Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill

There are, of course, a plethora of books about Jacqueline Kennedy. Many of them are gossipy, others are sycophantic, some are disdainful, and still others breathless with admiration. This book is none of the above. It is an honest account of a person with no axe to grind no desire for fame or glory, no motive other than telling of his experiences with a former first lady.

Clint Hill was a young secret service agent assigned to Dwight Eisenhower when John F. Kennedy was elected president. He was then assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy, and wasn’t happy about what he believed was a demotion, and envisioned ‘daily doses of fashion shows and ballets’.  But as he came to know and respect Mrs. Kennedy, a deep friendship developed between them. He was assigned to her and her children until after the presidential election of 1964.

This book has no startling revelations, nothing really new about the Kennedy’s. It is an open, honest account by a public servant of the years he spent in the service of our country and its first family. I don’t often read books about ‘celebrities’, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

352 pages

Defending Jacob by William Landay

 Andy Barber is a respected assistant district. He lives with his wife and 14-year-old son in a middle-class Massachusetts suburban. Life is good. Then one of his son’s classmates is murdered.  Soon, the investigation focuses on his son. Andy is put on a paid leave of absence because of the conflict of interest.

Then, a parent’s worst nightmare comes true: his son is arrested and put on trial for the murder. The book has been classified as a mystery, a courtroom drama, and a legal thriller, but the most compelling aspect to me was the story of an ordinary family torn apart by suspicion and lack of communication. It details how the stress of being caught up in the legal system can destroy lives, innocent or not.

I found the book to be a compelling read, one that I couldn’t wait to pick up at night, and that I hated to put down at bedtime.

423 pages

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening, first published in 1899, is considered a classic. I have tried to read it a couple of times, and found it so boring I never finished. However, it was a selection for my book club this month, so I had to read it. I was still bored, but did finish it.  I am not a fan of this type of writing; it reminds me too much of Jane Austen!  I do have to admit that it is wonderfully descriptive; readers can feel the sea breeze, see and smell the lush flowers, and hear the soft lapping of the ocean waves. In the beginning, the setting is the Louisiana coast, where Edna Pontellier is spending the summer with her children; her husband comes from their home in New Orleans to join them on weekends. Edna spends a great deal of time with the young man (Robert Lebrun), whose mother runs the resort. She has some vague stirrings of feelings that lead her to think there may be more to life than just being a wife and mother.

When she returns to New Orleans in the fall, she finds she has changed, and is no longer willing to live the vapid, constrained life that is expected of her in the social mores of the day and place. She has always drawn, and now sets up a studio and works seriously on her art. She declines to take part in rigid social customs, such as being ‘at home’ to callers on Tuesday afternoon, and calling on others on their ‘at home’ days.  She eventually moves out of her husband’s house, and finally admits that she is in love with Robert.

This book was considered scandalous when it was published, and the reviews were sometimes vitriolic; the awakening of women was not popular. It became somewhat of a feminist manifesto, although today it seems very tame.

120 pages

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"The Handmaiden's Necklace" by Kat Martin

I did it again - read a book in a series out of order.  Oh well.  Rafael, the Duke of Sheffield, and Danielle Duval were madly in love and engaged to be married five years ago until he found one of his friends naked in her bed.  Danielle protested that the man had just barged in and had no idea why, but Rafael would not believe her and broke off their engagement.  Shunned and humiliated, she moved to the country with her aunt but has made one last surprise appearance at a society event before her move to America to marry a Pennsylvania widow with two young children.  Rafael confronts her but she continues to proclaim her innocence and even blames him for not believing her.  This encounter makes Rafael realize that he still has feelings for her and sets out to find the truth.  But Danielle has already left on the two month voyage to America; if he's been wrong all these years, will he go after her?

