves around four female friends who share a home with a large greenhouse in Regency England.  Audrianna is trying to clear her dead father's name when she accidentally meets Lord Summerhays, one of his persecutors, as they are both trying to confront a mysterious man who may know the truth about the scandal that led to her father's death.  An accidental shooting and rumors ensue causing them to join together to solve the mystery of how worthless gunpowder found its way to the front lines of a recent war, a war which left Summerhays' older brother unable to walk. 

Audrianna is a likable and strong heroine who does not let the fact that she is female stop her from trying to clear her father's name. The reader roots for her and Summerhays to do that and find happiness together.  An enjoyable read.  341 pages.

L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy

WOW, clearly when I saw the movie YEARS ago I was not following it. Twists and turns aplenty! The story is very complex and involves a great number of characters all of which have many major flaws. Great detail and timing. 496 pages

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dead Dancing Women by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

(Posted for Ann Roberts)
A journalist escaping from a failed marriage moves to backwoods, northern Michigan, only to find herself embroiled in a murder mystery, and not of her own choosing. The bodiless head in the garbage can chose her, or rather someone chose to put it there….In spite of the horrific crime that sets this tale in motion and others that follow, the mood of this story remains light and often humorous.  It’s amazing how writers can do that, huh?  Turn a beheading into a fluffy, lighthearted mystery?  It’s all in the choice of words. 

Emily Kincaid is a reluctant sleuth, dragged along on this mission by a local officer of the law, Deputy Dolly.  Emily and Dolly form a duo that is slightly reminiscent of Stephanie Plum and Lula, minus the car explosions and street smarts. These are small town rural sleuths, whose investigation brings them in contact with a reclusive, a Luddite, the town drunk, Emily’s ex-husband, his sweet young thing “graduate assistant” and a group of harmless old ladies who celebrate life and nature by dancing in the woods three or four times a year. The ending is no great surprise, but the characters are appealing and even endearing. I would visit with them again.

Paperback, 370 pps.

Guilt by John Lescroart

Even though this is an older book, it’s still a great page-turning legal thriller. The characters, of which there are several, are well-developed, showing just enough of both good and evil and plain old human complexity to keep us guessing for the most part.  Accused of killing his wife, Mark Dooher, a well-to-do and highly respected lawyer for the Catholic diocese in San Francisco, his devoted side-kick and ultimate legal defendant, Wes Farrell, and sad and brooding homicide inspector Abe Glitsky, form a triangle around which many other exceptional characters revolve in this murder mystery. It is the complexity of the relationships among these characters that make this book a standout.

As the murder investigation starts to take shape, Wes Farrell meets and becomes involved with the director of the local rape crisis center, Sam (probably short for Samantha) Duncan, who later provides some telling evidence against his friend and client, Mark Dooher.

While volatile, the relationship between Wes and Sam is one of the more stable ones in the book, providing witty dialogue for the two characters and a little comic relief from all the tension that is building around the murder investigation and trial, and a nice balance to the more twisted love relationships in which Mark Dooher engages, in this story.

As the evidence, although circumstantial, against Dooher mounts, not only for one murder, but perhaps three, Dooher pulls his loyal followers more tightly around him while others become more convinced than ever of his guilt, in spite of his having the blessing of the Archbishop himself.  With a great surpise ending, I found this book to be an equally engaging fictional counterpart to A Civil Action.

622 pps., paperback

(Posted for Ann Roberts by Annie) 

A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

(Posted for Ann Roberts)
Another nonfiction book?  What is happening to me?  A Civil Action is Erin Brockovich without the cleavage…or the happily ever after.  A Civil Action tells the story of an aspiring young Boston lawyer, Jan Schlichtmann, who took on Beatrice Foods and W. R. Grace Company for contaminating the water supply in Woburn, Massachusetts.  An unusual number of leukemia cases in children and other cancers and illnesses in adults led to the legal action, which consumed Schlichtmann’s life and his firm’s finances for a number of years. It is a compelling story, offering up real insights into the machinations of the legal system and the lives of lawyers, but not a very happy one.  In a case this cut and dried, we expect to see justice served up swiftly on a platter, but alas, it doesn’t happen. It is a page-turner that will keep you reading until the bitter end.

