Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Turning Angel by Greg Iles

Penn Cage is back!  This time out he's trying to prove the innocence of his childhood friend Dr. Drew Elliott. The good doctor is accused of raping and murdering a seventeen year-old girl.  It gets worse.  Much worse.  Iles takes the reader on a journey into drugs, sex, and blind ambition.  Some of the scenes are uncomfortable to read and seem designed more to titillate than to advance the story line.  But I think Iles is genuinely trying to touch upon some very uncomfortable topics-how an older man can talk himself into justifying a relationship with an underage girl, how a young man can be so damaged by war that he becomes a psychopath, and how hard it is to set limits on your own behavior when society seems out of control.  501 pages.

Calculated in Death by J D Robb

I think the trick to reading and enjoying J D Robb's "In Death" series is not to read more than one a year!  I've been catching up on the last couple of years' titles and they are starting to feel just a tad formulaic!  I have only myself to blame!  Anyway, in this latest book in the series, a successful accountant is found murdered and her body staged to make it appear that she died as a result of a botched mugging.  Lt. Eve Dallas and her partner Delia Peabody are not so easily fooled however.  They soon figure out that the body was moved and begin to uncover connections between the accountant and the owners of the building where the body was found. The case starts out slowly but soon gathers momentum as the killer makes mistakes and the body count rises.  No surprises at the end but some enjoyable moments with Eve and her "family" along the way.  386 pages.

The Quiet Game by Greg Iles

Penn Cage is a very successful writer of John Grisham type legal novels.  But his wife has just died after a long battle with cancer and he decides to return to his childhood home of Natchez, Mississippi to heal.  He and his young daughter Annie are just getting settled when Penn inadvertently rips open an old unsolved murder.  Many people try to pressure him to stay away from the case but the more they press Penn, the more resolved he becomes to uncover the truth.  Fans of John Grisham will love the action and legal maneuvering in this story.  There are few explicit sex scenes that seemed a little out of place.  Overall though, I thought this book was a very engrossing read and it made me want to visit Natchez! 564 pages.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

When this book was published in 1948, South Africa was under the grip of apartheid, which was nothing less than brutal, institutionalized racism known as segregation. Against this backdrop, Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo sets out for Johannesburg from his small rural village. A fellow minister has written to him asking him to come help his sister, who is ill.  He finds that his sister has turned to prostitution, and persuades her to return to the village. 

His son Absalom also went to Johannesburg and never returned; Kumalo now sets out to find him. As he searches, he begins to see the gaping racial and economic divisions that are threatening to split his country. Eventually, he discovers that his son has spent time in a reformatory and that he has gotten a girl pregnant.  Then Absalom is arrested for the murder of Arthur Jarvis, a prominent white crusader for racial justice He has confessed to the crime, but he claims that he did not intend to murder Jarvis. With the help of friends, Kumalo obtains a lawyer for Absalom and attempts to understand what his son has become.

Arthur Jarvis’s father, James, is a wealthy land owner.  In an attempt to come to terms with his son's murder, Jarvis reads his son’s articles and speeches on social inequality and begins a radical reconsideration of his own prejudices. He and Kumalo meet for the first time by accident, and after Kumalo has recovered from his shock, he expresses sadness and regret for Jarvis’s loss. Absalom is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.

Kumalo is now deeply aware of how his people have lost the tribal structure that once held them together, and he returns to his village troubled by the situation. It turns out that James Jarvis has been having similar thoughts.  He becomes a benefactor of the village.

On the evening before his son’s execution, Kumalo goes into the mountains to await the appointed time in solitude. On the way, he encounters Jarvis, and the two men speak of the village and of lost sons. 

316 pages

Blackberry Pie Murder by Joanna Fluke

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Hannah says she will not go out and find anyone dead.  In a severe thunder storm she hits and kills a man.  Her mother is getting married but keeps changing her plans.  On the ranch a daughter returns but her sister believes she is a fake. 

