Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Wise Man's Fear: the kingkiller chronicles, day 2 by Patrick Rothfuss

In Rothfuss's first book, The Name of the Wind, we're introduced to Kvothe, a legendary arcanist turned innkeeper.  Now we learn more about the real events behind the legend. For example, according to the legend, Kvothe was a brilliant student who completed three years study in less than six months.  In reality, Kvothe had to accelerate his studies because he didn't have enough money to pay for three years of tuition. (I could really relate to Kvothe's constant preoccupation with his finances!)   Rothfuss takes his time telling Kvothe's adventures and introducing the people he meets along the way.  An engrossing read! 999 pages.

Tombstone Courage by J. A. Jance

In the second book of the Joanna Brady series, Joanna begins life as the new sheriff of Cochise County. Her first case is the disappearance of old rancher who has just changed his will.  A search of the ranch turns up his dead body-atop a decades old skeleton! Joanna must unravel the tangled family history to find the killer AND try to maintain a home life for her young daughter.  I loved that Angie Kellog, the young prostitute from the first book who was rescued by Joanna, is now living in Bisbee creating a new life for herself.  408 pages.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina goes to Moscow to persuade her sister-in-law not to divorce her brother, who has had an affair. While there, she meets Count Vronsky, who is a dashing army officer. He falls in love with the lovely Anna, and tries to get her to leave her husband and marry him. But although she is not attracted to her husband, Anna can't bring herself to leave him, fearing she will lose her son.

They do begin an affair, which her husband discovers. He asks her to break it off, believing this will save their marriage. When and Vronsky continue to see each other,  Karenin sees a lawyer about getting a divorce. But Anna almost dies after giving birth to a daughter, so he doesn't pursue it.

When Vronsky gets a military posting to Europe, Anna goes with him. Eventually they try to make a life for themselves in Italy. However, they have trouble making friends, and end up going back to Russia. There she is shunned by her former friends, and discovers her son has been told she has died. She becomes more and more isolated and anxious, even as Vronsky resumes his former social life. She is paranoid and convinced he is in love with someone else, although he tries to reassure her. She is intensely jealous, and doesn't want him to leave her side for a minute. She takes morphine to help her sleep. After a terrible fight with Vronsky, she commits suicide by throwing herself under a train.

A parallel story within the novel is that of Konstantin Levin, a country landowner, telling of his difficulties managing his estate, his eventual marriage, and other personal issues. The novel explores a diverse range of topics,  including an evaluation of the feudal system that existed in Russia at the time; politics,  religion, morality, gender and social class.

872 pages
copyright 1876

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Abigail Anne Lannigan's father believed that all girl children were good for was housework and being wives and mothers. Her mother insisted she could be anything she wanted to be, but she died when Abigail was 11.  When she turned 16, her father found a suitable husband for her from a neighboring farm. But Abigail had other ideas; she ran away to Richmond where she first published in 1910, this is the story of Mary Lennox, who lived in India until her parents died when she was 10. In India, she was raised by servants, who did not much like her, and she was allowed to do whatever she pleased whenever she pleased. Her parents ignored her, and she was sickly and petulant. After the death of her parents, she was sent to live with her uncle, back in England. He sees that she has everything she needs, but he too ignores her.


However, she finds the servants in England are quite different than those in India, and are not afraid to stand up to her and her petulant demands. She eventually becomes fond of her housemaid Martha, who tells her tales about Misselthwaite Manor, where she now lives, and about Martha's family, especially her brother Dickon.  Mary hears that there was once a garden, which her husband's wife designed for her own pleasure. When his wife dies, the door to the garden is locked, and the key buried so that no one can ever enter again.


Mary starts spending time out in the gardens, and searching for the secret garden. She becomes healthier and less petulant. She finds the key and the secret garden, and asks Dickon to help her rebuild it. He agrees. Then one night she discovers that there is a cousin in the house also; one who refuses to let anyone see him, and who is more petulant even than Mary. He throws tantrums when he doesn't get his own way. To soothe him, Mary tells him about the garden. She and Dickon bring Colin (for that is his name) in on the secret, and the three of them spend their days working in the garden. Mary and Colin heal over that summer, surprising Colin's father when he returns.

308 pages
copyright 1910

The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby

Abigail Anne Lannigan's father believed that all girl children were good for was housework and being wives and mothers. Her mother insisted she could be anything she wanted to be, but she died when Abigail was 11.  When she turned 16, her father found a suitable husband for her from a neighboring farm. But Abigail had other ideas; she ran away to Richmond where she eventually became a librarian, after being a secretary to a poet and a hostess in a speakeasy.

