Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Fish in a Barrel" by Grace Tower

The subtitle of this disturbing book is "A True Story of Sexual Abuse in Therapy" and is the first person account of a woman under the power of an abusive therapist for 3 1/2 years.  In October of 1992, the author's adopted sons began biofeedback sessions with a therapist named Rick because they were having behavior and psychological problems.  Three months later, she herself began psychotherapy with Rick, and soon they were in his office up to seven times a week.  Already dealing with low self esteem and the need for approval, Rick manipulated Grace and her boys in many unethical and disturbing ways all the while draining her of money.  His abuse of Grace eventually became sexual.

About half of the book covers her and the boys' experiences as Rick's patients - how he first won them over to gain their trust, then betrayed that trust and abused them.  The second half covers Grace's realization of the harm he's done and her decisions to file criminal charges and sue him in civil court.  The book is quite riveting and allows the reader to see how a smart woman could be so easily manipulated in so many ways.  The best part was seeing Grace evolve from a sad, depressed, almost hopeless person into standing up for herself and her boys against their abuser.  This book is in our collection here.  278 pages.

"When It's Right" by Aria Grace

This soap opera-esque story centers on Alex and Shane, who meet when Alex takes his injured dog to his vet.  Shane is the technician and he and Alex are drawn to each other, but Shane is deeply closeted because of his bigoted parents.  Luckily, he lives with his aunt (Alex's vet) and uncle in a different state.  Alex is out and befriends Shane, showing him what his life could be like if he came out.  Just as things are going well between them, Shane has to return to his hometown for someone named "Jacob."  He refuses to tell Alex what has happened and who Jacob is, and when Shane doesn't return when he says he will, Alex becomes frantic.  What will he do and who is Jacob?

As with the other stories that I have read by this author, it was enjoyable and well-paced.  I really liked the ending and especially Alex's dog.  152 pages (Kindle edition).

"Shot Through the Heart" by CJ Bishop

Although this is the first book in the Cowboy Gangster series, it is built off of a different series, which I have not read.  I figured as much while I was reading it since so many other characters who were not in the story were mentioned and played integral parts.  This book focused on Axel Anders a 22-year-old man who's suffering from PTSD after being gang raped by his brother and three other evil men.  Clint Maddox, the "cowboy gangster," feels very protective of Axel after meeting him through Axel's (good) stepbrother, Angel.  Clint is a cold-hearted enforcer for the Sanitini family and is surprised by these feelings.  The book basically deals with both men tentatively growing closer with lots of flashbacks to awful events in their lives.  It was quite a roller coaster ride.  And there was a cute puppy.  295 pages (Kindle edition).

"Off Campus" by Amy Jo Cousins

This first book in the Bend or Break series centers on Tom Worthington, who is returning to college after taking time off to deal with the revelation that his father has been running a ponzi scheme.  He's been gypsy-cabbing for cash in Boston and sleeping in his car.  Now that he has enough money to live in the older student dorm, he's surprised to find that he has a roommate, and the roommate hates him at first sight.  Reese Anders is technically too young for this dorm, but he was brutally bullied by jocks during his freshman year, and he's been separated for his safety.  Unfortunately, Tom was once a college jock, and Reese will do just about anything to get him to leave.

Poor Reese and Tom have both been through very tough times, although in vastly different circumstances.  Their interactions are tense, funny, and uncomfortable but evolve into a grudging friendship.  However, Tom's ongoing money problems and Reese's continued harassment by his tormentors threaten to push them both over the edge.  Will they bend or break?  314 pages (Kindle edition).

"Waiting for Clark" by Annabeth Albert

Bryce Weyland and Clark Kenmore were best friends in college until an incident ended it all.  Now five years later, they run into each other at the Portland comic convention dressed as superheroes.  Clark wants to be friends again, but Bryce can't seem to forgive him for hurting him so deeply.  What will it take to win him over? 

I really enjoyed this novella about two grown and out men who still enjoy their superheroes and aren't afraid to show it.  95 pages (Kindle edition).

Nowhere but Here by Katie McGarry

Summary: "When a reluctant visit turns into an extended summer vacation among relatives Emily never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both."

Nowhere but Here is the first installment in the Thunder Road series, a new series by Katie McGarry. The next installment, Walk the Edge, comes out in March 2016. 

494 pages

X by Sue Grafton

Posted for Paul Mathews

Kinsey Millhone finds the killer or becomes the next victim.  An expensive picture in the basement of the home she bought starts the mystery.

Audio:  13 hrs. 35 min.
Print:  403 pages

Friday, October 30, 2015

Overwatch by Marc Guggenheim

Posted for Paul Mathews

A lawyer's investigation leads to poisonings, kidnapping, torture, and murder in the CIA.

