Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

Rise and Shine is a tale of two sisters.  Meaghan Fitzmaurice is a successful television journalist, happily married, and the mother of a wonderful son.  Her younger sister Bridget has had many careers over the years and has finally found her life's calling as a social worker.  They have settled into their proscribed roles over the years but everything changes when Meaghan slips up and makes a derogatory comment on-air.  The gaffe was but a symptom of a personal unraveling. The beautiful life is falling apart and Meaghan runs off to the Caribbean. Once again Anna Quindlen creates a realistic story of women coping with changing circumstances and re-negotiating personal relationships. And it has a happy ending!  337pages.

The Hare with the Amber Eyes: a hidden inheritance by Edmund De Waal

I was given this book for my birthday-something I probably would not have discovered on my own. I was immediately drawn into the story of one family and their collection of Japanese netsuke.  De Waal starts his family biography in Japan with the death of his great uncle Ignaz and his inheritance of the collection.  Then he takes us back to the beginnings of the collection in Paris during the 1870s when the craze for all things Japanese was just beginning.  De Waal traces back his family's start as wheat traders in Odessa, the accumulation of wealth, the establishment of the family banking business in Paris, and the expansion into Vienna.  The family's wealth did not insulate them from anti-Semitism. Their collection of netsuke and other fine arts was often their entree into high society. Sadly, the rise of Hitler marked the downfall of the family.  Many family members were murdered in the Holocaust and their wealth appropriated by the Nazis.  The netsuke collection was miraculously restored to the family thanks to a loving family servant. Today the netsuke are an actual, physical link to past family members. The miniatures were handled by them and each one evokes a family memory. In the end, the Hare with the Amber Eyes is a different kind of Holocaust memoir- one told by the silent witness of a family's lost possessions. 354 pages.

"Dog Breath: The Horrible Trouble With Hally Tosis" by Dav Pilkey

This is a funny children's book about Hally Tosis, a small dog with awful breath.  It's so bad that her human parents want to give her away, but the two kids in the house try to find ways to get rid of Hally's bad breath.  But when their efforts fail and she's about to go, a surprise in the form of burglars keeps the family together.  Kids and adults will enjoy the silly story and colorful pictures.  32 pages.

"From Out in the Cold" by L.A. Witt

Neil and Jeremy were best friends, but a misunderstanding had them going their separate ways.  Years later, Jeremy is a homeless veteran racked with flashbacks from his military experiences.  He ends up on Neil's doorstep, but little does he know that his one time best friend also suffers from a traumatic event that occurred one year ago.  With no where else to go for the holidays, they drive from Chicago to Omaha, their hometown, to visit Neil's parents.  As they work through their problems, meet with old friends, and deal with their shared past, they come to realize that they are each what the other has been missing.  This was a well written and sympathetic exploration of emotional trauma.  206 pages (Kindle edition).

"His Grandfather's Watch" by N.R. Walker

This lovely novella tells the story of two couples two generations apart.  Alex Harper works at his family's antiquities shop appraising and repairing watches and clocks.  Callum Winter, a young man his age and new to town, brings in his grandfather's pocket watch to find out when and where it was made.  Alex discovers an old picture of Callum's grandfather and a mysterious man as well as an inscription inside the back cover and helps Callum track down the story behind them.  Callum's only living relative is his grandmother, who has dementia, but slowly the tale of the watch is revealed. 

This is the second story that I've read by this author, and I liked them both very much.  It's a tear-jerker, too, especially the final chapter which further explains the history of the watch.  69 pages (Kindle edition).

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter is a graphic novel form of a classic vampire story.  Witter's adaptation scours the original text by Anne Rice to glean out Claudia's story from the novel and distill it into graphic novel form.  The story follows the novel, but tells the events from Claudia's point of view.  The art, which is sepia toned with red for the blood, is quite striking.  I loved the idea of Claudia from the beginning and seeing her take center stage is thrilling.  Highly recommended for fans of vampire lore and particularly for fans of Anne Rice's series.  Witter's adaptation is sure to find its way into the vampire lore cannon. 224 pages.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

‘The Purpose-Based Library: Finding your path to survival, success, and growth’ by John J. Huber and Steven V. Potter

A vision for public library service incorporating the view that survival depends on lean core services; success depends on community partnerships and value-added metrics, and growth depends on libraries communicating, reflecting, and pursuing their true purpose. (p. xviii).  The book employs a unique community pyramid similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to use in determining how the public library can impact the well-being of the community at each stage.  Steve Potter is director of Mid-Continent Public Library, and contributes examples from his library and other Missouri libraries about how to implement the recommendations in the book.  190 pages. 