This is the first book I've read by Martin, and I have mixed feelings about it.  While she tells an intriguing story, Rafael was not a likable hero.  He's heavy-handed with Danielle and doesn't take her wishes into consideration because he thinks he knows best.  There are many deceptions in this book with multiple side stories and a large list of characters.  The couples featured in the two previous books in the series make appearances and sound more likable.  Still, it was an interesting read.  407 pages.

Casting Stones by Gina Barlean

I got this Kindle book because it has a Missouri setting, and I thought I might want to record it for Wolfner. After reading it, I thought not: it is one of the most depressing books I ever read! It starts out with a young couple picnicking on the Platte River in Nebraska with their baby. The wife drowns. That is the beginning of a downward spiral that sucks the life out of both father and son. The young husband decides to go back to Missouri to live with his father, only to find that the  father had died the very morning of his arrival. The book is one depressingly sad event after another. It is well written, and draws the reader into the story, but there are not even brief moments of joy or peace to offset all the tragedies. I was glad to finish the book; it left me depressed and unsatisfied.

A few weeks later, I discovered that the author had written a ‘Prelude to Casting Stones’ Kindle book, which is only 17 pages, so probably is more like a short story, and just recently finished another Kindle book, or 32-page short story, ‘Conclusions – Casting Stones’.  From user reviews, it appears that these two books flesh out ‘Casting Stones’, and the conclusion seems to give some hope, which was sorely lacking in the main book. I’m not sure why an author would do it this way, instead of putting it all together into one (hopefully much better) book, but I have purchased the other two, hoping they will make it a better story (and I may record it after all!). Fortunately, all three books were very inexpensive.

220 pages

A feast for crows, by George R.R. Martin

King Joffrey was bad enough, but his mother is even worse! There were some horrifying scenes in this installment of the Song of Ice and Fire series that had me almost dreading the next chapter, but I'm enjoying the continuing saga of the Seven Kingdoms. The politics and intrigues are ever more complex (and I'm having some trouble keeping it all straight), but I can't wait to read the next book in the series.
audio: 31 hours
text: 753 pages

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

If Errands Could Kill by Jim Bronyaur

Eve Bailey is a stay-at-home mom, enjoying a fairly quiet life in Marysville, Pennsylvania until one day when she observes the murder of a bank employee. When the police investigation falls apart, Eve decides to do a little sleuthing of her own. This is book one in the Minivan Mom Mystery series. The concept is good, but unfortunately the plot quickly falls apart. It's an okay read. 240 pages.

"One Grave at a Time" by Jeaniene Frost

This sixth book in the Night Huntress series finds vampire Cat Crawfield, and her Master vampire husband, Bones, doing battle against a 500-year-old witch hunter who lives as a ghost 364 days of the year but becomes corporeal every Halloween to torture and burn alive three innocent women.  Ghosts play an integral part of this story as does Cat's cat, Helsing (as in the vampire hunter from Bram Stoker's Dracula), who is able to sense ghosts before the vampires can.

This story was especially action-packed with Cat testing out her new flying abilities and their best friends, vampire Spade and his half-demon/half-human wife, Denise, also trying to prevent Heinrich Kramer from his annual slaughter.  Interestingly, the witch hunter character was based on real witch hunter Heinrich Kramer, who wrote the Malleus Maleficarum back in 1486 to teach magistrates how to find and prosecute witches.  384 pages.

The Innocent by David Baldacci

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

The hit man refuses to complete an assignment and he is now the target they’re after. He helps a 14 year old runaway whose parents were murdered and who may be on a hit list also; by the way, the bus explodes after they get off.  422 pages.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"This Side of the Grave" by Jeaniene Frost

In this fifth book in the Night Huntress series, vampire Cat Crawfield and her Master vampire husband, Bones, deal with an evil ghoul who is trying to incite a war between vampires and ghouls.  They have to ask for help from the ghoul queen of New Orleans, but can she be trusted to prevent a war between their species or will she use it as a chance to enhance her powers and double-cross the vampires?

