Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge


Monday, December 31, 2012

Librarian on the Roof! A True Story by M. G. King

A fictionalized account of RoseAleta Laurell, librarian at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, TX. When she took over as librarian, she found a beautiful old building that didn't get much use. Especially by children, since there was very little there for them. She updated the collection, pushed for computers, and began to bring in more patrons, but needed a lot more funding for an appropriate children's section.

What to do, what to do? RoseAleta packed a tent and supplies, had herself hoisted 50 feet up to the library's roof, and announced she would stay there unil the town raised enough money for the children.

An engaging story for elementary students.  A 'ShowMe Award' nominee, 2012-2013.

32  pages.

The Marinara Murders by Erik Hanberg

This is the second mystery in the 'Arthur Beautyman' series, following 'The Saints Go Dying'. In 'Saints', Arthur is disgraced and forced to resign as an LA deputy sheriff; in 'Marinara', he has moved into his Mother's basement in Minneapolis.

Problem is, his Mother wants him to be a detective and solve a mystery for her bridge partner. Although he resists as long as he can, he is eventually pulled in. Next problem: Mom wants to be his partner. He resists that too, but to no avail. And Mom is instrumental in solving the case. Arthur doesn't have a chance!

A very enjoyable read, and I look forward to more Arthur Beautyman cases.

244 pages.

The Leopard Tree by Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman

Three young orphans from Kenya, one who is HIV positive, one who stepped on a land mine and lost a leg and his sight, and one whose entire family was slaughtered in front of her and who hasn't talked since, find a flyer about a children's conference at the United Nations.

They stow away on an airplane, hoping to attend the conference to let the world know what is happening to the children of their country. They are courageous and resourceful, and find people along the way who are charmed by them and their story, and help them on their way.

This young adult novel is inspiring and uplifting, and very sad. The authors have spent decades trying to let people know of the millions of children in developing nations whose most basic needs go unmet, and who often die for lack of food, shelter or medical care. A sobering read.




Freeman by Leonard Pitts

This novel, set in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, tells the story of three people whose lives intersect. Sam Freeman, an escaped slave who fled to the North and gained his freedom; Tilda, his wife, who remained enslaved; and Prudence, a wealthy white abolitionist.

When the war ends, Sam sets out to walk from Philadelphia to Mississippi to find Tilda. Tilda's owner refuses to accept that the South lost, and takes Tilda at gunpoint and heads West to make a new start. Prudence goes to Mississippi to establish a school for freed slaves.

The three of them come together in Mississippi, after each suffers terrible trials that result from the hatred and horrors of the war that divided the nation. The book is stark in its depiction of the grim aftermath of the war. Yet there are many moments of grace that bring hope to the human spirit.

I have long been a fan of the author, a syndicated columnist who writes for the Miami Herald. I find his fiction just as compelling.

432 pages

Forging the Sword by Hilari Bell

Jiann, Kavi, and Soraya have formed an uneasy alliance.  Jiann has become commander of the rebel Farsalan army.  Soraya has learned the Suud way of manipulating the elements, a handy skill when fighting the implacable Hrum.  But Kavi has the most challenging job of all. He must find a way to make a sword that can withstand the "watersteel" of the Hrum.  This book reminds me in some ways of the first "Red Dawn" movie (young teens holding out against an invading army) but without the high body count. A satisfying read. 624 pages.

Rise of a Hero by Hilari Bell

Book 2 of the Farsala Trilogy picks up in the aftermath of the Hrum invasion.  Jiann has gathered the survivors of the Farsalan defeat and is trying to build a rebel army.  Soraya has decided the best way to find out what happened to her mother and little brother is to become a Hrum kitchen worker. Kavi now regrets helping the Hrum and begins spying against them. Bell does a good job of developing both the plot and the characters in this installment. 592 pages.

