Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Barn Boot Blues by Catherine Friend

So one day, you're a perfectly normal 12-year-old girl, living in Minneapolis, hanging out in the Mall of America, and eating pizza with your friends. Next thing you know, you're living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, no cable TV, no friends, and a dress code violation on your very first day of school! And it only gets worse.

Taylor McNamara just wants to move back to the city, in spite of her parents' lifelong dream of owning a farm. She makes life miserable for them, until they finally capitulate, and agree to sell the farm.

Do they move back to Minneapolis? Does the Mall of America welcome her with open arms? Is the pizza still hot and gooey? Read this 'Mark Twain' award nominee to find out.

147 pages.

Grandpa's Tractor by Michael Garland

Timmy's Grandpa Joe takes him to the farm where he used to live and work the land. As he drives Timmy around the farm on his old tractor, he tells him stories about the farm, and the way they used to live and work.

A warm and nostalgic story about times of yore. A 2013-2014 'Show Me' award nominee.

32 pages

Peanut Butter and Homework Sandwiches by Lisa Broadie Cook

Martin MacGregor loves his teacher and ALWAYS gets his homework done on time. But one day he goes to school and there is a SUBSTITUTE teacher. Although the substitute doesn't seem to like him much, Martin isn't worried, because he ALWAYS gets his homework done on time.

But he seems to be having a very rotten week, because very odd things keep happening to his homework...things that are very difficult to explain to the teacher. But Martin finally finds a creative way to make sure his homework is turned in on time.

'Show Me' nominee, 2013-2014.

32 pages

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond

Charlie spends his day on the ranch eating (he lives for bacon), chasing cows, tending garden, fixing fences and doing chores all day long. Zzzzz!

You will love Charlie, in spite of how hard he works all day long.

Another delightful 'Show Me' award nominee.

40 pages

Painter and Ugly by Robert J. Blake

Painter and Ugly are doggie best friends. They eat together, sleep together and play together.  Then one day, a man comes and takes them away. They are being trained for a Junior Iditarod race, and they are separated.

Each becomes leader of a sled team, but they are lonely, and miss each other. However, on the racing trail, they find each other and their joyous reunion makes for a happy ending.

A delightful children's book, a 'Show Me' award nominee this year.

48 pages

The Art of Racing in the Rain - a novel by Garth Stein

What a great read! Enzo is a dog at the end of his life.  On his last night he looks back at his time with Denny, Eve, and their daughter Zoe, reflecting on how frustrating it is not to be able to communicate with his human family.  Enzo describes Denny's amazing driving skills and philosophy of racing.  Who knew that the tenets of race-car driving could apply equally well to getting the most out of life?  Enzo, that's who! 321 pages.

Touchstone by Laurie King

I really had to work to finish reading this book.  The touchstone the book refers to is Bennett Grey, a WWI veteran who was wounded in the trenches.  As a result of his injuries, Grey is able to discern whether a person is truthful, often by a strong visceral reaction to deception of any kind. Unfortunately, Grey is not the main character.  Laurie King felt the need to anchor the story on the shoulders of an American FBI agent on holiday.  Harris Stuyvesant is using his personal time to track an anarchist bomber back to England.  His search leads him to a shady character named Carstairs who is looking for a way to coerce Bennett Grey into assisting him with his "research" on lie detectors and the efficacy of torture.  Carstairs points Stuyvesant to Grey, or rather Grey's sister, as a way to get into the Anarchist circle.  As you might imagine, you have to read a lot of backstory to keep up with this plot. History buffs interested in a light version of the labor troubles in the U.S. and England pre- and post-WWI might find this story engaging but other folks will probably want to give it a pass. 548 pages.

Suspect by Robert Crais

Maggie is a German shepherd who served in Afghanistan sniffing out IEDs. She's now back in the U.S. suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and hooked up with a new partner who's recovering from a trauma of his own-the murder of his partner.  Robert Crais writes fast-paced detective stories that draw you in from the first line.  This stand alone title continues the tradition! I love reading about LA too!  312 pages.

The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr

This was a rather random pick from the library shelves.  While certainly imaginative, this is a rather heavy-handed and pedantic allegory about pitting our natural selves against our materialistic selves.  Still, there are some interesting characters to carry along the basic plot - a developing battle between a group of outcasts, the Bane, who have been shunned by the city/fortress society because of physical deformities and short stature, and the Tall, the perfect people who dwell in the (not so perfect underneath) city of Broken.  Even the names are preachy.  Still, there were some interesting plot twists and Carr does a good job of vividly describing the locales of the story. Good triumphs in the end.  For avid fantasy fans only.  651 pages

Choke Point by Ridley Pearson

A high-testosterone thriller in a series featuring John Knox as an operative/heavy and Grace Chu as computer hacker for a private security firm.  This time they are trying to find and dismantle a 'knot shop' in Amsterdam, which employs and enslaves young girls to keep labor costs low.  Plenty of intrigue, chase scenes and combat ensue as the pair lures the 'knot shop' owners out of the shadows.  399 pages.