Fast forward 70 years. Ms Lannigan, who never married or had children, is living a solitary life after her twin brother died. Destiny Fairchild, a young woman who has no family, moves in across the street. Abigail gives her some old furniture, and in turn Destiny cleans her house. Gradually the two become best friends; Destiny takes care of Abigail, eventually becoming her caregiver. Abigail leaves Destiny all her worldly possessions.

When Abigail dies, her great-great-nephew has Destiny arrested for defrauding his aunt and stealing his 'inheritance'. The story is narrated by the dead Abigail, who is furious that her so-called nephew is lying about Destiny, when all her ever wanted was her money, and never did anything for her. Although it's a bit of fluff, I enjoyed the book.

279 pages

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

I read this holiday novella just in time for Christmas! In this short story, Stephanie hunts down a bond-jumping toy maker aptly named "Sandy Claws." She has the help of the mysterious Diesel, who Stephanie is convinced is either an a) alien or b) the Ghost of Christmas Present. Short and sweet!

149 pages

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Always" by Kindle Alexander

Get your hankies ready for this tear-jerker about the nearly 40 year relationship between Avery Adams, the grandson of a U.S. president, and Kane Dalton, a successful chef from the south.  They meet in 1975 in Minneapolis where Kane has a famous restaurant and Avery has just returned to his home state to contemplate a run for the Senate.  The story covers some of the important milestones in their lives together and really pulls at the reader's emotions, especially at the beginning and end.  Although a bit long, it was easy to read and to root for these men to find happiness.  287 pages (Kindle edition).

Friday, December 26, 2014

Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich

Summary: "The #1 bestselling phenomenon continues in the eighth Stephanie Plum novel. The stakes get higher, the crimes get nastier, the chases get faster, and the men get hotter. This time Stephanie, Morelli, Ranger. Lula, Valerie, and Grandma Mazur are strapped in for the ride of their lives. Stephanie is hired to find a missing child. But things aren't always as they seem and Stephanie must determine if she's working for the right side of the law. Plus, there's the Morelli question: can a Jersey girl keep her head on straight when more than just bullets are aimed for her heart? And with the Plum and Morelli relationship looking rocky, is it time for Ranger to move in for the kill? Janet Evanovich's latest thriller proves that Hard Eight will never be enough."

Hard Eight is not my favorite book of the series, but I hope that Stephanie can work out her love life soon!

311 pages

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

Summary: "Semiretired mob guy Eddie DeChooch is caught trafficking contraband cigarettes through Trenton, New Jersey. When DeChooch fails to show for a court appearance, bond enforcement agent Stephanie Plum is assigned the task of finding him and dragging his decrepit ass back to jail. Not such an easy job, it turns out, since DeChooch has learned a lot of tricks over the years and isn't afraid to use his gun. He's already shot Loretta Ricci, an innocent old lady, and left her for worm food in his shed. He wouldn't mind shooting Stephanie next." "Likable losers (and Steph's former high school classmates) Walter "MoonMan" Dunphy and Dougie "The Dealer" Kruper have inadvertently become involved with DeChooch. They've gotten sucked into an operation that is much more than simple cigarette smuggling and holds risks far greater than anyone could have imagined."

Mooner and Dougie have been a great addition to the cast of characters in Stephanie's world. I hope to seen more of Mooner in future books! Eddie DeChooch is a depressed old man, but one of the toughest guys that Stephanie has ever come up against. He even has the guts to kidnap Grandma Mazur; only a maniac would do that! 

309 pages

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich

Summary: "Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and Trenton vice cop Joe Morelli join forces to find the madman killer who shot and barbecued the youngest son of international black-market arms dealer Alexander Ramos. Carlos Manoso, street name Ranger, is caught on video just minutes before the crime occurs. He's at the scene, he's with the victim, and he's the number-one suspect. Ranger is former special forces turned soldier of fortune. He has a blue-chip stock portfolio and no known address. He moves in mysterious circles. He's Stephanie's mentor -- the man who taught her everything she knows about fugitive apprehension. And he's more than her friend. Now he's the hunted and Stephanie's the hunter, and it's time for her to test her skills against the master. But if she does catch him...what then? Can she bring herself to turn him in? Plus there are other things keeping Stephanie awake at night. Her maternal grandmother has set up housekeeping in Stephanie's apartment, a homicidal maniac has selected Stephanie as his next victim, her love life is in the toilet, she's adopted a dog with an eating disorder, and she can't button the top snap on her Levi's."

Steph's arch-enemy Joyce Barnhart also makes some pretty entertaining appearances, and Grandma Mazur is quite the buzzkill on Stephanie's love-life.

Hilarious and entertaining as always!