Five Quarters of the orange: a novel by Joanne Harris

I picked up this book because it was about France, cooking, and World War II.  Framboise (french for raspberry!) has returned to the village her family fled during the war. Believing no-one recognizes her, she opens a successful cafe using the recipes left to her by her mother. But she finds cryptic messages from her mother hidden among the recipes. The messages awake repressed memories of the German execution of 10 villagers. A story of loss, survival, and making it to mellow old age.  320 pages.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Inez Brooks has been passed from relative to relative ever since her parents died when she was a baby. Now she's living with her Aunt Ivy and Uncle Holt but her aunt is itching to get rid of her.  How's a sixteen year old orphan supposed to take care of herself in 1917 America? Well...Hattie gets word that her mother's brother Chester has just died and left her his unproved claim in Vida, Montana.  Her Uncle Holt buys her a train ticket and Hattie's off to make a home of her own.  When I'm tempted to complain about living in my drafty old house out in the middle of the country, I'll remember Hattie's first winter in a tar paper shanty with no indoor plumbing and only a cookstove for heat!   289 pages.

Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

As my classic this month, I chose The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. The story centers around a poor, young couple who struggle to find the perfect Christmas gift for each other. 

A group of us were discussing the author and I was disappointed to learn the younger people present had not heard of O. Henry and his surprise endings. If you are not familiar with O. Henry and received an eReader for Christmas, there are several titles of his available through Project Gutenberg. Don't let this author disappear!18 pages.

Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

The complete title of this book is Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. In humorous, but thought-provoking  ways Idleman challenges people to examine their faith to see if they are a faithful follower of Jesus or only a fair weather fan. Starting with examples of followers and fans found in the Bible, Idleman quickly provides illustrations from the present to point out the areas in our lives where we might stray in our commitment to Jesus. If books by John Ortberg, Max Lucado or Francis Chan help you grow in your faith - add this author to your list of must reads. I highly recommend the author and this title in particular! 220 pages.

Syndrome E by Franck Thillier, translated by Mark Polizzotti, read by Gildart Jackson

I was hooked at hello.  A film buff is struck blind while watching an old film. Five young men are unearthed in a mass grave, their skulls cut open and their eyeballs removed. Two french detectives join forces to unravel the mystery that ties these two events together. The usual suspects include the CIA, the intelligence branch of the French Foreign Legion and a mad scientist or two. Inspired by a real-life scandal from 1950s Quebec. Curious? Check it out! Unabridged audiobook, 13 hours 18 minutes. 384 pages.

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson, read by Robbie Daymond

Fast forward to a future where scientists have developed a technological "cure" for ADHD, fetal alcohol and Downs syndrome.  A brain implant allows disadvantaged kids to succeed, no excel, in school and work.  The only problem is that now the "normal" kids and their parents are feeling disadvantaged. They unite behind a powerful politician. The result is predictable: disenfranchisement, segregation, persecution.  Unabridged audio book, 8 hours 42 minutes. 288 pages.

NYPD RED by James Patterson & Marshall Karp


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

The city of New York wants the movie business so they give the industry the city. There is a person who hates the producer and is plotting and killing them. There is a big bang episode at the end and a murder duo.  368 pages.

Keepsake by Antoinette Stockenberg

Seventeen years ago, Quinn fled Keepsake with his father who was suspected of murdering a local socialite. Now that his father has died, Quinn returns to clear the family name. What he hadn't expected was becoming romantically involved with Olivia whose family prefers to have the murder remain unsolved. 

A romantic mystery with a hint of suspense. I chose it because of the good reviews, but was ultimately disappointed. It was a good mystery, but I didn't find myself engaged by the very predictable Quinn/Olivia romance.

Everyday Blessings by Max Lucado


Daily devotions that use Bible verses and a narrative to encourage readers in their spiritual growth. The digital version could use some editing, but I still found the messages inspiring. Based on many of Lucado's books. 400 pages

HELL OR HIGH WATER, Joy Castro


Lots of lovely time to sit and read this past weekend, the hustle/bustle of holiday celebrations mostly over and done.
 