502 pages

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

(Posted for Ann Roberts) 
 I finally read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot after a detour through The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. I read that one during one of those months that I forgot to blog.  I ordered Calpurnia Tate through MOBIUS, much like I have done with most of the books that I read (I actually use library  services for the purpose of reading) and after reading the first couple of pages, realized it was not the book I thought I had ordered. I read it anyway. You can see why I would have made that mistake, can’t you?  Evolution, immortality, two VERY old-fashioned names-it was a perfectly reasonable mistake. But I digress. 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is almost one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” stories, or at least it is to me, not being versed in the practices of cell research. Henrietta Lacks was a poor African-American woman whose cancer cells were taken, without her knowledge, in the 1950s by a researcher who was very interested in growing cells in culture, and whose unwitting contribution to science has led to the development of the polio vaccine, provided research cells for cancer research, and assisted scientists in advances in in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping.  These cells, called HeLa cells, are still in production and use today and the quantity of HeLa cells produced over the decades would weigh 50 million metric tons and have been bought and sold by the billions.
The Lacks family, a hardscrabble, inner city Baltimore family, has struggled through the years to understand the usage of their matriarch’s cancer cells, as well as a system which allows medical scientists and drug companies to profit from the use of cells from an individual without consent, while they struggle to maintain health insurance.  Did you know that if you’ve had a mole removed the material that is taken from your body doesn’t automatically get destroyed? According to this author, anyone’s tissues might be sitting in a lab somewhere waiting to be used for some research purpose. The medical community figures if we’ve left it behind, we don’t have any right to it anymore and they might as well use it, and profit from it.  Strange indeed.
At any rate, this book was infinitely better than Calpurnia Tate to me, as am I’m not a fan of books written for teens and tweens at this point in time and space.  I think it has something to do with being over 50 and childless.
369 pages

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach

Mary Roach is back with curious and bizarre facts on offbeat topics. This time she covers the many different uses of human cadavers as well as alternatives to how they can be put to their final rest. It may seem ghastly, but Roach covers the many useful and important roles human cadavers can fill: a testing ground for doctors, and a medium of experimentation to improve forensic science, just to name a couple. She also lists others that are far more disturbing, but I'll let you discover those for yourself. Roach also covers several methods for interring the remains of a body, both traditional and newly discovered. If you think the concept of human composting is ghoulish, just listen to her description of traditional embalming... it might change your mind about our traditional burial practices.
Generally, I appreciate Roach's approach to the subjects she write about, but I felt that she occasionally chose words to deliberately push the reader's buttons. Nonetheless, this was interesting, but there were times I had to stop listening to regain my composure.
audio: 8 hours
print: 303 pages

Immunity, by Lori Andrews

Within the first 10 minutes of this audiobook, I thought I had picked up one of the Kay Scarpetta novels by Patricia Cornwell. The names and the details of the plot are different, but general plot line and character types are very similar. In this book, our heroine discovers a highly deadly compound that causes people to swell, bleed out and die when exposed to synthetic materials. As she tries to discover the cause, she discovers that the compound was created as a vaccine, but has been used for a more sinister purpose. Add to that the mayhem that arises from racial tensions generated by a rogue homeland security chief, and there's quite a bit of action and suspense. The book was too politics-heavy for me to really enjoy, and I generally prefer the Scarpetta series, but it was a welcome diversion while doing chores.
audio: 11.5 hours
print: 336 pages

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Conviction by Aaron Allston

I enjoy the Star Wars books, but I never know what to write about them. I fear my descriptions come across as disengaged and unconvincing.
In Conviction, Luke and Ben Skywalker's struggle to contain the evil Abeloth continues, we meet a group of Force-sensitive but untrained people on a remote world, and the Jedi have finally deposed Chief Daala, but now are in the tricky position of running the Galactic Alliance until a new Chief can be named. This audiobook was a production unto itself, including sound effects, dynamic narration and even some music. Highly produced audiobooks usually annoy me, but I find I like it in the Star Wars series.
audio: 13 hours
print: 400 pages

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Well, I'm at it again, just finishing my second set of Hammett detective/crime classics. They were wonderful. I love the little bits that seem like nothing that come back to be the clue you should have grasped.

