Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I am Malala: the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Malala Yousafzai grew up in Pakistan with parents who were happy and celebrated when she was born- this in a country where only boy births were celebrated. The birth of a daughter brought sympathy instead. But Malala's father was a remarkable man who, instead of being constrained by cultural norms worked to bring education, including that of girls, to the Swat Valley.

When she was 12, Malala wrote a blog for the BBC under a pseudonym detailing her life under Taliban occupation, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a journalist  made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. She was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by Desmond Tut.

However, all this attention brought down the wrath of the Taliban, and on the afternoon of October 9,
2012, a gunman entered her school bus, asked for her by name, then pointed a pistol at her and fired three shots. One bullet hit her in the face, seriously injuring her. She eventually was transferred to a hospital in Great Britain for treatment, and her family was relocated there, being in danger from the Taliban. They still live in exile from their homeland, but have continued to be activists and advocates for education for girls.

289 pages

"Dumped in Oz" by Andrew Grey

Book one in the Tales from Kansas series finds Lyle Powers transferring from Pittsburg, PA, to rural Kansas for one year for his job.  On his first day there, he eats at a local restaurant where he meets the baker, Roger Kypers, a single father with a crazy ex-wife and protective 13-year-old daughter.  The two men hit it off, but the ex-wife causes problems that could push Roger off of the wagon.  I didn't much care for the writing style of the author; exposition was used more than the "show, don't tell" technique, and did not allow me to invest emotionally in either character.  I did feel sorry for Roger and his circumstances, but Lyle's character wasn't really explored in-depth.  I almost forgot to explain that "Oz" refers to "The Wizard of Oz," about which there is a museum in this small town.  127 pages (Kindle edition).

"Play On" by Avery Cockburn

This novella in the Glasgow Lads series takes place before the first book, "Playing for Keeps."  It focuses on Duncan Harris, who plays for an LGBT football (soccer) team in Glasgow, Scotland, and Brodie Campbell, one of Duncan's flatmates at university.  Duncan's team and his attitude have gone to pot since they were abandoned by their captain.  Brodie is trying to recover from a bout of mono, study for finals, and deal with the emotional trauma of being bullied for his sexuality.  He and Duncan grow close, but when Duncan beats an opponent who threatens Brodie, his status on the team and his relationship with Brodie are in jeopardy.

As in "Playing for Keeps," the author does a great job of building the two main characters, their issues, and the ways they each try to handle them.  Brodie is introverted and afraid of being hurt once again, and Duncan doesn't always understand how difficult Brodie's life has been and continues to be because of his homophobic parents and hometown.  Duncan comes from an upper middle class family who brags about his homosexuality.  Plus, he's a physically strong athlete, like Brodie's tormentors back home.  But the story isn't all doom and gloom.  Both men are funny, loyal, and kind.  Duncan spent several months in the U.S. before starting university, and it was fun to read the odd things he learned there. I really enjoyed the story and can't wait to read more in the series.  152 pages (Kindle edition).

"Sixty Five Hours" by N.R. Walker

Cameron Fletcher and Lucas Hensley are advertising executives who work at the same firm, which is owned by Cameron's father.  Both men are headstrong, talented, and opposites in work styles and personality.  Unfortunately, the elder Fletcher gives them 65 hours to work together on a campaign to win a major contract.  Can Lucas, who is out of the closet, and Cameron, who is locked in it, get along long enough to win the big client?   I really enjoyed this well written story that used counting down from the 65 hours to propel the action.  There was also a bonus chapter at the end told from Cameron's father's POV of a pivotal scene.  I've liked everything that I've read by this author and can't wait to read more.  174 pages (Kindle edition).

"End of the Line" by Layla Cole

College roommates Cory and Julian were in Mexico on spring break when "the Blight" moves across the U.S. causing entire cities to disappear and mutations in surviving humans.  They try to outrun it by going to Idaho and then Oregon, but the bright green light keeps getting closer.  With death appearing to be imminent, Julian makes a decision about his true feelings for Cory.  Will they face the Blight together, or will his revelation tear them apart?  I found the story a little hard to follow until about the last fourth, but the surprise ending makes up for it.  69 pages (Kindle edition).

