Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

Grand Admiral Thrawn, the newest Empire bad guy, studies art to learn military strategy.  He claims that a society's art reflects its ways of thinking and problem-solving.  It's an interesting idea that doesn't get fully developed but who cares when you've got Han Solo around! 440 pages.

Guerrillas in Civil War Missouri by James W. Erwin

I had no idea that Missouri had such a bloody Civil War experience.  I read not only about Jesse and Frank James, but I learned a bit about bloody Bill Anderson, the butcher of Centralia too.  If you want to liven up your commute by learning of the battles and skirmishes that took place along your route, this book is a good introduction. 128 pages.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Harper Audio. 11 hours 39 minutes
Read by Oliver Wyman

If you're offended by profanity you might want to skip this book.  But I can't imagine the story being told any other way. Billy Lynn and his army buddies are home on a two week victory tour.  They won a fire fight with a band of insurgents that was caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew.  They are treated to parades, limos, complimentary Dallas Cowboy football tickets, and endless thanks for their service to their country.  They are also going to be shipped back to Iraq to finish out the rest of their deployment.  320 pages.

Half Brother

Kenneth Oppel
384 pages
After weeks spent in adult literature, I returned to the YA shelves on the hunt for an audiobook.   I was primarily looking for a book that would cover about the right amount of time for a solo drive to KC and back I was making one weekend day.  I found Half Brother – a story set in the 1970’s about a family who adopts a chimp for sign language research – and though it ran a tad long, I was intrigued by the premise.
Oppel did a masterful job rounding out his main character, Ben, the 13-year-old child of two behavioral psychologists.  The family moves across Canada so that Ben’s father can lead up an experiment in conjunction with a university, the aim of which is to adopt an infant chimp, immerse him in the human experience, and teach him sign language.  All angles of the issue are covered – the ethical dilemmas, the attachment issues – but at the heart of the story is a boy who learns to love the chimp, Zan, and his growing pains as  the freakish new kid in town.  The family is alternately praised, ridiculed and contemned, and as Ben’s parents are left with decisions that threaten to tear them apart, Ben tries to decide what he really feels is best for his “little brother” – the chimp Zan, who he cares for, dresses, feeds, plays and speaks with every day. 
This is a gem of a YA novel – fine writing, a fascinating subject, and quite a lot of heart. 

Midnight in Austenland

Shannon Hale
288 pages
As a lover of Austen, I thought I’d give a fluffy, romantic nod to her work a whirl.  I’d read some Shannon Hale previously, and found her style enjoyable and addictive, and this book did not disappoint.  What’s not to like about a story that follows a likeable but dejected divorcee and she tries to capture a spark for life at an immersive Austen-themed vacation?  And when dashing men and a juicy mystery come into play as well, it’s all the better!

Carry the One

Carol Anshaw
272 pages
I’ve rarely felt as weighed down as I felt after I finished this novel.  Occasionally I’m in the mood for a complicated tragedy, something meaty and tear-jerky, and I though I was ready for a heavier novel, this one just never seemed to let up on the weight.
The book follows a group of siblings following a tragic traffic accident they caused.  Each deals and does penance in his or her own way.  While Anshaw is a gifted writer, I just didn’t find myself caring enough about her characters, which for me is the saving grace of tragic pieces.

Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen
350 pages
I’m about five years late to the party on this one.  Water for Elephants was a Columbia One Read selection while I worked at DBRL, and it has been on my list of books to read ever since. 
Most people know this is a story of love found on the road with a circus in 1931.  Jacob joins the Benzini Brothers after hearing of the deaths of his parents, and finds a place on the circus train, his studies as a veterinarian-in-training coming to use as he tends the animals.  He falls for Marlena, one of the star performers of the show and wife to one of the cruel circus bosses.
My favorite portions of the books were set with the elderly Jacob, who recounts his story from a nursing home…as much as the life on a Depression-era circus train were interesting, I felt like Gruen saved her textual gems for Jacob’s wry descriptions of what it’s like to be among the elderly - how foreign loose skin feels, how betrayed you feel by your body, how old passions can reignite you.

