Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

I read about this series in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and had to check out a local author's work. I was not disappointed!  The series opens with the death of a "model worker" in Shanghai, a woman who was famous for representing the ideal worker and party member, much like rock stars, actors, and athletes are celebrated in our culture.  In the course of the murder investigation we are introduced to Chief Inspector Chen, his lieutenant Yu, and Yu's wife Peiquin. As Inspector Chen works the case methodically, we learn about the changes taking place in 1990s China: the privatization of state run industries, the rise of the high cadre children class, and the growing gap between the well-connected and the average worker. I didn't know anything about living conditions in China and was shocked to learn that even in 1990 many families lived in one-room apartments with communal bathrooms and kitchens. I enjoyed how Chen uses insights from classic Chinese poetry to understand motive and solve the case. Highly recommended. 463 pages.

"Shotgun" by Marie Sexton

This is book #7 in the Coda Series, and I really liked it for several reasons.  The story itself is an unrequited love story between two men who first meet when they are seventeen and are only together for a few hours.  Fifteen years later, they meet again in the same town, Coda, CO, where Dominic Jacobsen has lived his whole life, and where Lamar Franklin has just moved.  When Lamar's car is vandalized, the garage that Dominic's family owns ends up fixing it.  Lamar is out, and he's just moved to Coda to take a teaching job and to get away from the married man with whom he was having an affair.  He's also depressed.  Dominic lives with his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi, and is still in the closet.  He believes that having a gay father will hurt Naomi, so he sacrifices is love life to protect her.  It has worked fine until he sees Lamar again, and all of the emotions he's kept hidden for 15 years come flooding back.

There was a lot of angst and drama in this story.  Lamar is being stalked by someone who vandalizes his car numerous times and breaks into his house.  Dominic has a big family, some of whom are homophobic, especially his father.  Staying in the closet hasn't been a problem until Lamar arrives, and Dom goes back and forth with coming out, which hurts Lamar.  However, it was worth the read to catch up with the couples from previous books in the series.  Matt and Jared as well as Angelo and Zach all play important roles in helping Lamar and Dominic, especially Matt since he is the police officer working on Lamar's stalking case.  And there was a cute kitty with the silly name of Missy Prissy Pom-Pom Paw!  Another great story from Marie Sexton.  260 pages (Kindle edition).

"Winter Ball" by Amy Lane

This is another good story about two close friends who become lovers much to their surprise.  Skipper Keith coaches a rec league soccer team when he's not working the help desk at a tech company.  Richie Scoggins is his best friend, star player on the team, and works in his father's junkyard.   Both men are unhappy at their jobs; Richie stays at his due to guilt from his father.  Skipper stays at his because he doesn't know what else to do.  There are lots of secondary characters who change the men's lives for better and for worse.  I really liked this book and how it described each man's acceptance of being gay.  200 pages (Kindle edition).

"The Mating of Michael" by Eli Easton

This is an unusual love story about two very different men with lots of baggage.  Michael Lamont is a home health nurse with a former burlesque dancer as his main client, and James Gallway is a successful novelist who contracted polio at age five and must use a wheelchair.  Michael loves James' books, and when they meet at a book signing, Michael is smitten.  However, James is practically a hermit and is dealing with his books not selling as well as his first, which he wrote at age 18.  They do eventually start dating, but Michael has a big secret that may tear them apart. 

This was a well written story with enough angst to make me worry that there wouldn't be an HEA.  James is not a very likable person at the beginning, but once we learn more about his childhood the reader can understand why he has a huge chip on his shoulder.  Michael is a sweet, giving, and trusting soul, and is the heart of this book.  His client, Marnie, is a hoot and gives the story a lot of its humor.  I liked most things about it except its title.  (It is part of a series but can be read as a standalone; I have not read the others but might in the future.)  240 pages (Kindle edition).

Friday, April 29, 2016

Comedians of Country Music by Stacy Harris

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Twelve country musicians could be called the stars of "Hee Haw".  Uncle Dave Macon started his career late in life, but became one of the memorable stars.

Audio:  1 hour, 1 minute
Print:  71 pages

Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

This book is about Chet, a private detective dog, involved with a case of a dog kidnapping, a murder, a bad policeman, and a dog show with a blue ribbon winner.