"Tonight" by Karen Stivali

This novella uses one of my favorite tropes - friends to lovers.  Derek and Wiley are full time grad students who've been best friends for years.  Derek and his little brother, Davey, an undergrad, have been letting Wiley sleep on their couch for the past three weeks after Wiley had a fight with his roommate and moved out.  Unfortunately for Davey, his five year crush on the straight Wiley makes this situation nearly unbearable until one word changes everything for him.  This is a cute, character driven story told from Davey's point of view.  I liked it even if it wasn't very realistic, but that's why I read fiction.  65 pages (Kindle edition).

"Given the Circumstances" by Brad Vance

Roger and Brian are athletes who meet in college; Roger is the star quarterback, and Brian plays baseball.  Roger grew up with a loving, widowed father, while Brian was saddled with an abusive jerk for a dad.  The two men become best friends and cheer each other on in competition and in life, but Brian becomes hooked on drugs to manage his impulses and disappointments.  Only after their respective careers are over are they able to realize how deeply they care for one another and try to live a happy life.  The beginning threw me off, and I'm still not sure where it fits into the story.  However, the rest was well written with three dimensional characters.  I hope to read more by this author.  276 pages (Kindle edition).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The nature of the beast by Louise Penny

What a treat to have a new Inspector Gamache book to read!  I brewed myself a cup of tea and settled in to read the latest installment.  Inspector Gamache has retired to the village of Three Pines with his wife Reine-Marie. A young boy in the village goes missing not long after a play by an infamous serial killer is chosen by the local amateur theater group for its next production. Gamache is the only person who thinks the two events are linked. Gamache's former team is called in to investigate when the boy is found dead. Penny does a great job of continuing to develop her characters.  In this book for example, Gamache has to learn how not to be in charge. The author's note at the end of the book gives the historical basis for the mystery.  Read this series if you want to be reassured that goodness exists in the world,  376 pages.

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Summary: Dare You To is the follow-up novel to Pushing the Limits. After meeting Noah, Echo, Isaiah and Beth in Pushing the Limits, Dare You To follows Beth in her new life and her adjustments in her relationship with Isaiah, her uncle Scott, and her drug-addicted mom. Beth continues to try and protect her mom, no matter the cost to herself. Dare You To deals with some pretty heavy stuff: drug use and domestic violence. Her mom's boyfriend beats up both Beth and her mom, and it can be pretty gruesome at times. 

When Beth is forced to leave her mom to live with her estranged uncle, Beth meets Ryan, the all-star pitcher on the school's baseball team. Beth and Ryan begin a fun and antagonizing flirt-mance while they each try to work out their own personal issues. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book, even though it was quite predictable. I hated Beth in Pushing the Limits because she was exceedingly mean to Echo, but her meanness is toned down in this installment, which makes her more tolerable. I liked Ryan quite a bit, and he is my favorite male character in the Pushing the Limits series so far. 

486 pages

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Keeper of Lost Causes: Department Q, Book 1, By Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost Causes: Department Q, Book 1 | Jussi Adler-OlsenI turned to this from a Goodreads recommendation after reading The Girl in the Spider's Web, for Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish author who writes intricate mysteries, just as Steig Larsson did.  This was a worthy choice.  It introduces Carl Mørck, a detective who has just survived an ambush in which one of his colleagues is killed and the other is paralyzed.  Carl hesitated a moment and did not draw his weapon, so he is wracked with guilt; the last thing he expects is a promotion, but the promotion to Department Q is really to get rid of him.  It is a department of one, save the Syrian immigrant who is assigned to clean, but there is much more to Assad than initially meets the eye.  Carl is assigned very cold cases, which no one really expects him to solve, but then they didn't really know Carl Mørck.

His first case is a female member of parliament who disappeared while on a cruise five years earlier.  It is a fine procedural detective novel with twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing until its surprising conclusion.

