Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Rebellion of Jane Clark by Sally Gunning


This is the third book of historical fiction by Sally Gunning that is set in the pre-Revolutionary War era on Cape Cod and in Boston. I have read all three, and really enjoyed them. They incorporate a lot of history, and many of the same characters make appearances in each book.

In this book, Jane Clark is a young woman whose father has made what he considers a good match for her. In reality, it is a good match for him; he has plans for his future son-in-law that will benefit himself greatly. Jane loves her father, and likes the young man well enough; she fully intends to follow her father’s wishes and marry him. But when he purposes, she realizes she really doesn’t know him very well, and declines. When she refuses to follow her father’s wishes, he sends her to Boston to care for her aged aunt.

Boston is in turmoil; the Colonists are in constant conflict with the King’s soldiers, and Jane finds herself caught up in several instances of violence. She finds that there is right and wrong on both sides.  This is a pretty balanced account of the tensions that led up to the war for independence.  

288 pages

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS BY Erik Larson


Having previously read this author’s The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, I was expecting another excellent “not fiction” that reads like a novel.  I was not disappointed in this book subtitled:   Love, Terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin.  It’s an amazing read.

William E. Dodd, a professor from Chicago, moves his family to Berlin in 1933 to become ambassador to Germany.  Letters home from Dodd, and especially his daughter, Martha give first-hand descriptions of how Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels quickly turned Germany into a place where the press was censored, alarming new laws were enacted, and Jews were openly attacked on the streets with little or no interference from the citizenry.

This true history episode can be summed up as the author quotes  Christopher Isherwood ( another firsthand observer of Hitler’s Berlin):
”in the morning light, it was all as raw and frank as the voice of history which tells you not to fool yourself: this can happen to any city, to anyone, to you.”

Crown, 2011 448 p.

CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson


Stephen King called this the best mystery of the decade.  Jackson Brodie, Private Detective, investigates three separate cases.  At least they appear to be separate until the author, through the character of Brodie, links the stories of families breaking apart and coming together.  Expect surprise twists of fate, dark humor, and indelibly memorable characters.  Can’t wait for the next in this series.

Back Bay, 2004, 310 p.

ST. LUCY’S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES by Karen Russell


How to begin to describe this highly imaginative collection of short stories except to say I’ve never read anything quite like this…a camp for “troubled sleepers”, nuns reeducating a pack of wolf-girls. The stories themselves are absolutely fantastical but the characters…the people…that inhabit the stories are absolutely believable.

Written when the author was 25.  I just might see what else she's authored.

Knopt, 2006 246 p.

BEAUTY: a retelling of the story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley


As the subtitle elucidates, this is a retelling of an old fairy tale.  Three sisters, two are beautiful, Grace and Hope, the third sister, named Honour is clever.  She says, “I rather be Beauty” and the name sticks.
When their father comes upon a magical place in the forest while traveling, he is forced to make promise to send one of his daughters to the Beast’s castle.  Beauty accepts the task, and thus begins her own magical adventure of courage, understanding, and, ultimately, love.
 
Harper Collins, 1978 247 p.

Focus: a Memoir by Ingrid Ricks


This is a short memoir detailing the author’s coming to grips with the discovery that she has Retinitis Pigmentosa, and is losing her sight.
At age 37, Ingrid Ricks was a journalist and marketing/PR specialist when she began to have trouble with her eyesight. She made an appointment with an ophthalmologist, and goes for her first-ever eye exam. By the end of the appointment, she has been told that she has a degenerative eye disease, and is already legally blind. She is also told that she can expect the disease to progress, and eventually will probably lose her remaining vision.

In this memoir, she details her 8-year journey to come to grips with this knowledge. At first, she is devastated with fear of losing her independence, of becoming a burden to her husband, and not being able to see her two young daughters grow up. But she finds her way through that despair, and now lives a life grounded in joy, hope and vision beyond eyesight.
 

96 pages

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles



The title of this book is taken from George Washington: sometime before the age of 16, he transcribed ‘Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation.’ It covers a year in the life of Katey Kontent, who seems to use the rules as a primer on social advancement.