Audio:  9 hrs. 35 min.
Print:  304 pages

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward grew up in rural Mississippi during the 70's, 80's and 90's.  Her father was incapable of being faithful, although he loved his wife and wanted to support and care for his children. Her mother eventually kicked him out, and raised her, her brother, and two younger sisters alone, working as a housekeeper for wealthy white families. It was a life of unrelenting poverty, racism and hopelessness.

One of her mother's employers asked to send Jesmyn to a private school when he found out she was being bullied in her public school. Her mother agreed, wanting at least one of her children to have a chance to work her way out of their dismal circumstances. Jesmyn went on to get a master's degree in fine arts, and became a writer, winning a National Book Award for Fiction, and an Alex Award.

After writing two novels, she began writing this memoir, trying to  make sense of the deaths of five young men in her life over a five year span of time. Suicide, accidents, a shooting; all five, including her  brother, died in different ways, but the fact of their deaths seemed to be a symptom of the desolate lives they were living in this small southern state.

As I read, I kept thinking about the events in Ferguson, and that the life the author was describing explained much about the explosion of emotions that erupted after the killing of Michael Brown. Mississippi is dead last in the nation in so many measures of poverty, and Missouri is close on its heels. If we  want to  understand why  these things happen, this book can help.

Not an easy book to read, but highly recommended.

270 pages

"Punch Drunk Love" by Nico Jaye

This was a cute novella involving a kickboxing competition, crushes, Las Vegas, and a unicorn costume.  Oliver is a college student who has just earned his black belt and with it his way into competition at the Amateur Kickboxing Pacific Summit in Vegas with other members of his training center.  But he has a secret crush on his team's captain; can he keep his cool to concentrate on winning or will his nerves be his downfall?  And what happens if Oliver's secret is revealed?  Will something happen in Vegas that has to stay in Vegas?  55 pages (Kindle edition).

Fatal Debt by Dorothy Howell

Dana McKenzie works for Mid-American Financial Services and occasionally deals with the harsh reality of needing to call in the collateral for a loan. But she is also a person of heart so when one of her clients is killed, Dana agrees to find the widow's grandson who can help make the loan payment so at least the television doesn't have to be repossessed. Along the way she runs into Nick Travis, now a homicide detective but formerly her high school crush. This is book one in the Dana Mackenzie Mystery series. They have nicely set up book two. (170 pages)

Murder at the Art and Craft Fair by Steve Demaree

I was first introduced to Lt. Dekker and Sgt. Murdock, two portly but humorous homicide detectives, in 52 Steps to Murder. I quickly grew tired of all the weight-related jokes, mean-spirited comments about Dekker's neighbor, and constant references to food. Yet something keeps drawing me back to the series. After book three, I fast-forwarded to book six, Murder at the Art and Craft Fair. For the most part what I found annoying has been minimized and what is left is a quite enjoyable cozy mystery. 213 pages.

Dying for Dinner Rolls by Lois Lavrisa

Catherine Alice Thomson, Cat for short, is determined to find out who murdered her friend. and winds up putting her own life in jeopardy. Okay. Some of the plot is more than a little far-fetched, but that doesn't stop it from being entertaining. This is book one of the Chubby Chicks Club Cozy Southern Mysteries. 171 pages.

Coulson's Series by Anna J. McIntyre

The Coulson's series is a multigenerational saga about an extremely dysfunctional family. The series features romance, a little mystery and a paranormal twist. I first picked up the fourth book in the series, Coulson's Secret (304 pages) and was interested enough to go back to book one, Coulson's Wife (245 pages). I admit, if I had started with book one, I wouldn't have gone any further simply because I didn't find the characters as engaging. The digital versions of both titles could use some editing.


