Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge


Friday, May 31, 2013

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The phrase "time's a goon" is the key to this book. The book shifts from time past to time present, and back again, shifting narrators and formats along the way.  There's a chapter written in PowerPoint slides!  I flipped through the book to that chapter before I began reading.  There were the bare bones of a narrative in the slides.  After reading the chapters that came before, I was amazed at how much more sense the slides made with context.  I don't know if I would have gotten as much out of reading this book if I were younger.  It seems to be a book written for those folks starting to look back on their lives. It is an amazing work! 352 pages.

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King


Sherlock Holmes fans will enjoy this new variation in the Holmes saga.  In Laurie King's version, Sherlock Holmes has a female sidekick, Mary Russell (start with her  Beekeeper's Apprentice to read up on how they met), In their latest outing, Mary wakes up in the dark, not knowing who or where she is.  She uses her skills as a Baker Street Irregular to escape from her captivity, find a disguise, and eventually meet up with Holmes.  It's a great adventure story with a little bit of Moroccan history thrown in to make it interesting.  266 pages.

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith

Sometimes I just hate Isabel Dalhousie.  She's independently wealthy, yet works as the editor and publisher of a philosophy journal.  She is married to a musician and has a precocious young son.  Her life seems so perfect!  But if Isabel's life has any flaw, it is that people often come to her for help solving their moral dilemmas.  In this installment, a wealthy man's favorite painting is stolen.  The thieves have enlisted the help of a lawyer to ransom the painting back via payout by the insurance company.  Should the owner give into the ransom demands to get his beloved painting back? 259 pages.

The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron

The Buzzard Table is the concrete slab where an ersatz naturalist feeds roadkill to the local vultures, commonly (but inaccurately) known as buzzards. When first a local realtor's body is found near the table and a few days later, a barely breathing high school journalist, the naturalist is the prime suspect.  Margaret Maron skillfully continues to develop the story of Judge Deborah Knott, her husband, Sheriff Dwight Bryant, and their large extended family.  She mixes in some bits about U.S. foreign policy and rendition flights into the everybody knows everybody else's business aspect of small town life to create a thoughtful, satisfying read.   305 pages.

The sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

I've been catching up on my mystery series this month and Deborah Crombie's series is a comfortable favorite.  Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid, Detective and Superintendent at Scotland Yard, are married and juggling careers and a blended family.  In this book, Duncan is taking family leave to provide extra care for a young child, Charlotte, whose parents were murdered in an earlier case, and who is now part of the James-Kincaid family menagerie.  Meanwhile, Gemma is hard on the case of a serial murderer.  Can she and Duncan solve the case and find a school for Charlotte?  Will Duncan have a job when he returns to work?  359 pages.

Promises in the Attic by Elizabeth Hamilton Friermood

Wow, how appropriate to be writing a review of a book about a flood when it's raining cats and dogs here and the creeks and rivers are at flood stage.  I can easily imagine a young girl and her grandfather trapped in their attic for three days, listening to the pounding rain on the roof.  The Miami river has flooded the city of Dayton, Ohio and those who did not evacuate are trapped in their homes while the flood waters rise.  Friermood manages to weave together an engrossing story of the flood and the development of a wannabe journalist. 226 pages.

ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson


Private Detective Jackson Brodie is back in another crime novel that is full of unforgettable chara cters whose lives intersect in darkly humorous ways.  Jackson, now deeply involved in a romance w/Julia, one of the sisters from CASE HISTORIES, is catapulted into the life of the very introverted Martin and a very nasty group of prostitute traffickers.  Oh, and Louise, another Jackson love interest reappears.

Little, Brown, 2006. 418 p.

WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? By Kate Atkinson


The first chapter of this novel begins with a brutal murder of a young family.  Last lines p. 12:  “Thirty years later, Joanna (the lone survivor) couldn’t remember what the dog was called.  And there was no one left to ask.”  Fast forward to p. 387:  “…she (Joanna) put both hands over her heart like bird-wings and said, I couldn’t remember for the longest time, Scout, he was such a good dog.”

Brings back together Jackson Brodie and Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe and at least in his head/memory all the other women he has loved.  The most captivating character for me this go-round (among another amazing cast woven together through seemingly random story lines) is Reggie, the young orphan girl.


Little, Brown, 2008, 388 p.

STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG by Kate Atkinson


Jackson Brodie “acquires” a neglected dog which serves as a mirror image of an abused child. 

