Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

by J. K. Rowling

320 pages

I listened to HP1 while driving cross country on a recent road trip, and found Harry's discovery of his identity, the introduction of the wizarding world, and the sweet first introductions to the friends that would support him through his journey just as charming and enthralling as ever. 

The Language of Flowers

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

352 pages

Victoria, recently released from the foster care system and without a home, job, or any close connections, meets a local florist while camping out in a park near the shop.  Offered a job and her first opportunity at friendship in years, she starts putting together custom bouquets for clients using the Victorian language of flowers, having learned about flowers and their meanings from a brief time at a home when she was a child.  Allowing herself to care opens up old wounds and new challenges, and following Victoria as the mystery of her past catches up with her struggles in the present is a satisfying, though sometimes heartbreaking, journey. 

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns

by Margaret Dilloway

416 pages

Prickly Gal, a science teacher and lifelong kidney disease sufferer, takes on her teenaged niece Riley when Riley's mother decides to move out of the country for work.  A sweet story about trust, reconnections, and the bittersweet growth that comes when life throws a curveball.

Three Day Town by Margaret Maron

Margaret Maron brings together Deborah Knott and Sigrid Harald, the main characters of her North Carolina and New York series, in Three Day Town.  Deborah and her new husband, Dwight Bryant, are finally going on their honeymoon.  But they're going to New York City in the middle of winter! And they have to deliver a pornographic statuette to a friend.  Well,  the statuette is stolen, someone is murdered, and both crimes land on the desk of Sigrid Harald, NYPD detective.  The plot seems a bit contrived and the writing is less polished than Maron's other books.  I've seen this before with favorite series when the publisher pushes the writer to publish one book a year.  It never works!  Skip this installment and stick to Maron's earlier work!  278 pages.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Alpine Advocate by Mary Daheim

I opted to read this book because of the author who also writes a cozy Bed and Breakfast mystery series. In this first book in the Emma Lord series, Emma has come into a small inheritance and as a result is now the owner of a small weekly newspaper. The news is usually pretty light, but like most small towns there are plenty of secrets that can come back to haunt the citizens. A light, not-very-challenging mystery. 240 pages.

"Pretending He's Mine" by Lauren Blakely

Cute "pretend we're a couple" story about Sutton Brenner, a NYC casting director, and Reeve, an aspiring actor whom she enlists to be her fiance so she can impress the producers enough to get hired for their upcoming film.  However, pretend feelings turn real (as usual in these stories), and Sutton and Reeve find themselves in a real relationship . . . or is it?  Both Sutton and Reeve are likable characters, and the scenes with her dog, The Artful Dodger, were cute.  118 pages (Kindle edition).

"Into Deep Waters" by Kaje Harper

It's 1942 and Jacob has just boarded a navy ship to head out to the Pacific to fight the Japanese.  Daniel, who is already on deck, sees the young man trip and nearly fall over an uneven board.  They catch each other's eye, Daniel smirking and Jacob embarrassed, but this is the beginning of a decades-long relationship.  Kaje Harper has written a beautiful and suspenseful story, based on a real relationship, of two men trying to be true to themselves and each other.  More than half of the book takes place during WWII, when Daniel and Jacob are serving together and trying to survive as well as keep their relationship a secret.  The novel concludes 69 years later when they are in their 80s.  I won't give anything away, but get your hankies ready if you read their story.  My only complaint is that I wish it were longer; it is that good!  172 pages (Kindle edition).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Haunted Baseball by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Lots of things happen in the book all over the baseball world, but there wasn’t another living person around when things happen. 

Audio:  8 hrs. 15 min.
Print:  288 pages.


I heard an interview with Ms. O"Brien on NPR on the occasion of her latest novel.  I thought, how is it that I've never read the author whose Irish voice and intelligent perceptions grabbed my attention.

I decided right off to read her older novels first and found this paperback of three earlier stories:  The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964) plus the Epilogue written in 1986 for a reprint of the the original stories.

This is an epic tale of two friends:  Kate, the incurable romantic and Baba, the pragmatist.  It's the story of their families, their lovers, their children, and  assorted characters of Ireland of the 1950-1960s.  This is a celebration and eulogy of Irish women and I loved it.

Plume 1987, 532 p.

SHIVER TRILOGY by Maggie Stiefvater

I quickly moved on to Stiefvater’s werewolf trilogy for young adults and read through them consecutively over a period of several weekends spent on the couch. The first book was a 2011-2012 Gateway Readers Award (Grades 9-12).

Again, beautifully rendered characters: Grace and Sam, the young lovers and friends, Isabel and Cole. The location is a small town on the end of the Minnesotan Boundary Wood.

Does this sound like the Twilight series, vampires and werewolves? It is and isn’t. The werewolves are not romanticized and therefore, the story is actually more realistic.

I especially liked that each of the characters has a voice in alternating chapters as their lives change unexpectedly and unpredictably throughout the trilogy. I very much enjoyed reading Grace, Sam, Isabel and Cole’s story.

SHIVER, Scholastic 2009, 390 p.

LINGER, Scholastic 2010, 360 p.

FOREVER, Scholastic 2011, 390 p.


THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater

In the small town of Henrietta , Dick Gansey lives in an abandoned brick factory with fellow students all of whom attend the all-boy Aglionby Academy.  Townspeople refer to them as the Raven Boys on account of the v-neck sweaters the boys wear with the school crest: a raven image.

Teenage Blue Sargent lives in all-woman household with her assorted aunts and mom, Maura…they are all psychics.  Blue apparently isn’t until this particular St. Mark’s Eve.

Yes, it’s a boy meets girl but the story is also a mystery.  The characters are beautifully rendered.  The boy household consists of:

·         Gansey, clearly the leader (don’t call him Dick, that’s his late father)

·         Adam, the scholarship townie (who it is revealed is routinely viciously beaten by his father),

·         Roan, whose cycles between anger/despair (and attempts suicide)

·         and Noah, the watcher (who is strangely cold)

Heavy topics written seriously, there’s no condescending for the adolescent reader.  Looking forward to reading the sequel.
Scholastic,  2012 409 p.

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Historical Fiction set in Bavaria in the 1600's, this is the first novel in the Hangman's Daughter series. Jacob Kuisl is the official town hangman in Schongau, Germany. As hangman, he must torture anyone accused of a crime in order to get a confession.

It was a dark age in which witches and devils were believed to cause most ills visited upon humankind. And those accused were usually tortured until they confessed, in which case they were killed by the hangman, or until they died from the torture.

Then children begin to be killed, and his friend, the midwife, is accused of killing the children through witchcraft. Jacob, his daughter Magdalena, and Simon, a young surgeon, believe she is innocent, and set about to find the killers. While Jacob is frantically trying to find the real killers, he is forced to torture the midwife, or lose his job.

In the meantime, Magdalena and Simon, while helping the hangman in his quest for the truth, are falling in love, although it
is illegal for them to marry; although hangmen are necessary, they are
also untouchables, and can only marry within the society of hangmen.

The author is descended from a family of hangmen, and has done a lot
of research into that period of time. The books have been translated from
German. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it isn't for the faint of heart.

448 pages

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fire and Ice by Dana Stabenow

State Trooper Liam Campbell has been demoted and reassigned to a remote town in Alaska. But a remote town, doesn't mean a quiet town. Liam is confronted with a murder from the moment he steps off the plane. Standing next to the victim is Liam's former lover, Wyanet Chouinard. There were plenty of twists and turns in the plot and gritty characters to keep me interested. Book one in the Liam Campbell mystery series.304 pages.

Got Your Number by Stephanie Bond

Roxann Beadleman works for an underground organization that rescues women and children from abusive situations. When one of the abusers, Frank Cape, decides to track Roxann down to find out where his wife and child are, Roxann decides to lay low for a while.  There is plenty of trouble and humor in this light-hearted mystery / romance. It is not one of Bond's best, but it is still a good read. Just be prepared to overlook some of the plot flaws - like why a detective can follow Roxann all around the state. 352 pages.

Our Husband by Stephanie Bond

Beatrix is a fifty-something socialite,  Natalie is a thirty-something doctor, and Ruby is a twenty-one-year-old exotic dancer. When they converge on an emergency room, they find they have one thing in common - the SAME husband, Raymond Carmichael! I'm amazed this book works as well as it does. The characters are funny, the mystery is light, and the plot is fast-moving. 300 pages.

Going Organic Can Kill You by Staci McLaughlin

Hopes are high for the grand opening of the O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa, but they quickly plummet when a movie producer is murdered onsite during opening weekend. Dana Lewis, part-time employee of the Spa and friend of the owner, decides she must solve the crime before the Spa goes under. A light mystery - not very demanding - and that's okay for a hot summer day. 304 pages. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato

Is it 'National Treasure' meets 'The DaVinci Code' in 15th c. Italy?  Fiorato has created a mystery/romantic comedy romp involving political intrigue among the rival city states of Italy, as slowly unraveled by Luciana Vetra, a young, beautiful prostitute/part-time artist model and her unlikely sidekick, a young novice at the local monastery who also happens to be a member of the royal family of Florence.  The mystery revolves around decoding clues in a new painting by Botticelli, La Primavera, in which a political plot that could start a war is shown in the symbolism of the human figures and other elements in the painting.  Who's involved, and who's on the side of the young couple?  This is a fun read, with lots of period detail and a well-described romp through Italy to discover clues.  There are numerous plot twists and unlikely escapes of our intrepid pair to keep the story moving along.  514 p.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Chained Melody" by Debbie Martin

My gosh, what an emotional book!  Tom and Will grew up together in small town England.  They're very different boys but are best friends.  Tom is a typical alpha male who loves the ladies and joins the military after school.  Will is more sensitive and bookish and goes to university then works as a librarian.  They lose touch for a few years but eventually reconnect after Tom leaves his wife and goes to stay with Will.  But Will is now Billie, a pre-op transexual living as a woman.  How long can he hide Billie from Tom, and how will Tom react when he discovers her?

