Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge


Thursday, January 31, 2013

People of the Book

By Geraldine Brooks
384 pages
Another compelling novel from the fantastic Geraldine Brooks.  This one follows the path of a haggadah, a Jewish religious text, and the people who helped create, pass on, alter and restore it.  The storyline alternates between current times as a rare book conservator is commissioned to work on the recently unearthed and extremely valuable codex, and the moments in history when the book has been owned, altered, and passed between Christian, Jewish and Muslim hands.  Brooks’ roots as an investigative reporter in the Middle East and Europe serve her well here as the story of the book unravels and crosses borders from Jerusalem, Sarajevo, Venice, Seville and Vienna.  Families come alive, the intermingling and alternating peace and war between religious groups paints the background for the human, person-to-person interactions.
This book is just a beautiful commentary on the cyclical nature of history, the importance of the written word, and wondrous thing that is our shared humanity.   

Crossed

By Allie Condie
367 pages
This second novel in the Matched trilogy finds Cassia and Ky on the outskirts of the Society, fighting for their lives as they try to find their way to one another and the camp of the rebellion.  I thought this novel was much stronger than the first – better written, more engaging - and liked that the voice of the novel was split between Ky and Cassia. 

Matched

By Allie Condie
400 pages
Obviously I am a sucker for dystopian novels with teen protagonists.  Gone, Divergent, Hunger Games…now Matched.  I heartily enjoyed the plot:  a society that chooses one’s profession, provides meals, regulates free time, matches ideal mates and provides an easy death at age eighty for its citizens is starting to show cracks in the system.  Cassia is seventeen, and is matched with her best friend, Xander, at her matching ceremony, but is later shown a glimpse of another boy labeled as her match.  As the Society’s attempts to clean up this untidy situation with Cassia leads to more abnormal situations, the reader is drawn into a larger story, involving a war on the border of the organized Society.
Something about Cassia didn’t exactly click for me, though.   I can’t put my finger on it…I was just more intrigued with the story and the secondary characters than by her. 

Insurgent

By Veronica Roth
544 pages
This second novel in the Divergent series was just as action-packed and absorbing as the first.  Tris finds herself fighting a war, and surprising herself with the sides she chooses and the people she discovers are her allies.  This isn’t high literature, but it’s a fun read.  The world Roth created is intriguing, and though the characters could stand to be a bit more rounded, I like them and the trajectory of the series.  I’m game for the ride!

Fatal Debt by John Gapper, read by Alan Sklar

I had a hard time listening to this book.  I don't know if the story didn't grab me or if it was because I found the narrator annoying.  Fatal Debt sounded promising in the catalog-inspired by the 2008 financial crisis, written by a financial columnist.  But I had trouble following the plot and found the writing clunky.  Not recommended. Unabridged audiobook, 10 hrs. 32 min. 288 pages.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, read by Mark Deakins

Why read another book about a post-apocalyptic world where everyone's killing each other to survive?  A lonely man and his dog, an enigmatic survivalist neighbor, and an airplane..what's not to like?  All of the characters have experienced the unbearable loss of loved ones. All of them have had to do unspeakable things to survive the breakdown of society.  All of them hope to find community again. Seriously, it's a beautifully written (and read) story. Unabridged audiobook, 10 hrs. 41 minutes. 336 pages.

One of Fred's Girls by Elizabeth Hamilton Friermood

I just reread this book and it's aged a little bit.  It's 1891 and Bonnie Blair is the oldest of twelve children living in a small Indiana town.  She signs up to become a waitress for the Fred Harvey Restaurant company and heads out west.  I love the historical setting of this novel-the Southwest being opened up by the railroad carrying an influx of farmers, prospectors, and young women looking for adventure and a better life.  The part that's a bit dated is the whole go out West to get a husband story line.  But it is offset by some strong female characters and an atypical romance.  Great escape reading written by a librarian! 229 pages.

Water for Elephants / Sara Gruen

Following the untimely death of his parents, Jacob Jankowski walks away from vet school and finds himself despondently hopping a train in the night.  Morning finds him in a stock car of the Benzini Brothers circus.  An only child, he finds a family of sorts among the circus staff as he is drafted as the circus vet. Over the ensuing summer he learns much about the nature of man and beast.  A compelling read, good book club fodder.  350 p.

The Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome

Thirteen-year-old Gerald Archer is surprised to find he has inherited billions of dollars from a great-aunt he has never met. Gerald quickly finds that many things are amiss. His great-aunt may have been murdered. A diamond is missing. He is being hunted by a thin man. His plight is ignored by the police. 

