Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Once Upon a River

Bonnie Jo Campbell

348 pages

Wild and unpredictable - both the book and the main character. The main character, Margo, handles the ordeal of her father's death and shunning of her family with vim and resourcefulness. I love that the young heroine is so very capable and feels so real - all the characters, in fact, breathe and resonate. Really, really liked this novel.

The Ice Queen

Alice Hoffman

224 pages

I had a similar feeling about this novel as I did when reading Hoffman's Blue Diary. I felt there were moments that were beautiful, when descriptions and word choice were brilliant, but then also found there were moments that I did feel as deep a connection as I would like. I found myself getting frustrated with the main character, who, after being struck by lightning, finds that her already depressive, self-loathing and distant personality takes a dangerous but ultimately enlightening turn when she forces herself to heal. She meets other lightning strike victims, and gets deeply involved with two. Both help her heal, and she grows in empathy and the ability to forgive, but I couldn't forget how cumbersome reading about her felt earlier in the novel even at the times when everything was lighter and more satisfying.

Blue Diary

Alice Hoffman

288 pages

Lyrical, odd, and in the end, not exactly satisfying to me. This the story of a reversal of fortune - or, perhaps, a cyclical path back to ruin - for a pillar of a small community, Ethan. He and his wife are beautiful, in love, and have a sweet, kind son. When a crime from the past surfaces, the community takes sides - support or condemnation, and who takes what side is not always predictable. I found myself liking moments or shades of character more than the novel itself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

The movie trailer looked intriguing, so I thought I would try the book first to get an idea of the plot. Winner of the Caldecott award, the story is told through a combination of text and sequences of drawings. The story uses many of the conventions of children's literature - the child orphan on his own; a mysterious puzzle to solve; a seemingly unfriendly old guy who turns out to be misunderstood. So the characters are not particularly original, but the drawings are masterful. Selznick uses the story to pay homage to his favorite early filmmaker, Georges Melies. A quick read.500 pages

Dead Zero by Stephen Hunter

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Bob Lee Swagger has to find a fellow sniper, who is on another mission after his Afghan-Pakistan mission went all wrong and now they are still plotting bad things against the United States.  406 pages.

Bitsy’s Bait and BBQ by Pamela Morsi

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

The main character was married and divorced in the city of Saint Louis, with child and the help from her sister, she moves to the Ozarks to start a new life and the laughs begin.  Morsi is a Missouri author.  352 pages.

Murder Can Rain on Your Shower by Selma Eichler

Instead of the book I expected, this one was waiting for me on hold at the library. Since it was in the cozy mystery arena, I figured I would give it a try. Private Investigator, Desiree (Dez) Shapiro, isn't totally surprised to learn that Bobbie Jean has been poisoned. The amazing part is that it didn't happen earlier. There are several suspects present at the bridal shower where the dastardly deed was done. Can Dez unmask the murderer so wedding bells can ring as planned? The plot was a little slow moving--so I won't be going out of my way to read the rest in the series. But, if one falls in my lap again, I'll check it out. 258 pages.

2001: a space odyssey, by Arthur Clarke

Some of the imagined technologies in this book seem dated, and the dates for events in the story have passed, but this is still an interesting and chilling sci-fi read.
Though developed in tandem with the screenplay for the movie, this story differs slightly from what you see in the film.
We start with our hominid progenitors and their discovery of tools (and a taste for destruction), then jump to a time of routine space travel by humans and the discovery of a great slab made by an alien intelligence many millennia ago.
From there, the story details a scientist's mission to travel out to the outer reaches of space to discover more about the slab and its makers. Hal, the magnificent computer designed to assist in running the ship, has gone rogue. Hal continually maintains that he is "committed to the mission", but apparently at all costs, including the lives of his human colleagues.
audio: 6 hours
print: 256 pages

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

(Posted for Ann Roberts)

This book is a filled with humor and heart, which makes it a great feel-good story for the holidays.  The story is told entirely in the form of letters to and from a writer, her friend, her publisher, and a group of people that she comes to meet and love called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  The society is formed during the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, as a foil for regular social interaction between neighbors and friends, and although the group does read and discuss literature, it remains mainly a close network of friends dedicated to the care and well-being of each other.  London writer, Juliet Ashton, is drawn into the group by a chance communication from one of its members regarding a favorite author, Charles Lamb.  As Juliet learns more about the group through letters, she becomes interested a book about their story and decides to go and stay among them on Guernsey. There she finds not only true friendship, but the love of her life.  Great fun!  278 pages, paperback

Now in November by Josephine Johnson

(Posted for Ann Roberts)