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

Having read ‘The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ a couple of years ago, and being appalled at much of the draconian parenting advice in that book, I was happy to find that ‘Bringing up Bebe’ espoused a much kinder, gentler, parenting style.
Pamela Druckerman is an American mother of three, the last two being twins. She and her husband, who is British, live in Paris. She didn’t plan to become a ‘French parent’. However, when her oldest daughter was a ddler, she began to realize that most of the French parents she saw with toddlers were having much less trouble with many things she struggled with, such as getting them to sleep through the night, eat a variety of healthy foods, eat those foods well with good table manners, accept ‘no’ without throwing a tantrum, and…well, you get the drift.

She began to talk to French parents about how they did it; they didn’t know, really, they just did ‘what you’re supposed to do’. So she also started researching French parenting, and has come to some really interesting conclusions. For instance, they ‘teach’ their babies to sleep through the night. Most of them do so by the time they are 4 months old. This isn’t the ‘sleep training’ method of letting them cry until they go to sleep. It is helping them develop their natural sleep rhythms; essentially listening to and trusting in, their own bodies.
Druckerman didn’t buy into, or adopt all the aspects of French parenting that she learned about, but she did discover that many of their methods work to develop happy, healthy children, and adults who are around those children.

257 pages

The Saints Go Dying by Erik Hanberg

Meet Arthur Beautyman, computer hacker turned detective. He uses his hacking skills to troll for clues in his pursuit of suspects. Not quite on the up-and-up, but very effective.  Take the case of a serial killer targeting modern day saints, add the ubiquitous reality TV show, and you have a rollicking good story with a fresh slant.

Beautyman has been in pursuit of the ‘Babylon’ killer for 14 months, and is no closer to catching him than he was after the first victim. He spends his days in mundane police work, and his nights hacking into computers looking for some shred of evidence that mundane police work isn’t turning up. In the meantime, ‘Watchdog’, a reality TV show that has actors re-enact crimes, is making the police, and especially Beautyman, look like incompetent fools.

The reader feels the complete frustration and hopelessness of a police department demoralized by its inability to track down a ruthless serial killer in a city of millions, while being besieged by an avaricious press and mocked by unscrupulous television producers.  It is a good cat and mouse psychological drama that is entertaining and easy to read without losing the suspense. The ending is unexpected, but quite logical when all the parts come together.

All in all, a satisfying read.

220 pages

Cliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

This book is loaded with crooked elected politicians, payoffs, murder, violence, prostitution, a business man with lots of enemies, a nice lawyer, and an honest newspaper reporter making this a very interesting book.  318 pages.

The Hanging Wood / Martin Edwards

Callum Hinds disappeared 20 years ago without a trace from "the Hanging Wood" where his uncle had a cabin. Tortured by his disappearance, his sister commits suicide 20 years later, after a muddled call to the police about her brother's "murder".  The suicide breaks open the fragile pact surrounding the decade's old event, and more people die in an attempt to cover up the old crime, set in England's Lake District.  Plenty of local color, and a good mystery, to boot! 266 p.

The Color of Death / Elizabeth Lowell

Good mystery, but the author has a VERY distracting habit of interlacing the protagonist's thoughts with dialog, trying to establish sexual tension between him and the other main character. Enough already.  That only takes place in part of the story, though, so I learned to ignore it. Otherwise, an intriguing mystery based on the precious gem industry; I actually learned a bit about the gem trade and jewel-refining.  411 p.

Hate List / Jennifer Brown

I don't usually read young adult fiction, but Brown is both a Missouri author and member of the Missouri Center for the Book board, and Hate List is this year's Gateway Award winner.  The story follows the aftermath of a random school shooting through the eyes of Valerie, the girlfriend of the shooter, as she struggles to find her place back at school.  While the subject matter is horrific, Brown does an admirable job of exploring the nuance of feelings from many different perspectives, and ultimately delivers a healing story without sensationalization.  408 p.

