Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Alex" by S.M. Shade

There was a lot going on in this book.  Alex is an MMA fighter dealing the sudden death of his lover, the impending execution of his father for killing his mother, homophobic fight opponents, hovering older brothers and their wives, a Hawaiian vacation, unwanted attraction to his straight roommate, roommate's major health scare, and more.  The story was told in the alternating POV of Alex and his roommate, Ian.  The author gave readers lots of angst and partial side stories that could have been pared down a bit.  151 pages (Kindle edition).

Before I go to sleep by S. J. Watson

Product DetailsImagine waking up one morning in bed with a strange man, in a strange house, with no memory of how you got here. Every day this is the way Christine wakes up. The man patiently explains he is her husband Ben; she was in a terrible accident and lost her memory. Every day he tells her the story; every night she forgets it when she goes to sleep. She is told there is nothing else  they can do for her; her memory will never improve.

But something is different now; Christine has been contacted by a doctor who wants to work with her; he thinks he may be able to help her. He suggests she begin writing a journal; every night before she goes to sleep, she writes down everything that has happened to her that day. Every morning Dr. Nash calls her and tells her where to look to find her journal, and tells her to read it. Gradually, Christine begins to have flashes of memory. However, she also finds that Ben is lying to her. Is he lying to keep her from experiencing her painful past over and over every day, as he claims, or is it something else? Can Ben be trusted?

Very suspenseful.

368 pages

"Putting Out Fires" by Marie Sexton

This is book (more like novella) 4.5 in the Coda series and features Matt Richards trying to make the perfect Valentine's Day dinner for his boyfriend of three years, Jared Thomas.  Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned and hilarity ensues.  This was a funny little slice of life from two of my favorite fictional characters.  36 pages (Kindle edition).

"Caught Running" by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban

The authors of the Cut & Run series (one of my very favorite series) wrote this before that famous line of books, and I could tell.  It was a good story of opposites attracting, but the writing wasn't quite up to par as C&R.  Jake and Brandon went to high school together and 10 years later are teaching at their alma mater but barely know each other until the principal insists that Brandon become assistant baseball coach to Jake's head coach.  Although he wants to say no, Brandon, a science teacher, is given no choice.  The two men are opposites in every way, so when they find themselves attracted to each other they're mortified.  Lots of angst and uncomfortable moments ensue along with laughs and a few surprises.  236 pages (Kindle edition).

"Outing the Quarterback" by Tara Lain

Quarterback Will Ashford seems to have it all - a blue Lamborghini, rich parents, starting position on a well-known college football team, and captain of the cheerleader squad for a girlfriend.  The problem is that he hates it all and is afraid to be who he really is - a gay man who only wants to paint.  When he meets starving artist Noah Zajack, he realizes that he can no longer hide his true self if he ever wants to be happy.  (This is just a bare bones description since I don't want to give away any spoilers.)

I really liked this story, and the primary characters were fleshed out well.  There was plenty of angst, especially since not only is Will hiding his sexuality from most everyone but he also hides his desire to be an artist instead of following his father into business.  However, the angst wasn't overwhelming since Noah was fairly patient with Will and his fears.  This is the first book in the Long Pass Chronicles, and I hope to read more.  216 pages (Kindle edition).

"Dad is Fat" by Jim Gaffigan

This book is all about Gaffigan being a father to five children.  We learn their names, ages, how they were born (all home births), and how goofy they can be.  The comedian and his family live in a two bedroom, walk-up apartment in NYC and do not own a car, so you can imagine the craziness.  And he gives all the credit for making it work to his wife, whom he seems to worship.  Even though this book is completely about being a dad, his observational humor can still be appreciated by those of us without kids.  Gaffigan reads the audio version and has a great delivery technique.  I'd like to listen to more of his books.

Audio:  5.5 hours
Print:  288 pages

The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse

"The war between Neverland and reality has just begun."