Continuing with my effort to read more Missouri authors, I checked out a book with great promise, as it gleaned a Pulitzer Prize in 1935 for 24-year-old Josephine Johnson, a Missouri native.  Johnson wrote the novel while living in her mother’s attic in Webster Groves.  Remarkable!  She also wrote poetry, short stories and eventually her memoir, which I would also like to read.  Now in November is the story of a poor family, struggling to make ends meet on mortgaged land during the Depression and a great drought. Compared to Ethan Frome and The Grapes of Wrath, Johnson is able to evoke the drudgery and hardship of the day-to-day struggle of farming during extreme drought and economic Depression.  The family consists of three daughters, mother and father, and the hired man, Grant, around whom much of the story unfolds.  The oldest of the three sisters, Kerrin, is mentally ill and tends toward anger and violence and becomes increasingly erratic in her behavior as Grant does not return her affections. Margret, the middle child, and narrator of the story, loves the land, beauty in nature, and Grant, too, and Merle, the youngest is high spirited and oblivious to the fact that Grant fancies her.  The story unfolds, as they work side-by-side to plant and tend the crops and animals on the farm. Written in beautiful prose, Now in November should be recommended reading for all Missouri students of literature.  It is a tragic, yet hopeful story, beautifully written.  231 pages, hardcover

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Julius House by Charlaine Harris

Martin Bartell and Aurora (Roe) Teagarden are set to get married in this 4th installment of the Aurora Teagarden series. As a wedding gift, Martin gives Roe the home known as the Julius House. The Julius' aren't known for having lived in the house the longest, but because they mysteriously disappeared from it! Of course, Roe can't ignore a mystery, so she sets out to find out what happened to the family and maybe discover more about her husband and his mysterious friends along the way. 240 pages.

Murder of a Bookstore Babe by Denise Swanson

Skye has a meeting with the bookstore owner, but when she arrives the door is ajar and the room is dark. To make matters worse, as she slowly enters the room she stumbles across someone crushed underneath one of the bookcases. Who is the victim and who dunnit? Return to Scumble River for this 13th book in the series featuring the intrepid school psychologist, Skye Denison. Skye's beaus are both a little tiresome this time around, but it is still a good read. 243 pages.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Lady of Sin" by Madeline Hunter

This is a follow-up to "The Romantic" and tells the story of Charlotte, Baroness Mardenford, and Nathaniel Knightridge, a famed barrister.  The author uses the familiar romantic trope of two smart, sophisticated characters who do not like each other and can't seem to stop bickering.  Charlotte is the youngest of six siblings and has been a childless widow for six years.  Nathaniel is the youngest of five sons and wanted to be an actor, but his father forbade it.  Instead he has used the courtroom as his stage quite successfully.  One day he catches a glimpse of a street urchin who bears and uncanny resemblance to Charlotte's brother-in-law, the current Baron of Mardenford.  As secrets come to light about this child, Charlotte grapples with secrets of her own concerning a party where she concealed her identity and seduced Nathaniel.

This is another quick and enjoyable read from Hunter and is the end of her Seducer series.  The main reason I read it was to get a few more glimpses of the two lead characters from "The Romantic," which I did.  405 pages.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The serpent on the crown, by Elizabeth Peters

The Emmerson clan is back in action. Sethos has even become respectable and given up his trade in stolen antiquities to join them.
Inevitably, crime has found them, interrupting yet another archaeological season.

audio: 12 hours
print: 368 pages

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blood Ties by Lori Armstrong

I chose this book because of its setting, the Black Hills of South Dakota, although ultimately that didn't play a big role in the book. In this title we are introduced to Julie Collins, a part-time secretary in the Bear Butte County Sheriff’s office and part-time private investigator in a firm owned by her childhood friend, Kevin Wells. The book centers around the murder of a sixteen-year-old girl, the daughter of a classmate of Julie's. Kevin asks for Julie's help on the case because of that connection, not realizing all the bad memories that would be dredged up. At times I felt the writer was going for a likeable character, similar to Stephanie Plum, other times the author seemed to be daring you to draw close to this hard and hard-living protagonist. While I would read another title in the series, I won't go out of my way to check one out. 373 pages.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tomb of the golden bird, by Elizabeth Peters

Emelia and Emmerson are back in Egypt for another season of archaeology and crime. Emmerson has offended most of his colleagues, so he must settle for a less promising site, but a great discovery eclipses almost all the work in the Valley: the discovery of King Tut's tomb. Unfortunately, liberties are taken with the artifacts, and though the gold and treasure are quickly removed, the archaeological value of the find is quickly degraded through greed and carelessness.
Sethos seems to have turned a new leaf, and is now helping his government and protecting the tombs, rather than robbing them.
And there is a great danger, far bigger than just that of tomb robbers. Revolution is at hand. Not just in Egypt, but the entire region.
audio: 13.75 hours
print: 400 pages

Monday, November 14, 2011

Steve Jobs

By: Walter Isaacson

Every once in a while there is a book that captures my attention so much that I just have to buy it close to the date it comes out.  "Steve Jobs" was the latest book.  Well, audio book.

