Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

(Posted for Ann Roberts)

I decided to read The Dispossessed after viewing the ReadMOre interview with the author Ursula Le Guin and former Center for the Book board president, Mark Tiedemann. Never being a real “sci-fi nerd”, I wasn’t particularly interested in reading this book, but after listening to Le Guin discuss the work, I realized that hers is a great mind and certainly one worthy of my small attention.  The Dispossessed is not so much science fiction as it is a study of human relationships and socio-political issues.  Although the main character in this novel travels through space between planets, the story is not of the grandeur of the traveling ships (we barely get a glimpse of that) or of bizarre creatures encountered on his travels, but of his inner struggle to remain loyal to his planet and its ideals, while being recognized for his achievements in the other world. This is the story of a temporal physicist, Shevek, living on the anarchistic, utopian planet of Annares, a colony of Urras. In his mathematical research, Shevek has created a formula for a faster-than-light communications device, allowing instantaneous, free communication between all worlds.  While there may be no formal ownership or formal authority on Annares, it becomes clear that power structures do exist and Shevek’s ideas are kept unpublished by his fellow physicists.  However, Shevek’s ideas are intriguing to the capitalists on the planet Urras and he is invited to go there as an honored guest of the state, and chooses to go, in spite of how it reflects upon his status in his own world. Contrasting a capitalistic society filled with the excesses of the rich and the poverty of the destitute against a society where all men have equal wealth and share in the common labors is a task in  itself.  Le Guin goes beyond this contrast to show us the underlying corruption in each of the worlds, including the seemingly virtuous society in which all men are, on the surface equal, but in reality corruption and the suppression of art and ideas exist.  Tying all of this together is a compelling story of human relationships, the pursuit of idealism, and conflict between worlds.  There are no little green men in this tale-just wonderful characters, skillfully drawn. View the video on the ReadMOre website and see if your interest is piqued, as well.

Paperback, 318 pages

Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker by James McManus

(Posted for Paul Mathews)
An American game brought over to the New Orleans region before the Louisiana Purchase and much refinement over the years. A game played by Union soldiers, American presidents, gamblers on the Mississippi River, Mark Twain, and Frederick Remington, to name a few.  528 pages.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The Charmer" by Madeline Hunter

Another winning historical romance by Madeline Hunter, who's becoming one of my favorite authors.  Sophia Raughley has been living in France for the past eight years when the death of her father makes her the Duchess of Everdon.  Adrian Burchard has been charged with bringing her back to England so she can take her place among her peers.  But Sophia has reasons for wanting to stay away, reasons that prove dangerous to both of them.  Intrigue and a scandalous twist kept me interested until the end.  Sophia's menagerie of pets added to my enjoyment.  366 pages.

Lie Down in Green Pastures by Debbie Viguie

This is book three in the Psalm Mysteries series, centered around Psalm 23. Church secretary Cindy and Rabbi Jeremiah once again stumble upon a murder. This time, though, they have to outwit the criminals in order to save a group of teens on a retreat at Green Pastures. There are enough red herrings in this book to stock a small pond. The characters seemed to be more of a caricature in nature than the previous two books. Still, it was a good read and I will likely continue with the series. 263 pages.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black & Ellen Kushner

A new anthology of short stories and poems exploring Bordertown, the area where the human world and Elfin realm intersect. The original Borderland series was created by Terri Windling in 1986, and represented a new direction for fantasy literature. Many well-known YA authors are represented here, some veterans such as Jane Yolen and Patricia McKillip as well as the newer voices of Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow. It's a fun concept, with most of the stories written from the viewpoint of the human characters, who are trying to either run away from the world or seeking new adventures. Of course, there's no 'happily ever after' in Bordertown, a quirky netherland where magic and the real world mix in unpredictable ways. I particularly enjoyed Shannon's Law by Cory Doctorow, in which 17 year old Shannon Klod brings the internet to Bordertown. 516 pages.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Until Again and Blue by Lou Aronica

Until Again (72 pages) and Blue (378 pages) combine to bring us the touching story of Becky, a youth who is confronted with the reality of cancer and the divorce of her parents. When the real world has no answers for her, will she find solutions in the fantasy world of Tamarisk? People complained about the inability to change the font size on the digital versions, but I didn't find this to be an insurmountable problem. I was looking for a well-written fantasy and this series delivered.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dexter is delicious, by Jeff Lindsay

Poor Dexter. He's trying to forge a new life after the birth of his daughter. A new life of human empathy and emotions, but without "the passenger". But circumstances just aren't making it easy. A new killer is on the loose, his charges don't give him any rest, and his brother has shown up and invited himself back into Dexter's life.
Dexter struggles for a while, but relapses to his former ways. But he has stopped a gang of cannibals, so it's okay. Right?
The sheer weirdness of the characters and the descriptions of what goes through their minds intrigued me, though the story is certainly gruesome in parts.
audio: 11.25 hours
print: 368 pages