Translated from Danish,  416 pages

The Bite of Silence (Biting Love series Book 3)

The Bite of Silence is one of the short installments of the Biting Love series by Mary Hughes.  Though the characters are from Meiers Corners, the story takes place in New York City on New Year's Eve.  Nixie's best friend, Twyla, is on an adventure to the big city to visit her cousin Aylmer, a hermit for whom she did a big favor.  On the plane, she sees Nikos, a large Greek vampire in a window seat.  She knows him and unlike Hughes's other characters, is pretty certain he is a vampire without being told or hinted at from anyone else.  She has always felt attracted to Nikos, but got the impression the feelings were not returned.  Once she finds Aylmer, she discovers he is embroiled in a plot to unleash vampire horror on the streets of New York and must find a way to stop it.  With Nikos by her side, she tries to learn how this plan is going to take place.  It's a fun romp, though short.  Because of its length it feels less developed than some of the other books in the series.  I found Twyla easier to relate to than Nixie, and Nikos, well, he just puts the delicious into vampire romance.
83 pp.

Biting Nixie (Book 2 Biting Love series)

Biting Nixie is the second installment in the Biting Love series by Mary Hughes.  Nixie is one of the many characters readers meet in Meiers Corners.  In book one, she was Elena's best friend.  Now she has her own story to tell.  Nixie a punk rocking guitar player in Guns and Polkas and meets a stodgy lawyer named Julian while planning a town festival fundraiser intended to keep Chicago from annexing her home town.  I found Nixie a bit distracting because she tends to use a lot of slang.  While the slang is explained by the author (thank heavens) it still feels awkward and unnatural.  It made it harder for me to like and relate to Nixie.  Otherwise, I liked the story and the play between the two main characters.  They are opposites on so many levels that it almost seems unlikely they would ever form an attraction.  It feels like just a sexual thing throughout the book and makes the reader wonder if happily ever after is really possible for these two fish out of water.  However, by the end they seem to be "getting" each other more and more, though I think this could have been developed more.  It was still a fun read, but was probably the least favorite of the books I have read in this series so far.  312 pp.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Fate of Ten by Pittacus Lore

Summary: The Fate of Ten picks up right after The Revenge of Seven with the invasion of Manhattan. It is the sixth book in the Lorien Legacies series. I believe that there is going to be just one more book in the series, and I'm quite looking forward to it. This installment is told mostly from John Smith (Four) and Six's points of view, plus a new human character gets a chapter or two. Parts of this book were excellent, but others were a bit slow. I was frustrated with John's storyline, as he was separated from the rest of the Garde for most of the book. The strength of the story is when the Garde is all together, working as a team to take down the bad guys. Once again, the book ends on a major cliffhanger, and I will have to wait a year to find out what happens next!!

399 pages

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lunch in Paris: a love story with recipes by Elizabeth Bard

I picked up this book in the New Books section of my local library-(shout out to Scenic Regional Hermann Branch). I had a little trouble getting in to it at first.  Elizabeth Bard is a self-described "free spirit with a five-year plan" who attended a boarding high school, I'm guessing an Ivy League college, and who met her French boyfriend while in graduate school in London.  But she drew me into her story first with the recipes and then with her increasingly complex relationship with France.  She writes very candidly about encouraging her husband to leave behind the boring but safe job at a state run digital archive to start a consulting business helping French cinemas go digital. In one chapter, she describes observing her mother-in-law for clues for staying slim: no eating between meals, drinking lots of water, small portions, and regular walking, swimming, dancing, etc.-not for exercise but for fun!  On their two week family beach vacation, Elizabeth observed that all the women wore bikinis, no matter their age-a good incentive for following her mother-in-law's regime! Anyone who ever dreams of living the expat life in France will find this a worthwhile read.    324 pages.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Biting Me Softly