By Joy Baker

352 pages

Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view!  This a lovely re-telling of the story, focused on the real work that had to be done to run a household during that time, and what life was like for the classes providing for a household like the Bennets'.  The characters are well-rounded, and the arc of the story extends beyond the traditional end of the tale, extending through hardship to a satisfying conclusion. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

"A Note in the Margin" by Isabelle Rowan

John McCann has taken a one year leave of absence from his job in the Australian corporate world to manage a small bookstore called Margins to get his stress under control.  One of the store's regulars is a quiet man named David who occupies a chair all day in the used books section.  At first, John wants to get rid of him and the reading chairs, but the store's owner's son, Jamie, has befriended David and talks John into leaving him alone.  David is homeless, something John has never had to deal with, and it makes him uncomfortable.  But one very cold night, John's humanity starts to reemerge when he lets David spend the night on his couch.  John soon realizes that beneath the scruff and dirt is a talented artist and sensitive man who needs help to get his life in order.

This was a wonderful story about the power of friendship, patience, and love that wasn't always an easy read.  David's homelessness and what he does to earn money are tough to read.  He has been horribly abused on the street, and it has caused him to run away whenever he feels scared or stressed.  He trusts no one, but John and Jamie do their best to convince him that they won't hurt him.  My only complaint is that the story was told from multiple points of view, and it was not always clear whose view the author was taking which sometimes confused me.  However, it was still a compelling and well-told human drama.  276 pages (Kindle edition).

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

This is the second in the Game of Thrones series.  In this installment, the storylines from the first volume are continued and expanded, with new characters added and some new surprises.  Basically, as in many second volumes, the bad guys gain advantage, and the good guys have a lot of setbacks. Some of the bad guys aren't all bad, and some of the good guys do bad stuff as well.  With the death of the King, several rivals each make a power grab for the throne, and there are plenty of shifting alliances among the minor lords as each tries to assess who will win.  Some good battle scenes, but often tactics are as important as brute strength.  Except we are also following the story of wild things beginning to make encroachment from the North beyond the Wall, which marks the end of civilization.  So, plenty of stories to unfold in future volumes. While Martin's method of switching the story's point of view with almost every chapter can be confusing, it also gives a broad view of the chess game in play across the kingdom.  Long, but a fun read - this was definitely my vacation book for this year.  I'm definitely up for volume three.  728 pages. 

"Game On" by Olley White

This was a cute novella about two online gamers who decide to meet in person.  Max is hoping the woman he knows as "5t3ff" is as smart and funny in the flesh as she is during their competitions.  When "5t3ff" turns out to be a young man named Stefan, Max is disappointed but still drawn to him.  As they become friends offline, Max finds that they have more in common than he first thought.  This was a sweet story with good character development and dramatic structure.  I especially liked Stefan because he works at an animal shelter and longs to adopt the dogs nobody wants.  124 pages (Kindle edition).

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I am sure everyone at some point has read this book. This was the first time I read the book to all 3 of my ladies. They loved the story of Max and the wild things. And for some reason Max reminds me a lot of Kynslee, the middle child! Max does not listen to his mother and is sent to his room with no supper. Then we has this amazing adventure to where the wild things live. Maybe that is what I should call my house "Where the Wild Things Live." Cute book!

48 pages

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

This was an AMAZING book. I read it in one day. I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie, which I often do and it drives my husband nuts because he has to wait until I am done reading. (He is NOT a reader!) This book is about a girl named Hazel who has cancer. She falls in love in the weirdest of ways and she tells her love story. I loved every minute of this book. I hope everyone reads it. Now on to the movie.

352 pages

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Night Moves by Randy Wayne White

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Five navy torpedo bombers are reported missing in 1945.  Doc Ford and a friend are searching for some kind of wreckage of this incident when their plane goes down.  The U.S. government may be involved from beginning to end to cover everything up.  Thanks - another good Doc Ford mystery.

Audio:  10 hrs. 19 min.
Print:  400 pages

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody by William Poundstone

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

A book about how we think and make guesses and bets and how we can  have a better chance of winning challenges. 

Audio:  8 hrs. 1 min.
Print:  320 pages

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Boys in the Boat:Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics, held in Nazi Germany. Not so with the U. S. Rowing team, who took gold in the 8-oar crew race. The boys in the boat were from the University of Washington, not one of the elite East Coast crews. They were farmers and loggers, boys who were mostly poor and poorer. They are still sometimes referred to as the greatest crew in U. S. history.