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Four Dukes and a Devil" by Cathy Maxwell, Elaine Fox, Jeaniene Frost, Sophia Nash, and Tracy Anne Warren

This anthology of five short stories features what the title says, four dukes and a devil.  Three are historical romances and two are paranormal romances set in the present.  The former featured dukes in Regency England.  I did not enjoy these as much as the two latter stories, one of which featured a dog named Duke and the ghost of a dead duke.  The other revolved around an ordinary man who gets help from powerful vampires to exorcise the killer demon inside of him.  That story was by Jeaniene Frost, and I'd like to read more by her.  388 pages.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"The Seducer" by Madeline Hunter

This is yet another book that I picked up at the DBRL book sale last month.  I've really enjoyed the other novels that I've read by Madeline Hunter, and this was no exception.  Diane Albret is an orphan being raised at a private school in France.  Daniel St. John is her mysterious benefactor who has paid for her education since she was found abandoned years ago.  Now an adult, Diane moves in with Daniel and his invalid sister, who will introduce her as their cousin in the hopes of finding her a job with a good family as a governess.  But there are dangerous secrets surrounding the St. Johns related to Diane.  Can her and Daniel's attraction blossom into lasting love, or will these secrets tear them apart forever?  This was an intriguing story - another winner by Madeline Hunter.  419 pages.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to survive a robot uprising, by Daniel H. Wilson

I don't know if I was just in the wrong mood for this short book, but it just didn't work for me.
There were some iteresting descriptions of the capabilities of various robots currently in existence or in development (or in the imaginations of writers). But then it tried to give advice about how to counter attacks from these various robots by playing to the weaknesses of its sensory or processing arrays. This might have been funny, if perhaps the author had given more (or maybe less) thought to it.
print: 176 pages
audio: 3 hours

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Treason at Lisson Grove, by Anne Perry

This spy thriller takes us on an adventure Victorian London, Dublin and the Isle of Wight in pursuit of the man who framed the head of Special Branch and plans revolution by any means possible. Will our heroes be in time to restore stability to the country? To save the monarch herself?

audio: 11 hours
print: 320 pages
tags: detective fiction, spy thrillers

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Lord Is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguie

After reading the second in the Psalm Mysteries series, I decided to go back and pick up the first. In book 1 we are introduced to Cindy, a Protestant church secretary; Jeremiah, a rabbi; and Mark, a police detective. They are thrown together when a person is found dead in the sanctuary at Cindy's church. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Bodies keep showing up, often staged to depict a scene from the Passion week story. This title, too, comes with a discussion guide. I will definitely keep reading the series, if for no other reason than to find out more about Jeremiah's mysterious past. 277 pages.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Never Tease a Siamese" by Edie Claire

I picked up this mystery at the DBRL book sale last month just for the title (I have a Siamese cat).  I hadn't read a purely mystery book in a long time and thought I'd give this one a try since it sounded like there was at least one cat in it.  The mystery revolves around the death of an elderly socialite who used to breed Siamese cats and the true heir to her fortune.  Leigh Koslow is the local busy-body whose father, the veterinarian who cared for the lady's cats, is named in the will to take care of the recently orphaned felines.  After his office is vandalized and he and his staff are threatened, Leigh takes it upon herself to figure out the who and why of these incidents.

This was not a bad book but I simply didn't enjoy it.  I didn't care for the heroine, Leigh.  Although she claimed to have a job, she rarely went to work and spent her time interviewing suspects and sneaking around to get information.  This book is one in the "Leigh Koslow Mystery" series, but I won't be reading any others.  258 pages.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

Okay, I am rapidly turning into a statistic - one of those people who now read most of their recreational reading on an e-reader, so I am always on the lookout for new material in digital format. This time I ran across a cozy mystery that introduces elderly, amateur sleuth Ivy Malone. Ivy is afraid that she has disappeared since she can stand in lines for quite some time while others are helped who came in behind her, but then realizes it's only LOL syndrome (Little Old Lady). She decides to turn being easily ignored and overlooked to good use when she investigates the vandalism at a local graveyard and the disappearance of a neighbor. I really enjoyed the self-deprecating humor! 320 pages.