The author creates another great story that mimics the bigotry found in our own culture.  Apollyon uses lies, ignorance, and hateful language to stir up his followers into believing that all vampires are evil creatures who must be destroyed, starting with Cat.  But because she has very unusual abilities that even she does not completely understand, Cat and Bones are able to put up an unexpected defense.

This is another quick and action-filled read from Frost.  384 pages.

Out of the Dark, by David Weber

This books starts out with an alien invasion of earth, and ends with vampires killing off the invaders.... I'm not sure what to say.
audio: 17 hours
text: 381 pages

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain

This wonderful book, written by an introvert, explains not only the biology of introversion but how introverts are different from extroverts as babies and in work, love, communication, parenting, and more.  First popularized by psychologist Carl Jung in 1921, introversion and extroversion refer to different points of focus.  Introverts focus on their inner thoughts and feelings while extroverts focus on their external world of people and activities around them.  Quoting Cain, "Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don't socialize enough."  She explains how introversion is not the same as shyness, which is caused by social anxiety or the fear of social disapproval.  All introverts aren't shy, and all extroverts aren't loud and gregarious.

As a psychology major in college, as well as an introvert, I've read a lot about this subject over the years so I went into this book with a good understanding of it.  However, I hadn't read much about the ideal work environments for introverts and extroverts.  Introverts do their best creating if they are able to get away from other people and their many noises and distractions so that we can concentrate and do our deep thinking without interruptions.  Four walls (real walls that reach from floor to ceiling!) and a door so that we can work alone are what introverts need.  Committees and teams are better for extroverts, who tend to dominate such environments even if they don't have the best ideas. 

Cain covers many other topics in regards to introversion, all of it backed up by science. I could go on and on about how many parts of this book were so interesting and really acknowledged and validated my feelings of otherness, especially in the American culture that values extroversion and socializing so much.  I think everybody should read this book, especially extroverts who are supervisors or parents of introverts so that they are better aware of how to deal with this personality type that is so different from their own.  Very highly recommended!  333 pages.

Susan Cain's web site where you can take a quiz to see if you are an introvert or an extrovert:  http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/

Radio interview with Susan Cain:  http://ttbook.org/book/susan-cain-quiet-power-introverts-world-cant-stop-talking

The Marquis Is Trapped by Barbara Cartland

The hero is handsome, athletic and titled. The heroine is lovely, demure and has surprising inner strength. I found it hard to overlook the male double standard and ultimately couldn't figure out why the heroine ever fell for the boorish and arrogant Marquis. Barbara Cartland has written better books. Give this one a pass. 160 pages.

Friday, June 22, 2012

212 by Alafair Burke

This tightly woven thriller features NYPD detectives Ellie Hatcher and her partner, J.J., in book 3 of the Ellie Hatcher series. Confronted with a series of crimes that involve a high-powered real estate developer, a pricey escort service, and members of the justice system, Ellie and J.J. must piece all the clues together before another life is lost. I had trouble putting this one down! 368 pages

Monday, June 18, 2012

Large Target by Lynne Murray

Full-figured Josephine Fuller has an unusual job: she checks up on charitable organizations for her philanthropic employer, making funding recommendations. With her sympathetic ear, she also seems to land herself in the middle of many dysfunctional family situations. That's not too bad, unless kidnapping, murder and other assorted crimes are at play. This is book two in the Josephine Fuller Mystery series. There were several references to book one, so it might be helpful to start at the beginning. I had a little trouble connecting with the characters, and found some of the plot elements a little far-fetched, but it was still an enjoyable read.250 pages.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Never Tease a Siamese by Edie Claire

Leigh Koslow and friends are back with another light mystery. This time, Leigh must track down a murderer and missing heir. What looks to be a simple case, turns into a labyrinth of clues that lead to a very unexpected resolution. This series has engaging characters and always delivers a solid read. 258 pages

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not Taco Bell Material

By Adam Carolla

Funny man Adam Carolla (Man Show, Loveline, Crank Yankers, and his own Podcast Network) wrote his second book.  It was released on Tuesday and I finished the audio book this morning.