I found the plot promising, but ultimately the story fell flat. I didn't find the main characters engaging - although I tried especially hard to find redeeming qualities in Gerald and his friends. I expected strong character development, particularly with Gerald who I hoped would grow into being a positive role model for the reader. But, that didn't happen. The ending is surprisingly violent given the tone of the rest of the book. Archer Legacy, book 1. I don't plan to read the remaining titles in the series. 384 pages.

The 500 by Matthew Quirk

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

He was a con man, and decades of blackmail extortion is what he has to overcome.   And it took a career service to a power broker and lots of luck.

Audio:  12 hrs. 34 min.
Print:  336 pages.

Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker


Billie Standish is an 11-year-old girl growing up in a small Missouri town in the 1950’s. Her parents are consumed by their work, leaving Billie alone most of the time. Her mother is abusive; her father is distant. There are only two other girls her age in town, and they don’t like her. She spends most of her time alone. She feels invisible, and has to look in the mirror to be sure she exists.
 
It takes a disaster for her to find a friend. After heavy rains, a levee is in danger of breaking, and Billie discovers that the town has been evacuated. Her parents are out on their farm, and she is terribly alone. Then she sees her elderly across-the-road neighbor Miss Lydia, who has also chosen to stay in her home. The two form a bond that sustains them through tragedy and hardship. In Miss Lydia, Billie has an advocate and a friend at last.

This is a wonderful young adult book by a Missouri author.
 

288 pages

BURY YOUR DEAD by Louise Penny


Chief Inspector Gamache has come to Quebec City to recover from an investigation gone bad, very bad, Armand’s wounds are physical and non-physical.  The investigation and its outcome are revealed to the reader in bits and pieces as the events play out in his head over and over throughout the novel.  A very interesting technique that pushes the plot forward.

As in the other Three Pines novels, the author writes beautifully of the setting.  I felt as though I walked the winter streets of the very old Quebec City and visited the Literary and Historical Society Library where, of course, because this is a crime series, there is a murder.

I was especially glad to read this one back-to-back with THE BRUTAL TELLING because it put to rest the feeling of something unfinished in Three Pines.

Wonderful characters continue to reveal themselves as humans you want to know, and, in case I haven’t mentioned before, hilarious moments of dark humor roll through the dialogue.  I love this series.

Minotaur, 2010 371 p.

THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny


 
We’re back in Three Pines and one of the villager’s residents, Olivier, has secrets he does not want to reveal to Chief Inspector Gamanche, Inspector Beauvoir, or even his companion, the irrepressible Gabri, proprietor of the town’s B & B, especially when a dead body shows up in Oliver’s antique shop. 

Who is the dead man no one seems to know?  If he didn’t die in the shop, where was he murdered?  And why?

Minotaur, 2009  372 p.

ENDLESS NIGHT by Agatha Christie


I can’t remember how long it’s been since I read an Agatha Christie novel but when I heard her grandson interviewed on the radio upon the anniversary of her death, I had to read the novel he said was his favorite.

An unexpected romance between a rich young woman and an apparent ne’er-do-well, or maybe, an apparently unexpected romance.  Told in first-person, “I”, the young man of the story tells the tale.  Because this is Christie, there’s a surprise ending.

Because I’ve been reading a lot of novels set in current times, or post-apocalyptic times, it was a delightful bit of stepping back to mid-20th century Britain.

Collins, 1967 224 p.

THE TWELVE by Justin Cronin


I read THE PASSAGE when it first came out and found it a very well written post-apocalyptic novel about what happens when a plan to create invincible soldiers (and maybe find a cure for all diseases) goes very, very bad.   I liked the author’s style of changing-up the point of view, and even time-frame, from chapter to chapter.  It was a really long book with lots of characters and I really had to pay attention to where I was in the narrative.

THE TWELVE continues the story with the characters that haven’t yet died a violent bloody death.  Did I mention there are lots of gruesome details about the “virals” as Earth as we know it is overrun and humans are barely hanging on in small groups?

Maybe it was just gory overload, but eventually I found the story tiresome and I lost interest in the characters.  The author has planned a third final installment.

Ballantine, 2012 568 p.

BURN MARK by Laura Powell


A young adult novel set in near-contemporary London is a coming-of-age story of two very different teenagers whose lives are forever altered when they receive the “fae”…a mysterious bruise-like spot that spontaneously appears and marks them as witches!

This is a fast-paced story with good plot twists as Glory and Lucas discover they might not be all that different from each other after all.  Thanks to the author, I also learned a bit more about England’s long history of witchcraft.