This novel was one of the KCStar’s notable books for 2012.  Set in a post-Katrina New Orleans, it features a young Times-Picayune reporter, Nola Cespedes who’s given a career make-or-break assignment to report on offenders who’ve gone missing off the sex registry since the hurricane. 
 
The book tells two stories.  One is Nola, a proud project-raised Latina and her relationships with men and women and the second is the riveting tale of men who prey on women and children.  Although I love New Orleans, I got a little tired of all the place “name dropping”, a type of storytelling I recognize from other contemporary novels I read recently.  Nevertheless, this is a well-research and smartly written story with a surprise hook at the end.

St. Martin’s Press, 2012, 338 p.

SUITE FRANCAISE, Irene Nemirovsky


This is a truly wonderfully written book with an equally compelling story of how it came to be published.  I’d read the second part first in a review:  a young Jewish mother of two imprisoned and gassed at Auschwitz along with her husband during WWII, her very young daughters conceal and save the manuscript which is published at last in 2004.

The novel itself tells interwoven stories of ordinary French people caught-up in the invasion and later occupation of France by the German Reich.  These stories are intimate yet universal in the telling of what happens when intolerance is given full rein in society.  I highly recommend this novel; this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Alfred Knopt, 2006, 395 p.

THE SNOWY DAY AND THE ART OF EZRA JACK KEATS, Claudia J. Nahson


Although I didn’t know it when I brought home this little book from the library for my then-three-year old daughter, The Snowy Day was a ground-breaking book when first published in 1962.  Peter, the little boy in this and other beautifully written and illustrated books, was the first African-American protagonist in a full-color picture book.

Keats artistic technique featured collage, an art form I was just learning to appreciate and this book, published in conjunction with an exhibition organized by The Jewish Museum in 2011, features  75+ illustrations and essays about Keat’s life and art.

In short, this book honoring the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Snowy Day, was a welcome reminiscence of me encountering the world of truly wonderful children’s literature, a world I now share with my grandchildren.


Yale University Press, 2011, 92 p.

A RULE AGAINST MURDER, Louise Penny


This time the season is summer and the location switches to the Manoir Bellechasse, a magnificent lodge on the shore of an isolated Quebec lake.  The author is gifted in her ability to evoke July in the Canadian woods including several humorous and realistic encounters between the humans in the story and many insects and one memorable thunderstorm that builds over the lake.

There is, of course, a murder to be solved involving a very dysfunctional family and very large statue. Many details of the life story of the Inspector and his librarian(!) wife are revealed in a very clever juxtaposition with the family who’s central to the murder at the lodge.  I’m eagerly awaiting my next installment of the Three Pines series.

Minotaur Books, 2008, 322 p.

BRING UP THE BODIES, Hilary Mantel


In this, the second of a planned trilogy, about the life of Thomas Cromwell, the author does not disappoint the reader. 
 
This volume continues the story of Henry VIII’s world; he has tired of Anne Boelyn who’s failed to give him a male heir and has fixed his desire upon her polar opposite:  Jane Seymour.  Cromwell, arguably the most powerful man in England, “save the King” is tasked with keeping peace among the very influential and aristocratic families of the realm as well as finding or manufacturing cause to remove Queen Anne as he did Queen Katherine.
 
Anne won’t go willingly and, as the book graphically tells, finds herself facing the executioner who will behead her.  Wonderfully told in finely-tuned detail of life in 16th century Europe, I look forward to the next volume of this acclaimed and award-winning series.

Henry Holt, 2012, 410 p.

Night Passage

by Robert B. Parker
Jesse Stone series, #1

It was actually an episode of the television series that brought me to this book, and neither the broadcast nor the written versions disappoint.