As a huge Peter Pan fan, I had to have this book. However, it didn't quite live up to my unrealistically high expectations. The story has a lot of magic and unrealized potential. The beginning is fun and interesting, but the author just didn't know how to finish the story in a satisfying way. The mermaids were the most interesting part, but all the potential fun was cut off.  There is NO pay-off for anything

 I still prefer Second Star for my Peter Pan re-imaginings! 

302 pages

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

"A fearful sixteen-year-old princess discovers her heroic destiny after being married off to the king of a neighboring country in turmoil and pursued by enemies seething with dark magic."

Wow! This book is a gem! The story moved quickly - I can't believe how much happens in just the first book. It has ample adventure and intrigue. I love that the author doesn't get bogged down in inane details and world-building - she gets right to the good stuff! I can't wait to see what happens next...

423 pages

End of Watch by Stephen King

End of Watch
If you thought Brady Hartsfield was finished after Holly Gibney delivered that brain injuring blow from a ball bearing filled sock, think again.  Despite the drool and vacant stare, Brady has discovered how to manipulate others with his brain, and he has begun even more dangerous than when he plowed through a gathering of job seekers with the Mercedes in Mr. Mercedes.  Of course, this is simply unbelievable, leaving the fate of hundreds of gullible teens in the hands of  retired police detective Bill Hodges, his business partner, Holly Gibney, and college student, Jerome Robinson.
This is the third novel in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, and it is the most terrifying. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.  If you are easily frightened, this  story is not for you; it is classic Stephen King.
448 pages

Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Firstlife (Everlife, #1)Firstlife by Gena Showalter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first Gena Showalter book, and I definitely need to read more.

Seventeen-year-old Tenley (Ten) Lockwood was locked in an asylum for refusing to sign her Everlife away to the Myriad realm, which is where her parents pledge their loyalties. Myriad is constantly at war with the Troika realm, and both realms want Ten for their side.

Since she's reached the age of consent, she's at risk of ending up in Many Ends (worst place ever), if her Firstlife ends without having pledged herself to Myriad or Troika. Still, the more people torture, push, plead, beg, and manipulate her, the less inclined she is to commit.

This story went in directions I didn't expect and always held my attention. I really enjoyed it. The concept was fascinating.

Pages: 480

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

A Mad, Wicked FollyA Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a charming YA historical novel, set in London, 1909. It has an attention-grabbing first chapter and is full of old-fashioned British rebelliousness. The story focuses on the suffragettes who fought for women’s rights.

Today, we still talk about inequality for women. This novel puts it into perspective how far we have come, while reminding us that we still haven’t arrived, and people have to continue to fight for the things they believe in, even at the risk of being disliked, disrespected, or misunderstood.

Pages: 448

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

We Are the AntsWe Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Henry Denton knows that life sucks. Judge for yourself:

(view spoiler ---I took this segment of the review out to avoid spoilers, so you'll have to stalk me on Goodreads if you want it: View all my reviews)

There are only 144 days left until the end of the world, and it’s on Henry’s shoulders to decide to save the world or not. But he doesn’t need 144 days to know humanity sucks, and it isn’t worth saving.

This is a painful, thought-provoking look at life, grief, and the choices people can make when faced with the worst. The story is staggered with individual short stories about what will bring about the end of the world, from a science perspective. All of them are creative. Many of them are funny. Most of them are shocking. Some are just sad, but overall, it adds an interesting element to Henry’s story.

This story is as ugly and heartbreaking as it is gorgeous and funny. It’s reminiscent of Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle, except it’s far more linear and organized, while GJ is chaotic and disorganized. That doesn’t make them sound similar, but if you read both, I think you’ll see what I mean. And you should go do that right now. Read them both. Trust me.

Pages: 464

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked UpWe All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An asteroid is headed for Earth, about two months out. The government says to stay calm. Earth is safe, until suddenly, it isn’t. The threat level gets upgrade to a potential for the asteroid to hit the Earth, and if it does, scientists predict humanity will say goodbye to at least 2/3 of the world’s population. Nobody is sure about point of impact or who the “lucky” 1/3 might be.