If the author decides to make a sequel or series from these characters, I’ll certainly read them.

Bloomsbury, 2012, 403 p.

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I absolutely LOVED this book it is so funny. It is about 4 girls that move into the same dorm at Smith College. Each very different in there own way. It follows their lives through college and after. And it is really funny and good. And in some cases I could relate to the book. I love reading books like that. I enjoyed it very much.

432 pages

The Trials of Tiffany Trott by Isabel Wolff

This book is good and funny. It has a lot of british slang in it, which was interesting. It is about a girl named Tiffany who is in her late 30's looking for the Mr. Right. The way she talks is what makes this book so interesting. I enjoyed it.

416 pages

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti

I am not really sure why I chose this book. I guess the description was appealing. But I was kind of disappointed when I finished the book. It was nothing like I thought it would be like. It talks about a girl named Ruby McQueen. It is not a bad book just not what I expected.

336 pages

Sunset Embrace by Sandra Brown

Ok I have to say I am a sucker for romance novels. And this was one of the most amazing romance novels I have ever read. I loved every minute of it. I could not put it down. The story is amazing. The setting is great. And the ending will surprise you. It is fantastic. GREAT READ!!!

Pages:384

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansome


Winter in Madrid
This novel takes place in Spain in 1940. The country has been devastated by the civil war that lasted from 1936-1939. The war was won by Franco, of the Nationalist Party.  Although Franco received assistance during the war from Germany and Italy, he is remaining neutral in the war raging across Europe at this time, leading up to World War II. England was trying to ensure that he remained neutral.

The story centers on four central characters;  Harry Brett, who fought for England at the battle of Dunkirk and was wounded; Sandy Forsyth, who was a schoolmate of Brett’s in London and is now in Spain doing shady business deals with the regime; Bernie Piper, another schoolmate who became a Communist and fought on the Republican (losing) side during the Spanish civil war and disappeared, and Barbara Clare, a Red Cross worker in Madrid who met and fell in love with Bernie before he went to war.

Brett is recruited by English Intelligence to spy on Sandy, whose business deals may help Franco become independent of England and perhaps align with Hitler. When he gets to Madrid, he finds that Sandy is now living with Barbara. Meanwhile, Barbara has discovered that Bernie is not dead, as had been assumed, but is in a brutal prison camp. Brett is an uncomfortable spy, Sandy is a ruthless profiteer, and Barbara is trying to get Bernie out of the camp.

This is not a book I would have chosen to read. It is for my book club, and I always read them, although I do not always enjoy them. I did not enjoy this book.  None of the characters were very likeable, and war/espionage is not favorite subject. I did find the history fascinating, and found myself spending a lot of time looking up information on Spain and on World War II.

544 pages

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Love's Portrait" by Monica Burns

Julia Westgard has been a widow for two years after suffering in an abusive marriage for nearly 10.  One of the things she does to regain her self-esteem is to commission a racy portrait of herself.  She swears the artist to secrecy but it's accidentally seen by Morgan St. Clair, a shipping company owner.  Julia knows St. Clair because she's invested some of her funds in his successful company and because he has a "love 'em and leave 'em" reputation about town.  When she's caught stealing one of his silk, monogrammed handkerchiefs from his hotel suite for a charity auction, he proposes a wager that may put her independence and heart in danger.  Yes, this was another free e-book.  It had well-drawn characters with emotional baggage and a story that kept me interested to the end.  163 pages (Kindle edition).

"Samson's Lovely Mortal (Scanguards Vampires, #1)" by Tina Folsom

Samson Woodford is a vampire living in modern day San Francisco when he meets Delilah Sheridan, an auditor from NY who's in town for work.  They meet when she beats on his door begging for help after she's been chased by a scarred man in a rainstorm.  Samson is instantly drawn to her, but she knows nothing about the existence of vampires.  Delilah is also drawn to him, but a tragedy in her childhood holds her back from taking a chance on love.  Can he earn her trust enough to reveal his true self?  After she's attacked for a second time when she's with Samson, he knows what he must do to protect her. This was another free e-book that had a great story, interesting characters, humor, and suspense to boot.  270 pages (Kindle edition).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby by Ace Atkins

(Posted for Paul Mathews)


When she was 10 years she saw the guys who took her mother and killed her.  Nobody believed her. A friend of her mother was convicted of the crime but she knows he’s innocent. She hires Spencer, Susan becomes involved, he needs Hawk’s help.