Audio:  7 hours, 45 minutes
Print:  336 pages

Me Before You by Jojo Meyes

369 pages

I'm finally getting back to reading full books!  And completing them!  I had a little trouble not nit-picking this one in the first few pages, and I didn't feel that "I have to CONSUME this book" in the beginning either.  But then it sucked me in. And imagining Sam Claflin playing the character Will in the movie version didn't hurt the absorption factor. ;)

Here's the Amazon review:

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2013: Before Louisa met Will, her plans didn't reach beyond their tiny English town. Will, when he wasn't closing multimillion-dollar deals, blew off steam scaling mountains, leaping from planes, and enjoying exquisite women--until an accident left him paralyzed and seriously depressed. When his mother hires Lou to keep his spirits up, he meets her awkward overtures with caustic contempt, but she's tenacious and oddly endearing. Their fondness grows into something deeper, gaining urgency when she realizes his determination to end his life, and her efforts to convince him of its value throw her own bland ambitions into question. Plumbing morally complex depths with comedy and compassion, Jojo Moyes elevates the story of Lou and Will from what could have been a maudlin weepie into a tragic love story, with a catharsis that will wring out your heart and leave you feeling fearless. --Mari Malcolm --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Never Never: Part Three by Colleen Hoover

Never Never: Part Three (Never Never, #3)Never Never: Part Three by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a decent conclusion to this novella series, though I confess I read books 1 and 2 so long ago that I don't quite remember what all happened.

Pages: 130

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

So, don't read my silly review, but read Becky's review of November 9! I was originally drawn to the title/cover of November 9, since November 9 is also a special day in my life. I had forgotten about it for a while, but Becky's review reminded me to read it. 

All I can say is WOW. This book is different, confusing, intriguing, etc. And includes a HUGE plot twist. It deals with some pretty heavy family drama towards the end, and it left me emotionally wrecked. So do not read this book without preparing yourself. 

310 pages

Ignite by Sara B. Larson

Ignite (Defy, #2)Ignite by Sara B. Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this sequel. It's angsty, and I really liked that. It worked in a way that was interesting and not annoying. Overall, this is a fun fantasy series, and I am looking forward to reading book three.

Pages: 304

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This YA Sci-Fi novel is fantastic. It's full of nerdy 80s references that made me want to relive my youth.

Don't read this one. Instead, listen to the audiobook, which is read by Wil Wheaton, because it's excellent.

Pages: 400
Listening Length: 15 hours and 46 minutes

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The New Senior Woman: Reinventing the Years Beyond Mid-Life by Barbara M. Fleisher and Thelma Reese

I picked this up from one of our library's displays.  Fleisher and Reese share the stories and views of many women in an attempt to explore the questions facing women as they move into their 60's and beyond - what do you do if you retire? should you downsize? move near your kids? how do you keep and develop new friends?  and how to deep with the inevitable separations and loss in life, but maintain a good spirit?  This is a thought provoking short book that also lists a number of good resources for further exploration.  225 pages.

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester

London, 1912, the suffragette movement is reaching fever pitch, and the police are desperate to stop them from causing civil disruption.  Women are hauled off to prison and subjected to force feeding.  Ribchester has used the suffragette movement and its major figures as a basis for a rather flamboyant murder mystery.  Our detective is a wannabe female journalist (yes, there were a few in that period), eager to get a story, who gets involved in the murder investigation when a trapeze artist/suffragette she is sent to do a story about disappears.  Ebony Diamond turns out to actually have been the target in two murders, and our intrepid hero, "Frankie" George sets out through the London underworld to find her.  The story has the feel of an early silent movie, with cliffhangers, plot twists, and a variety of offbeat characters.  While a bit of a romp through London, Ribchester has thoroughly researched the period and manages to give us a good feel the climate of the city during those days.  502 pages

Friday, April 22, 2016

My Seventh-Grade Life in TightsMy Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever met one of those exuberant, charming people who can get away with absolutely anything, including wrapping you in a bear hug and planting a big, slobbery kiss on your cheek just minutes after making your acquaintance (and it feels right)? That’s this book. It’s going to be your future best friend in a matter of paragraphs, and it does it in a way that’s unexpectedly funny and completely lovable.

This is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in ages, and it made me desperately miss my past middle school library. I wanted to run right back to school, welcome myself into the library, and start handing this book out to students. The best part is that I could give it to absolutely everyone, because this isn’t a story that will appeal to only one type of student or reader. It has widespread appeal.

The voice is perfection, and the characters are diverse. I know all different types of people are going to see some of themselves in this novel, which is what makes a story epic. I want to hug this book every time I walk past it, because it’s the kind of story that is honest and heartfelt. It makes you feel good, deep down inside, for a long time. I laughed out loud so many times and had to set the book down once, until I could pull myself back together.

As an added perk, the design work is incredible. It’s hard not to be happy every time you start another chapter, because the dancers are a lot of fun.

I have waited to get my hands on this story for 2+ years, as I have tracked its progress since it was pitched in a contest. Sometimes, that kind of build up can be dangerous, because the longer I wait, the more my expectations rise. In this case, the wait was worth every second, because I adored this story and these characters. It exceeded my hopes and expectations, and it reminded me that it’s worth my time to step away from the YA world sometimes and revisit the land of MG, especially for a story like this.