Monday, July 30, 2012

As One Devil to Another, by Richard Platt

A fun piece, constructed as a fiendish correspondence in the manner of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.  In a series of letters, Slashreap, an older devil,  attempts to mentor a newly graduated devil, Scardagger, in his first attempt to win a soul for Hell.  This format allows Platt to comment on how easy it is to distract humans, with our vanities and foibles, away from God.  This is written with wit and humor, but gets quite preachy at times.  184 pages.

The Facility, by Simon Lelic

Set in Britain in the near future, Arthur, a rather ordinary dentist, is suddenly picked up by Security forces and whisked away to a secret holding facility.  As he tries to puzzle out the reason for his detention, his estranged wife makes contact with a young journalist, and together they begin to search for Arthur.  The Facility is an old estate, hastily furnished and converted to a combined detention and hospital facility.  In the parallel stories, we find out that the detainees have a new, fatal, disease, for which there is no cure.  The government has taken advantage of new anti-terrorism laws that allow them to hold prisoners without explanation to prevent the spread of the disease; supposedly while they try to find a cure. All does not come out well in the end.  Well-plotted, with good sub-characters and dialogue and a good level of mystery and cynicism.  Read from an advance proof, scheduled for publication in September. Penguin, 340 pages.

Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch

I received this book at a program at the ALA Conference, on how to create marketing for libraries, as sticky as duct tape.  Jantsch's message is crafted for small business, but in his program he gave ideas for adapting them for marketing library services.  Basically, the point is to help your potential customer, i.e. library user, to know, like, trust and then 'buy' your service.  He emphasizes defining your customer and their needs, but also reaching out through every possible source, particularly effectively using social media to create that 'sticky' marketing. 274 pg.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Archangel's Kiss" by Nalini Singh

Elena Deveraux was changed from a human to an angel and has been in a coma for a year.  Her lover is Raphael, a dangerous and powerful archangel who must now teach her how to fly and how to defend herself against the most powerful archangel of all, one who has been reanimating the dead just for kicks.

Singh builds a beautiful and dangerous world in this second book in her Guild Hunter series.  This was an interesting and sometimes gory story of an alternate universe where archangels are the most powerful creatures on Earth.  Elena is the first "made" angel, and many outside of Raphael's territory want her dead.  It kept my interest, but I would've enjoyed it more if I'd read the first in the series.  352 pages.

The Sixth Phase /Robert J. Randisi

Randisi, a Missouri author, has written a fast-paced thriller with a fairly straigthforward plot and uneven character development.  Detective Dennis McQueen is assigned to a murder case that he discovers is one of a series of similar sexual-mutilation killings and is then appointed to head the task force charged with apprehending the killer.  He does, of course, but not before much more loss of life.  I'm glad I finished the book, though, because the last two sentences put a chilling, unanticipated spin on the entire story - possibly the only thought-provoking moment in the book!  395 p.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sail by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Katherine Dunne has the brilliant idea to take some time off from work and go on a sailing expedition with her children to try and bring this dysfunctional family back together. Little does she know that the adventure might wind up blasting them apart - literally.  

If you are looking for something with great depth of character and psychological insight, this isn't it. But, if you are looking for a fast-paced novel designed to entertain and intrigue the reader, this is a good one. 414 pages.

In 50 Years We'll all be Chicks

By Adam Carolla

Don't let the title scare you off.  This book is not bad.  Well, not any worse than Adam's second book, Not Taco Bell Material.

This book is more a group of rants and one of them is how men are becoming more feminine.

If easily offended don't read.  But if you like a good laugh, read.
256 Pages, 5 hours

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Det. Lena Adams is wrongly arrested of murder.  This book contains multiple murders, multiple suspects cases with suspense, malpractice and rage.

