Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Book Theif by Markus Zusak

Sad, funny, wonderful tale of a very ordinary neighborhood in Germany in the time leading up to and through WWII.  Except the narrator of the story is Death himself, who takes a larger perspective on the whole affair, and has a macabre sense of humor.  The story focus is on a young girl, Liesel, who becomes the book thief on an impulse by stealing her first book, which was dropped at her brother's burial ceremony.  She is left with a foster family, the Hubermans, whose two children have grown and moved out.  Zusak creates very vivid pictures of daily life in a small town in Germany, intertwining the growing threat from Nazi Germany and the war with the personal stories peppered with the town's many memorable characters.  This is a very unique story, masterfully told, and long remembered. 550 pages.

Trinity by Matt Wagner

"For the first time ever, the tale of the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel's first meeting with the Amazon Princess is told!

Billionaire eco-terrorist Ra's al Ghul is on a mad quest to remake the world in his own image. With the juggernaut clone of Superman known as Bizarro and a deadle rogue Amazon by his side, this troika of terror casts an ominous shadow over the very future of mankind! Witness the birth of a legendary alliance, as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman join forces to defend Earth against an apocalyptic fate." 

This is the first Trinity graphic novel I've read, and it was fairly good. I love when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman work together! The way Wonder Woman was written was a little unsatisfying (no spoilers!), but I'll get over it. 

198 pages

"Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean" by Jackson Galaxy

I first saw Jackson Galaxy on his Animal Planet show "My Cat From Hell."  He goes into homes where there are feline problems and fixes them through positive reinforcement and empathy for the cats.  (Usually, it is the humans who are causing the problems but the felines who act out and get the blame.)  At the beginning of each episode, he says that he plays music, and that's basically all that I knew about him before listening to this memoir/cat advice book.  Galaxy has a lot of baggage and discloses it with candor and passion.  He was addicted to drugs, alcohol, and food, and has had a nervous breakdown as well as gastric bypass surgery.  He got his start working with cats at an animal shelter in Boulder, CO, and became fascinated with the way the cats closed in on themselves as opposed to the outgoing vivaciousness of the homeless dogs.  He readily admits that he has no formal training or education in animal science or behavior yet he does have an innate ability to empathize with cats and find solutions to their problems, as I have seen on his show.  We are introduced to his feline soul mate of 13 years, Benny, a petite beauty dropped off at the shelter with a broken pelvis.  Galaxy takes him in and cares for him until he passes away, which was very sad to hear.  Galaxy also gives lots of advice to cat parents for dealing with specific issues and even teaches us how to say "I love you" in a way our felines will understand.  Some parts of the book were difficult to listen to, particularly when he has to euthanize the animals at the shelter, and there were plenty of curse words included.  He has an MFA in acting, so he really does a great job narrating the book with lots of intensity and emotion.  Highly recommended to cat parents and cat lovers in general.

Audio:  6.5 hours
Print:  320 pages

"The Real Finn" by Hollis Shiloh

Shad and Finn are both undercover cops newly paired to infiltrate a bad organization.  Finn is small for a man but is used for more dangerous jobs, which has been hard on him physically and mentally.  The first and slowest part of the book is about their first and only case together; the rest of the book deals with the aftermath of that case as well as Finn's horrible childhood.  Shad tries to be enough for him, but can he keep Finn safe from the ghosts of his past as well as himself?  Finn is a complicated yet sympathetic character, and Shad tries to give him the safety and security that he needs.  I've read several of Shiloh's stories and have liked them all.  This one has more action and thrills than most of her others.  115 pages (Kindle edition).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An incomplete revenge : a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie goes to the country with the Beale family to pick hops and have a busman's holiday.  Her new boyfriend James Compton has asked her to check out a property that his company would like to buy.  She discovers that the local village has a guilty secret.  During the war, a Dutch family died when their bakery burned to the ground.  Why didn't the villagers help them? What does a caravan of Gypsies know about the secret? 306 pages.

Messenger of truth : a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear

This time out Maisie investigates the murder of WWI veteran and artist, Nicholas Bassington-Hope.  He fell from a scaffold while preparing a new work for exhibition.  His twin sister Georgina, herself a WWI journalist, will not accept that his death was an accident.  Maisie searches for clues to his death among the artists, fascists, and smugglers in Nicholas's circle of family and friends. 322 pages.

Birds of a feather by Jacqueline Winspear.

Maisie Dobbs has moved into her new office and has a full-time assistant, Billy Beale.  Her latest assignment is to find the run-away daughter of a wealthy grocery chain owner.  In the course of her investigation, Maisie discovers that three of the daughter's friends have recently died.  Coincidence?  Maisie doesn't think so.  She digs deeper to find that during the war the women all participated in the shameful practice of giving white feathers to men who were not serving in the military.  Is someone killing the women for revenge? 336 pages.