294 pages

The Innocent Sleep by Karen Perry

Get ready to lose sleep when you pick up this book because you won’t be able to put it back down. This book is written from the perspectives of a husband and wife who lost their three-year-old son in an earthquake. The boy’s body was never found, which makes it all the more difficult for them to go on with their lives. A few years later, when the husband catches a glimpse of a boy on a crowded street, he is convinced it is their son. The reader is torn between sympathy for the guilt-wracked father and the anguished mother as their marriage falls apart. 

Here’s one review:
"The Innocent Sleep kicks off with a gut punch of every parents’ worst fear and never lets up. Part thriller, part introspective emotional novel, the book dives into what it feels like to survive the unthinkable, and then— what if— you could get it all back…Highly original and highly entertaining."—Ace Atkins, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked City and Devil’s Garden

There’s a twist at the end that has reviewers comparing this debut writer to Gillian Flynn. I certainly didn’t see it coming. I would highly recommend this book, but again, don’t expect to get much sleep after you start reading! 336 Pages.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

I'd heard a lot about this book over the years but had never picked it up before now.  I've always found economics boring or incomprehensible, and some of the topics covered here were both (such as cheating in sumo wrestling!).  Lots of statistics were reported to back up the findings and could be a bit mind-numbing but there were some results that really surprised me, especially about teaching and child rearing.  The most interesting part dealt with the unusual names that African-Americans have given their children over the last couple of decades, why they do it, and the consequences for doing so.  Levitt is an economist, and Dubner is a journalist.  320 pages; about 6 hours on CD.

"A Reason to Believe" by Diana Copland

This very well written mystery revolves around detective Matthew Bennett trying to solve the murder of a young girl in her own home.  He is directed to her body by an apparition who matches her description, which knocks him for a loop since he doesn't believe in the supernatural.  Not wanting to reveal what he saw to his fellow police officers, he reluctantly goes to see Kiernan Fitzpatrick, a medium who happens to be on tour in Matt's town.  Together, the two men visit the little girl's mother to get more information and all heck breaks loose when the media finds out.  Matt also has to deal with the homophobia of his supervisor and several coworkers and his lingering sadness over the shooting death of his boyfriend, who was also a detective, over a year ago.

I was surprised by how much I liked this book and can't recommend it enough.  Not only was the writing very good but so was the character development and sense of place.  Matt and Kiernan were quite different and intriguing main characters who find themselves drawn to each other while trying to find the girl's killer without getting killed themselves.  I will definitely try to read more my this author.  217 pages (Kindle edition).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Freeman by Leonard Pitts

Have you ever wondered exactly how average people responded to emancipation when the American Civil War ended?  Slavery was an inherently American institution, which was so firmly interwoven within the economy, the society, the psychology as well as religious, philosophical, and ethical mores of the country, and was suddenly it was over.  It must have been overwhelming in many ways! Indeed, scholars have and can continue to spend their entire careers examining the period, its impact then, and the continued effect upon this country.
It is well known that many of the formerly enslaved hit the road  -- everywhere in land, all manner of black folks set out trying to find lost mothers, fathers, children, siblings -- lost lives.  It is also well known that this is the period wherein many schools sprang up throughout the South to educate the formerly enslaved, which delighted the knowledge starved blacks and inflamed those who felt this upset the natural order of things. Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Miami Herald, has taken these two elements and fashioned a remarkably powerful piece of historical fiction that depicts just how it must have been for some.
Sam Freeman sets out from Philadelphia, where he has been working in a library since his discharge from the Union army, and begins walking to Mississippi to find his wife, Tilda.  He has not seen her in 15 years, and like most on similar searches, he has no idea if she is alive or dead, if she has taken another husband, been sold elsewhere.  He knows only that he loves her and must be with her, if it is at all possible.
Prudence Cafferty Kent, a white widow from Boston, along with her black foster sister Bonnie, head to Buford, Mississippi to open a school.  These are the main characters, and their story -- their quest for redemption, will capture you and keep you enthralled until the novel concludes.  Hopefully, it will keep its readers thinking about the damage of America's peculiar institution long after completion.   

432 pages, 15 hours, 46 minutes

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kansas City Style: A Social and Cultural History of Kansas City as Seen Through Its Lost Architecture by Dory DeAngelo and Jane Fifield Flynn

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Quality Hill neighborhood for 20 years was the most prestigious.  Kansas City Stockyards started from a small beginning 'til by 1886 more than 100,000 were processed through their yards.  Many individuals and  organizations contributed information and photos for this book.  The Grillett Special Plate cost 40 cents at Wolferman's Store.  232 pages.