Audio:  9 hrs. 44 min.
Print:  304 pages

The Fixer by Joseph Finder

Posted for Paul Mathews

Reporter loses job and everything.  His father is in a nursing home after a stroke that wasn't a stroke.  Returning to his family to renovate the house, he finds millions of dollars.  From who, where, why?

Audio:  9 hrs. 35 min.
Print:  376 pages

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson

Posted for Paul Mathews

He's following Cross, wired his home, spying on him, and was once arrested by Cross.  He wants Alex Cross fired.  432 pages.

A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, by Louise Penny

A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel In this second Inspector Gamache novel, readers are returned to the Canadian village of Three Pines, where CC de Poitiers has been found mysteriously electrocuted while sitting in a lawn chair on a frozen lake, in front of the entire town, during the annual curling tournament.  She is not a well-liked citizen, in fact, as Inspector Gamache and his team investigate, they determine that nearly everyone in the town disliked her.  Slowly, but surely Gamache peels back layer after layer in his search for the killer. With each layer peeled away, he learns something new about the residents of the small town, about the deceased, and about the murderer.
320 pages

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

Posted for Paul Mathews

Disappearing wife, husband left to raise the sons; murder in the past and in the present.

Audio:  9 hrs. 35 min.
Print:  399 pages

Still Life, A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, by Louise Penny

Still LifeThis first of the series introduces Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators when they are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal, Three Pines.  Jane Neal, a beloved retired school teacher has been found dead on a trail in the nearby woods from an arrow.  While the locals feel certain it must have been a hunting accident, Inspector Gamache isn't convinced, and he and his team skillfully investigate the cast of colorful characters and determine that it was indeed murder.  This is a popular series that I look forward to enjoying.
312 pages

Conspiracy of Faith: Department Q Book 3, By Jussi Adler-Olsen

A Conspiracy of Faith: A Department Q Novel This third selection in the Department Q series starts out rather slow.  Two brothers are have been kidnapped and are being held in a remote boathouse.  One of them manages to write a message in blood, seal it in a bottle, and drop in into the water.  After 13 years and a trip from Scotland, said bottle and note lands on Detective Carl Mørck's desk.  Large portions of the note had disappeared and it seemed almost impossible for Carl, Assad, and Rose to be able to solve this puzzle, let alone the crime.  But solve it they did, and with such a compelling story that it was nearly impossible to put down.  There is a passage in this story wherein a young mother is trapped under a pile of moving crates; it was so well written, so graphic that the reader him/herself feels trapped.  So far, this has been the best in the Department Q series!  A kidnapper who focuses on large families in closed religious communities; he kidnaps two of the children, demands a huge ransom, then kills one of the children and returns the other, telling the family that he is watching them.  He will kill them all if reported to the police, which he knows they will be too afraid to do, and this is how the creep makes his living.  He moves from town to town changing his appearance and identity with chameleon-like ease.  It is chilling and seems nearly impossible for Department Q to resolve.

528 pages, translated from Danish

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin

This very unusual autobiography tells the story of a young Chinese peasant boy who became a renowned ballet dancer for the Houston Ballet company.  Li Cunxin was born in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao, in 1961.  He eloquently tells the story of his early life, as the sixth son in his family.  Everyone in the village is poor and hungry, but his family works together to survive. China is under the control of Chairman Mao, and everyone is taught to follow his teachings without question.  Cunxin's life changes forever when a group of ballet teachers come to his village looking for candidates for Madame Mao's ballet school.  Cunxin  is selected for the ballet academy, and taken to a boarding school near Beijing to begin his relentless training.  At first, he is not very good, and barely passes the tests, but he persists because his parents have told him it is his only chance for a better life.  As training continues, he comes to love ballet and becomes highly motivated to excel in his art.  He  and another student are given the rare opportunity to visit the United States for a summer training with the Houston Ballet.  There, he finds that everything he has been told about the West and the United States was a lie; he also finds wonderful inspiration for his dancing.  On a second visit to the U.S., he takes the risky step of defecting, and begins to build his dance career with the Houston Ballet. 

Li has given us a very vivid picture of provincial life in Mao's China and his strong ties to his family. His writing, while awkward in places, gives a very authentic feel to the story, which often reads like fictional narrative.  While I have no affinity for ballet, this story really pulled me in.  Recommended for anyone who has an interest in China or ballet. 445 pages.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Requiem is the third and final installment in the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. I read this book in about 3 days, and I was left wholly unsatisfied. It's a disturbing trend for books and stories that are stretched into a trilogy when the author doesn't really have that trilogy mapped out well enough. 