The core of this story churns around a child welfare system that’s a house of horror/errors.  But, “Hope is the thing with feathers,” one of my favorite lines of Emily Dickenson…did I mention before that the author often gives voice to her characters through poetry?  Deeply affecting, Tracy (whose motives may seem demented even) demonstrates that one determined person can make a difference. 

Plenty of bad guys but the flawed Jackson is once again a very good guy.

 Thank you, Frances R. for introducing me to Jackson!

Little, Brown, 2011, 371 p.

THE HEADMASTER’S WAGER by Vincent Lam


Some years ago, I read Peter Hessler’s wonderful book, ORACLE BONES and I began to understand the distinct Chinese mindset about ancestors, that is, one’s ancestors are never really gone.  Ancestors continue to influence the living and proper respect must always be paid to one ancestors.

Vincent Lam’s novel is a panoramic view of one Chinese expat family in Vietnam through decades of political turmoil as Vietnam is ruled successively by French, Japanese, French (again), Americans, and Viet Cong.  Headmaster Percival Chen, the central figure, is sent to Vietnam to join his father.  Neither man ever thinks of himself as anything other than a Chinese man.  It is this knowable, willful “blind spot” that results in repeated misunderstandings with tragic results for the headmaster and his son and the women who love them.

Hogarth, 2012, 423 p.

BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND by Margo Lanagan


Seven chapters that are not chronological tell the story of a small village on a remote island off the coast of Australia.  Author is Australian and her depiction of land and sea are wonderfully descriptive.

Beautiful, other worldly, loving and docile, sea-wives are drawn out of seals by a witch for the men of Rollrock Island, a remote island off the coast of Australia. 

A sea-wife bonds instantly w/her human man and, in a twist of fate, he w/her.  Time never heals the sea-wives yearning for their lives in the sea and this melancholy hangs like the sea-spray over the lives of the inhabitants.

Knopf, 2012 305 p.

THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley


Once again I’m keeping-up with my 14-year-old granddaughter and my abiding interest in young adult authors.  This novel is a smart combination of young woman/girl fantasy:  beautiful clothes, amazing horse, chaste love, and life-and-death adventure.

 The girl, Harry Crewe matures to be the champion of Daria, a mystical sorta-medieval land where kelar (magic) is both a gift and a curse.  Not that this is fluffy writing; it’s intelligent and beautifully descriptive and, also a wonderful coming-of-age story.

Oh, and Harry’s pet/companion is a strange cat-like creature named Narknon.  I’m a “cat-person” myself so this delighted me.

Greenwillow, 1982, 272 p.

THE BLACK HOUSE by Peter May


On one level, this novel is a classic love-triangle story.  Three young friends grow up together on remote Isle of Lewis, Fin and Altair become rivals for the lovely Marsaili.
On another level, this is a crime novel.  Fin, now a police detective, comes back to Lewis to investigate a brutal murder.  Woven in-between is the story of the centuries-old pilgrimage of the men of Lewis to an even more remote isle of Sula Sgeir to cull guga, baby sea-birds.  With all of this vivid story-telling, it isn’t until page 343 that the true story of Fin and Artair and Marsaili is revealed.

Silver Oak, 2012, 357 p.

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME by Allison Winn


“You were in a plane crash.” With no memory of husband, mother, sister, Nell begins to wonder, are any of them telling her the truth about her life.
 
Mostly written from “I” or Nell’s perspective but there are interspersed italized chapters written from all the characters that surround Nell and her story.  Also interspersed are chapter headings and quotes from songs.  Music turns out to be an integral feature of Nell’s life. 


Scotch, Putnam, 2012, 306 p.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Man Called Brown Condor by Thomas E. Simmons


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

The seven year old boy saw the airplane in 1911 and knew he wanted to fly, he left the south to Chicago, learned to fly, started a flying school. Later to prove black men could fly he served in Ethiopia as a pilot as the fought Fascist Italy in 1936.

288 pages.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jay Gatsby was a mysterious man who built an ostentatious mansion on West Egg, Long Island in the 1920’s. Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, rented a small, modest house next door when he moved east to work on Wall Street. Gatsby’s place was seemingly the place to be in the speakeasy era.  He threw extravagant parties where everyone who was anyone showed up sooner or later. There was much speculation about who he was, where he came from, and where/how he got his money.

Carraway was invited to one of the parties, where he met Gatsby, who asked him to arrange a meeting with Daisy Buchanan, Carraway’s cousin. Daisy lived across the sound in East Egg, where old money mansions were in abundance.  As it turns out, Gatsby and Daisy had fallen in love when Gatsby was and army officer. He was sent overseas to fight in World War I, and after the war a mix-up delayed his return to the states. Daisy got tired of waiting, and married Tom Buchanan. Gatsby had held onto the dream of someday finding her again. His fortune had been built with her in mind.