On New Year’s Eve, 1937, Katey Kontent and Eve Ross meet Tinker Grey in a Greenwich Village jazz bar. Katey is the daughter of Russian immigrants who works in a secretarial pool at a law firm. Eve is from the Midwest, the daughter of wealthy parents who refuses her Daddy’s money and is working in a low-paying job in a publishing house. Katey is hard working and grounded; Eve is beautiful and mercurial. Tinker is a handsome, charming, enigmatic, wealthy banker. The three of them become fast friends. Tinker introduces them to a life far removed from theirs, one of wealth, privilege and sophistication. Then they are involved in a horrendous accident that changes all their lives forever.

I really liked this book. The characters are well developed and memorable. It has an underlying sense of sadness underneath the glitz and glamor of 1938 New York.


352 pages

South of Sanity by Suzann Ledbetter

This is the second book in the Hannah Garvey series.  It is a sequel to East of Peculiar, and features the same cast of characters. Hannah Garvey is the manager of the Valhalla Springs Retirement Center in the Missouri Ozarks. When a restaurant dishwasher opens fire during a going-away party, she and  begins sleuthing again, helped, of course, by the wacky residents of Valhalla Springs.  This was one funny book. There's romance, suspense, and a lot of comic relief.

Hannah and Sheriff David Hendrickson provide  the romantic suspense, and the senior citizens provide the comic relief. The author has a unique way of turning a phrase, making the dialogue clever and keeping readers on their toes; I often had to re-read a section because I was going too fast and lost the meaning. I'm not a big fan of romantic suspense, but this was an enjoyable read.

384 pages

Monday, April 29, 2013

Suspect by Robert Crais


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Brave and devoted war dog is shot in Afghanistan.  He recovers and is trained for his second career as an LAPD  K-9.  His now human partner has lost a person in a diamond heist and shootout, years later they solve the case.  The things people will do for money is astounding.  309 pages.

Mom & Me & Mom

Author: Maya Angelou
Pages: 224

Mom & Me & MomThe story of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother.

For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence—a presence absent during much of Angelou’s early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call “Lady,” revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them.


I have read several of Maya Angelou's books and have loved them all. She is a fantastic teller of her story and this book is just as great as the others.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor

An unusual mystery set in the Antarctic.  An enjoyable read, but both characters and plot stretch credulity.  The heroine and reluctant detective, Hallie Leland, is a scientist/diver, sent to replace a scientist who recently died mysteriously, and who had discovered an unusual new life form in an underground lake.  While the harsh environment is aptly portrayed, the heroine has too many lucky escapes to be believable.  Supporting characters are not much more than stereotypes.  The plot does have some unusual twists and turns for fun.  316 pages.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"The Only Gold" by Tamara Allen

This novel takes place in 1880s New York City where Jonah Woolner is passed over for a promotion at the bank for which he's loyally worked for 14 years.  Newcomer Reid Hylliard has charmed everyone at the bank, from the president to the janitor . . . everyone but Jonah, whose promotion he took.  But there's more to Reid than his easy charm and way with numbers, as Jonah discovers much to his dismay and relief.  Just as the bank goes national and things are looking up for Jonah, a disgruntled employee and a massive snow storm threaten his future.

This was a well written story of two men who at first don't seem to have much in common but grow to care for each other as circumstances force them together.  Jonah was quite hurt and withdrawn when Reid was given his promotion, but the character evolves into a brave man willing to take incredible risks.  The details of the banking world in the 1880s was interesting, too.  300 pages (Kindle edition).

In Plain Sight by Lorena McCourtney

After testifying against a mob family, Ivy Malone finds herself fleeing from her home to escape attempts on her life. She lands in the Ozarks to stay with family while trying to keep a low profile. But this little old lady can't seem to stay out of trouble. Once again she finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation. I love the humor, the characters and the twists this author throws into her stories. Book 2 in the Ivy Malone series. I do recommend you start reading from book 1. 320 pages.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Valentine Murder by Leslie Meier

I chose this title because the plot involved a library and the murder victim was a librarian. Lucy Stone joins the local library board and the first thing on the agenda is murder! Despite police assurances to the contrary, Lucy thinks this is anything but an open and shut case. So she uses her natural snooping abilities to try and ferret out the truth. The plot is okay; the characters are weak. Overall, an okay read.  Book five in the Lucy Stone series. 272 pages.

Zoo by James Patterson


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Petrochemicals, hydrocarbons, and cellphone radiation are the cause of worldwide problems. Rage in animals is the result that leads to attacks on humans. Can we shut down everything in order to live with the animals of the world? 