Lauren Oliver's excellent writing is the only thing that holds this novel together, but the character development and overall story is somewhat forced/contrived. The chapters are split between Lena and Hana's points of view. While it's nice to get a glimpse of what's been happening in Portland while Lena's been away, I truly hate the trend of switching points of view in novels. It's jarring and confusing. Also, love triangles are the worst plot-lines of all time.

The end of the novel is disappointing, as it leaves everything open and unresolved. While it's perfectly okay to not have a revolutionary novel wrapped up in a nice, pretty bow, I certainly needed more of a conclusion and closure than what Requiem provides. To become invested in Lena's character for 3 novels, only to have no idea what happens to her afterward...it's a complete and total letdown.

391 pages

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium is the sequel to Delirium, and it divides the chapters between "Then" and "Now." The "Then" chapters are flashbacks to Lena's dire situation at the end of Delirium and the "Now" is Lena's present day. The time difference is a little confusing at first, but eventually it makes for tense drama in both the past and present.

Even though Pandemonium doesn't quite live up to the beauty of Delirium, I still thoroughly enjoyed Lauren Oliver's writing as well as Lena's journey of change and self-discovery. I won't write too much more, because that would spoil many things, but I liked the new characters introduced in this book!

Lauren Oliver's writing continues to blow me away; it's so good that you wish you could go back in time and read her books again for the first time.

375 pages

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Absent One: A Department Q Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Absent One: A Department Q NovelThe second Department Q novel finds Detective Carl Mørck working at solving a two-decade old brutal murder of a young brother and sister.  His investigation brings him into contact with a wily homeless woman and some of the most powerful captains of industry in Denmark.  How will he and his unlikely team, Assad and Rose, are pulled into an intricate puzzle of a mystery that makes the book very hard to put down.
432 pages, translated from Danish

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

Summary: "Hiding secrets from her family that expects her to be perfect, Rachel Young falls in love with Isaiah Walker, a foster youth who hides his own secrets until their shared love for street racing puts their lives in jeopardy."

Crash Into You is the third book in the Pushing the Limits series, and it is absolutely my favorite. Rachel is a fresh and interesting character. She is both strong and vulnerable, while still being sweet and kind. She's my favorite of the girls in the series, and it was also nice to finally see what it's like inside Isaiah's mind. This installment avoids the downfalls of the other novels by keeping the family drama to a reasonable level. The other books in the series can be incredibly over-dramatic and depressing, but Crash Into You has just the right amount of drama.

484 pages

Biting Oz

Biting Oz is number 5 in the Biting Love series by Mary Hughes.  This book takes place during the production of a musical in Meier's Corners called Oz, Wonderful Oz, which has a promising future on Broadway if all goes well and an important financial backer is impressed by the last show.  However, The Lestat vampires once again threaten Meier's Corners and wish to annex it to Chicago.  Very hot, very sexy, and lots of fun, there really should be a warning label on these books.  Oh, wait, there is!  Yes, Hughes includes a warning label in the description of each book telling readers what to look forward to.  This story follows the characters of Junior and her vampire lover, Glynn.  Junior sells sausage in her parents' business and Glynn is in town to protect Mishela, the star of the show.  Laughter and sexiness ensue as familiar characters from past books help Glynn and Junior save Meier's Corners from a fate worse than death.  Still enjoying this series, but I think I will try another series for a bit so I don't overtire from it.  Looking forward to returning soon to Meier's Corners and escaping into Book 6.  302 pp.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Labeled as a 'Lisbeth Salander novel', Lagercrantz picks up the stories of the characters in the Dragon Tattoo series in what I expect will be several installments.  The plot revolves around solving a murder, the victim is involved in development of high level computer artificial intelligence, and Lisbeth had been helping him to determine who had hacked into and stolen his work, while Mikael Blomkvist was about to take his story public.  Lisbeth continues her own high level hacking, this time into the NSA files, which sets off a separate investigation. 

This new novel has an engaging plot plus some new villains and does move Lisbeth's story forward in some new directions.  It is not as complex a novel as the earlier works, but more of a fun read.  Translated from the Swedish.  400 pages

Monday, October 5, 2015

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Summary: "Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, she falls in love."

Lauren Oliver's first book, Before I Fall, was an absolute gem, and I could not wait to dive into her next book, Delirium. Delirium is the first book in a trilogy. If you weren't familiar with Oliver's writing, you might be tempted to think this is just another run-of-the-mill dystopic YA novel. However, Oliver's writing is incredibly beautiful, haunting and poignant (without being over-the-top). The world that Oliver creates isn't too different from our own, and Lena is just as spirited and flawed as Sam was in Before I Fall. I loved every second of it, and while it was a bit predictable, I can't wait to see what happens next. 

441 pages