As the summer progresses, the relationship is renewed, but slowly builds up to a tragedy.

I wanted to re- read this book, because the movie was coming out, and I wanted to see it. I didn’t remember much about it from my high school days, so wanted to refresh my memory. I liked it better this time around, although I don’t believe I am ever going to be a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His writing is much too sloppy for me. But I do like the story.

192 pages

The Lemon Tree : An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

Sandy Tolan, a journalist who covered the Middle East for many years, wanted to put a human face on the conflict. He found it in the story of one small stone house in Ramla, Israel that had a lemon tree in the garden. After the war of 1967, Bashir, a young Palestinian man, knocks on the door of the house, which his father had built, and where his family lived until they were expelled by the Israelis in 1948. His father planted the lemon tree shortly before.  Dahlia, a young Israeli woman, answers the door. Her family was given  the house when they immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria in 1948.

Bashir and Dahlia become friends, and maintain that friendship until the present, despite their profound disagreement over how to solve the Middle East conflict. Dahlia becomes an activist, advocating for a peaceful solution. Bashir spends most of his life in prison, several times being accused of being a terrorist.

Tolan gives a mesmerizing history of the region and the geo-political roots of the conflict. He believes that peace can only come through the efforts of individual people coming together to understand and empathize with one another.

It is a compelling story. It is non-fiction, yet reads like a novel. I learned a lot from this book.


384 pages

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Deadly Politics by Maggie Sefton

In Deadly Politics, we are introduced to Molly Malone, a politician's daughter and wife who left the Washington scene when her husband committed suicide after succumbing to bad press. Now in her fifties, Molly is in dire need of a job, so she returns to the political arena as financial adviser to an up-and-coming senator. We are introduced to a cast of engaging characters and a political machine that turns deadly. While some of the characters are cardboard in nature, I think the series shows promise and will likely read the sequel(s) as well. 288 pages.

Storybound by Marissa Burt

In the land of Story we meet heroes, villains, damsels in distress, talking animals and others studying to become the best fairytale characters they can be. Enter Una, a child from the real world, who is Written In for a reason. The challenge is to find out why before it is too late! There is a cliffhanger ending to encourage you to read the sequel. I found the beginning and ending interesting, but the middle dragged, so I am not sure I will read book two. The target audience is middle school students. 406 pages.

Severe Clear by Stuart Woods


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Severe Clear is not the prediction at the new California hotel built by Stone Barrington. The U.S. and the Mexican presidents have a meeting. This brings out the international bad guys and plenty of detection.

Audio:  7 hrs. 20 min.
Print:  384 pages.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Fallen by T. Jefferson Parker

A police procedural set in San Diego, with an intriguing twist - Robbie Brownlaw, the detective assigned to the murder case has synesthesia, a neurological condition that allows him to see different colors emerge that depict emotions as people talk, a primitive lie detector.  The case involves the death of Garrett Asplundh, an ethics investigator for the police department.  Brownlaw and his partner dredge through the city's corruption and shady dealings, particularly a call girl ring known as the 'Squeaky Cleans', run by a Madame who started out running a house cleaning business.  Plenty of plot twists and red herrings keep things moving.  323 pages.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

I've enjoyed several books by this author focused on life in the Americas.  This one follows Zarite, known as Tete, the daughter of an African mother she never knew, and a white sailor, as she grows up in slavery in Saint-Domingue in the 1770s.  She is purchased by Toulouse Valmorain, to serve in his house and later as his concubine.  The book conveys well the horrid conditions of slavery in the sugar cane plantations that leads to a slave revolt.  When the Valmorain family escapes to Cuba, and later New Orleans, Tete accompanies the family and eventually gains her freedom.  Characters are connected in surprising ways, in some cases in ways that stretch credulity, but the overall picture of the time is very colorful, and you have to root for Tete to pull through.  Translated from the Spanish.  457 pages.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Twice Tempted" by Jeaniene Frost

This book is the sequel to Once Burned and is about Vlad Tepesh, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, and his relationship with Leila Dalton. She and Vlad have been living in his castle in Romania for a while, but when she doesn't get a declaration of love from Vlad but an offer to turn her into a vampire, she leaves him to go back to her old life in the circus.  Unfortunately, Vlad has many enemies and hurting Leila is the perfect way to get back at him, but does he truly love her?