I knew of Adam from watching The Man Show but can't say I was a fan.  This season he appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice and was fired far to early I think.  I started listening to his Podcast and became an instant fan.  He's a racer much like myself  and enjoys cars and woodworking.  When he got fired from his radio gig 4 years ago he started a Podcast and built a network of podcasts thereafter. 

The chapters in the book are organized by the house he lives in at the time.  At the start of every chapter he tells you the kind of house he's living and what kind of job he had at the time.

The title is a joke inside the book.  He applied for a job at Taco Bell when he was 16 and the manager told him he wasn't taco bell material.

I really respect what he has done with his life.  He came from a poor family and has really made himself into the man that he is.

This book is not for everyone.  It has A LOT of bad words in it.  If you are at all easily offended don't read this book.

I enjoyed it, however.

336 Pages, 8 Hour audio book

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Life motto grin and bare it, if you smile through every storm, the bad things will never be as bad as you thought they would be. The gap in the ceiling was closed as if it never opened. The demonic multitude had vanished and....?

Audio:  15 hrs. 10 min.
Print:  464 pages.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Zodiac, by Robert Graysmith

Graysmith recounts his own and police investigations into the Zodiac killings, most of which occurred in San Francisco in the late 60s and early 70s. Though a mystery with no solution is something akin to an itch that can't be scratched, I found the story interesting and hard to put down.
audio: 10.5 hours
text: 355 pages

Monday, June 11, 2012

High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America By Jessica B. Harris

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

From Africa to present day chefs Soul Food has a long and interesting history. Great book that is hard to talk about. Fusion is one word to describe this journey to other countries.

Audio: 9 hrs. 45 min.
Print: 304 pages

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Never Kissed Goodnight by Edie Claire

Leigh really thought she knew her family. Imagine her surprise when she finds they have been keeping a 30-year old secret:Cara's long-lost father shows up, along with a criminal record and a man out to kill him. For once, Leigh tries to keep a level head and stay out of trouble. But trouble seems to follow her around. Edie Claire's Leigh Koslow Mysteries series just keep getting better and better! 260 pages.

"To Desire a Devil" by Elizabeth Hoyt

This is the final book in Hoyt's Legend of the Four Soldiers series and centers around Reynaud St. Aubyn and Beatrice Corning.  Reynaud has been held the last seven years by Native Americans after being captured during the French and Indian War in the American colonies.  He escapes and makes it back to his native London only to find his father dead and a distant relative living in his house with his title.  Beatrice is the usurper's niece by marriage, and has been living in Reynaud's house acting as hostess to her uncle.  When Reynaud returns, he is unrecognizable to everyone but Beatrice, who has been fascinated with his life-size portrait since moving in five years ago.  Reynaud must now present himself as a civilized and sane man in order to get back his title and home, and having a wife will help.  But will Beatrice let her fascination with a now dangerous and unpredictable wild man ruin her and her uncle's futures?

Hoyt spins a unique tale of brutality and redemption that covers a time period less familiar to me.  Reynaud is not an easy hero to like throughout most of the novel, but that's understandable after the torture and starvation he's endured for the previous seven years.  Beatrice is an admirable heroine, and Hoyt wraps up the series by bringing back the other couples from the previous books.  Recommended for historical romance fans.  361 pages.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cooking With Hot Flashes by Martha Bolton

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Humorist Martha Bolton points out all that the over-forty crowd can get away with. Includes sayings by many including Bette Midler, Jack Benny, Rita Rudner, Kurt Vonnegut, Eleanor Roosevelt, Miss Piggy and many others. Very good book.  203 pages.