Hit Me by Lawrence Block

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Keller is a home renovator in New Orleans, when the hurricane hits it leaves him out of work. He goes back to work doing what he did when he lived in New York; hit man for hire.  337 pages.

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Written as a stream-of-consciousness narrative from the viewpoint of a child, this book is an unrelentingly dreary view of the world of the very poor. Rory Dawn is the daughter of an alcoholic mother, and a gambling addict grandmother, both of whom made too many mistakes with too many men, and never found a way to lift themselves out of poverty.

They each made the same mistakes of their own mothers, and the reader is never given a glimmer of hope that Rory Dawn will be any different. She is gifted, but her teachers give up on her; her mother was dyslexic, but found a way to go to college, then blew it when she was arrested for marijuana possession.

And so the cycle continues. We’re all familiar with the stories of those who somehow made it out, but those who don’t are often hidden from us. If you want them to stay hidden, don’t read this book.

289 pages

Here's to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire: An Absent-Minded Tale of Life with Giftedness and Attention Deficit - Oh Look! A Chicken by Stacy Turis

The author has written a very funny, and at times, very heart wrenching book about what it is like to live as someone with ADD, and also what it like to live with someone with ADHD, especially if they are also gifted.

She chronicles her journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance, and the twenty-seven businesses she has started (although she can't remember most of them).  This book will help those with ADD see themselves, hopefully accept themselves, and most of all, laugh at themselves.

230 pages

The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch

In this  the second book of the 'Hangman's Daughter' series, the hangman of Schongau, Bavaria and his daughter solve yet another murder mystery. The priest of the local church is poisoned, and clues lead them to the Knights Templar, a group of monks that dominated Europe three hundred years before.

What they find leads them to believe that the Knights hid a large treasure in this region when they were being decimated by the King of France. The local priest finds out about it when some work is being done on the church. He writes two letters about what he has found, and suddenly a sinister monk turns up in town, and the priest dies.

The hangman and his daughter follow the clues and the monk all around the region, looking for the treasure and the murderer. Set in the mid-1600's, this is a dark tale of murder, torture, and deprivation.

516 pages

OVER SEA, UNDER STONE by Susan Cooper, THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper

I once took an English class on children’s literature at the same time I was working as a library assistant for an amazing children’s librarian in a teaching college.  Long story short, I became enamored with Arthurian legend in general and in particular Susan Cooper’s 5-book series:  THE DARK IS RISING. Targeted to young readers and published between 1965 and 1977, they are filled with references to Celtic myth as the young characters are tossed between the forces of the Dark and the forces of the Light.  Recently I gave the paperback series to my granddaughter and then decided I would re-read the books to see if they still merited being called a classic quest fantasy.  Conclusion:  Oh, yes!  Cooper’s imagery and beautiful writing caught me up again in her imagining.  I plan to re-read the other three books.


Aladdin Paperbacks 1989, 243 p.

Aladdin Paperbacks 1999, 244 p.


This novel started out a little strange because in the first chapter, the “ghosts” appear, and I’m thinking what’s this about.  Quickly, however, I was drawn into a world I know more than a little bit about because my husband is a first generation Irish American.  Northern Ireland in the time of “the troubles” is war with all its consequences.  The characters and their actions are completely believable and often horrifyingly violent.  I‘ve read that this is to be the first in a series and I’m eagerly awaiting the next one, as is my husband.

Soho 2009, 326 p.


Still not quite sure I “get” Karen Russell.  This group of short stories, like the other collection of hers that I read, is peopled with believable characters in mostly unbelievable fantastical settings.  Two stories stand out:  “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979” and “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutts”.  Both are stories of boys, Nal and Larry, on the verge of young manhood making choices that will define who they are and will be.

Knopt 2013, 243 p.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Alpine Betrayal by Mary Daheim

Alpine continues to have its share of violent crimes. This time a local man is murdered and no one seems to care. Could the whole community be keeping a secret from days gone by? It appears Emma Lord, the owner of the local newspaper,  will need to dig deep to find the solution. A solid cozy mystery offering. 240 pages

Ryan's Return by Barbara Freethy

Photojournalist Ryan Hunter returns to his hometown of Serenity Springs to make peace with his family. Kara Delaney, a relative newcomer to the town but leader in the business community, is in charge of a centennial celebration that she hopes will attract the attention of tourists despite local detractors. Ryan and Kara's paths intertwine as the flood waters rise and secrets are revealed. I was much more interested in the family relationships than the romance. It was an easy and entertaining read. 386 pages.