This was a quick and suspenseful story with lots of action.  Vlad and Leila are an intriguing couple since they both have unusual and dangerous abilities. Electricity runs through her body, and she can read minds, among other things.  However, keeping those abilities straight can be a little confusing; and Vlad is not easy to like.  There will definitely be a third novel in this "Night Prince" series.  371 pages.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Admit One" by Jenna Hilary Sinclair

Tom Smith is a high school history teacher in the small, west Texas town of Gunning.  He's so deeply in the closet that, even though he's taught there for 15 years, no one in Gunning knows he is gay.  His reasons are two fold.  First, he believes that his career would be ruined, and second, he was the victim of a hate crime many years ago that still affects him deeply.  So when the music teacher asks Tom to help the kids put on the musical Rent, he's terrified that not only will this stir up major trouble for the school and the students, he's also afraid that the homosexuality in it will lead to someone discovering that he is gay.

This was a wonderful and very moving story of a man trying to find the courage to believe that he is worthy of love and acceptance for who he really is.  The hate crime wounded Tom both physically and emotionally, and the reader takes his journey with him as he tries to work through his fears and doubts to be with someone special.  The author does a great job of using Rent as a way for Tom to come to terms with what he wants in life, which is what all of us want - to be loved and accepted for who we are.  Highly recommended but only for open-minded adults.  350 pages (Kindle edition).

"Chasing the Mailman" by Amber Redd

This suspenseful story centers on a giant werewolf that is terrorizing the small ranching community of Stone Trail.  Usher Addison loses a horse but soon finds the mauled carcass surrounded by huge paw prints.  Later, he's nearly attacked in the snowy woods by the werewolf while looking for his dog, but another wolf rescues him.  When Usher can't get the local game warden or sheriff to take him seriously, the new mailman offers to help him protect his horses and his neighbor's dairy cows from the vicious monster.

This was an unusual story that dragged the suspense along . . . too long, in my opinion.  Plus, Usher's interior dialog was written like a conversation to himself, and there was a lot of it, so much that it became distracting.  165 pages (Kindle edition).

"A SEAL's Seduction" by Tawny Weber

This so-so contemporary romance centers on Dr. Alexia Lane, a neuroscientist who has just moved back to San Diego for work.  Unfortunately, this move also brings her closer to her high ranking Naval officer father and socialite mother, neither of whom approves of her career.  One night, she meets Navy SEAL Blake Landon, who has been forced into leave for two weeks after witnessing the death of his close friend on a mission.  They have a weekend hook-up without exchanging much information, so Alexia is shocked to see Blake in uniform at her father's retirement party.  Naturally, she ends their affair due to her "no dating military men" rule, and they don't see each other again until she's kidnapped and Blake is ordered to rescue her many months later.

I didn't enjoy much in this book, and Alexia wasn't easy to like.  For supposedly being so smart, she made some really dumb choices.  The reason for her kidnapping and the rescue scenes really strained credibility.  224 pages.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Silenced by the Yams by Karen Cantwell

I admit, I am drawn to humorous book titles, especially if a cozy mystery might be involved. So when Silenced by the Yams showed up on a free list and had good reviews, I quickly snatched it up. The heroine is Barbara Marr, a movie reviewer with a popular website, who regularly finds herself in trouble. This is no exception - the victim literally lands on top of her. Plenty of humor and a cliffhanger ending. I will be keeping up with this series. This is book three. Due to the suspenseful ending, I suspect I will read book four, then go back and pick up one and two. 142 pages.

Stranded by Lorena McCourtney

Little old lady Ivy Malone continues to make me laugh out loud as she once again puts her sleuthing skills to work. Still on the run from the mob, Ivy finds herself stranded in Hello, Colorado, where her RV breaks down. While she receives a friendly welcome, she also still maintains her usual run of bad luck of finding herself in the middle of a murder to solve. There are plenty of fun characters in this cozy mystery series. This is book four in the Ivy Malone series. The sad part? I don't see a book five available. 320 pages.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Black Fridays by Michael Sears


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Jason has spent two years in jail for illegal trade accounting. After his release the FBI wants him to investigate a huge firm to find out who and how they are skimming millions of dollars. He also has ex-wife problems and a young child with problems. 

Audio:  11 hrs. 2 min.
Print:  432 pages

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Wanted Man by Lee Child


(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Jack Reacher is hitching a ride to Virginia but ends up in a conspiracy of national importance, he is wanted or hunted by both sides. After all, he is in Kansas City, Mo hitching a ride to Virginia.  405 pages.