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Product DetailsThis is a haunting story of love and friendship set in antebellum Virginia and Ohio.  The baby Lisbeth is handed over to Mattie, her black, enslaved wet nurse, moments after birth, which begins the bond that is carried through both women's lives. Elizabeth is the privileged daughter of southern plantation owners, and Mattie is, of course, enslaved. Mattie cares for and loves the child just as she loves her own, and Lisbeth spends more time with Mattie than her own distracted mother. As Lisbeth grows into womanhood, Mattie finds that she must seek freedom for her own family and she escapes, which produces some of the most harrowing scenes in the text. Lisbeth later, upon the realization of just how horrifying slavery really is, escapes herself with an abolitionist minded husband. Both women find themselves in Ohio, where the story takes on a melancholy tone, as race and class still impact their existence.

252 pages

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Image result for half of a yellow sun When the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria seceded in 1967 to form the independent nation of Biafra, a bloody, crippling three-year civil war followed. That period in African history is captured with haunting intimacy in this artful page-turner from Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She tells this heart-breaking, gripping story primarily through the eyes and lives of Ugwu, a 13-year-old peasant houseboy who survives conscription into the doomed, unprepared Biafran army, and twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, who are from a wealthy and well-connected family. Tumultuous politics power the plot, and several sections are harrowing, particularly passages depicting the savage butchering of Olanna and Kainene's relatives. But this dramatic, intelligent epic has a beautiful and personal side as well:  rebellious Olanna is the mistress of Odenigbo, a university professor brimming with anticolonial zeal; while business-minded Kainene takes as her lover fair-haired, blue-eyed Richard, a British expatriate come to Nigeria to write a book about Igbo-Ukwu art.  How this group is impacted by the brutality of war will stay with the reader for a very long time.  It is a searing history lesson in fictional form, intensely evocative and immensely absorbing. 

543 pages -- 18 hours, 56 minutes

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

High Five by Janet Evanovich

Summary: Stephanie Plum helps out her family by searching for her missing Uncle Fred, but of course, gets caught up in a much more dangerous mystery over some sketchy trash bags. Favorite characters Lula, Grandma Mazur, Ranger and Joe Morelli all make memorable appearances. 

This book added some crazy, temporary characters to Stephanie's gang, which was quite entertaining. I really enjoyed it, and I absolutely love that Stephanie Plum is a huge fan of Wonder Woman!

292 pages

Friday, December 5, 2014

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

Summary: Two bounty hunters vie to capture a revenge-seeking waitress wanted for car theft. One hunter is Stephanie Plum of New Jersey, the other is her arch-enemy Joyce Barnhardt.

I really enjoyed this installment of the Stephanie Plum series - it was hilarious! Trips to the shore with Grandma Mazur, Lula and Sally Sweet (a beautiful drag queen) could not be more entertaining. And, of course, there is a LOT of Joe Morelli - Stephanie's yummy cop "friend."

294 pages

Started Early Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

This is the fourth in the Jackson Brodie series, but the book could certainly stand on its own merits. Jackson Brodie, an ex-cop/retired PI, is a very likeable character, despite his unfortunate relationships with women. However, he is only part of this tale woven together from the strands of three disparate lives coming neatly together in the end. Here is how one Amazon reviewer describes Atkinson’s writing: Though they are often called ‘mysteries,’ Atkinson's novels are far more character-driven than the norm, and more literary in execution—intriguing on several levels simultaneously.” If you like a good mystery, but are only hooked by excellent writing and character development, you will enjoy this book as much as I did. 400 pages.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

Summary: "In the crosshairs of a political bribery investigation, Dempsey Jo Killebrew suddenly finds herself unemployed and the victim of a sleazy smear campaign by her former boss. Dempsey decides to take up her father's offer of flipping a recently inherited family home in Guthrie, Ga., where she quickly slides into the renovation groove, fits in with the locals, and embarks on a romance."

I initially thought I would enjoy this book because I love politics & renovation stories, but I actually kind of hated it. I was quite disappointed in the story development and the dullness of the characters. The story was hard to believe and the characters were not easy to relate to or root for. I would not recommend it.

422 pages

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Well, I broke my vow never to read another series in progress by a long-winded but great story-telling writer (Robert Jordan or George R. R. Martin anyone?). My nephew told me that he started reading the first book and couldn't put it down.  I started to read it and could (and did) put the book down several times before I was hooked.  WARNING-don't start reading this series unless you have the time and patience to enjoy a leisurely told tale. A innkeeper from a backwater town rescues a chronicler from an attack of demon spiders.  The chronicler realizes that the innkeeper is the famous arcanist, Kvothe and asks permission to write his biography. 661 pages.

Star Wars: Survivor's Quest by Timothy Zahn

Mara and Luke Skywalker are back! They've been asked to view the recently discovered remains of Outbound Flight.  There's lots of intrigue, plots, and counter-plots involving the Chiss, the Rebel Alliance, and a mysterious alien race liberated by Outbound Flight fifty years earlier.  An enjoyable adventure! 416 pages.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The last time I read 'A Christmas Carol' was when I was a teenager. Since then, I have seen the play and movie many, many times. I decided that since it was published in 1843, I could get the Christmas season started, and get credit for a 100 year old book if I read it over the Thanksgiving weekend.