Biting Me Softly by Mary Hughes is book 4 in the Biting Love series.  I have to say that I enjoyed this book even more than I enjoyed the first one and I fully intend to go back and read the two books in between that I missed when I get the opportunity.  As mentioned in the post of book 1, this series has different main characters in each book.  The romance between Logan Steele and Leise Schmetterling is the one featured in this novel.  At the center of the novel is a vampire battle for a blood distribution center in Meier's Corners.  Logan is called in to install a security system in the center to keep the rogues from stealing blood.  Elements of this book rang more true than in Bite My Fire, probably because the author has been a computer consultant.  The minor details didn't feel as contrived in Biting Me Softly and I got into this book much more rapidly.  Once again, it was hard to put the novel down.  Even the chapter breaks kept me turning pages.  The only thing that made me put it down was the sound of my phone ringing and the need to sleep.  Otherwise, I devoured this book.  The characters are very fun with their witty repartee and puns.  I fully enjoyed it!  Once again, I recommend this book and series to anyone who enjoys paranormal romance.  "Warning: Contains explicit vampire sex involving absurdly large male equipment (hey, they're monsters), unbelievable stamina (just how long can he stay underwater in a hot tub?), hide-your-eyes violence and horrendously bad puns.  And just when you think it can't get any worse, a computer geekette trying to play Mata Hari" (taken from the back of the novel).  292 pp.

Bite My Fire

Bite My Fire by Mary Hughes is a vampire-themed paranormal romance.  It is part of the Biting Love series and is book 1, but unlike many series, this one doesn't have the same main characters in every book.  The setting of Meier's Corners in the same and minor characters appear in each book, but the romantic couple is different in each.  This is the kind of series I can really sink my teeth into, pun intended.
This book features the characters of Elena O'Rourke, cop turning detective, and Bo Strongwell, master sexy vampire extraordinaire.  The book has a murder mystery thrown in to boot.  While the beginning feels weak and somewhat contrived, the story that develops kept me interested in the book.  There is some corniness (which I think appears in many romance novels), but there is also a lot of humor.  The main characters are fun and playful and the chapter breaks still kept me turning pages to find out what would happen next.  Also of note are some changes in vampire lore that Hughes employs to keep her narrative feeling fresh and inventive.  One is that vampire saliva heals, so they are able to close their bite marks.  The other is that vampires can smell a life mate and tasting them lets the vampire know where that person is at all times.  In this book there are good vampires and rogue vampires.  The good ones do not feed on the innocent public but have donors in their households.  I enjoyed the additions to the lore as much as the story itself.  Five stars and recommended to anyone who enjoys paranormal romance.  "Warning: Jammed with hot explicit sex, graphic fanged violence, and acid cop humor.  May contain donuts" (taken from back cover).  254 pp.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series by David Lagercrantz

Image result for the girl in the spider's webFor those familiar with this series, it was quite a blow for the original author, Steig Larsson to pass away after completing only three novels. It was quite a coup for David Lagercrantz to be selected to continue the series.  He is an acclaimed Swedish journalist and author and has worked as a crime reporter for Expressen; he has written several novels, including the forthcoming Fall of Man in Wilmslow. Also, he worked with international soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović on his memoir, I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović, which was short-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award and was nominated for the August Prize in Sweden.
To his credit, the novel includes all of the characters and elements of the previous stories, intrigue, unpronounceable (for Americans) Swedish names and place names, technical details of computer hacking, and a cast of Russian thugs along with Bloomqvist and Salander.  While the novel does not disappoint, it also does not quite live up to Larsson's standards.  The story will hold one's attention, but, in my opinion, Bloomqvist and Salander were not up to their usual standards, and everything was resolved too neatly for my taste.  Perhaps it is better to let the series die with the original author.
416 pages, translated by George Goulding

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Summary: "Rendered a subject of gossip after a traumatic night that left her with terrible scars on her arms, Echo is dumped by her boyfriend and bonds with bad-boy Noah, whose tough attitude hides an understanding nature and difficult secrets." 

After I read Take Me On, I realized that I did actually need to read this series in order, as the characters in each book show up in the other books. While Noah and Echo are the two main characters of this story, Isaiah and Beth are Noah's foster siblings who each get their own story later in the series (Beth: Dare You To, Isaiah: Crash Into You). Other minor characters in Pushing the Limits appeared in Take Me On, so I definitely should not have read them out of order. 

I thought Echo was sweet and strong, even though she had a thoroughly depressing story. I initially thought these books were simply "good girl falls for bad boy" but they're more "girl with traumatic past falls for boy with traumatic and depressing past." I think I'll try to continue with the series, as I'm really interested to see how all the characters fit together. 