Kingsman by Mark Millar,et al.

Kingsman by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and Matthew Vaughn is a graphic novel that, earlier this year, was made into a major motion picture starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson among others.  The book tells the story of a young man headed nowhere who is given the chance of a lifetime to become a secret service agent for Britain by his Uncle Jack.  Jack remembers being poor with few prospects and wants to help his troubled nephew.  The story progresses as Eggsy, the young nephew, goes through training, eventually working to try and solve the mystery of a string of celebrity kidnappings.  The graphic novel makes a nice impression alone and the art is quite nice throughout.  Even Pierce Brosnan as James Bond makes an appearance as one of the kidnapped celebrities.  Many aspects of the graphic novel are clever.   My only wish is that I had read the graphic novel before seeing the movie because the movie took some of the concepts of the book and just ran with them.  Still, if you have seen the movie the book doesn't disappoint as the story is told somewhat differently.  If you want to see the roots of the story in the movie, by all means pick up the book.  Definitely recommended.  160 pages.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman: a novel by Harper Lee is the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, though Watchman was actually written first.  Thought to be a lost manuscript, this story was recently rediscovered and published.  This reviewer's understanding is that it was published without the blessing of its author, who has lived a very reclusive life since TKAM's publication.  It appears that Lee had very little if anything to do with the editing process of this novel and it shows.  Amateur mistakes can be found throughout.  The crux of the novel isn't introduced until Chapter 8 and it starts off almost sounding like it is going to be a romantic story between Scout and Henry.  Once the race card is drawn, the novel actually seems to take off and becomes a more interesting read.  Parts of the story feel disjointed and some description of the main characters and setting are lacking.  I would recommend this only for people who are curious about the characters and their story.  This is not nearly as literary a novel as TKAM.  I went into this with low expectations and was not disappointed.  However, readers who are expecting another incarnation of TKAM will be sorely disappointed.  I do not hold this against Harper Lee, however. I hold it against greedy publishers looking to make a buck.  The book jacket claims the greatness of the manuscript, but I found it sorely lacking.  Not highly recommended. 288 pages.

Literary Rogues by Andrew Shaffer

Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors dishes out the dirt on authors ranging from the Marquis de Sade to the Beatniks and beyond.  Sex and drugs are not just for rock stars.  Before rock stars, writers filled the news with their scandalous exploits.  Today's authors have nothing on the writers of yore.  In fact, as Shaffer concludes his retelling of these tales, he wonders where the cowboys have gone.  The Kardashians seem so glib compared to Sade and some of the other writers discussed here.  This is a great book for anyone interested in literary history, particularly its seedy side.  The impact of the "rock-n-roll" lifestyle on writers and their writing is touched on in each story.  This book will make readers hungry to do more research on their favorite authors to find out more.  Highly recommended for literature and history buffs. 320 pages.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Catch the Fire by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy

Catch the Fire: An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power of Youth, Adults and Communities is a guide written by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy for using creativity in almost any type of gathering or conference.  The book describes a systematic way of using creativity with large groups to foster empowerment.  The main subject matter for the group is irrelevant.  This book walks facilitators through methods of getting groups to think more creatively in their everyday lives.  This can translate into work, school, or recreation.  The exercises cover most of the fine arts and can be used with relatively little knowledge of art or creativity.  The idea is to get people thinking.  Though many of the discussions in the book center around youth gatherings, the authors make it clear that these same methods work with adult and intergenerational gatherings as well.  The exercises are very open-ended and are meant to allow for adaptation and creativity on the part of the facilitators.  This is a wonderful read for anyone who is interested in leading groups using creativity and the arts.  Highly recommended for facilitator of any type. 320 pages.

Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon

Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon is a dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley.  They were mother and daughter, though they never knew each other since Wollstonecraft died shortly after childbirth.  These two legendary women have more similarities than differences even though their lives took different turns.  Gordon examines both women's lives in alternating chapters and talks about their achievements in reference to the developing Romanticism that was sweeping Europe at that time.  Each woman played a pivotal role in the Romantic movement as a whole.  Also includes tales of their lives with William Godwin, another famous writer who was also husband to Wollstonecraft and father to Shelley.  Their friendships and relationships to lovers are documented in their letters and other writings as well.  Some of the notable characters include Coleridge, Percy Shelley, and Byron.  Highly recommended for anyone interested in the birth of feminism and the Romantic period as a whole.  672 pages.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Verdi" by Janell Cannon

From the author of "Stellaluna," this story is about Verdi, a newly hatched, baby python with bright yellow skin and black stripes.  Before leaving, his mother tells him that he'll grow up to be big and green, but all of the adult pythons that Verdi meets seem lazy and boring and don't want to play with him.  So he does crazy acrobatics around the jungle alone until one day he notices that some of his skin is turning green.  But as he grows up, he discovers that he doesn't have to give up being playful. 

This is another lovely book full of colorful and detailed drawings of pythons and other creatures found in the jungle that will win over readers, even those who don't like snakes.  46 pages

"Stellaluna" by Janell Cannon

I first read this children's book when I worked as a teacher's aide many years ago, and it has become one of my favorites.  Stellaluna is a fruit bat who is separated from her mother when they are attacked by an owl.  She lands in the nest of Mama Bird and her three babies where she is taught to live and eat like they do.  This means flying during the day, no more hanging upside down, and learning to live on insects, none of which seems right to Stellaluna.  Will she ever be reunited with Mother Bat and others of her species?

The beautifully colored and detailed drawings of the bats and birds are the biggest draw of this book.  There are even small drawings at the top of every other page showing Mother Bat's search for her baby.  The story is compelling and explains the differences between birds and bats in ways that children can understand.  "Bat Notes" at the end explain more about "the only mammals capable of powered flight."  I highly recommend this book to all children as well as any adults who are fond of bats.  46 pages.

"Not My Father's Son: A Memoir" by Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming survived a horrible childhood with an abusive father in Scotland to become a very successful actor, writer, singer, producer, and director.  (He won a Tony Award for Cabaret in 1998 and is now a regular on TV's The Good Wife.)  This memoir tells parallel stories from Alan's memories of abuse and his journey as an adult to find out more about his maternal grandfather who died in Malaysia in 1951.  He did the latter for the television show Who Do You Think You Are?  His mother's family were never told the truth about his grandfather's death, and at the same time as filming, Alan's father drops a bombshell on him after more than a decade of silence.  So there are two mysteries that he's trying to solve, and both are bound to cause emotional upheaval for him, his mother, and his older brother.

This is an excellent, well written, and riveting memoir about secrets, lies, misconceptions, and mental illness, and what they do to families.  It is not a complete autobiography of the author's entire life but about how he survived his childhood as well as two enormous revelations that happened in his 40s.  I admired Alan Cumming before I read this and that admiration is even greater now.  Highly recommended.  294 pages.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Summary: "In their first adult novel, authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan take on a story of romance and rivalries inspired by today's most talked-about royal couple: Will and Kate. "If I'm Cinderella today, I dread who they'll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next." American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy-tales. Her twin sister Lacey was always the romantic, the one who daydreamed of being a princess. But it's adventure-seeking Bex who goes to Oxford and meets dreamy Nick across the hall - and thus Bex who accidentally finds herself in love with the eventual heir to the British throne. Nick is everything she could have imagined, but Prince Nicholas has unimaginable baggage: grasping friends, a thorny family, hysterical tabloids tracking his every move, and a public that expected its future king to marry a native. On the eve of the most talked-about wedding of the century, Bex reflects on what she's sacrificed for love -- and exactly whose heart she may yet have to break."

I adore this book. So very much. I don't think my review can do it justice.