And I'm glad I did. It was a completely different experience. For those of you who may not know the story, it is set in Victorian England. Ebenezer Scrooge is a parsimonious, unpleasant old man, whose only love is money. He hates any mention of Christmas. His partner, Jacob Marley, is undeniably dead; he was a kindred spirit with Scrooge. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by Marley's ghost, who implores him to change his ways while he still can, and not suffer his, Marley's, fate. Marley tells him he will be visited by three more spirits.

The first spirit is the ghost of Christmas past, and takes Scrooge back to his childhood and shows him what his life was like at that time. The next spirit is the ghost of Christmas present, and takes him to various celebrations of the upcoming Christmas day. The third spirit, the ghost of Christmas yet to come, shows Scrooge himself on his deathbed, a wretched soul despised by all those around him.

This experience causes Scrooge to change his ways, and become a better person, with love and kindness toward others.

Merry Christmas!

130 pages
Copyright over 100 years ago

"A Grumpy Book: Disgruntled Tips and Activities Designed to Put a Frown on Your Face" by Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat, oh, Grumpy Cat, how do I love thee?  Your lovely little face is so adorable and expressive that it makes me smile.  I know you that you would say, "NO," but I can't help it.  Your tips on getting and staying in a grumpy mood are invaluable in today's "look on the bright side" world.  You even provide some negative facts to do so, my favorite of which is "Flowers are cesspools of bee urine and hummingbird spit."  Priceless.  You also provide grumpy games, demotivational posters, and grumpy moments from your incredible life.  (Bonus:  Pictures of your brother, Pokey.)  What else can I say?  I am proud to be one of your minions; you are my role model for grumpiness.  96 awful pages. 

"Bad Company" by K.A. Mitchell

Book one in the Bad in Baltimore series features rich guy Kellan Brooks, whose father has just cut him off for doing nothing but leading a hedonistic life and ruining his third engagement.  To get back at him, Kellan decides to "play gay" with the son of a man Geoffrey Brooks ruined over a decade ago.  Nate Gray is the editor of a local weekly and is out to expose Geoffrey as an immoral businessman out to dupe the people of Baltimore.  He'd also like to get revenge for what the man did to Nate's father, but Kellan deeply wounded and betrayed Nate when they were 15 and best friends.  Can Nate forgive Kellan long enough to get even with the man who ruined his father, or will he suffer even more when Kellan gets his revenge by humiliating and exposing Geoffrey?

This was an interesting story with well-written characters and lots of angst.  Kellan is desperate to get back at his dad while trying to stand on his own.  Nate was a real jerk to him at first, but the author made it clear that Kellan deserved it.  There was plenty of snappy dialog with some great one-liners delivered by Nate's friend Eli that had me chuckling out loud.  And there was a lovely kitty, too.  224 pages (Kindle edition).

Desert Heat by J. A.Jance

In this first book of the Joanna Brady series, a young sheriff is late coming home on his tenth anniversary.  When his wife goes looking for him, she finds him gut-shot and bleeding at the bottom of a creek bed. The county sheriff's department investigation into the shooting seems to point to suicide and corruption.  His young widow, Joanna Brady, decides to investigate his death on her own. I enjoyed reading this book for several reasons-good story, great location (I spent some early years in Arizona where this series takes place), and the introduction of a new character.  246 pages

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the future of food, by Dan Barber

Barber, a chef and owner of a farm to table restaurant, explores the questions of what it means to be a chef and how to move from the current state of high-yield, low taste production farming to a truly 'sustainable' agriculture that nourishes the body and is in harmony with the earth.  Those are some pretty big questions, and I enjoyed Barber's view that we needed to do more than just have small organic farming experiments to make true systemic change in the way food is produced.  While Barber describes some interesting developments and experiments in both farming and fish production, these efforts are so very small scale it's hard to conceive that these trends will make changes in the current  production farm practices in any big way anytime soon.  Barber does make some convincing points about production agriculture's emphasis on uniformity and yield both requiring more fertilizer and herbicides as well as having a detrimental effect on flavor. Barber also gives several examples of how well-known chefs have influenced what people want to each, and hence what farms produce. Toward the end of the book he briefly describes his 'third plate', which makes use of all of the products of the farm from underused grains like oats and millet to making use of the whole animal in cooking, not just the most select cuts. He makes me feel downright noble for making stews in the crock pot using cheap cuts of meat.  I'll need to figure out how to use more barley and other grains in my cooking.  496 pages.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Before I Say Goodbye by Mary Higgins Clark

Nell McDermott is being pressured by her grandfather, Cornelius McDermott, to run for his old congressional seat. But her husband, Adam Cauliff, is adamantly opposed. They fight about it before Adam leaves for work. He has a business meeting on his boat that afternoon; the boat is blown up and Adam and the other three people on board are killed. But are they really?