The Language of Bees by Laurie King

It's been awhile since I've read Laurie King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.  I had a few books to catch up on and when I started reading The Language of Bees it was like meeting an old friend.  Her books are so enjoyable-likable, interesting characters and puzzling plot-lines.  The Language of Bees takes off from the mystery of an abandoned bee hive.  Why did the bees leave and where did they go? How do bees communicate with each other? Does the language of families share the mysterious qualities of bee communication? Mary Russell ponders these questions as she helps Sherlock Holmes try to find his estranged son's wife and child. 715 pages.

"Notorious Pleasures" by Elizabeth Hoyt

Book two in the Maiden Lane series finds Lady Hero Batten engaged to the staid, reliable, and dull Marquis of Mandeville.  They appear perfect for each other until she becomes friends with his younger brother, Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading.  Griffin escorts her to a house for orphans that she is sponsoring in the dangerous St. Giles neighborhood, the same part of town where he is running an illegal gin still.  Hero can't believe that she's starting to fall for such a cad, but she soon discovers that Griffin and his brother both have secrets.  This was another lovely, well-written book by Hoyt, one of the best authors in the historical romance genre, in my opinion.  Both lead and secondary characters were unique and easy to imagine, and the action scenes were well done.  I'll be reading the next in the series.  382 pages.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Summary: "Budding costume designer Lola lives an extraordinary life in San Francisco with her two dads and beloved dog, dating a punk rocker, but when the Bell twins return to the house next door, Lola recalls both the friendship-ending fight with Calliope, a figure skater, and the childhood crush she had on cricket."

The sweetest surprise of this book is the reappearance of 2 favorite characters from Anna and the French Kiss! I love that Stephanie Perkins is connecting her lovely characters in a cute, easy fashion. It's nice to have familiar faces in an unfamiliar setting. This book moves even faster than Anna, but it's even more heartwarming in its tale of the triumph of first loves. It's so sweet and fluffy, it might give you a tooth-ache. 

338 pages

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew, a transplanted Scot, has a rather dull, routine existence in London. He has a good job, a fiancée, and a decent flat. Then one day a street child lying hurt in the gutter begs for help. Although his fiancée demands he walk away, Richard picks her up and takes her to his flat, thereby entering the world of London Below.

London Above is the world most of us live in; London below is a world of demons and angels, monsters and rats. In London Below, Door's family has been murdered, and she is determined to avenge them. In order to find out who is responsible, Door  must find her way through London Below to the environs of the Angel Islington.

When Richard tries to make his way back to London Above, he discovers that he is now an invisible man; his office has been dismantled, and his flat is occupied by another family. He returns to London below and goes with Door on her quest. He fight monsters, talks with rats, and kills a monster, thus becoming 'The Warrior' of London Below.

He ultimately finds his way back to London Above and resumes his former life (his Warrior status gives him the right to reclaim it), but now  finds it rather bland, dull and boring. Should he return to the netherworld and a much harder existence or continue to live his uninteresting life Above?

If you like fantasy and mystery, this book may be for you.

400 pages

I forgot to remember by Su Meck

Imagine waking up every day to a whole new world. That's what happened to Su Meck when she was 22 years old. She had a husband, a two-year-old son, and an eight-month-old baby. No one is really sure how the accident happened, because her husband's back was turned, and she can't remember, but she was hit in the head by a ceiling fan. The injury didn't look bad; just a one-inch cut, but it knocked her out and  she was bleeding profusely, so she was taken to the hospital. Her brain had bounced around inside her skull, and when she awoke she had no memory of her life up to that point.

After three weeks, she was sent home with a husband she did not know, to a house and children she had no memory of. The doctors had decided she was faking her memory loss, and she got no more therapy. But she couldn't read or write, couldn't find her way home if she went more than a few blocks, and had to idea how to care for her children. She was thrust abruptly back into the life of a suburban housewife, with no help and very little sympathy. She was essentially a child raising two other children.

This memoir was written to help people understand more about traumatic brain injury. Even the medical profession doesn't have a lot of knowledge about it, although it is better now than in 1988, when this happened. And family, friends, neighbors...she was treated with pity, disdain, contempt, and exasperation. She wanted to understand more about the whole issue herself, and she wanted others  to know what life is really like with this type of injury. She had a co-writer, and they went through her medical records, and did a lot of research on TBI. She explains the different types of memory, and how it works.

A very interesting, thought-provoking book.

280 pages

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is an aspiring film critic and normal teenage girl who is forcibly relocated by her novelist father to spend her senior year of high school at an American boarding school in Paris, France. Anna is reluctant to leave her family, friends and crush behind, but she soon adjusts to her new life in Paris. She struggles to learn French and navigate a new city, but she luckily finds a welcoming group of friends, including the charming Etienne St. Clair.

Anna and the French Kiss is 100% fluffy and feel-good. It moved quickly and kept me entertained, enough that I requested Perkins' next book: Lola & the Boy Next Door (which I'll put on here as soon as I finish it!). 

372 pages

The Kitchen House


By Kathleen Grissom

384 pages

Summary  "Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family."