644 pages, hardback

Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey

I decided to try a change of pace and go for a historical romance in my reading this week. Turns out it had a mystery in it as well! Lady Margaret is afraid someone is trying to kill her former guardian, so she decides to track down the disowned son, Sebastian, to see if he can discover what is going on. But, Sebastian is no longer the charming man Lady Margaret knew in her youth. He is now called The Raven, and is cold, calculating and known for taking on difficult missions if the price is right. Where does the marriage come in? Lady Margaret and Sebastian pretend to be married so Sebastian will be welcomed back into his family home to discreetly investigate. You can probably guess where things go from there! A fun, quick read. 448 pages.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Valley of the Far Side" by Gary Larson

Book #5 in "The Far Side" collection and the final one that I brought back from my old room at my mom's house.  This one was not as good as "In Search of the Far Side" but still had a few comics that made me chuckle.  Like the others, it's appropriate for kids but written for adults.  Published in 1985.  104 pages.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Hot for the Holidays" by Lora Leigh, Angela Knight, Anya Bast, and Allyson James

This is an anthology of four paranormal romances set around Christmas time.  I liked all four, which was unusual and a nice surprise.  The two stories by Leigh and Knight were set in the worlds that they've already created in other novels, but they were still easy to follow.  This book was a treat that went by quickly because all the stories were well-written.  344 pages.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"In Search of the Far Side" by Gary Larson

This is #3 in "The Far Side" collection and the second that I've read for this blog.  Overall, the comics are funnier with a bit more punch than the first book in the collection.  There are plenty of puns and anthropomorphizing of animals, which I enjoy, and they're all appropriate for kids.  This one was published in 1984.  104 pages.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Damage Control by J.A. Jance

Sheriff Joanna Brady and her team investigate an apparent suicide pact, a deadly fire, a murder and more in this fast-paced book. Jance brings the characters to life in such a way that you really care about what happens to them. Book 13 in the series. This was a good find from the Carrollton Public Library's book sale. 464 pages.

"The Far Side" by Gary Larson

This is another book that I brought back from my recent visit to my mom's house where I grew up.  When I was a pre-teen and teenager, I thought "The Far Side" comics were hilarious - now, not so much.  Whether it's because I'm a jaded adult or because this compilation was published in 1982, I'm not sure but I found very few of them funny.  Still, I consider "The Far Side" a classic comic that is written with an adult sensability but is appropriate for kids to read.  104 pages.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"The Late Night with David Letterman Book of Top Ten Lists" by David Letterman and the "Late Night with David Letterman" Writers

I went back to my hometown last weekend to see my family and found this book in my old bedroom.  It's from 1990, and since the lists are usually topical, it's very dated.  There are lots of references to Dan Quayle, Manuel Noriega, and Rob Lowe's sex tape.  However, some of the subjects are still around and in the news 21 years later:  Oprah, Trump, Barney Frank, and Hefner.  There are also some entries that I think are too politically incorrect to make it on TV today.  My personal favorite list is "Top Ten Signs That Chef Boy-Ar-Dee is Losing His Mind . . . #3 Believes he is Mrs. David Letterman."  169 pages.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Bespelling Jane Austen" by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, and Janet Mullany