This being a Mary Higgins Clark, it just can't be that simple. That is only the beginning of a rollicking tale of corruption, bribery, arson and murder. Mix in a little psychic phenomena, and you have a classic MHC suspense story

I always enjoy these, although the writing is rather weak, and the dialogue is often painful. But for some reason, I find them a quick, fun read, and this one was no exception.

416 pages

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

This novel, published in 1877, is narrated in the first person as an autobiography told by a horse named Black Beauty. It begins when he is a colt on an English farm with his mother. As a young colt, his life was free and easy. His owner was kind and he was fed well and treated well.  It got a little more difficult when he was trained, but as it was done with kindness and gentleness, it wasn’t traumatic.
After his training, he was sold to a Squire, who was also kind and gentle and took good care of his horses. Beauty was a riding horse and carriage horse. He was happy there, but one night a drunken groom rode him so hard and recklessly that he fell and hurt his knees. He was then sold, because he was no longer fit for service in a nobleman’s stable.

His life continues through a succession of owners, some kind and others cruel. Throughout, he gives the horses perspective on how animals are treated, and the morals and characters of the people around them. The book reflects London society at the time, with mention of reforms in animal treatment being advocated by some, and the realities of poor men trying to make a living and working their horses too hard because they felt they had to.

255 pages
copyright 114 years ago

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"I Has a Hotdog: What Your Dog Is Really Thinking" by Professor Happycat

Oh, boy.  I'm very well acquainted with the "I Can Has Cheezburger" web site that features real pictures of cats with funny captions added.  This book is based on the "I Has a Hotdog" site, which is the dog version.  There were some really funny captions on very silly pictures of canines in all their glory, several of which showed them with their cat buddies.  Others were outright hostile to the feline species, and I did not enjoy those.  Overall, though, it was funny and captured the spirit of wacky dogginess.  192 pages.

"Carte Blanche" by Nash Summers

This was an unexpectedly moving story about a young man so overcome with anxiety and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) that he does not ever leave his apartment.  Jude Allen is able to work from home and have his groceries delivered so that he never has to depart from the safety of his four white walls.  When he gets upset, the only thing that will calm him is to scrub the apartment as much as he can with bleach.  When a new neighbor moves across the hall from him, he doesn't think much about it until the man tries to befriend him with kindness and food.  At first, Jude ignores Devin Kidd but then slowly takes small steps to come out of his shell until his mother makes an appearance and puts his progress in jeopardy.  Will he ever be able to have a normal life with a real friend?  This was another new-to-me and talented author whom I will try to read again.  61 pages (Kindle edition).

"Keep Swimming" by Kade Boehme

Cary Whitmore owns a dog treat bakery and works hard to raise his toddler son, Gus, alone after his partner walks out.  Heath Cummings is an off shore oil driller two weeks on and two weeks off, but his dream is to own a charter boat service.  He plans to stay in the closet for another year until he can make enough money to quit the oil rig and escape his homophobic coworkers, but Cary and Gus may make him throw those plans to the wind.  This was a well written story with three dimensional characters and two very likable leads.  Little Gus was adorable and played an integral part in Heath's maturation.  And it was very cute every time he called him, "Heaf."  I enjoyed this author's voice and would like to read more by him.  Luckily, there's a sequel available.  130 page (Kindle edition).

"The Backup Boyfriend" by River Jaymes

I enjoyed this story of  Dr. Alec Johnson, recently dumped by his physician boyfriend and clinic partner, and his attempt to appease his mother, who'd fought hard for her son's right to marry.  He's so afraid of disappointing her and humiliating himself that he recruits friend-of-a-friend, straight guy and motorcycle mechanic Dylan Booth, to pose as his new love interest at a big awards ceremony that his parents will be attending.  Dylan is open-minded enough to accept (his late best friend was gay), and awkwardness ensues.  This is the first book I've read by this author, and she writes great dialog with just enough humor and snarkiness to make me want to read more of her work.  279 pages (Kindle edition).