Bite Me by Mike Faricy

Dev Haskell is a not-too-bright detective who gets framed for murder. I think they should have just gone ahead and thrown him in jail. The plot was not engaging. The lead character was not endearing. Not my idea of a cozy mystery. 322 pages.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Top plastic surgeon is willing to do anything to avoid jail. Murder, amber alerts and murderers keep Alex Cross at his best. 407 pages.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"The Many Sins of Lord Cameron" by Jennifer Ashley

This is book three in Ashley's Highland Pleasures series and focuses on the second eldest of the Mackenzie brothers, Cameron.  A widow with a sixteen-year-old son, Cameron is focused on training horses, getting drunk, and taking his pleasures from lonely society wives.  He has a tragic past that has left him physically and mentally scarred.  Six years ago, he happened upon Ainsley Douglas searching through his bedroom during a house party, and he's never been able to forget her.  Now he's caught her doing the same thing again, and he sets his sites on making her his lover.  But Ainsley, a widow for five years, is a lady in waiting for Queen Victoria, for whom she had invaded Cam's bedroom to search for stolen letters.

This was another good entry in the series, and I really liked Ainsley.  She's strong and smart and is able to stand up to Cameron while still falling for him.  Cam's transformation during the story was well done, and his dedication to his horses was interesting.  I'm anxious to read the next book about the oldest Mackenzie brother.  311 pages.

"One Good Earl Deserves a Lover" by Sarah MacLean

This poorly titled historical romance centers on Lady Philippa Marbury, the bespectacled fourth sister of five, the only one who loves science and dogs more than fashion and being a wife.  However, she's set to marry the handsome but dull Earl Castleton since she knows she'll get no other offers - she's been told her whole life that she's "odd."  She's never been in love and is ignorant of the finer parts of marriage, so she asks a rake, Mr. Cross, who is also one of the owners of a notorious gaming hell, to conduct "experiments" with her so that she knows what to expect on her wedding night.  Yes, the plot is completely preposterous but Philippa is an unusual heroine, and Cross is much more than he seems.  He's also 6'6" and a "ginger," unusual for the hero of a historical romance.  I found the book a bit too wordy, but Cross and Philippa made a fantastic couple, and the road to their HEA was worth the extra length.  The author dedicates the book "for girls who wear glasses."  376 pages.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts by Elise Lemire

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Before Walden Pond was green space, the Walden Woods area in our historical past was black. Walden Woods and Concord Woods were the home of American slaves and some freed men. 

Audio:  8 hrs. 25 min.
Print:  232 pages.

Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

This kid is a perfect student, parents are lawyers, he doesn’t have an enemy that he knows of but his school locker has been broken into and things of his are missing and stolen things are put there; he’s being framed for robbery.  271 pages.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage" by Jennifer Ashley

This is the second in the Highland Pleasures series and follows "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie," which I read several years ago.  In this book, Lady Isabella Scranton and Scottish Lord Mac Mackenzie eloped the night of her debut ball.  She left him three years later and now has been separated for three-and-a-half years.  Mac is a well-known painter, and Isabella is convinced that someone is forging his work.  When she reenters his life to tell him, Mac realizes that she still cares and vows to win her back.  However, the forger has different ideas and may keep them apart forever.

I have not done justice describing this lovely historical romance.  With crackling dialog and undeniable chemistry between the two likable main characters, this book was a pleasure to read.  Reading about this couple's problems and how they worked to overcome them seemed very real.  With four Mackenzie brothers, there should be at least two more books; I'm looking forward to reading them.  316 pages.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum's Heart Book by Dr. Suzann Steinbaum

I read health books occasionally; this one was on the new book shelf at MRRL.  The subtitle is: Every Woman's Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life.  Steinbaum covers much of the usual information about red flags, changing diet, and exercise.  She also thoroughly explains the various heart related tests and what they indicate.  One useful chapter is devoted to getting the most out of any doctor visit.  Much sensible advice, but I'll pass on doing a daily heart health diary - she you to record data about 32 items/day, including various emotional triggers like whether you laughed today or did things that you regret, like eat too much.  While she does have diet recommendations, this is not a diet book. 347 pages.

Porch Lights by Dorothea Benton Frank

A real Hallmark Hall of Fame type plot. Very true to place - Carolina shores - but characterization and plot were oh so designed to pluck the reader's heartstrings.   I guess it could count as a beach read.    319 pages

Do Not Disturb by Kate Kingsbury

I have read a couple of the special holiday Pennyfoot Hotel cozy mysteries, so thought I would see what the original series is like. I was confused at first because while the characters are the same, their relationships are different since this series predates the holiday series. None the less, I was quickly able to catch on and actually enjoyed reading about how it all began. (Well almost began; Do Not Disturb is actually book two in the series.)

The series is set in England in the early 1900s. Cecily Sinclair, a widow, owns the hotel visited by the aristocracy, but it is really run by the faithful, stoic manager, Baxter. When Madeline, Cecily's friend, is hauled in for questioning and becomes the primary suspect in a murder, Cecily decides to investigate, dragging along a reluctant Baxter. The characters are loveable caricatures. The mystery is  light. The reading is fast and fun. I'll visit the Pennyfoot again soon! 203 pages.