Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

"Darling Beast" by Elizabeth Hoyt

This is book seven in the Maiden Lane series and centers on Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne, who escaped a four year nightmare in Bedlam nine months ago and is now living as "Mr. Smith," a gardener at a burned out pleasure garden called Harte's Folly.  He is friends with Harte, who is actually Asa Makepeace, the brother of the main characters of previous entries in the series.  Unbeknownst to Apollo, Makepeace had hired a famous actress, Lily Stumpe, to perform plays at the garden before it burned downed.  Angry that she left his theatre, Lily's previous employer blacklisted her in the London theatre community.  So when Harte's Folly burned, she could find no work but talked Makepeace into letting her, her son, and her maid live in the two small rooms of the theatre that hadn't burned.  Apollo frightens Lily when they first meet due to his size and his inability to speak as his voice was damaged in a vicious beating in Bedlam.  But as Lily's son, Indio, becomes enamored with the silent gardener, Lily eventually realizes that he is not the hulking oaf he pretends to be.  Apollo is really searching for the killer of his friends, a crime for which he was framed and sentenced to Bedlam.  But how can he do that if he's lost his voice and must not divulge his real name and station in life?

Hoyt writes another winner that brings back other characters from the series, including Apollo's twin sister, Artemis, and her husband, the Duke of Wakefield, the two people responsible for his escape from Bedlam in book six.  Lily and Apollo make a classically great historical romance couple; both are strong, likeable, and moral.  I'm leaving out a lot because I don't want to give away any spoilers, but fans of the genre will love this entertaining addition to the series.  Oh, and there's a cute, red, Italian greyhound who steals a few scenes!  328 pages.

Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews

Summary: Grace Stanton is a famous design and lifestyle blogger who seems to have it all: the perfect house, the perfect husband and the perfect job. But her life falls apart in one hellish night, and she is left with nothing but her wits and gumption to pick herself up again.

Deep Dish was the first Mary Kay Andrews book I ever read, and I enjoyed Ladies' Night just as much. Her stories and characters are rich and detailed, making them a great way to lose yourself and escape reality. You'll be rooting for Grace from the very beginning.

458 pages 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Burn by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Robbery in the diamond district of New York. Eighteen months of planning is actually the plan of a Wall Street hedge fund manager, a cannibal/murderer.

Audio:  7 hrs. 55 min.
Print:   368 pages