The Living Blood by Tananarive Due

Image result for the living blood 
The Living Blood is the second in Tananarive Due's African Immortals' series, which continues the awesome story of a colony of immortal Africans with miraculous healing blood.  In The Living Blood, our main character from the previous story, Jessica along with her physician sister Alex, conduct a clinic in Botswana that uses the healing power of Jessica’s blood to cure fatally-ill children. Unknown to her estranged husband David, Jessica has borne a daughter with her parents’ immortal blood who begins to reveal her dangerous powers. Fana, a tiny Cassandra, sees the truth through dreams, trances, and telepathy, but cannot control her gift. She can alter the weather, read minds, and even kill when those she loves are endangered. Jessica, alarmed by Fana’s emerging powers, takes the child to her father in the hidden colony to seek guidance.
A master of suspense with superb powers of description, Tananarive Due transcends cliche with her sympathetic insights into her characters and their family relationships. Subplots include an American father who begs for the blood to save his dying son, ruthless Americans who try to steal the blood for profit, and a killer hurricane.
While this installment is still incredibly well written and creative, it is not as compelling as the previous, My Soul to Keep, which has me doubtful about continuing the series. 
528 pages -- 25 hours, 46 minutes

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Walking on Water" by Richard Paul Evans

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

They knew each other in Seattle before his walk across the country. They meet again in Key West, Florida, and the walk helps him fill in voids in his life with understanding and hope for his future. He is thankful for all the angels he has met on his journey.

Audio:  6 hrs. 50 min.
Print:   320 pages

"A Bulletin on the Condition of the County Almshouses of Missouri" by Charles A. Ellwood

Published in 1904, this sad document discusses the county almshouse, which housed the poor and indigent along with "defective classes."  Included are the 1903 statistics on ninety of these institutions.  The author, a sociology professor from the University of Missouri, advocates separation of "inmates" by sex, race, health, and mental/moral condition.  He calls for legislation to improve the almshouses and prevent abuses, and he ends by recommending that Missouri follow England's example of  administrative control over their "workhouses."  This book is in our Missouriana collection and is the second that I've read on the subject this month; that's enough for me.  31 pages, copyright 1904.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Three Plums in One by Janet Evanovich

Three Plums in One includes the first three books of the Stephanie Plum series: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich. 

This was an instance of seeing the moving before reading the book - I really enjoyed One for the Money with Katherine Heigl. I tried reading the books a while ago, but couldn't get into them. However, I tried again, and I really enjoyed them! I'm going to keep reading the series - I hope they stay just as fresh and funny. Stephanie Plum is an entertaining and bumbling "heroine", and I oddly enjoy bounty hunter stories. 

These books take place in the 90's, which is a little confusing at times. Stephanie uses pay phones, pagers and answering machines in ways that are obsolete (but kind of funny) now. 

796 pages

"Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF" by April Winchell

A few years ago I was introduced to the web site Regretsy, which featured the weirdest/kookiest/strangest items on the crafts-for-sale site Etsy.  It turns out that Winchell was the creator and snarky commentator of this wacky ode to creativity gone awry, and it was awesome!  This book captures just a few of the bizarre creations, including a multicolored, knit "chicken poncho" that can also be used as a human wrist cuff (featured on the book's cover), a "charming pond scum and amoeba pendant," and a felt cat toy made to look like a dirty diaper.  The crafters' descriptions and prices of their products are included with the pictures that they posted on Etsy as well as Winchell's reaction to each one.  She also included personal stories at the beginning of each chapter as an introduction, most of which were quite amusing.  This book is hilarious and some of the crafts must be seen to be believed, although my favorite post on Regretsy (three dolls made to look like characters from the musical "Cats" using paint and fake fur) was not featured.  Unfortunately, the Regretsy web site died a few years ago, much to my disappointment.  176 pages.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"The Grumpy Guide to Life" Observations by Grumpy Cat

I love Grumpy Cat.
I adore Grumpy Cat.
She is my hero.

Her precious little face makes me smile and perfectly captures my mood so often that I feel a kinship with her.  I even have a shirt with her on it that says, "I had fun once.  It was awful."  (Real name:  Tardar Sauce.  Yes, that's how it is spelled.)  This book is full of her lovely grumpiness and beautiful visage in various settings.  Her adorable brother, Pokey, even makes a few appearances.

Some of my favorite Grumpy Cat observations include:

"It's not whether you win or lose - it's how you refuse to participate."

"People are like balls of yarn.  For the most part they're boring and useless, but I still get a lot of pleasure out of watching them unravel."

"Trying new things is a recipe for disappointment."
"Why put off until tomorrow what you can do never?"

"Look at things from a different perspective.  My favorite one is 'with my eyes closed.'"

"Snow is nature's way of saying, 'Go back inside and get in bed, you idiot.'"

"Don't worry, be grumpy."

Grumpy Cat is not kidding when she says, "No."  She is a national treasure and should have her incredible face on a postage stamp RIGHT NOW!  112 awesome pages.