This is a collection of paranormal stories based loosely on four of Jane Austen's best-known works.  My favorite was "Almost Persuaded" by Mary Balogh, who used Austen's "Persuasion" to compose a sweet and emotional love story with reincarnation as its theme.  Balogh is one of my favorite authors, and she is perfect in her first attempt at writing paranormal romance.  The other stories were fairly interesting, particularly "Blood and Prejudice" in which Mr. Darcy and Lizzie Bennett meet up with vampires in modern-day New York, but could not compare to Balogh's.  The other two authors used "Northanger Abbey" and "Emma" as their bases.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is familiar with these classic Jane Austen tales and would enjoy a little paranormal twist to them.  337 pages.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Pallbearers by Stephen J. Cannell

What comes first, insomnia or a good book? I started The Pallbearers Thursday night and couldn't put it down Friday night. Scully and his wife, Alexa, find their plans for a much-needed vacation in Hawaii thwarted when they receive unexpected news: Walter Dix, who gave Scully hope when the world seemed hopeless, has died. Appearances in the case quickly prove to be deceiving as Scully and a cast of characters unravel the threads to determine how Dix died and why. Predictable? Yes. Enjoyable? Also, yes. Cannell, the creator of popular TV series such as The Rockford Files and The A-Team has a winner in his Shane Scully novels. This is book nine in the series, but I had no trouble hopping right into the storyline. 388 ages.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker

I finished reading all of Parker's books in the Jesse Stone series and enjoyed them, so figured I would give his Spenser series a try. I was not disappointed. The story is fast-paced, the dialogue is witty and the reading is easy. It was a good book for a lazy weekend. This was book 36 in the series, but I didn't feel I had missed much by skipping 1-35 even though the villain was someone Spenser had tangled with in book 24. 336 pages.

The Dain Curse, The Glass Key, and Selected Stories by Dashiell Hammett

So I've been stumbling up to MRRL about once per month on my lunch hour and have been picking at their Mystery section. I figured "I haven't lived until I've read Dashiell Hammett," so I placed this selection with my others for this trip and home I went. I must say that I really enjoyed the Continental Op stories! Hardcover: 664 pages

Monday, July 4, 2011

Murder Pans Out by Emily Toll

This series features Lynne Montgomery as a tour guide who finds herself booked with a friendly group of schoolteachers exploring California's Gold Rush Country. Unfortunately, the trip seems doomed from the start as the owner of the campground where the group is staying is attacked, belongings are ransacked and misadventure seems to follow them wherever they go. Pretty slow moving, but I did enjoy some of the tidbits presented on the gold rush. A Booked for Travel Mystery. 268 pages.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Ravenous" by Sharon Ashwood

This is the first book in the Dark Forgotten series in which Y2K brought the emergence of vampires, witches, ghouls, werewolves, gargoyles, fey, and other non-humans into the open.  Holly Carver is a witch who supports herself by casting minor spells and de-haunting houses to pay her college tuition.  She is descended from a long line of witches but a childhood trauma keeps her from tapping into what she refers to as her "big M magic."  Her business partner is a 600-year-old vampire, Alessandro Caravelli, who is devoted to her but also serves the vampire queen.  Someone has opened a portal into their college town in order to bring a demon through to defeat the vampire queen and go to war with the other supernaturals.  With Alessandro's help, Holly must overcome her trauma to cast the demon back to the other realm.

I had a difficult time getting into this book.  The rules in its world seemed to constantly change at the author's whim making it hard to keep track of the characters and their abilities.  Therefore, many parts did not make sense to  me.  The character of Alessandro was described as having long, blond, curly hair and very handsome, and that was such an oxymoron that I couldn't get past it.  His hair sounds like it belongs on a woman or a drag queen.  I will not be reading any more of this series (and not just because of his hair).  334 pages.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Freaks by Tess Gerritsen

This short story has Rizzoli and Isles investigating the death of 17-year-old Kimberly Rayner. Among the cast of characters is a vampire friend and an irate father. I could see this one being told on Halloween. This free Nook Book also contains a special preview of a new Rizzoli and Isles novel, The Silent Girl. 46 pages.