Audio:  8 hrs. 35 min.
Print:  416 pages (paperback).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

I didn't think it was possible for me not to like a Louise Penny mystery but I have to say that this was my least favorite installment of the Inspector Gamache series!  I think she worked a little bit too hard to work the title into the storyline?  To be fair there were some very funny bits with Ruth Zardo, the eighty something poet, and her surrogate child, Rosa  the duck, but I think the main purpose of this book was to give the reader some background for the next book in the series.  Read this book for the context and be prepared to be enthralled by Bury Your Dead! 372 pages.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Yours to Keep (Kowalski Family #3)" by Shannon Stacey

I posted about the first book in the series in March, then skipped the second book because I'd read some reviews that panned it.  I found this book at a book sale, and, even though the set up to the romance sounded preposterous, thought I'd give it a chance.  Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly as funny or likable as the first book.  Emma Shaw has been telling her grandmother for the past several months that she's engaged to Sean Kowalski so that Gram won't worry about her being alone so much.  But when Gram comes to NH from FL to visit for a month, Emma has to produce this fiance who's supposed to be living with her.  The real Sean Kowalski has just gotten out of the army after twelve years but has no idea what his future holds.  When he goes to visit his Kowalski cousins in NH, Emma convinces him to be her fiance.

I didn't like the set up to the romance, because the reasoning seemed rather thin and involved a major deception between a grown woman and the grandmother who raised her.  Sean was a jerk a lot of the time, and I couldn't see why Emma would fall for him or he for her since he criticized her more than he complimented her.  The ending almost redeemed some of his jerkiness, but not quite.  331 pages.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith

This book takes you back to Botswana and the lovable characters from the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. This time the ladies meet their mentor, Mr. Clovis Andersen, who helps them get to the heart of a mystery surrounding the local orphanage. A gentle, easy read. ! I like the philosophical insights scattered throughout the story.  I highly recommend this series! 288 pages.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Up Jumps the Devil by Michael Poore

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

John Scratch, aka the Devil, is on earth for hundreds of years and has a reality show. He still makes deals for people's souls and has all through this world’s history.  The story is told in segments of time.  538 pages.

F for Effort: More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

More of  the very best totally wrong test answers. Humorous!

Audio:  29 min.
Print:  128 pages.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Enzo the dog is owned by a race car driver Denny Swift. Enzo believes that he will be reincarnated as a human because he associates so well with them. There is a family and job troubles, child custody problems, and a happy ending for this smart dog and his humans.

Audio:  9 hrs. 11 min.
Print:  321 pages.

I Know This Much Is True

Author: Wally Lamb
Pages: 912


On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother, Thomas, entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut, public library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable. . . .

One of the most acclaimed novels of our time, Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True is a story of alienation and connection, devastation and renewal, at once joyous, heartbreaking, poignant, mystical, and powerfully, profoundly human



This was a long book, I struggled to get through it because some of the writing is long, and didn't seem up to snuff of Wally Lamb. I though "She's Come Undone" was fabulous but this book was lacking.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"The Dark Lady" by Maire Claremont

This book is a wonderful debut with two strong, likable, and tortured main characters.  Lady Eva Carin lost her infant son in a curricle accident soon after the death of her husband in India.  His cousin and her childhood friend, Lord Ian Blake, who was also in India, returns to England to take care of Eva and her son but can't find either of them at their estate.  Instead, he discovers that baby Adam is dead and that Eva has been sent to live in an asylum by her brother-in-law.  Ian can hardly believe what's happened to the vibrant, beautiful woman he grew up with, especially when he finds her filthy and abused in what amounts to a prison for women.  After a daring escape, Eva must prove her sanity to win back her freedom from her brother-in-law, and Ian vows to help her do it.  He's been in love with her since they were children, but will his guilt over the part he played in her husband's death get in the way of being the man he's always wanted to be for her?

This book really had everything Victorian historical romance readers love - multidimensional main characters, an excellent back story, unrequited love, a bit of British history, suspense, scary villains, action, and emotional depth.  I'm looking forward to reading the follow-up to this book, but it won't be out until October.  313 pages.