"Stay" by Riley Hart

This is book two in the Blackcreek series and focuses on Wes Jensen, whose oldest sister died in book one.  He is new in town and is now raising her four-year-old daughter.  He has to find a job and figure out how to be both mother and father to his vivacious niece.  Braden Roth is a firefighter in Blackcreek and wants to be more than friends with Wes.  Unfortunately, Wes won't allow himself to get close to anyone because they always leave - his father, mother, sister, and former boyfriend.  Can Braden convince him to give them a chance?

After reading the first book, "Collide," I picked up this one hoping to see more of Noah and Cooper, that story's main characters.  I did but only in small snippets.  Wes and Braden weren't very interesting to me, maybe because I was so focused on the many problems good editing could have fixed.  Wrong tenses, misspellings, poor grammar, and shifting points of view (even in the same sentence) almost made me give up.  Wes was pretty much a downer through most of the book, and Braden became annoying trying to get him to open up.  Better editing and a tighter narrative would have made this story work much better.  355 pages.

"The Lonely Drop" by Vanessa North

Nick and Kevin were best friends in college, but they haven't been in touch in 10 years.  Now Nick is the owner of The Lonely Drop, a bar/restaurant in Asheville, NC, and Kevin works for his father's large company in New York.  When Kevin arrives in Asheville to acquire a business and hire new managers for the company, he goes to Nick's bar for a drink and dinner without knowing his former best friend is the owner.  Nick is unprepared to face Kevin again but does so with grace and composure, something quite difficult for him because of his unrequited love for Kevin.

I'm a sucker for unrequited love stories, and this one is very nearly perfect.  Nick is introverted and wants a serious relationship while Kevin is more outgoing and only has one-night-stands, but things change when he talks Nick into going out dancing.  Told from Nick's point of view, the author was quite eloquent explaining his feelings of loneliness and desire for a relationship with Kevin.  It was a very touching story, and I hope to read more from this talented author.  93 pages (Kindle edition).

"Waiting, Hoping, Wishing" by Nic Starr

This story takes place mostly in Sydney, Australia, where Dean and Matt have been best friends since high school when they came out of the closet together.  Now in their mid-20s, Dean is a plumber hoping to start his own business, and Matt works for a big company.  Dean has secretly loved Matt for years but never let him know for fear of rejection and loss of his friendship.  Unfortunately, Matt moved to Melbourne with his boyfriend a year ago, and Dean thinks he's lost his chance with him forever.  Then Matt and his boyfriend break up, and he tells Dean that he wants to move back to Sydney.  Will Dean ever tell Matt how he feels or will he go on being miserable without the man he loves?

This was a cute novella with two likable main characters and just enough miscommunication and angst to make me keep reading.  I really felt for Dean and his inability to get over Matt.  His family was supportive and pushed him to find happiness, but no one measured up to his best friend.  61 pages (Kindle edition).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Summary:  "Annajane Hudgens truly believes she is over her ex-husband, Mason Bayless. They've been divorced for four years, she's engaged to a new, terrific guy, and she's ready to leave the small town where she and Mason had so much history. She is so over Mason that she has absolutely no problem attending his wedding to the beautiful, intelligent, delightful Celia. But when fate intervenes and the wedding is called to a halt as the bride is literally walking down the aisle, Annajane begins to realize that maybe she's been given a second chance. Maybe everything happens for a reason. And maybe, just maybe, she wants Mason back. But there are secrets afoot in this small southern town. On the peaceful surface of Hideaway Lake, Annajane discovers that the past is never really gone. Even if there are people determined to keep Annajane from getting what she wants, happiness might be hers for the taking, and the life she once had with Mason in this sleepy lake town might be in her future."

My favorite part of this book is the Bayless family drama surrounding their family-owned business, Quixie, a struggling cherry soft-drink company. The soda drama is one I've never read before, and I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. Mason's sister Pokey, also Annajane's best friend, is the best character, and I wish she would get her own book: she's smart, honest and fights for her family. 

402 pages

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

This is the third volume in the Game of Thrones series.  Mayhem, war, and plot twists abound; several main characters meet their demise and others take unusual detours in their journeys.  This is a fascinating story, but Martin's method of telling the story from several viewpoints simultaneously is somewhat disruptive, as I would become engrossed in following one character only to be switched to another part of the country in the next chapter.  Overall, the villains are still winning, but other dark forces have risen in the north, and the wars are now not just between men, but with other undead enemies and demons as well.  1177 pages.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Out of My Head: Coon Dogs That Lie to You, Killer Pancakes, and Other Lunacies by LeRoy Powell

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

A book of many interesting problems, facts and solutions. How Moon Pies must be washed down with Royal Crown Cola, why the rich eat the heels of their loaves of bread.

Audio:  3 hrs. 45 min.
Print:  179 pages