This history reads like a novel. It tells the story of Joe Rantz, who sat in the 3rd seat in the rowing shell. His mother died when he was three, and he was abandoned by his father at two different times in his life; once when he was but 10 years old, and again for good when he was 15, left to make his own way in the world with no family, no home, no money.

There were no scholarships in rowing when he entered the University of Washington in 1933, but securing a place on crew would give him the opportunity for a job that would help him keep himself in school.

The other part of the book is the many catastrophic events rocking the country during the 1930's, and the rise of the Nazi party and Adolph Hitler in Germany. The Great Depression was in full throttle; the Dust Bowl was devastating agriculture, and cataclysmic weather events were coming fast and furiously. Against this backdrop, the story of nine young men overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat the German and Italian teams that had all the resources they needed to become the best rowers in the world is inspiring and awe-inspiring.

417 pages

Monday, September 15, 2014

Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Eve Dallas’s husband buys a building because it has good bones; don’t tear it down, just rebuild it.  This building revealed the death of twelve young girls and is a challenge to solve.  Detective Peabody is a lovely person and makes reading these more enjoyable.

Audio:  12 hrs. 20 min.
Print:  384 pages

Friday, September 12, 2014

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet is the second book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. It is hard to fully describe what goes on in Scarlet without providing spoilers for Cinder, but here it goes. Scarlet is based on the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood." Scarlet and her grandmother own a farm in a small southern town in France. Scarlet's grandmother has been missing for over two weeks. She finds a man to help her find her grandmother who goes by Wolf, a very accurate name. The book goes between what is going on with Scarlet, Cinder, and Kai. Unlike the book Cinder, the book Scarlet does not include as many predictable events. There are still portions of the book that remind one of Little Red Riding Hood, but it is not quite as forced as Cinder. Of course we have a guy named Wolf and Scarlet has a red hoodie and red hair, but once you overlook that, the rest is not as fairy tale-like. It is a very good second book that makes you want to start the third one right away!
I read this book as an audio book.
Narrator: Mare Trevathan
Time: 10 hours, 11 minutes
ISBN: 9780312642969
Pages (Per ISBN connected with the book used to create audio book): 454

The Lunar Chronicles:
Prequel-Fairest (Coming January 2015)
#4-Winter (Coming November 2015)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer puts an amazing and unique spin on the tale of Cinderella in her new book Cinder. Cinder is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. Cinder is a teenage cyborg who lives in New Beijing. She works as a mechanic, which is the only source of income for her step-mother and two sisters. Her best friend is an android named Echo. Unlike the traditional Cinderella story, Cinder's youngest step-sister is very fond of Cinder. As a bit of background for the setting, it is in a future Earth that had a terrible World War III, Beijing was demolished and therefore, New Beijing was created. There is a group of people called Lunars that live on the moon, and their current queen has been threatening to start war with earth of the prince of the Asian Commonwealth, Prince Kai, will not marry her. There is also a very dangerous plague that has been spreading across the Earth called letumosis. This plague cannot be spread to Lunars. There are certain points in the book that are predictable and others that are surprising. One can definitely tell that Marissa did research on this book to provide well detailed information.
I read this book as an audio book.
Narrator: Mare Trevathan
Time: 9 hours, 20 minutes
ISBN: 9780312641894
Pages (Connected to ISBN of book used to create audio book): 390

Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore

Summary: "The Garde, broken and divided, discover that the Mogadorians have commenced their ultimate invasion plans and will stop at nothing to thwart it."

Book Five in the I am Number Four, aka the Lorien Legacies, series. This book is so very exciting and adventurous, and ultimately left me wanting more, as always. By this point, I've gotten very attached to the members of the Garde and their friends; I can't wait to see what happens next.

It's going to be a long, anxious wait until August of next year. 

Make sure to check out the other books in this series (highly recommend): 

I am Number Four 
The Power of Six 
The Rise of Nine 
The Fall of Five 
The Revenge of Seven

371 pages