This is not just a story for middle school kids though. It’s a story that everyone could love and find something to relate to. Also, it makes me want to dance, just for the sheer joy of it.

293 pages

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1)The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: This is a twist or retelling of the Arabian Nights.

3/31/2016 --I finished this book and immediately went online and preordered book two. Now I'm going to feel terribly sorry for myself while I wait out the next 26 days until it arrives.

Update on 4/1/16: In the middle of the night, after I finished reading this book, I was still up thinking about it. I decided to write down some more thoughts on the book, to try to get it out of my head. Here's what I wrote on my post-it note, and I think it basically sums things up:

If you thought you were the master of dysfunctional relationships, THINK AGAIN. This book ate your most dysfunctional relationship as an appetizer for breakfast.

Pages: 432

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is book 2 in the Red Queen series, and it was tedious and disappointing for me on so many levels. It doesn't touch book one, and I don't think I can continue the series, not with how I feel right now. To be honest, I stopped absorbing the story long before it ended, so the hundred or so new characters who were introduced and never really fleshed out all kind of blurred together for me.

I made a mistake in forcing myself to read on, instead of quitting. I didn't want to give up, because I loved book one. I thought maybe, somehow, the story could redeem itself, but I only ended up exhausted and frustrated.

If I were guessing, based on reading book 2, I would say the author wrote book 1 with no clear plan or foresight in how to continue the story as a larger series. The arc of the series is absent in book 2, and instead of moving things forward, it wanders and falters and barely progresses the story beyond where it starts. Mostly, it just drags things out.

This story is the equivalent of intending to write an epic adventure story, but instead of getting the adventure started, you gather up your crew for 375 pages. Then you have maybe 25 pages left for any kind of adventure. I am sad, because I hate disliking a book I had hoped to love and devour.

Pages: 464

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy (Defy, #1)Defy by Sara B. Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a sucker for a storyline where a girl has to pretend to be a boy. I like this fantasy world, and it has a good dose of romance, which I rarely complain about. :)

Book one wraps up nicely, but I am definitely going to continue the series. I'm hoping for even more world building in book 2.

Pages: 336

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

Summary: "Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can't afford to pay for. That's Jess's life in a nutshell-until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess's knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages. Maybe ever."

One of the reviewers of this book described it as "Bridget Jones meets Little Miss Sunshine" - and it is the perfect description! What a cute, fun, and emotional journey this book takes you on. I was left wanting to know more about these lovely characters! 

Big thank you to Frances for lending it to me! :)

368 pages

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought this was a very satisfying end to an enjoyable trilogy.

Pages: 496

Monday, April 18, 2016

Will's Story: A No Place to Fall Novella by Jaye Robin Brown

Will's Story: A No Place to Fall NovellaWill's Story: A No Place to Fall Novella by Jaye Robin Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This companion novella to NO PLACE TO FALL is real, honest, and captivating. It’s the kind of novella that’s definitely worth your reading time and the emotional investment. It’s well-written and has it’s own distinct voice, but it still fits inside the original world and storyline well, without feeling like it’s repeating everything I already thought I knew.

The rest of the review contains spoilers for NO PLACE TO FALL and has been omitted.

Pages: 100

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"A Forbidden Rumspringa" by Keira Andrews

This very well written story focuses on two young men living in a strict Amish sect in northern Minnesota.  Isaac is eighteen and feeling pressure from his parents to start courting a girl so that he can soon marry and start his own family, but he knows he's not ready.  For one thing, he hates farming and must learn some other sort of trade so that he can support himself.  His father sets up an apprenticeship with carpenter David Lantz, a quiet twenty-two-year-old who has become the head of his family after his father dies in the field of a heart attack.  He works hard to support his mother and four younger sisters but is being pushed to join the church and get married.  Although their sect does not allow "rumspringa", Isaac and David take a few prohibited trips into the "English" world where they see movies and eat junk food.  Soon, their friendship turns to love and both must figure out what they are willing to give up, or not, in order to be together.

The details of  strict Amish life and the toll it takes on those who do not or cannot abide by its rules make this much more than the average forbidden love story.  Both Isaac and David have older brothers who could not conform, and their actions have had large influences on them and their desire to please their families.  The terrible angst and guilt these two young men felt was palpable to the reader as was their surprise at falling for each other.  This book was a gripping read, and I can't wait to get ahold of the rest of the series.  224 pages (Kindle edition).

"The Upward Spiral" by Alex Korb

This book about treating depression has the subtitle "Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time".  Korb is a neuroscientist and explains the various parts of the brain involved in depression and anxiety.  As someone with a degree in psychology, nearly all of the terms he used were familiar to me; however, it's easy to see how a reader who has never studied the parts of the brain and its processes would be overwhelmed or even tune out much of this book.  The author offered suggestions on changing brain activity to lessen depression as well as anxiety, most of which I had already heard.  Still, I liked the chapter on anxiety the best.  I listened to this book on CD with David deVries performing.  He had a nice, moderate voice which was easy to hear while driving.