This is a pre-apocalypse story that follows several teenage POVs and explores different ideas about the potential meaning, value, and purpose of life. The characters are unique and opposites in terms of lifestyles and viewpoints which made for an interesting story.

How would you spend your time, knowing your time might be running out? This story explores that from multiple teenage perspectives. It’s messy, and you won’t want to look away.

Pages: 384

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

In the year 2154 all kids get free education and upon graduation, they go into retirement. What's wrong with this picture?  Read the book; I did.

Audio:  4 hrs. 59 min.
Print:  192 pages

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American WhateverThe Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So whatever. This YA novel doesn’t suck. It’s actually pretty great and definitely American.

It’s about grief and growing up. The main character likes to stage his life like a screenplay, which I thought was interesting and clever. It’s technically a coming out story, but little focus is put on the actual coming out, since it’s a whole lot more about finding yourself and seeing others for who they are, too.

The audiobook version is really good, and it’s read by the author.

Pages: 288

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Girl Against the UniverseGirl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is a real gem. It tackles heavy topics in a way that never feels exhausting or overwhelming. The characters are delightful, and I really related to the main character's perspective.

The story is also pro-therapy, which is a fantastic trend I've been seeing in YA lately, and I loved reading it again here. I think it helps break down some of the bad stereotypes that linger from my generation (and older), where people rarely got the help they needed and still fight with themselves about deciding to get help now.

Sometimes I think I live in one of the most fascinating periods of time, because so many people have stood up in my lifetime to fight for humanity to be better, think kinder, judge less, ask for help, fight inequalities, and live and love in whatever ways people see fit. When I'm feeling kind of crummy about the latest terrible thing that has happened in the world, I try to remember that we have made progress too. This book reminds me that humanity continues to evolve in ways that are good and healthier than they were before, and authors do a lot to contribute to that by sharing stories that touch people's hearts and open their minds.

Also, there's a good stepdad, which is worth noting, since stepdads often end up being less than desirable characters in MG and YA novels.

Pages: 400

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Prayer of the Dragon by Eliot Pattison

Shan Tao Yun makes for a very unusual detective, as a discredited member of Beijing's police, sentenced to serve time in a Tibetan prison, but given a reprieve in a previous book to help solve a local murder.  Now he has been sent to a small village high in the Tibetan mountains to investigate a series of murders.  Of course nothing seems quite right from the start.  The two murder victims are part of a local research team from the U.S. who are attempting to establish links between the ancient religions of Tibet and the American Navajo, of which two of the research party are members. Pattison paints a vivid picture of this unique setting, and there are many plot twists to keep the story moving.  357 pages.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

On the Fence by Kasie West

"Sixteen-year-old Charlie has always been a tomboy, but when she accidentally becomes a makeup model, her newfound femininity draws her into an unknown social world, complete with guy troubles she's never had before." 

On the Fence is a short, sweet read; a book I probably would have loved as a teenager. I was a little too short to cram everything in, so certain storylines seemed a bit rushed. I liked the characters, but I wanted more of them! 


Friday, June 24, 2016

Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross

"Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas is too young to remember her dad's glory days as a pitcher for the Yankees. So when her father is offered a coaching position with the Kansas City Royals, Annie is intrigued to see the baseball side of her dad. Of course, knowing he'll be a mentor to hot young rookie pitcher, Jason Brody, certainly makes it more enticing."

Whatever Life Throws at You was the perfect vacation/summer read! Annie is a sensible, yet fun heroine. It was a relief to read such a well-rounded young girl's perspective. I also enjoyed the Missouri setting (even if there were a few inaccuracies) and Royals references. Jason Brody is hot, fun and interesting. Brody and Annie's friendship was genuine and made me laugh, while also including some truly swoon-worthy romantic moments. I believe this novel is considered "New Adult."