Print:  608 pages.
Audio:  14 hrs. 30 min.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Twelve Red Herrings by Jeffrey Archer

Archer delivers twelve short stories, each with a different conundrum. Nine of the stories are based on real-life incidents; three are pure fiction. Each story has a decidedly O.Henry ending. (The last one has four options!) For the most part, this is a good read. It won't change your life. But, it should entertain you! 384 pages

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mushroom, by Nicholas P. Money

A interesting read by an author who has an infectious enthusiasm for his subject. Though he somehow unfortunately manages to stray into politics at some points in the book, Money makes the bizarre world of fungi accessible. I learned a number of things about fungi that are at odds with what I was taught at school. According to Money, many of our notions regarding fungi are wrong and more research is needed to make up for a dearth of understanding in the field of mycology.
The sheer breadth and variety of fungi Money describes are interesting in their own right. The descriptions of the quirky individuals who study fungi make it even more so.

text: 201 pages

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Affair by Lee Child

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Jack Reacher goes to Carter Crossing, Mississippi, to help clear the army honor in the murder of three local women. Finding a way to resolve all the loose ends, he is then released from the from the service himself at age 36, so begins his new life. 

Audio:  11 hrs. 46 min.
Print:  608 pages.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Little Bat" by Tania Cox, Illustrated by Andrew McLean

I like bats and have several children's books on the subject.  Little Bat is unsure about taking her first flight, but will encouragement from her friends in the Australian rainforest where she and her mother live help her?  Big, colorful illustrations of unusual species will appeal to most children and adults.  30 pages.

"Puppy Love" by Dick King-Smith, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Wonderful illustrations are the main draw of this book in which a family fondly remembers some of the puppies they've had over the years.  32 pages.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Kittens: Science Facts and Fun Art Projects That Teach About Kittens"

This cute little book has wonderful close-up photos of kittens along with basic facts and several craft projects, all appropriate for kids.  There's even a song called "Kitten and I."  (Barron's Educational Series is the corporate author.)  32 pages.

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

I first read this classic many years ago as an undergraduate and really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd pull it out and reread it now that I'm more "mature" and have read many historical romances of that period written by modern writers.  However, I really can't compare them since the language and phrasing was so different when Austen wrote it in 1813.  I kept picturing Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet from the 1995 BBC miniseries which was made after I read the book the first time.  I was surprised to read that Darcy was bewitched by Elizabeth so early in the novel; I certainly don't remember that.  It seems quite wordy but is still compelling in how it conveys the idea that sometimes our first impressions of others are all wrong.  292 pages.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Sonderberg Case by Elie Wiesel

The Sonderberg Case by Elie Wiesel

 I picked up this book because it was by Elie Wiesel. I also thought the book would be about a murder trial.  According to the book jacket, "a German expatriate named Werner Sonderberg returned alone from a walk in the Adirondacks with an elderly uncle, whose lifeless body was soon retrieved from the woods." But the Sonderberg case is really a point of departure for the main character, a theater critic named Yedidyah Wasserman, to reflect upon his own life and work.  "Somewhere on earth, each person is acting in his own play; here or there, it makes one or another stranger weep or roar with laughter."  (192 pages)

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Unabridged audiobook. 31 hours 17 minutes. Narrated by Gerard Doyle.  Published by Listening Library.  Downloaded from the Scenic Regional Library website! (860 pages)
 I waited a long time to finish this series, going back to listen to all the books instead of reading them a second time.  It was worth it.  I was often surprised by the plot twists and sometimes bored by the long battle sequences. But I was satisfied by the ending- it was true to the journey Eragon (and the young writer Christopher Paolini) embarked upon so many years ago! Gerard Doyle does an excellent job of telling the story, creating many memorable voices (Saphira is my favorite!) and characterizations.  If you are going on a long car ride cross-country this audiobook (and the entire series for that matter!) would be an excellent way to pass the time.

Sweet Tea at Sunrise by Sherryl Woods

Sarah Price is a single mom with low self-esteem working as a waitress to make ends meet. Travis McDonald is a retired ball player with confidence to spare. Travis sees promise in Sarah as both a business and life partner. The challenge is to convince her she is capable of filling both roles and more. Discussion questions provided. 

This is book six in the Sweet Magnolias series. It might help to start at book one since the plot assumes you know about many of the events and relationships that unfolded earlier in the series. 389 pages.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Murder by JoAnne Fluke

(Posted for Paul Mathews)  

Their bakery is called the Cookie Jar, they live in Minnesota and cook and solve local murders. This book comes with recipes and lots of family drama.  330 pages.