For something that seems like fan-fiction of Kate Middleton's life (another reviewer's words), The Royal We is a truly emotional and poignant story. Bex and Nick and everyone else are full, real and flawed characters. I cried multiple times: happy tears, sad tears, tears I didn't understand. 

10/10 would recommend! 

454 pages

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Genius in Diguise

Image result for genius in disguise

Genius in Diguise
Thomas Kunkel

In a great paradox of American letters, the urbane and witty New Yorker was founded by a former tramp newspaperman from Colorado with a 10th grade education. Yet Harold W. Ross revealed an irrepressible spirit, an insatiable curiosity and a bristling intellect--all the qualities that distinguished The New Yorker (Amazon.com)

I have always liked the New Yorker magazine as well as the time period.  This book covered both topics.  Kunkel writes well and gives a well-rounded history of the man and the magazine.  I was struck by how many really famous writers got their start, or enhanced their reputations, with the New Yorker.  

The book is very readable...even the appendices, which reproduce some of the edit sheets that Ross did.  Very interesting.  497 pages.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"When the Fly Flew In . . . " by Lisa Westberg Peters, pictures by Brad Sneed

This is a cute children's story illustrated with wonderfully fluid watercolors about four animals slumbering in their little boy's room when a fly enters and causes chaos.  The pictures are perfect with lots of interesting details for kids to discover.  The long haired, white cat looks a lot like one I had many years ago - beautiful!  32 pages.

"Bossypants" by Tina Fey

The best parts of this memoir, in my opinion and in no particular order, are:
  1. learning how Fey got that scar on her jaw.
  2. her stories of working at Second City and Saturday Night Live, including her appearances as a certain vice presidential candidate.
  3. her observations on the treatment of women in comedy and show business.
I would call this a light memoir since large parts of her life are omitted.  She admitted to a lot of shortcomings and praised many of her former coworkers, which I liked.  I still think she and Amy Poehler are the best anchors that "Weekend Update" has ever had.

Audio:  5.5 hours
Print:  272 pages

"fawn" by Nash Summers

This novella (the first letter is not capitalized) is about two boys in the small town of Heaven.  Rust has dark red hair, is small for his age, and likes to make art out of found objects in nature, at least while he's not sitting under a large pine tree daydreaming and writing letters to people he doesn't know.  Ancel lives in a rented, dilapidated house near Rust's home with his abusive father and gentle German shepherd.  He's quiet and mysterious and the object of Rust's dreams.  He floats in and out of Rust's life, disappearing for years and reappearing unexpectedly.  Written from both boys' POVs, Nash conveys descriptions of their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings very well without resorting to constant similes, especially with Rust.  He's a special character in a lovely story whom I won't soon forget.  78 pages (Kindle edition).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I am the Mission by Allen Zadoff

Summary: "Teen assassin Boy Nobody is sent on a mission to assassinate the head of a domestic terrorism cell, but his mission turns up more questions about his job than answers."

I am the Mission is the second book in the Unknown Assassin series, after I am the Weapon. Boy Nobody takes on the name of Daniel in this book, and also experiences a change of setting to New Hampshire. Daniel's thoughts and realizations throughout this book are great. It also has a lot of suspense, action....and death.

I enjoyed this follow-up installment even more than the first one. "Daniel" faces bigger challenges than ever, from the Program, his memories and his new "mission." The ending will definitely leave you "hanging," and I can't wait to see what happens next! 

421 pages

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Shadow Prince (Into the Dark #1) by Bree Despain

Summary: "In this modern retelling of the Persephone myth, Haden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, is sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead." 

The Shadow Prince is the first book in the Into the Dark series. Even though it started off a little too slow for my tastes, the story eventually picks up the pace. I couldn't put it down! It left me wanting more and eagerly waiting for the next book. The story alternates between Haden and Daphne's POVs. It is FULL of mythology, with the story of Persephone and the story of Orpheus intertwined. 

It isn't as witty as the Percy Jackson books, but the mythology is still woven throughout the story in a nice way. Some plot points are painfully obvious, but others deliver on shock value. 

I really enjoyed it! 

481 pages