373 pages

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Valiant Women by Jeanne Williams

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

A romantic saga set in Arizona territory with action featuring Apache, Mexico, and Texas territory before the Civil War and many families and plots. 

Audio:  15 hrs. 55 min.
Print:  516 pages

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is unique, and I haven't read anything quite like it before. For that alone, it's worth a read.

I listened to the audiobook by Jim Dale, one of my favorite readers, and I think that helped my impression of the story.

I found the endless pages of description exhausting at times (especially as it seemed to grow worse as the novel progressed), though I confess description and setting were a huge part of the actual story. Most of it, really.

This novel is light on plot and heavy on world building. Character growth and development are minimal and typically surface level. Usually, that's a negative for a novel, but there was something so unusual about this whole story that it sort of worked.

It used a strange sort of trickery to elicit emotions from me, and I have a confusing sort of frustrated admiration for that. I mean, at least it made me feel things. I just wish, I had come to feel them on my own, through solid storytelling, instead of the sudden pretty words used as a knife to my heartstrings approach.

Still, there's something fascinating enough about this story that I may sit on it a few years, and then give it another try to see if I come away with the same impressions.

Pages: 516

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Raymie NightingaleRaymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This middle grade novel didn't capture me in quite the ways it seems to have capture others, but overall it was a good read. I wanted to give it a 3.5, so I rounded up.

It definitely appeals down to the lower end of middle grade, which might be why I was less charmed. Just a personal thing. Not the book's fault.

Pages: 272

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical BehaviorHighly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What do you get when you combine a discontent perfectionist who’s driven to succeed at all costs with an agoraphobic teenage boy with a serious anxiety disorder? Basically this book. Plus so much more.

Everything about this story was fresh, from the writing, to the characters, to the way complex topics are presented and handled.

Solomon won’t leave his house. He hasn’t for 3 years (since he was in middle school), and he’s sure he can’t. He knows it’s better for everyone if he doesn’t. Because anxiety attacks are as physically crippling for him as they are emotionally.

Lisa is determined to cure him, so she can write an essay about her experience with mental illness, in order to win a scholarship to college and get out of the town she hates.

Clark is Lisa’s boyfriend, Solomon’s crush, and one of the most enjoyable side characters I’ve read in ages. Clark is basically caught in the middle between Lisa’s ambitions and a growing friendship with Solomon.

Pages: 256

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Vengeance RoadVengeance Road by Erin Bowman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

YA needs more Westerns, because this was fun. Actually, it was more of a bloody shoot ‘em up story full of hardship and revenge. Fun makes it sound cute, which it is not. This novel is historical with a rich setting.

The author even writes period dialect for the main character in a way that’s successful, convincing, and not a distraction, which is a challenge most people don’t succeed at. I was worried at first but settled in fast.

I was happy to hear there would be a companion novel, because it’s a nice change of pace for YA. It goes to show that genres go through ups and downs, in terms of popularity and availability, and I’m glad to see Westerns reemerging in YA. (WALK THE EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson is another great example of a historical novel with a Western flair, and a paranormal twist)

Also, I adore the cover of this book.

Pages: 336

Friday, June 17, 2016

Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry

Walk the Edge (Thunder Road, #2)Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Go ahead, Katie McGarry. Write an anatomy textbook. I would read it. Who knows? I might even memorize it. Some authors could write an apartment lease and make it fascinating, and Katie McGarry is one of them.

YA Contemporary Romance isn’t the genre I read most often, but I have read and adored everything Katie McGarry has written. I think her characters get better and more interesting each novel. She digs deep into what makes people who they are, and she shares it out in a way that lets me decide what I think about that.

Also, why aren’t there any motorcycle clubs in my life? They’re like the 2016 nights in shining armor, with their loyalty and codes of honor. It’s fascinating, though I don’t know how much is fiction and how much ties to reality. Either way, I love this world and want more.