Audio:  7 hrs. 53 min.
Print:  320 pages.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dead White: A Dakota Mystery by M. K. Coker


(Posted for Ann Roberts)

A frozen corpse is found in a snowdrift along a South Dakota highway with the words “white out” carved in his arm.  An unpopular supervisor at the local meat processing plant, Dale Hansen has run afoul of several of the mostly immigrant people that he supervises. He has an unhappy wife and angry step-daughter.

Enter Detective Mark Okerlund, a prodigal son returned home, who is handed the case on his first day on the job. In spite of family baggage, personal heartbreak, and dyslexia, Okerlund and his cousin Sheriff Karen Mehaffey solve this page turner of a mystery.  I was drawn in by the second paragraph, and that’s what I like in a book…and it was written by a colleague from the state archives.  Way to go, Mary Kay!

Paperback, 335 p.

"La Luxure: A Human Vampire Novel" by C.D. Hussey

Julia Brown is an engineer from Alton, IL, who's in New Orleans for a week-long conference.  Hoping to break out of her ordinary lifestyle, she chances into La Luxure, a Goth bar, and is immediately attracted to its owner, Armand Laroque.  He and the people patronizing his business seem more like vampires than Goths, but that only intrigues Julia, much to her surprise.

This was a free e-book that I downloaded because I like vampire stories.  It tended to drag in the middle just a bit but kept my interest through the end.  Julia's struggle between safe but boring life and her attraction to Armand was nicely done.  Plus, Columbia, MO, was mentioned as the home of another conference attendee, which was a nice surprise.  312 pages.

Executive Privilege by Phillip Margolin

Dana Cutler accepts what she thinks is a light-weight job - tailing college student Charlotte Walsh and reporting back her activities to the client. But the easy job turns difficult when the President of the United States and the Secret Service become involved; and deadly when Charlotte winds up the apparent victim of a serial killer. If you catch the foreshadowing you can figure out the killer early in the book, but it was still an engaging, fast-paced read. 480 pages.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Protector by Laurel Dewey

Jane Perry is a hardened homicide detective assigned to protect Emily Lawrence. Emily has memories locked inside of her that could lead to the capture of the person who killed her parents. Can Jane keep Emily safe until she remembers what happened or will the killer return and successfully wipe out the lone witness to his crime? The language was on the rough side, but not surprisingly so. I found the psychology behind Jane's character interesting enough that it kept me reading even when the plot turned plodding. Book one in the Jane Perry series. 512 pages.

Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton

Kate Alexander had a terrible accident that left her with virtually no memory. But, that's not a problem. Her husband Jake is there to help her fill in all the gaps. The trouble is after Jake dies in a plane crash, it soon becomes apparent that the past Jake described was a lie. Kate is determined to uncover what really happened and put her life back together. Unfortunately, someone wants the truth to stay hidden and is willing to commit murder to keep it that way. I thought the plot had promise, but was disappointed in the Ryan-Kate relationship. (Really, the wife who you thought died five years ago reappears and the best you can do is be angry until it looks like YOU may have been the cause of her disappearance? What did Kate ever see in him to begin with?) 280 pages.

Deadly Business by Susette Williams

While working for her business, Maid for You, Bailey Tucker has the unfortunate propensity of uncovering dead bodies (or parts thereof). Detective Max Wellington can't quite figure out if she is a suspect or a witness; he just knows that when Bailey is around the sparks are flying. The book is mainly a mystery with a little romance and the occasional Christian message. The mix doesn't quite work. The characters and the plot are both tiring. This is book one in the Maid for Murder trilogy. I don't plan to read the rest of the series. 254 pages.

Christmas Crumble by M.C. Beaton

In this delightful short story, amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin is feeling in the Christmas spirit so she decides to invite six elderly, lonely people to her home for a Christmas meal. Unfortunately, during the course of the meal one of her guests dies and it looks like Agatha might be up for manslaughter. (Can her cooking really be that bad??) A bit of slapdash fun for the holidays. 32 pages.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

(Posted for Ann Roberts)


I started reading this book before Christmas and finished up just after the New Year.  I’ve always liked to read Dickens when it’s cold and dreary and I’m pretty sure this was my first reading of Great Expectations. I’ve seen film adaptations before so I knew the plot line, as does everyone, I’m sure. What I had forgotten is how wonderfully funny Dickens' writing is. So while Great Expectations is a tale of class discrimination,  heartbreak, and entrapment, it is also filled with kindness and sweetness in the characters of Joe, Biddy,  Wemmick and the aged P., and hilarity in the characters of the Pockets, Mr. Wopsle, and Uncle Pumblechook.

 I’m sure I’ll be reading Dickens next Christmas.

Hardback, 598 p.