Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb

I don't think I'll be going out on a limb to say that most fans of this series are not reading it for the mystery! But what keeps me coming back for more is the great ensemble cast of characters.  There's detective Eve Dallas and her handsome, debonair husband Roarke.  Then there's Dallas's partner Peabody and her main squeeze McNabb, Dallas's best friend Mavis and her designer husband Leonardo, and psychologist Charlotte Mira and her irresistibly sweet husband Dennis. In this installment of the series, Dallas must discover who murdered twelve young girls and hid their bodies in an abandoned building fifteen years ago.  Dallas takes time out during the investigation to savor her "family".  Longtime readers of the series will appreciate how far she's come! 384 pages.

Leaving everything most loved : a novel by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs has reached a crossroads.  Her lover James Compton is moving to Canada to help test prototype war planes, her assistant Billy Beale is ready to start a new life with his family, and Maisie can't decide if she wants to continue her detective business, start teaching, or travel. Before she can make a decision, she's asked to investigate the murder of an Indian nanny.  The nanny had left her family behind in India to come to England to earn enough money to start a school for young girls. In the course of the investigation Maisie becomes intrigued by Indian culture.  Was the nanny murdered for betraying her family's values? What will Maisie decide to do?  I can't wait to read what happens next! 339 pages.

Star Wars: Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn

I wish Timothy Zahn would write the screenplay for the next Star Wars movie!  He develops his characters and  uses technology to advance the story line not replace it.  Outbound Flight is the story of a mission to colonize the unknown regions at the edge of galaxy.  The mission is the brainchild of Jedi Master Jorus C'Baoth, whose arrogance and impatience do not endear him to the civilians on Outbound Flight.  He plans to use the mission to recruit and train a new generation of Jedi, by force if necessary. But even Master C'Baoth is not aware that the mission is doomed.  Agents of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious are waiting to destroy Outbound Flight before it crosses into unknown territory.  Will they succeed?  Or will their plot be foiled by the Chiss Commander Thrawn?  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the early adventures of Thrawn, the smuggler Jorg Car'das, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a very young Annakin Skywalker. 420 pages.

Death at the Chateau Bremont by M.L. Longworth

A Verlaque & Bonnet Mystery, in a fairly cozy style.  The most interesting part is the setting in the Aix-en-Provence region in the south of France.  Antoine Verlaque is the local investigative judge, and Marine Bonnet his ex-lover who is also a lawyer.  When a young count dies suspiciously by falling (or being pushed) out of a window of his Chateau, Verlaque is called on to investigate.  The case becomes more interesting when his brother is killed a few weeks later and some possible ties to the Russian mob are uncovered.  Verlaque is a lover of good food, wine, women and cigars, so the reader is treated to a lot of the local culture.  311 pages.

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Is the murder of an innocent justified in the cause of the greater good?  Maisie Dobbs confronts this question head on when she investigates the murder of one of her own.  Three friends and fellow costermongers of Maisie's dad are not convinced that Eddie Pettit's death was an accident.  They ask Maisie to investigate his death at the paper factory where he worked.   Eddie's employer is a powerful British publisher heavily invested in preparing for the next war with Germany.  Was Eddie murdered to keep war preparations secret? 335 pages.

The god of the hive : a novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie R. King

The God of the Hive picks up where The Language of Bees abruptly left off.  Mary Russell and Sherlock are on the run.  Mary has Sherlock's little granddaughter in tow and is trying to fly back to London in one piece. Sherlock has abducted a doctor to care for his severely wounded son while they attempt a boat crossing to Holland. Both believe they are being followed by the cult leader responsible for the ritualistic murder of Sherlock's daughter-in-law and others. What they have yet to discover is that the cult leader was only a pawn in a Secret Services power struggle.  King introduces the unforgettable character of Robin Goodfellow-shell shocked veteran, childlike woodsman, and implacable protector of the helpless.  An amazing adventure read! 354 pages.

A lesson in secrets : a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear.

In the previous books of the series, Jacqueline Winspear wrote about such issues as class, mental illness, returning veterans, and continuing tensions between nations in the aftermath of World War I.  Now Winspear takes up the rise of the Secret Service.  Maisie Dobbs has just been asked by the Special Branch of Scotland Yard to get a job as a lecturer at a newly founded pacifist university.  Maisie's assignment is to discover who is sympathetic to the rising Nazi party and what they are doing in support of the party.  Almost before she begins, the founder and president of the college dies from an apparent heart attack. Maisie quickly determines that the president was murdered and uses her undercover identity to try to find the killer.  Another engrossing look at post World War I England! 323 pages.

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

I guess I shouldn't be shocked that a writer that died two years ago has a new book out.  After all Tupac Shakur has a musical in development on Broadway and Dick Francis and Anne McCaffrey are still writing books (with their offspring) well after their deaths!  That said, I still wanted to read the new Maeve Binchy!

This collection of short stories reads more like a set of sketches for future books- some of the stories are more developed than others. My favorites in this collection are the tale a lonely widow and the builder hired to renovate the house next door and the story of four women who decide to buy a house together. Some of the stories' main characters appear in the background of other stories and all the stories have a satisfying resolution. I'd recommend this collection for hardcore Maeve Binchy fans only.  384 pages.