The reader gets both of the main characters' points of view with Tom narrating in the present and Will's part told in flashbacks as Tom reads Will's diary.  It's hard to describe how affecting this book is as we're allowed to follow both men as they try to find happiness in a world that so easily judges people who aren't "normal."  Some of the English turns of phrase and slang were confusing, but I'm so glad that I read this lovely and bittersweet story.  Will/Billie is a character that will stick with me for a long time.  428 pages (Kindle edition).

"Looking for You (A Laurel Heights Novel)" by Kate Perry

Gwen Pierce is a gourd artist living and working in the Laurel Heights section of San Francisco.  She roller blades in the rain, wears really bright clothes, and dyes her hair outrageous colors.  She's been approached to participate in a special exhibit at a prestigious art gallery, but she's afraid that her secret past will be exposed in the media.  She also has to worry about Rick Clancy, a handsome private investigator to whom she's attracted.  Will her past as a French wine heiress be discovered, or will she be able to live her life in happy anonymity?

This was a decent contemporary romance, although I wasn't really sure why the two leads were attracted to each other in the first place.  Gwen's quirky personality grew on me, but with so much of the novel focused on her, Rick seemed underdeveloped.  316 pages (Kindle edition).

Monday, June 10, 2013

The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan by James Scott

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

This book tells of the war operation of three American submarines in the second world war. All about hunting Japanese merchant ships that moved war materials to Japan. Planning and attacking these ships and surviving Japanese escort and destroyer depth charges dropped on them. 324 pages.

Gun Games by Faye Kellerman

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

In his prestigious California high school, this 15 year old student had a run-in with the school tough clique, and his girlfriend is almost kidnapped by them. The school had two suicides a month apart.  

Audio:  12 hrs. 25 min.
Print:  480 pages

Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody

This historical fiction novel set in World War II, has two protagonists: Danny, a young boy growing up in Chicago, and Anya, a young girl growing up in Holland. They become pen pals and write to each other between 1938 and 1940, when Germany invaded The Netherlands and cut off all communication.
Anya joins the Dutch Resistance movement, helping hide and transport Jews and Allied soldiers who are shot down over Holland. She loses a great many people close to her, and becomes cynical and hardened.
Danny finishes school, goes on to college, and in many ways is oblivious to the war. Until a tragedy causes him to question who he is and what he is doing. He joins the Army Air Force and becomes a pilot, flying bombing missions over Germany until his plane is shot down. He is rescued by the Dutch Resistance, and encounters Anya. She helps him get back to Framlingham airfield, wher he  becomes  part of Operation Chowhound, and drops food over her town.

This book starts with a section labeled ‘On a personal note’ .  In it, the author writes about her father, who was shot down in a B-17 over Poland during World War II. He got back to Framlingham airfield in England two months later, just in time to participate in Operation Chowhound, dropping food to the starving people of the Netherlands. I had never heard of this operation, and was really interested in learning more about it.
Unfortunately, that part didn’t happen until the very end part of a very long book, which should have been tightened up to be half the size it is. The writing was sloppy; current slang phrases were rife and the dialog was stilted and unbelievable. The facts were also suspect; at one point Northwestern, the college attended by Danny, played the Kansas State Jay Hawks, instead of the KU Jayhawks.  Dutch Jews were being transported to Auschwitz instead of Westerbork.   The inaccuracies are too many to list here. I love historical fiction, but I like it surrounded by facts!

 This book devolved into a syrupy, unrealistic Christian romance novel.  I held on to the very end, but it hurt!


596 pages

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats" by Francesco Marciuliano

I received this tiny book of poems from my friends Abbey and Michael for my birthday, because they know I'm a cat lover.  The cat poets featured here write about family, work, home, and existence, all in short, concise prose.  It was fun to read how strange things seem from their point of view, especially the poem written to one cat's human that warns her not to walk her kitty on a leash or she'll end up alone.  There are also lots of cute pictures of cats!  112 pages.

Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green
Pages: 221


Cover Blurb: Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

This book was another John Green gem. It didn't evoke as much emotion from me as "The Fault in Our Stars" did but was still a fantastic read.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Golden Lies by Barbara Freethy

When a long-lost, priceless work of art shows up at an "Antique Roadshow" type event, the House of Hathaway is first in line to make an offer. Unfortunately, the Chinese dragon is stolen  when it is taken off-site to be authenticated. An investigation ensues which raises more questions than it answers as a 50-year old mystery unfolds that entwines the lives of three very diverse families. Personally, I like a little more depth of character, but it was a fine, light read for a breezy summer day. 400 pages.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Breathe for Me" by Natalie Anderson

This is book one in the "Be For Me" series, and it was pretty good.  Chelsea Greene is living in NYC for two months while doing an internship for her master's degree.  She's also recovering emotionally from a horrific car accident that claimed the life of her fiance two years ago.  While trying to get over her fear of water, she meets former lifeguard Xander Lawson who wants to come to her rescue but she's not having it.  He's gorgeous and cocky yet sensitive, and Chelsea finds herself drawn to him despite her reluctance to get involved. 

This was a cute, easy romance with two strong yet vulnerable leads.  Although the second half wasn't as strong as the first, I'd still recommend it to readers who enjoy contemporary romances.  227 pages (Kindle edition).