Whole Lotta Trouble by Stephanie Bond

When three female editors compare notes, they discover that the same womanizing literary agent has done them wrong! So, they concoct a scheme to embarrass the agent and get a little revenge. But something goes wildly wrong when the agent winds up dead after their little prank. Can they stay under the police radar while they track down the real killer? 

This title is billed as a humorous, romantic mystery. The description is apt. While not uproariously funny, it definitely has its moments. The romance is a little abrupt. The mystery is a little far-fetched. But somehow, it all works together to create a mostly enjoyable read. 384 pages.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Awaken the Senses" by Nalini Singh

This book was written before the author became well known for her paranormal romance Guild Hunter and Psy/Changeling series.  It's a contemporary romance that takes place at a vineyard in California where Frenchman Alexandre Dupree has arrived to do a consultation.  He meets Charlotte Ashton, the winery's florist who is also the niece of the owner.  She's very shy and feels that she's never fit in with her extended family because she's half Native American, but she and Alexandre are immediately taken with each other.  Charlotte is also trying to find out if her mother really died in car accident many years ago, and if she didn't, why she didn't raise Charlotte and her brother.

This was a nice, diverting romance with two very likable leads.  Singh has a way with words that made it even more enjoyable.  It is book five in Dynasties: The Ashtons series, but I read it as a stand alone with no trouble.  186 pages.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell

Ellie Simons has been summoned to Merlin's Court for a family gathering. Feeling overweight and inferior, Ellie decides to hire an escort for the occasion to bolster her ego; enter Bentley T. Haskell. The duo reunites for the funeral of Uncle Merlin and the reading of the will. Much to their surprise, they are both in line to inherit if they can fulfill certain conditions. Ellie must lose weight. Bentley must write a book that is not pornographic in nature. And together, they must solve a mystery. A light, funny cozy mystery with plenty of quirky characters. I am glad I gave this series a second change. Ellie Haskell, book 1. 273 pages.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

I read the third book of the Inspector Gamache series out of sequence but I still really enjoyed it. I gain little insight from each book.  The message of The cruelest month?-beware the near enemy!  Myrna, the psychologist turned bookstore owner tells Inspector Gamache that a near enemy is a
"psychological concept.  Two emotions that look the same but are actually opposites.  The one parades as the other, is mistaken for the other, but one is healthy and the other's sick, twisted... Attachment masquerades as Love, Pity as Compassion and Indifference as Equanimity." (p.197)
Read the book to find out how this concept plays out in the murder of a much-loved woman and in the life of Inspector Gamache and his team. 311 pages. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Catered Christmas by Isis Crawford

Whiny characters who bicker constantly and a murder victim who goes unmourned due to her loathsome nature. The only mystery for me is, why did I bother to finish the book?  I recommend skipping this Murder with Recipes series. There are plenty of other good cozy mystery authors out there with much more loveable characters. If you like a culinary bent to your mysteries, I recommend Claudia Bishop, Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke.
304 pages

30-Day Church Challenge by Bob Hostetler

The subtitle of this book is Discover How You Can Reach Your God-Given Potential. The book, based on Acts, provides thirty daily readings and challenges to engage the reader in five key areas: community, worship, growth, stewardship and outreach. According to the introduction, the book is designed to "stir and stretch everyone in the church - those who are new and those who have been engaged for awhile...to do more than change your habits...[to] change your life." I was involved in many discussions throughout the 30 days and  found that everyone who took part in the challenge found at least one part of the book that really spoke to them, helping them to grow in their walk of faith. A thought-provoking, engaging read that if the lessons learned are integrated into who you are, what you say and what you do, really can change your life. 160 pages.

Monday, April 1, 2013

"Lover at Last" by J.R. Ward

This is book 11 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and I own them all.  I was especially looking forward to this one because it focuses on two male vampire warriors who've been best friends but have grown apart.  Blay has been pining for Qhuinn for years through the previous books, but Qhuinn has so much baggage with his late family that he can't face that he might actually be in love with another male.  However, Ward has added so many additional characters and storylines that Blay and Qhuinn's story tends to get lost, which was a huge disappointment.  What there was of them was great but it just wasn't enough.  I wanted a whole book devoted to THEM, but I knew from the way Ward has written the other books that that wasn't going to happen.  They are the emotional heart of this book, I just wish there had been more of them and less focus on some really unlikable characters that I'm afraid are going to be the heroes of future editions.  Still, getting these two incredible characters together was worth the long read.  591 pages.