Love him or hate him.  Love his soup to nuts products or hate them Steve Jobs was one the titans of our time.  He will go down in history along the names of Ford, Eddison, and Gates.  His products will be regarded as game changers.  As the book said he reinvented 5 industries: PC, Animation, MP3 Player, Music, and Phones.  He's well on his way, posthumously, to reinventing the tablet.

He was born to parents who couldn't or wouldn't take care of him.  So, he was adopted.  His real parents, as he said, were his adopted parents.  His father was a crafty man who could fix anything.  His mother was loving and caring towards him.  He took from his father the almost Zen art of everything has it's place.

Growing up in Palo Alto he was in the heart of the countries electronics boom and he morphed his father's love for woodworking and cars to something he could call his own, electronics. 

That love planted the seed that would grow the tree that spawned Apple Computers. 

There are a lot of twists and turns in Jobs' life but you'll have to read the book to find out what they were. 

I came away from the book thinking that I would have hated to work for Jobs' but I still love his products and his attention to details.  He was a very hard man to work for.  His mind worked in a binary state: either you were a genius or you were a bozo.  There was no wiggle room.  His thoughts on you could change from hour to hour or day to day.  He could hate the concept you brought up in the Monday meeting but then love it (and claim credit for it) on Tuesday.

He was a very emotional man, something I didn't know about him.  He would cry on the drop of a hate.  Yell, scream, and curse like he a maestro in that art.  He kept his distance from his three girls, yet he embraced his son Reed into his life. 

Jobs' of course died of cancer in early October 2011.  When I heard the news at our local Mexican restaurant  I was grief stricken.  Here was this man who we all knew was close to death when he stepped down as Apple's CEO in the summer and he was dead.  I had a hard time processing the emotions I was feeling because I didn't understand them.  Sure the man changed the face of technology more times than anyone of his day but why did I get upset.  I figured it out after reading this book.  He was the person in tech that had to die early.  Music has far too many people who died early, too early.  Music lovers remember where they were when they heard that John Lennon was dead.  Geeks like myself will remember where they were when Steve died.

This book covers his life from birth to almost death.  Jobs' gave Isaacson awesome access to him.  When Reed was graduating high school, something Jobs fought to survive for, he emailed Isaacson during the ceremony to tell him how proud he was of Reed.  Jobs did not have any say in what was put in the book or who Isaacson talked to in his process of putting the book together.  In there last meeting Jobs commented that he thought there would be some parts of the book he wouldn't like so he  said he wasn't going to read the book for a few years so he wouldn't be mad at Isaacson.  Of course, he never got the read the book.

If you love tech this is a must read.  If you're interested in business, this book is a must read.

26 Hours
656 Pages  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"The Romantic" by Madeline Hunter

I LOVED THIS BOOK!  I am a sucker for unrequited love stories and that's what this is.  It is the follow-up to "The Sinner" in Hunter's Seducer series and is my very favorite.  Penelope, the Countess of Glasbury, has been separated from her husband for over 10 years, but he is now threatening to use the law to force her back to him and produce his heir.  Desperate to prevent this, she turns to her family's solicitor, Julian Hampton, who had helped her escape from this cruel and depraved man all those years ago.  Julian has known Penelope and her family since childhood and has been in love with her for almost as long.  However, he has never let her or anyone else know his true feelings for her since he was of a lower class and she married the Earl of Glasbury soon after coming out in society.  Now he has the chance to help her force the earl to divorce her by carrying on a public affair.  Will he be able to go through with it even though she only sees him as a close friend and protector?

In the previous Seducer books, Julian was portrayed as a silent and mysterious man who used his knowledge of the law to help his friends and their families.  Penelope has always depended on him to keep secret why she left the earl, and eventually England, but now that she is back and set on forcing a divorce, Julian must decide if his feelings for her can stay hidden through their public affair.  Julian is the perfect hero, in my opinion, because he is strong but does not force his will on Penelope.  He advises her but supports her decisions regarding her life.  He tries very hard not to let his love for her become known because he doesn't believe that she would welcome it after her terrible marriage.  Penelope is a strong woman who has paid a price for marrying the wrong man but is blind to Julian's true feelings for her until a courtroom drama threatens to bring them into the open. Will she reciprocate his love or continue to only see him as her close friend?  You'll have to read it to see!  Highly recommended.  385 pages.