391 pages

Monday, September 14, 2015

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Summary: "After she dies in a car crash, teenager Samantha relives the day of her death over and over again until, on the seventh day, she finally discovers a way to save herself."

Before I Fall is the first book of Lauren Oliver's that I've read, and I loved it! Even though it was quite depressing at times, it was beautifully written. Sam's character grows so much throughout the book, and the ending is so bittersweet for her and for the reader. Her struggles make you want to hug your loved ones extra tight, and live each day as best you can, because you never know when it may be your last. 

Sam's death is violent, but still peaceful, and gives hope that there's a chance at redemption for all of us. 

470 pages

The Talisman Ring

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer is a gentle romance from the 1930s that has a little mystery thrown in.  A family heirloom is lost under the guise of murder and the story follows two heroes and two heroines on a classic who dunnit chase.  Though the true murderer is revealed about halfway through the book, the rest of the story deals with trying to capture said murderer with enough evidence to arrest/convict.  It is a delightful romp for those who enjoy regency romances.  Heyer's attention to historic detail is quite amazing, though I admit I was baffled by some of her description simply because I was not familiar with the terminology she was using.  That didn't stop me from enjoying the book.  I must admit that I picked this book up in response to the last book I posted, The Dangerous Lover.  Heyer was one of the authors mentioned in Lutz's book.  I didn't, however, find a Byronic hero in this particular book, though traces of one are evident in both of the heroes.  However, I still found the book highly enjoyable.  401pp.

The Dangerous Lover

The Dangerous Lover: Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the Nineteenth-Century Seduction Narrative by Deborah Lutz is an interesting study in Romance through time.  Lutz proposes that the Byronic hero has carried through to today's romance.  She also looks at heroes pre-Byron in the Gothic vein.

Overall, I felt that much more time could have been spent on the Gothic heroes as they formed the basis for part of her theory.  Her study was of the appeal of a seemingly villainous hero to the women in the book.  This study seemed to just open a door.  There is probably a lot more that could be written on the subject, and I hope Lutz takes her study to the next level and publishes a longer book about it.

This study is for scholars to read, however.  It is not particularly accessible to the general reader.  I would like to see her make it a little less scholarly so that more people could share in her discoveries.  She has another book out about the Brontes that is supposed to be much more accessible.  However, this particular subject area was of more interest to me on a personal level.

Some of her theory seems to be a bit of a stretch.  For example, her idea of the regency dandy playing a more "dangerous love" role in novels seems to be a little far-fetched.  Most of the book rings true, however.  I have read a lot of contemporary romances that seems to have a Byronic element to them.  This is a good read for someone who has done some study on Gothic literature and Romanticism and is used to reading scholarly articles and books.  I would not recommend this as a beginning read for a young student.  94pp. No image available.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Haunted by Bentley Little

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Julian, Claire, and their children didn't know their new house was haunted by the shadow in the basement.

Audio:  11 hrs. 12 min.
Print:  389 pages

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Right to Die by Rex Stout

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

In 1964, a wealthy young white woman is killed in Harlem.  Nero Wolfe and Archie must find out who really did it.

Audio:  5 hrs. 6 min.
Print:  190 pages

Yesterday by Fern Michaels

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Callie Parker's wealthy father brought a foster son and two poor girls to play with four-year-old Callie.  They grew close, and their lives make a wonderful story.

Audio:  13 hrs. 15 min.
Print:  460 pages

Never Love a Gambler by Keith Ridgway

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

A collection of short stories - some violent, some murder - all good.

Audio:  2 hrs. 27 min.
Print:  84 pages

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone is an absolutely beautiful story about love and medicine.  It is first the forbidden love of a beautiful Indian nun and a British doctor, both of whom are working in a small clinic/hospital in mid-twentieth century Ethiopia.  Next there is the love between their twin boys, who are left orphaned by her death during their birth and his disappearance.  Then there is the family love that evolves between their adopted parents, the two doctors who delivered them, and the babies.  Also, there is the love of the country, the images, sounds, and smells brought sympathetically to life by Dr. Abraham Verghese.  Conflict arises when both of the boys love a young woman they grew up with -- their housekeeper's daughter.
Image result for cutting for stone 
667 pages