The mapping of love and death : a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear

An American cartographer maps out a claim to a potentially oil-rich piece of California real estate before heading out to fight in WWI.  Many years after the war his body is discovered buried in an Allied Forces trench, the apparent casualty of a German bombing attack.  He left behind a cache of love letters but not the map to the land claim.  His family asks Maisie Dobbs to find the mysterious British nurse who wrote the letters. Maisie's search follows many false trails but eventually leads to the discovery of the missing map and another hidden legacy of the American. Reading about the role of cartographers in WWI is an added bonus! 338 pages.

"Through a Fog" by Hollis Shiloh

This was a strange little novella about a magician/courier transporting a mysterious egg across the sea to be studied by English scientists.  It is at least 50 years old and has shown no signs of life until cracks start to appear.  Soon an unusual creature hatches, but is it harmless or will it endanger the ship and its passengers?  I've read many of Shiloh's stories and this one was quite different from the others, but I still enjoyed her cast of characters as well as the unique setting.  60 pages (Kindle edition).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Savage Harvest: A tale of cannibals, colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's tragic quest for primitive art by Carl Hoffman

Before I read a review of this book in the St. Louis Post Dispatch I had never heard of Michael Rockefeller or of his mysterious disappearance!  Rockefeller (yes, one of those Rockefellers!) graduated from Harvard and decided to travel to New Guinea to collect primitive art for his father's new museum, On November 17, 1961 he and a Dutch anthropologist were stranded at sea, without a radio, while traveling by boat to a remote area of the region, .  Rockefeller decided to try to swim to shore and was never seen again. At the same time, the Netherlands was battling Indonesia in the U.N. for control of the territory.  Hoffman carefully constructs the case that the Dutch authorities covered up Michael Rockefeller's death because it would have damaged their claim to the U.N. that New Guinea was a civilized region under their control.  A fascinating look at what happens when a primitive culture is misunderstood. 322 pages.

Among the mad : a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear

Why do I read the Maisie Dobbs mysteries?   I admire how her character worked her way up from a house maid to a detective/psychologist/scholar.  She practices meditation, yoga, and a sort of physical mimicry of witnesses and suspects to gain insight into a case. These practices are not so unusual today, but in the 1920s and 1930s they were!

In this latest case, Maisie survives a bombing attack by a mentally ill WWI veteran.  At the same time, her assistant Billy Beale's wife has become depressed, neglecting herself and her children. Maisie tries to navigate the mental health care system of the time in search of both clues to the bombing and help for Billy Beale's wife.   Fans of  historically relevant mysteries will enjoy this look at post-WWI England. 303 pages.

"Lord of Darkness" by Elizabeth Hoyt

Book five in the Maiden Lane series focuses on Godric St. John, a brokenhearted widower who was blackmailed by Griffin Reading (book two in the series) into marrying Lady Margaret Reading, Griffin's pregnant sister, two years ago.  The father of her baby was murdered, supposedly by the Harlequin Ghost of St. Giles, before they could wed.   Unfortunately, Margaret, known as Megs, miscarries immediately after the ceremony and goes to live at Godric's rural estate.  But after two years of being separated, Megs decides to return to London to kill the Ghost herself . . . and to talk Godric into impregnating her.  He is still devastated by the death of his first wife and refuses to let anyone back into his heart, but Megs is determined to have a baby and makes a deal with Godric that may come back to hurt them both.

I enjoyed this book as much as I did the others in the series.  Although he is brooding and sad, Godric is not a cruel man, as I had expected, and Megs turns out to be strong and fearless yet tenderhearted.  The Harlequin Ghost of St. Giles plays another big role, as he did in the last book.  He is still trying to find the aristocrat behind the "lassie snatchers" in St. Giles, and that aristocrat may be linked to whoever killed Megs' first love.  This was another well-crafted story with wonderful characters, a pregnant pug, and realistic action.  I've already got the next book in the series!  368 pages.

The Island by Victoria Hislop

Alexis is an archeologist with a good job in a British museum and a relationship that, three years in, seems to be withering. Their Greek Island holiday has exposed deep fault lines in a seemingly perfect match. Toward the end of the vacation, Alexis decides to go alone to visit the Greek village where her Mother grew up. Her Mother has always been secretive about her past, and Alexis wants to see where she lived, and understand how she came to be in England. Her Mother gives Alexis a letter for her friend Fotini, who tells Alexis the story of her grandmother Anna, and great-aunt Maria.

Eleni, (Alexis’s great-grandmother) lives in Plaka, on the island of Crete with her husband and two daughters, Anna and Maria. When she is diagnosed with leprosy, she is exiled to the island of Spinalonga, just across the water from Plaka. Spinalonga was one of the last active leper colonies in Europe, being used for that purpose from 1903-1957.

Eleni was exiled to Spinalonga, entering through the lepers' entrance, a tunnel known as ‘Dante’s Gate’, so named because the patients did not know what was going to happen to them once they arrived. However, once on the island they received food, water, medical attention and social security payments. Her daughters were left behind with their father.