Pages: 448

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson

Catch a Falling StarCatch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This started out okay, and it had great potential as a Hollywood star falls in love with a small town girl story. It just fell flat, and I took off an extra star for the ending, which was a huge, disappointing cliche.

I thought we might end up somewhere awesome, but instead, it came off as too convenient and pretty blah. I honestly don't even remember that final scene....

I guess for a Hollywood book, I wanted a real slam-bang type of finish, and this was every lame, romantic comedy you've ever watched and now you're supposed to be happy because it has an HEA (Happily Ever After). I just wasn't that happy or interested by the end. I was bored and a bit disappointed, which was unexpected.

Guess this one wasn't for me, but if you're a sucker for anything that ends happy (which I thought I was, but apparently not), this might be for you. It had elements of charm, but it doesn't touch Katie McGarry, Rainbow Rowell, or Stephanie Perkins.

Pages: 304

Stick by Andrew Smith

StickStick by Andrew Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I need a hug.

And I love Andrew Smith, because the way he writes is so insanely honest that I always connect with his stories, whether they're straightforward and more serious, like this, or bizarre and stylized like Grasshopper Jungle.

He writes characters who carve holes inside my chest, then take up residence in the empty spaces.

Pages: 320

Monday, June 13, 2016

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent finale to a brutal Sci-Fi trilogy.

Stop wasting time reading this review. Just go read the books.

Pages: 545

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Crown by Kiera Cass

The Crown (The Selection, #5)The Crown by Kiera Cass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a great finale to a series that's perfect for anyone who is secretly or publicly addicted to The Bachelor on ABC.

Also, I think while the first book had some weaknesses (particularly in world building), despite being enjoyable, I could really see how the author has grown and improved her writing across the series.

Pages: 288

Saturday, June 11, 2016

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your GirlIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story had my heart clenched in its fist the whole way through. Then, the author's note at the end of the book completely wrecked me.

I think everyone should read this book, and it's not just because of the topic (a trans girl, Amanda, gets a fresh start for her senior year, in a new location, where nobody knew her as Andrew) and message (be you, have hope, give yourself a chance, give other people a chance), but also the incredible writing.

This is not just a story about an excellent topic. It's an excellent story, with an important topic. There's a big difference there, and people who read a lot will recognize it right away. Some stories have value for their message. Some are beloved for their writing, style, and/or plot. Some have compelling characters that must be read. And then, there are books like this that have absolutely everything, which is why I hope to shove this story into as many people's hands as possible.

I also love that this is a hopeful story about a trans girl, written by a trans author, sent forth to the world by a major publisher, and the cover model is also a trans girl. The world needs more books like this.

Pages: 288

Friday, June 10, 2016

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Wink Poppy MidnightWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is twisty and stylized, and not everyone will love that. I found it to be well-written and compelling, though rarely what I wanted, hoped for, or expected. I appreciate the unexpected, so in some ways, the story was incredible. However, there were things that fell flat or felt too contrived for me.

I can't really say much about the storyline, because this is one of those stories where the less said, the better. Readers should just go in with nothing and take in the experience. The writing really brought this up a star, for me, because at the very least, it's unique, which made for an interesting read.

Pages: 256

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York's Underground Economy by Sudhir Venkatesh

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

While attending Columbia University, the author does research on the New York City social groups and those trying to rise from their poor racial beginnings.  304 pages.

Monday, June 6, 2016

"A Load of Hooey" by Bob Odenkirk

I like Bob Odenkirk's acting; he brings a great comic touch to characters who could have been one note stereotypes, most famously Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill on "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul", so I was looking forward to his quirky and sarcastic humor in this audio book.  Unfortunately, I barely chuckled.  Lots of topics were covered, some of which were not familiar to me, but most of it just was not funny.  Several other people make appearances reading sections, but they were even worse.  The best part of this audio book was that Odenkirk read most of it, and I do like the raspy and exasperated tone to his voice.

Audio:  approximately 2 hrs. 30 min.
Print:  112 pages.