Audio:  5 hours, 39 minutes
Print:  240 pages

"Crossroads" by Riley Hart

Here's the gist of the story:  two straight men in their 30s fall in love with each other and have to deal with the fallout from family and friends.  As with this author's other books, it was an interesting tale with two likable lead characters but could have used tighter editing, especially with the placement of commas.  335 pages

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

About That Night by Julie James

Summary: "Though Rylann Pierce tried to fight the sparks she felt for billionaire heir Kyle Rhodes the night they met, their chemistry was undeniable. But after being stood up, she never expected to see him again. Nine years later, the beautiful assistant U.S. attorney finds herself face to face with Kyle in a courtroom--and still wildly attracted to him."

Kyle Rhodes is introduced in the second book, A Lot Like Love, and I was a little wary of how he would serve as protagonist in this 3rd installment of the FBI/U.S. Attorney series. However, it worked out pretty well! I enjoyed Rylann's character, and her connection with Kyle was cute. This book didn't quite have the danger or drama of the other books, so that was a bit of a let down. But the other characters: Nick, Jordan, Jack and Cameron all make fun appearances! 

I don't know why I like these books so much, but they are easy and enjoyable to read. Julie James is a good character builder and story-teller. 

Couple = Rylann Pierce + Kyle Rhodes

295 pages

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3)The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's different every time I reread it. Actually, I think it's me. I'm different every time I read it, but I always enjoy revisiting the world.

Pages: 432

The Devil's Making by Sean Haldane

Chad Hobbes, an Englishman recently arrived in Vancouver Canada in May 1768, finds he can only make a living serving in the local police force.  Thus he becomes involved in the murder investigation of a Dr. McCrory, an American 'alienist' who practiced phrenology, Mesmerism, and certain sexual-mystical magnetation methods.  The murder is at first presumed to have been committed by the chief of a local visiting Native American group, but as Chad probes further he finds many in Vancouver have reason to want to kill McCrory.  He also finds that the doctor had discovered several secrets among his patients and used them to his advantage. Haldane provides a convincing picture of life in early Vancouver and the tensions between the Native Americans and the British and American settlers.  There are a few rather unusual plot twists, and a pretty surprising ending to the mystery. 367 pages.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

 A strange little novella about Margaret Cavendish, a 17th century British duchess and noted for being one of the first women authors to be published.  Dutton has researched her life and times very well, and gives a convincing picture of the period and life among the royal court.  Margaret is quite an odd character, quite full of herself; she yearns to be not like others but 'Margaret the First'.  She has quite an imagination, which overflows into her writing but also leads to several stunts to attract attention.  An interesting view into an unusual life.  160 pages

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Part & Parcel" by Abigail Roux

This latest installment in the "Cut & Run" universe finds Marine Force Recon team Sidewinder reunited again, this time on a quest left by their fallen comrade Elias Sanchez.  Nick O'Flaherty is recovering from injuries sustained in the book "Crash & Burn" with boyfriend Kelly Abbott trying his best to help.  With lots of down time, Nick decides to go through storage boxes and discovers letters from Sanchez addressed to the Sidewinder team, so he gets the guys together for a cross-country adventure that turns out to be more emotional than any of them had anticipated.

I was so glad to see Ty Grady and Zane Garrett again; they are the heart of the "Cut & Run" universe since the actual "C&R" series was about them.  This book focuses on Nick and Kelly's relationship but also gives us more insight to the other two Sidewinder members, Digger and Owen Johns.  Another plus - Ty brings along his two new kittens (which really wasn't plausible but still fun to picture).  This story is another winner for Roux.  Hooray for team Sidewinder!  270 pages (Kindle edition).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Walk the Edge (Thunder Road #2) by Katie McGarry

Walk the Edge is the second installment of the Thunder Road series by Katie McGarry. The Thunder Road series follows the teenage members of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club in Snowflake, KY. While I enjoyed the first novel, No-Where But Here, this one felt more natural and easy to read. Breanna was a character who I easily related to, and Razor was quite the swoon-worthy hunk. I waited so long to ready this book, and then I rushed through it! The anticipation for the next book (Chevy and Violet's story) is going to destroy me!

448 pages 

Monday, April 4, 2016

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Summary: "Catastrophe strikes the massive luxury spaceliner Icarus, and sends it plummeting into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen seem to be the only survivors. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe; Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they're worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help."

I requested These Broken Stars as soon as I finished reading Becky's review! And I'm so glad I did! It reminded me of Titanic in all the best ways. Loved it! Looking forward to reading the next one (and hopefully getting some answers!)

374 pages