Fotini takes Alexis to visit Spinalonga, and tells her all about her Mother’s family, as well as the history of Greece, Crete, Plaka and Spinalonga.

This book is overly long, very detailed, and rather shallow in some ways, but is a fascinating glimpse into leprosy and the lives of people inflicted with it.

482 pages

Homeland by John Jakes

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Pauli comes to America at age 14.  After a little time living with his uncle, he leaves to work with his artistic skills with his Kodak camera.  He films American history.  785 pages.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

A new student arrives midterm, head down, with broken sandals. She sits right next to Chloe. The teacher introduces the new student as Maya, but hardly anyone says hello, and Chloe doesn’t smile or greet her.  Chloe’s best friends call her “Never New” because she wears secondhand clothes. Each time Maya asks them to play they say no.

When their teacher invites them to throw a pebble in water and watch the ripples radiate to symbolize an act of kindness they share with the class, Chloe stops. Maya no longer is there. Her family has had to move. Had Chloe been kind even once?

MASL ‘Show Me’ award nominee 2014-2015.

32 pages

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow spent three years in prison, and all he wants is to get back to his wife and stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But the week before he is scheduled to be released, his wife is killed in an accident.  He is released early to attend the funeral.  On the plane ride home, he sits next to a Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. Shadow accepts.

It turns out that Wednesday is an old god who is roaming America rounding up other old gods, preparing for an epic battle against the "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." The old gods are trying to live peaceably in retirement, disguised as ordinary people.

Shadow agrees to help, and he travels through America, discovering all the myths Americans brought with them in their journeys to this land as well as the ones that were already here. He encounters dangerous characters, distinctly American foods and diversions, bizarre roadside attractions, and decrepit gods reduced to shell games and prostitution. "This is a bad land for Gods," says Shadow. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown.

This is a typical Gaiman fantasy, but offers a profound perspective on the soul and spirituality of this country-our obsessions with money and power, our jumbled religious heritage and its societal outcomes, and the decisions we face about what's real and what's not.

624 pages

Helen’s Big World by Doreen Rappaport

This picture book biography of Helen Keller uses actual quotes from Ms. Keller interspersed with the narrative of her life. A moving but matter-of-fact re-telling of the familiar story,  one that children will be fascinated with.

It begins with Helen as a baby, laughing and gurgling and beginning to talk; then the mysterious illness that left her deaf and blind, and unable to talk. It continues  through her life
as a lecturer, author, and advocate for social causes.

It is a MASL 'Show Me' award nominee for 2014-2015.

48 pages

Friday, August 29, 2014

Monarch by A.R. Ivanovich

Monarch is the third book in the War of the Princes series by A.R. Ivanovich. I won't give any spoilers away, but it continues the exciting adventure of Katelyn Kestrel, who ventures from her isolated home of Haven, into the dangerous outside world where two immortal princes use their countries to wage a never-ending war against each other. 

This series is published on Amazon through an independent publishing company, so you can read it through your Kindle for about $3. 

Book 1: Haven
Book 2: Dragoon
Book 3: Monarch
Book 4: should hopefully be published next year!

This series is full of adventure and suspense in an original, fresh take on a steam-punk world. It takes awhile to learn this new world, but once the story gets rolling, you won't be able to put it down!

420 pages

Shelter Mountain by Robin Carr

(Posted for Diann Stark)

This is the second book in the Virgin River series:

An abused battered woman with her three year old son shows up in Virgin River looking for a place to stay the night. She is on her way to her ‘next stop’ to have their identity changed and disappear where her abusive husband will never find them. The only place that is open in this little town is the local bar, this is where she meets John “Preacher” Middleton. Preacher notices the woman is covered in bruises and he realizes he wants to protect them, and he wants to punish whoever did this to her. Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in this gentle giant of a man—emotions that he has never allowed himself to feel.

Then Paige’s ex-husband turns up in Virgin River, Preacher knows his own future hangs in the balance. And if there’s one thing in the marines’ motto of Semper Fidelis—always faithful—has taught him, it’s that some things are worth fighting for.

Audio book: Reading time 11 hours and 50 minutes. 376 pages

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

560 pages

Six teenagers meet at a summer camp for artistic teens in 1974.  The novel unwinds from the first impressions and friendships struck at camp, through college years and adulthood.  One person becomes enormously successful, two marry one another, one accuses another of a horrific act, which splinters the group.  Beyond the remarkable events, the book follows the everyday joys and jealousies of friendship, the guilt you feel when you covet what your friends have, what career fulfillment and success mean, what talent is, what interesting means as one ages alongside and with people known since childhood.  A smart, snappy read, full of ironic angst and wisdom.

Bloodroot by Amy Greene

384 pages

This tragic tale focuses on several generations of a family tied to Bloodroot Mountain in east Tennessee.  The mystical, beautiful, and often surreal experiences on the mountain, an old family curse, and the very real dangers of lust, obsession, and poverty all weave into this tale, told from the perspectives of three generations of Bloodroot residents.  A haunting, well-written page-turner, with several mysteries that lead to surprising and satisfying conclusions.