Jesse's a messed up cop who moves far away from his home in California to take up a post in a small town on the East Coast. He's hired specifically because he's messed up. The town elders think it will be easy to carry on their shady plans that way. But Jesse just won't play the role they have lined up for him, no matter how often or how seriously they threaten him.

text: 322 pages

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Tempted" by Elisabeth Naughton

Book 3 in the Eternal Guardians series deals with Isadora, heir to the throne of Argolea, and Demetrius, the darkest of the Argonauts.  When Isadora is kidnapped, several of the Argonauts set out to rescue her.  Unfortunately, she and Demetrius ultimately end up on the island of Pandora, where they are hunted by dangerous beasts.  Based on Greek mythology, this series is full of action and many characters with unusual powers and weaknesses.  Will Isadora and Demetrius make it off of the island alive or will their mutual hatred do them in first?  These are two very different people with dangerous secrets, and I enjoyed seeing the way they both evolved over the course of the story.  411 pages.

(I posted about book 1, "Marked," and book 2, "Entwined," earlier this month.)

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren and art by David Hohn


This is a wonderfully told and beautifully illustrated Christmas story. Little Cub and Mama go searching for God to see how He gave us Christmas.I picked it up to share with our preschool children at church, but feel the message would be enjoyed by and inspire people of all ages. 40 pages.

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

Deborah Crombie is a Texan who writes British detective stories.  This latest installment features former partners and newlyweds Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. A former Olympic caliber rower on the verge of a comeback is found drowned in the Thames. Was it an unfortunate accident or was she murdered? The suspects include her former husband, a shell-shocked Afghanistan war veteran, and a Chief Superintendent with a history of sexually harassing his female staff.  Did I mention that the rower was also a police detective?  563 pages.

The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge

I read this book every year just before Christmas. Isaac the clock maker accidentally puts a watch paper in the watch case of the Dean of the Cathedral, Adam Asycough. The watch paper is inscribed "I labour here with all my might, to tell the time by day or night, Then you a lesson take by me, and serve thy God as I serve thee." Inspired by the quotation, the Dean asks Isaac to teach him all about clocks and clock making.   Once he befriends Isaac, the Dean meets other people around the town-Polly a housemaid, Job a fishmonger's apprentice, Bella the headstrong toddler grand-daughter of the Dean's lawyer, and Emma, Isaac's emotionally stunted sister. The Dean's journey from isolation within the church to community with ordinary folk is a feel-good Christmas story! 383 pages.

Friday, December 28, 2012

THE CRUELEST MONTH, Louise Penny


Another season and another murder in Three Pines; a séance in the old Hadley house goes awry when one of the participants drops dead, a scream of horror frozen in place on her face. If she was frightened to death, did someone set the scene?  Chief Inspector Gamanche and his team are on the case.

I love the descriptive parts of this series; lots of lovely details about life in an imagined (?) small Canadian village, this story is set in April so there are newly blooming flowers and newly hatched ducklings adopted by the most unlikely villager.  Also, the author weaves literary references into the conversations including poems supposedly composed by one of the characters.

Minotaur Books, 2007, 311 p.

STILL LIFE, Louise Penny


This novel, the first in a series, presents the detective, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec and the residents of a small, rather off the road Canadian village, Three Pines.   I read a very enthusiastic review of Ms. Penny’s recent work, and I decided to give the author and her detective an audition by reading this book, first published in Great Britain.

The first chapter introduces and kills-off 76-year-old Miss Neal, a much beloved and long-time resident of Three Pines.  Serendipitously, I checked it out for the long holiday weekend and the first sentence read:  “Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday.”

When Chief Inspector arrives on the scene, the first unknown is how she died.  Was it a hunting accident?   If so, why hasn’t the guilty party come forth?  And, Miss Neal, why hasn’t anyone in the village ever, ever set foot in her house beyond the kitchen?

I’m hooked on the characters and the author’s often droll descriptions of life in Three Pines.  Book #2 and #3 are on their way to me as I write.

Minotaur Books,  2006, 312 p.