The Alamo and San Antonio's Mission Trail

After visiting the Mission San Juan y San Miguel de Aguayo and Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion along with the Alamo (originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero) I decided that I would like to learn a little bit more about their place in history. This book had just the right amount of information and some wonderful pictures to help me remember which place was which years down the road. If anyone is planning a trip to San Antonio, feel free to borrow it! 34 pages.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Betrayer of worlds, by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

This was fine for listening to in the background, but I guess I didn't really find it engaging. (But kudos for unique and unconventional alien species!)
Louis is a human, co-opted and stripped of his memories to assist a rogue Puppetteer in an interspecies and interstellar plot. He's the son of a man famed for his intelligence and strategic accumen. Compromised though he is, Louis demonstrates many of his father's abilities and manages to throw a wrench in even his allies' best laid plans.
There was a part that stood out. This story included a library armada. Not just a library armada, but one equipped to counterattack any individuals trying to gain unauthorized access to the archive of technology. I found it interesting that the library was established and protected by its founding species for the very purpose of rebuilding that species' culture quickly whenever wars broke out and nearly anihiliated the population.
print: 320 pages
audio: 9.5 hours

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

This one showed up as a "Free Friday" selection from Barnes and Noble, so I couldn't resist! This book introduced Christie's famous amateur sleuth, Jane Marple. She may be elderly, but she sure is sharp! As usual, those around her are two steps behind as she solves the crime using her keen observation skills and knowledge of human nature. 304 pages.

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Jake Taylor is a U.S. Marshal assigned to protect federal judge, Liz Michaels, when her sister is murdered. Jake tries to maintain his professional distance, especially since he considers Liz responsible for the death of his best friend. But as tensions rise and it becomes apparent that Liz was the intended target all along and her sister just collateral damage, Jake starts to see Liz in a new light. The characters seemed a little flat until the end so I thought it was just an okay read, but other readers have thoroughly enjoyed it. This is book 1 in the Guardians of Justice series. 330 pages.

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg

Do you ever say or do something and then regret it moments later? How frequently does it happen? Weekly? Daily? Hourly? Every couple of minutes? This book, subtitled Becoming God's Best Version of You, helps the reader explore ways to grow personally and spiritually. It reminds us that we are all unique and so what works well and is right for one person, may fail miserably in the next. The gifts and passions we feel inside and the way we are "wired" have a purpose and can help identify where we can do the greatest good. It suggests that we all need mountains that get us out of our comfort zones and challenge us, so we keep growing. 264 pages.

Brutal telling, by Louise Penny

Olivier. Tall, gentle, quiet Olivier. He has done something dreadful, but could he really be responsible for the murder of the hermit in the woods? The recluse who surrounded himself with the signed first editions, antique china and other rare and valuable objets d'art? All this, in a cabin in the middle of the woods in Quebec?
Inspector Gamache is back in Three Pines to investigate how a man was murdered and came to be found on the floor of the newly renovated house recently purchased by newcomers to the village.
I liked this story, except the ending. I kept hoping Gamache's suspicions would be wrong.

print: 380 pages
audio: 13.25 hours

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The greater journey, by David McCullough

After reading the rave reviews of McCullough's other works and hearing of the subject matter of this history, I had built up great expectations for this book. Unfortunately, it did not quite live up to those expectations. Though the book as a whole did not resonate with me, there were some interesting parts.
I liked the chapters where McCullough discussed the medical students in Paris and the level of medical training to be found there. He also offered some interesting details about a city under siege, including the factors that contributed to cat meat being so much more expensive during the siege than horse or dog. (Apparently, it was "downright good eatin'".) McCullough also traced the introduction of new technologies throughout the period covered in the book: the telegraph and the improved telegraph, the introduction of Peugeot and Renault automobiles, and the great wonders of the Paris Exposition.
It wasn't entirely my cup of tea, but if you are interested in the histories and lives of notable American artists from that time period, this might be a good choice for you.
print: 576 pages
audio: 17 hours

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Listening Is an Act of Love

This book is a series of snapshots in the lives of everyday Americans, as revealed in interviews conducted through the StoryCorps Project. Here you will find stories from Home and Family; Work and Dedication; Journeys; History and Struggle; and Fire and Water. The afterword states "These stories are a record of shared humanity. Hearing them, it becomes clear that no matter who we are or where we come from, there is much more in common that we share than that divides us. These stories are a reminder that if we spent a little less time listening to the racket of divisive radio and TV talk shows and a little more time listening to each other, we would be a better, more thoughtful and more compassionate nation." The stories are powerful, many will probably strike a chord in your life, some may change your perspective on situations, all are worth reading and reflecting upon. 293 pages.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Plunder by Pilgrims by Jack Nolte

This is a short story introducing Garrison Gage, a retired detective who is approached by his 17-year-old neighbor to track down his missing girlfriend. You get the sense that there is much more to Gage than meets the eye. I am looking forward to reading the first full length novel featuring this interesting character. This short story was available as a free download. 54 pages.