The Art Detective Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures, by Philip Mould

Art is not generally a subject on which I would willingly spend time. This book, however, had just enough mystery, irreverence, adventure, and an element of Sherlock Holmes about it to hook and keep my interest. Mould, of Antiques Roadshow fame, outlines some of his more spectacular finds (and failures), and gives us some insight into how art discovery and dealing is done. I particularly liked how he included some of the specific details of how paintings can be verified, restored and faked.
audio: 7 hours
text: 261 pages

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs

In a light, breezy style Liz Curtis Higgs provides a fresh look at some of the famous and infamous women in the Bible. She first tells a similar story in a contemporary setting, then looks at the biblical story in more detail. She provides a pithy summary of important points followed by questions to help make the study more personal.I didn't always agree with her discernment of the stories, but they were always thought-provoking. 288 pages.

On Basilisk Station, by David Weber

Honor Harrington is a captain in the Manticoran navy. She's ambitious in that she wants to execute the job to the best of her abilities, but she has no interest in the positioning and posing required for advancement. Manticoran politics have landed her in a post in a boring sector of space that is meant to be a career-killer for her. Yet she finds plenty of adventure and intrigue at Basilisk Station. Her conviction, honesty (with the right people) and aptitude win her dedicated friends in many important places - from the higher administration officials down to the grunts in the torpedo bays.
This is the first novel in the Honor Harrington series. The series currently includes over 10 novels, so there should be quite a bit of material to explore. I liked the first, and hope the rest will be as enjoyable.
text: 448 pages

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Head Over Heels" by Jill Shalvis

In this third book in the Lucky Harbor series, youngest sister Chloe is still trying to figure out where she belongs.  She and her two older half-sisters have been in Lucky Harbor about a year now, and they're all trying to run a B & B together.  She's a constant thrill-seeker who has caught the attention of no nonsense sheriff Sawyer, whose two best friends happen to be engaged to Chloe's sisters.  Can a free spirit with severe asthma and a repressed sheriff with a checkered past be right for each other?

This was a quick and enjoyable read, but little details that didn't make sense kept getting in the way for me.  Like why does Sawyer answer every call the sheriff's department receives, no matter how minor?  Does he have no deputies or no time off?  Does Chloe really travel all over the west coast only on a Vespa?  That's my problem with contemporary romances; I get caught up in the little details that don't make sense.  354 pages.

(For my posts about the first two books in the series, see "Simply Irresistible" and "The Sweetest Thing.")

The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Steig Larsson

I'm catching up with Margaret, Ann and Barbara on this series. I liked this continuation of the story, but the violence makes me cringe. Lisbeth's skills are impressive, and the ending has me wanting to find out how things end for Salander and Blomkvist.
audio: 18.5 hours
text: 724 pages

Monday, June 4, 2012

"A Bride Unveiled" by Jillian Hunter

Kit and Violet meet when they are young teens.  She's a sheltered, lonely miss living in a very small English town with her overprotective aunt and uncle.  He's an orphan at the local workhouse who escapes while he should be working to play in the old cemetery near Violet's house.  She sees him from her window and is fascinated.  Eventually, she and two local boys meet Kit at the cemetery where they have great adventures pretending to sword fight while looking for hidden treasure.  But right before Kit's 15th birthday, he's sold into servitude and leaves the area.  Violet is brokenhearted.

Ten years later, Violet and her now widowed aunt are in London where she's just become engaged to a boring but stable merchant.  They attend a party where there's a demonstration by the local fencing school, and the maitre d'armes is none other than Kit!  Once he and Violet discover each other, it's all they can do to keep their mutual feelings in check.

This was a light and breezy historical romance, the first that I've read by this author.  Her manner of writing dialog is very sparse, without much detail as the characters are talking.  But the story was unique, and both the hero and heroine were very likable and did not spend the entire book denying their feelings for each other, which was a nice change.  339 pages.

Friday, June 1, 2012

His Last Bow, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This includes further stories of the adventures of Holmes and Watson. From the Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans and its national importance, to the Adventure of the Cardboard Box and its gruesome biological specimens, Holmes and Watson engage in some tricky exploits.
audio: 6.5 hours (audiobook available from Librivox.org)
text: 198 pages (ebook available from Project Gutenberg)