As both a tender depiction of line-shattering family love and a brutal reminder of the reality of American slave life, I found myself drawn in to Lavinia and her adopted family's story.  A sad and sweet story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth by Gail Simone

Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth was amazing! It definitely had some of my favorite Wonder Woman moments ever in it. Tom Tresser, aka Nemesis, also makes an appearance on Themyscira to meet Hippolyta, Diana's mother. It has a great "boyfriend meets the parents for the first time" amusement to it. 

This graphic novel combines 4 different stories, which is both awesome and confusing. Wonder Woman faces off against the devil and the Queen of Fables. She also visits Hollywood to review the set of a Wonder Woman movie in the making - which is a clever disguise by the evil Queen of Fables. The movie set scenes are hilarious with Diana's reactions to the way certain moments from her life are portrayed. 

Definitely a must-read for any Wonder Woman fan.

142 pages

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

A very rich, old recluse hangs himself but leaves 90% of his millions to his caretaker.  The will hopefully makes up for injustices in his family’s past. 

Audio:  18 hrs. 27 min.
Print:  656 pages

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Summary: "Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits--smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try."

Eleanor faces a very tough home life with an emotionally abusive stepfather, but she finds peace in a growing relationship with her new friend Park. Eleanor and Park have a rocky start to their relationship when they are forced to sit next to each other on the school bus. Eleanor struggles with being bullied at school because of the way she looks and dresses (her family is  very poor), and Park struggles with how to handle his fondness for Eleanor while dealing with the way everyone else treats her.

328 pages

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad" by Dan Bucatinsky

Bucatinsky and his partner, now his husband, had been together over 10 years before deciding to have children.  This book consists of short vignettes of their journey to adopt and their evolution as dads once they do.  Perhaps best known for his role as James Novak on TV's Scandal, Bucatinsky writes with a lot of candor and humor about raising a girl and boy in Los Angeles along with his personal doubts of being a good parent.  He relays cute dialog with his kids, his insecurities when they seem to favor his husband, and his worries about how they will deal with being adopted by two men as they get older.  Luckily, they have lots of friends and families who accept and love them unconditionally.  I found one of the most insight parts to be when Bucatinsky worries that his four-year-old son's "tough guy swagger" may indicate that he'll be a bully and terrorize kids as he was terrorized himself.  There are other serious issues, but the author writes with lovable humor and tons of self-deprecation.  Recommended.  245 pages.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Sequel to "The Shining."  Danny Torrance learned to control his psychic power. A 12-year-old has the ability, and psychic killers want to kill her and drain her of her powers.  

Audio:  21 hrs. 15 min.
Print:  544 pages

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Summary: "Cath struggles to survive on her own in her first year of college while avoiding a surly roommate, bonding with a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words, and worrying about her fragile father."

Cath also struggles with separating from her twin sister while at college and dealing with her mother who abandoned them. To cope with her personal problems, Cath relies on writing fanfaction for her favorite book series, Simon Snow, (which is very similar to Harry Potter). Fangirl is unique in that it includes snippets from both the fictional Simon Snow series as well as snippets of Cath's fanfiction at the beginning of each chapter. 

I enjoyed the book overall, but the ending doesn't provide much satisfaction or closure. 

438 pages

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson & Marshall Karp

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

New York’s elite task force has to solve high profile murders. Cops can’t be killers, or can they?

Audio:  8 hrs. 10 min.
Print:  416 pages

Friday, July 11, 2014

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Detective Lindsay Boxer is the target of a female killer. A cruise ship is hijacked. People in the city are being poisoned by hamburgers. 

Audio:  7 hours 20 min.
Print:  416 pages

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The House on Dirty-Third Street by Jo S. Kittinger

When a Mother and her young daughter have to move into a different house, the only one they can afford is in an older neighborhood on Thirty-third Street. When the daughter sees it, she thinks it should be named Dirty-third street, because the house, and the neighborhood are rundown and dingy.

But members of their new church, and then their new neighbors, help them clean and paint and fix up the house, and they end up with a new home, not an old house.

32 pages

Dictionary of Missouri Biography Edited by Christensen, Foley, Kremer, Winn

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

It all starts with the letter A for Ace Goodman who with his wife Jane formed the comedy team the Easy Aces. Z is for Thomas Zimmerman who led the Assemblies of God from 1959-1985. James Hart Stark founded the Stark Brothers nurseries and Orchards. Harold Bell Wright wrote "Shepherd of the Hills" set in the Ozarks. Tennessee Williams plays and stories were shocking but show passion. Laura E. Wilder’s book are chronicling her childhood. Eugene Field in 1870 was noted for hijinks and good writings; he also worked for three Missouri newspapers. Samuel Clemons in Feb. 1863 in Carson City signed three articles Mark Twain a pseudonym he used. The Yocum brothers of the Ozarks laundered their profits from  alcoholic sales by making own silver dollars  known as “Yocum Dollars."

Audio:  85 hours, 52 min.
Print:  824 pages