Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway; Read by Gareth Armstrong

Most people probably remember bits and pieces about the Bosnian War of the 1990s.  The mass killings of Bosnian Muslim men and boys, the rapes of Bosnian Muslim women, and the failure of the U.N. to intercede.  In the Cellist of Sarajevo, Galloway takes us into the lives of four citizens of Sarajevo during the war.  An anonymous cello player decides to play every day for each of the 22 people killed in a mortar attack on a street market. A young sniper called Arrow is assigned to keep him alive. Kenan must make a day long trek across the city, dodging snipers and mortar attacks, to get water for his family and neighbor.  Dragan spends hours trying to make it across the street without getting shot. Each must grapple with the choice between cowering and acting.  These glimpses into wartime life are accompanied in the audiobook by haunting cello music. 235 pages. Unabridged audiobook. 5 hours and 33 minutes.

Ran Away by Barbara Hambly

A Turk living in 1830s New Orleans is accused of murdering two of his concubines. Someone saw him throw the women to their deaths from an upper story window. Enter Benjamin January- musician, doctor, and unofficial detective. It turns out that Benjamin knows the Turk, Huseyin Pasha, from his medical school days in Paris.  Hambly takes us back to Benjamin's earlier life in Paris. We get to know his first wife Ayasha and the role she played in the first encounter between Benjamin and Huseyin Pasha.  Once again, Benjamin uses his connections among the servants and working class of New Orleans to solve the murders.  An engrossing story with lots of historical detail.  256 pages.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Rebecca Winter has fallen on hard times.  She's an award winning photographer who hasn't had an exhibit or sold a work in years. She's decided to take drastic measures in order to pay her monthly bills-she's leased out her New York apartment and rented a ramshackle house in upstate New York. It's very satisfying to read how Rebecca creates a new life for herself. 252 pages.

Paradise Lost by J. A. Jance

It's been three years since Joanna Brady became sheriff of Cochise County. She's become a more confident manager, has solved many cases, and has successfully juggled the demands of her job and her personal life.  Should she run for re-election? This question lingers at the back of Joanna's mind as she tries to solve a new murder.

Joanna's daughter Jennifer and a troubled fellow Girl Scout discover the body of a brutally murdered woman. When the troubled Girl Scout is later killed in a hit and run, Joanna races to find the killer before her daughter becomes the next target. Jance continues to develop the relationships that make this series worthwhile reading, especially the one between Joanna and her mother. 371 pages.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates

Laura Bates was an English professor who began teaching Shakespeare to inmates in Indiana prisons. She eventually managed to get the prison system to allow her to teach a Shakespeare class in ‘SuperMax’; the ‘prison within a prison’ for the most violent, incorrigible criminals.


In this memoir, Bates describes the “Shakespeare in Shackles” where she met Larry Newton. Newton spent over 10 years in solitary confinement; as a teenager he murdered a man and got life in prison without parole in return for pleading guilty. Newton got Bates’ attention with his first essay about Richard III. He posed questions on topics such as honor, revenge and conscience.


The impact of Shakespeare's works, primarily Macbeth and Hamlet,  on Newton was so powerful that he became a teacher, prepared  workbooks to help inmates study, and helped create videos to inform other inmates about the relevance of Shakespeare to their lives. And the impact on  Bates has led her to ask questions such as: Should the state pay for educational programs to rehabilitate criminals? Need we be concerned about the inhumane and unsanitary conditions that exist in some American prisons? Can we prevent juvenile offenders from become career criminals?

An interesting read.


308 pages

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Number 4 in the Game of Thrones series was a bit slow in places, particularly since Martin chose to reveal the stories of only half the characters in the series, leaving out my favorites.  This volume focuses on events in and around Kings Landing, with Cersei, Jaime, Brianne and Arya, as well as some new characters from across the sea.  The word is spreading about the existence of the dragons, with much speculation and disbelief.  While the story has treachery and intrigue, along with some attempts to pursue justice and truth, I'm looking forward to the next volume.  1060 pages.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety" by Daniel Smith

The author began suffering from severe anxiety after having a terrible experience the first time he has sex.  His life devolves from there into suffering panic attacks and excessive sweating in many situations.  He struggles not only through college but through his first real job as a fact checker for "The Atlantic" and his first serious relationship, which his anxiety and insecurities ruin.  I also suffer from anxiety but mine does not compare to the severity of the author's.  He has found no cure, but, with the help of a psychologist, uses cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with it.  The weakest part of the book was the section about working for "The Atlantic."  I thought it was too long and detailed and didn't add much to the book.  Overall, though, it was interesting to hear how one severe anxiety sufferer acquired it and deals with it.