A Free Life by Ha Jin



A Free Life / by Ha Jin

A Free Life
Story of a Chinese immigrant family reunited in US after 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begins a new, free life in the United States. The author brilliantly brings to life the daily struggles to survive and dream to successes that characterize many Chinese immigrant experience. I feel inspired by Nan's  (the main character of the story) aspirations to poetry even under harsh living conditions. Long book but worth reading.
660 p.

Hidden in Plain View (a Darryl Billups mystery) / Blair S. Walker

Darryl Billups is back on the job as a reporter for the Baltimore Herald, after helping to catch a notorius killer.  Riding on the coattails of his journalistic success on that case, Billups is able to ingratiate himself with Baltimore PD to help investigate a series of deaths dubbed the Confederate Flag killings (decals placed on the foreheads of victims).  Perhaps not so coincidentally, Billups finds himself a target of the killer, but fortunately catches on and manages to extricate himself from danger.  This is a fast read, not so challenging as a mystery, but provides an interesting African-American perspective on life in Baltimore.  268 p.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"The Collage Workbook: How to Get Started and Stay Inspired" by Randel Plowman

Collage seems to be an art form that any of us can do.  There's no need to be a talented drawer or painter; just cut out pictures from old magazines and throw them together in interesting ways.  That's what I used to think collage was all about until I read this book.  Plowman, an MFA student who runs a popular collage blog called "A Collage a Day," explains how to prepare different materials and the tools to use them in your art.  From transparency film to laser transfers on tracing paper to items found in the street, he shows the reader how they can inspire and transform the look of simple collages.  He talks about the basic tools and materials needed to get started and even supplies 50 creativity exercises for the reader to explore their creativity.  My only complaint is that he seems to use some of the same types of  materials over and over in his collages, so that many of them had the same basic look.  132 pages.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The betrayal of trust / Susan Hill

A torrential rainstorm the likes of Lafferton has rarely seen unearthed two bodies in the subsequent flooding.  Detective Simon Serrailler immediately recognized the remains of the missing Harriet Lowther, a 16-year old cold case.  The second was of another young woman, a foreigner who no one had reported missing.  Interwoven through the story of how Det. Serrailler discovers the connection between the two deaths is a parallel story of a newcomer to the community who plans a chilling alternative to end of life care.  It takes a while for the stories to connect, but they do finally. Enjoyed the story; I'll read the author again.

The Blackhouse / Peter May

Detective Sergeant Fin MacLeod is sent back to his boyhood home, the Isle of Lewis, to investigate a connection between a grisly murder there and an unsolved crime in his current city of Edinburgh.  Little did he realize that he had been purposely lured there to account for a long-held childhood secret.  Beautifully evocative of life on the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and as dark and brooding as the constant weather there.  I could not put this down and was delighted to discover it is the first volume in a planned trilogy.  357 p.

Palace Council by Stephen L. Carter

A political thriller set in the context of 1952 through the 1970s.  The 'Palace Council' is a group of prominent men, black and white, begun in 1952, to manipulate the presidency of the U.S.  Soon after, the body of one of the men is found, murdered, by Eddie Wesley, a rising black writer in Harlem.  When Eddie's younger sister disappears, Eddie begins a 20 year search to find her, complicated by the news she is heading a radical extremist group.  Eddie also involves the woman he loves, Aurelia, who has married into a prominent family, but whose husband is also a member of the Council.  Lots of plot twists and dead ends are enhanced by Carter's ability to deftly depict the character of those times.
510 pages.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Delta Search by William Shatner


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Young Jim's early life is hard, his parent is killed. His body is encoded and 16 years later the empire is now seeking him. As with all books this one has romance; he finds a girl he likes and she likes him leading to hazards for both of them. 

Audio:  8 hrs. 24 min.
Print:  416 pages.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Hannah’s bakery has an order for a three day celebration 1800 cookies. The professor gets murdered and there are lots of suspects. The detective Hannah gets locked in a mausoleum by the killer and must be rescued. Don’t forget the recipes.

290 pages.