"The Sinner" by Madeline Hunter

"The Sinner" is the next in Hunter's Seducer series after "The Charmer."  Dante Duclairc is the younger brother of a viscount, handsome as sin, and deeply in debt due to a bad night of gambling.  When the trespasser dressed like a man and brandishing a gun on his family's estate turns out to be Fleur Monley, Dante is mortified.  She was courted by his older brother years ago, disappeared from society after their break-up, and is now recovering in Dante's bed after he grazes her with a bullet thinking she was going to shoot him.  On top of that, she claims that her stepfather has kept her imprisoned because he thinks she has an addled mind.

This is only the beginning of Fleur and Dante's relationship.  After she recovers and gets to know him better, she offers him a "white marriage," a chaste marriage of convenience, if he agrees to her unusual terms.  Fleur happens to be rich and in need of protection from her stepfather, and Dante is deeply in debt and doesn't want to be bailed out yet again by his family.  He agrees and so begins a story of two lonely people who end up needing each other for reasons other than they think.

I enjoyed this book as I have the others in the Seducer series, although it was not quite as believable.  Dante is described as "the most charming wastrel in England" yet seems to be tamed by his growing desire for Fleur rather easily.  Fleur trusts him right away, soon after she recovers from being shot, even though she doesn't seem to have any reasons except her intuition.  I still enjoyed the story, for the most part, and would recommend it to historical romance fans.  372 pages.

Firestorm by Iris Johansen

Trask is a man obsessed with fire who has created a lethal weapon harnessing its power. His test subjects are humans who get in the way of him and his "baby". Enter Kerry, a woman with the unusual gift of sensing when arson is at work, and Silver, a man who can hear the thoughts and feel the emotions of those around him. Kerry and Silver race to capture Trask before any more lives are lost. This is a paranormal, psychological thriller that I found hard to put down. 339 pages.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sophie's Secret by Nancy Rue

I was on a lookout for a series that would appeal to girls who are 7-12 years old who are looking for a literary role model. I chose this book because it has a faith-based message, deals with real issues frequently faced by girls and involves a strong circle of friends. Sophie is a struggling 11-year-old who has low self-esteem and, in this book in the series, retreats to pretending she is an archaeologist on a trek to find hidden historical artifacts to escape from the troubles that surround her. I think girls might have trouble relating to some parts of the book, but it does have a fairly strong ending. This is book 2 in the Sophie faiTHGirlz! series. 128 pages.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Song of the dragon, by Tracy Hickman

I picked this up as I was browsing the audiobooks, figuring I would just give it a casual listen. To my surprise, I wound up enjoying the story and characters. To my chagrin, the story ended just as it was getting really interesting. So now I want to start book 2, and I'm not even sure that the whole series has been written yet.
This story features enslaved humans, interesting races of humanoid peoples, cruel elven masters, and a prophecy. Drakis hears the notes, but does he hear the dragon's song? Is he the one?
audio: 15.25 hours
print: 368 pages

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris

Here is the lovely living room, the fantastic kitchen, large bathrooms, great walk-in closets and as the pièce de résistance the master bedroom comes complete with --- a dead body! What!? Roe just can't seem to escape murders or murderers. As a side adventure, Roe also breaks things off with the comfortable priest she had been dating and starts seeing a dangerous older man. Once again amateur sleuth, former librarian and new heiress Aurora Teagarden is determined to mark this case solved before anyone else gets hurt. This is book three in the series. 240 pages.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sixkill by Robert B. Parker

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Spenser novel with new temp partner, native American Zebulon Sixkiller,  about 10 killers who don’t stand a chance against these two.  304 pages.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

For Sale in Palm Springs by Albert Simon

I chose this book on a whim. The plot sounded good (a real estate agent is mysteriously killed and a retired police detective is called in to help profile the case) and the setting sounded interesting (Palm Springs, California). But, the book was poorly written and I suspect the editing was non-existent. Don't waste your time on this one. 393 pages - digital version

Nemesis, by Agatha Christie

Miss Marple is old. Her joints complain, her memory is not what it used to be, and she spends more of her time sitting and resting than she cares to. Why, then, should she receive a summons calling her to investigate an incident that occurred many years ago? Moreover, why would that summons come from a friend after his death? And how is it he seems to be pulling the puppet strings from the grave?
Miss Marple has a pretty little problem to solve, but she has precious little information to go on. Yet that is by design, and she has been chosen for a very important reason: She is ruthless in finding the truth.
Quaint English villages, manors and gardens abound in this story, but the end of it lies the brutal truth, and Miss Marple pursues it unflinchingly.
print: 271 pages