Audio:  7 hrs. 15 min.
Print:  224 pages

Saturday, May 23, 2015

"The Shadows" by J.R. Ward

The 13th novel in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series focuses on the twin Shadows, Trez and iAm.  They are a different species from vampires, both of which are unknown to most humans, but iAm and Trez have been living with the BDB for about nine months.  Although Trez is fated to be the mate of the Shadow Princess, he and iAm escaped that world many years ago to live and work among humans.  They teamed up with the BDB to fight their common enemy, the Lessening Society, but now Trez has been ordered to return to the Shadows to fulfill his duty or his people will declare war on the BDB.  On top of that, he has fallen in love with Selena, a Chosen, who provides her pure blood to the Brothers who cannot take from their mates.  Unfortunately, Selena has been stricken with a mysterious illness that renders her body's joints to freeze.  Other Chosen before her have had this same illness, and it has always been fatal.

I know this sounds convoluted, but if you've read all the other novels in the series it will make sense.  The real focus is on Trez and Selena's love story and how they each deal with her illness and his destiny to be the mate of the Shadow Princess.  It also deals with iAm and his quest to help them, which holds the real surprise of the book.  I was glad to see a side story on Rhage and his shellan (wife), Mary.  He has begun to have panic attacks, and Mary, being a counselor, tries to help him understand them.  Hopefully, we'll see more of those two in the next installment.  Overall, I liked this book better than the last one, "The King."  576 pages.

Snakecharm by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Summary: "The peace forged by the love between Zane and Danica, leaders of the avian and serpiente realms that had been at war for generations, is threatened by the arrival of Syfka, an ancient falcon who claims one of her people is hidden in their midst."

While Hawksong was told from Danica's POV, Snakecharm gives us a glimpse into Zane's mind. I have tried to read the rest of the books in this series, but unfortunately, the author loses track of what made Hawksong so incredibly good. The relationships are the heart of these books, not the magic, not the avian lore. But as the series continues, she gets more and more into the fantasy and loses the heart of the story. Snakecharm is interesting and good, but it could have been better. I found myself missing Danica and her thoughts, especially when something profound happens to her. 

167 pages

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Heir by Kiera Cass

Summary: "Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn't expect her Selection to be anything like her parents' fairy-tale love story ... but as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought."

Unfortunately, The Heir did not live up to the fun and excitement of the previous 3 books in the Selection series. Princess Eadlyn is a spoiled, self-centered brat. She's also incredibly dim, dull and downright insensitive at times. I didn't relate to her or root for her at all. However, the end of the book indicated that Eadlyn might have learned from her mistakes and is willing to change her ways. I am hopeful that the next book in Eadlyn's story will turn things around. 

346 pages

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary: "Yelena, about to be executed, is offered the job of food taster to the Commander of Ixia, but politics and magic keep threatening her life."

Yelena is quite a heroine! She is smart, determined and a fighter. She reminds me a little bit of Katniss Everdeen, in that she fights every day to stay alive. She is the definition of resilient.

I truly enjoyed this book, and its ability to provide depth while moving the story along quickly was very refreshing. I would definitely recommend!

361 pages

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell

This bestseller discusses the way we make snap judgments and the consequences of doing so when they are wrong.  The most interesting parts were examples of these, both good and bad.  The author uses the term "thin-slicing" to describe the process of filtering out the variables that don't matter and depending on the ones that do when making a quick decision.  Overall, it was a pretty interesting book although some of it felt like padding.  The author read the CD version that I listened to, which was good because he had a pleasant, mid-range speaking voice.

Audio:  7 hrs. 43 minutes
Print:  296 pages

Friday, May 8, 2015

"A Restored Man" by Jaime Reese

This is the third book in the Men of Halfway House series and focuses on Cole Renzo, who has spent the last two years in prison for car theft.  He moves to Halfway House to finish his sentence but must find and keep a job.  He gets a position at a car restoration shop owned by Ty Calloway, brother of Aiden Calloway, a Miami detective who is trying to keep Cole in line.  Cole notices that the two brothers are very different and have a fractured relationship due to an accident in the family a couple of years ago that physically and emotionally damaged Ty.  But Cole's non-stop mouth and overconfidence help Ty come out of his shell, much to the brothers' surprise.  However, someone from Ty's past is trying to blackmail him and force him out of business.  Can Cole and Aiden help him defeat his blackmailer and find happiness again?

This is the best book of the series (so far) with two main characters whose personalities are very different but complement each other.  Ty and Cole have both suffered personal losses and have families that love them but don't always know how to show it.  There were well written secondary characters, especially Cole's siblings and Ty's main mechanic, who added layers to the story.  It was also great to see Julian and Matt, who run Halfway House.  I can't wait to read the next in the series.  362 pages.