Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson  founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.

Here he recounts many of the cases he worked on, and gives a devastating view of the criminal justice system in this country.

368 pages

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

Warsaw had one of the best-know zoos in Europe during the 1930's. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and  the ensuing bombing from the allies destroyed much of the city. Over the next few years, under German occupation, Warsaw Jews were confined to the Ghetto, the zoo animals were killed or taken by the Nazis for their own German zoos, and the zookeeper became a major player in the resistance.

During those years, the zookeeper, Jan Zabinaki,  and his wife used the grounds of the former zoo to hide weapons and ammunition, produce false papers for Jews, and even conceal Jews on the grounds, some in the animal cages. Using the diaries of Antonina Zabinski and other contemporary sources, Ackerman relates the story of over 300 Jews who were saved by this brave couple.

384 pages

"Titan in Chains" by Zoe Perdita

This was a story with a lot of potential that focused on two college students who happen to be moonlighting as superheroes on opposing teams.  Patrick Black is super smart, openly gay, and the adopted son of a billionaire vigilante whose raised him to take on the crime fighting persona called "Apprentice."  Calder King is the football team's quarterback with extraordinary strength and invulnerability and works for his mother's "Victory Squad" as "Titan."  Patrick's father and Calder's mother hate each other and blame the other for the crime wave hitting their city, but when the two young men end up as roommates at school, things get complicated.

Unfortunately, I wasn't really crazy about this book.  I felt like parts of the story were missing, especially at the beginning where it seemed to skim over some relevant facts.  For example, Calder was in some sort of accident and can't remember anything before the age of 15 but not many details were given about this important event.  There is a sequel, but I'm not sure that I have the patience to read it.  258 pages (Kindle edition).

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret

After reading Debutante Divorcee, I thought I'd confuse my wonderful new husband further by reading The Husband's Secret. This book was also a page turner. If you found an envelope in the attic from your husband marked 'do not open until after my death', would you open it?

416 pages.

The Debutante Divorcee by Plum Sykes

The Debutante Divorcee

This books was superficial and indulgent. I devoured it. If you like reading about designer clothing, home decorating, handsome polo players, and extravagant vacations you will enjoy this book too.

250 pages.

"Strong Signal" by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

What an unusual story.  Staff Sergeant Garrett Reid has spent nearly eight years in the Army and is nearing the end of his deployment in the Middle East.  When he's not repairing military vehicles, he's fighting off boredom by playing online games.  It's during one of these games that he meets Kai Bannon, a serious gamer with a famous streaming gaming channel.  Garrett becomes a bit obsessed with Kai, and as their friendship grows through chats and e-mail their mutual desire for each other deepens.  As Garrett counts down the days to freedom, he imagines that meeting Kai in person will lead to their happily ever after; however, Kai has serious problems that may derail all of his plans.

I'd never read much about the online gaming community before this book, because I just couldn't see the point of watching someone I don't know play a video game over the Internet.  This popular pastime is an integral part of "Strong Signal" and brings the two main characters together and even gives one of them a full-time job.  Both characters were fleshed out very well; I felt like I could draw pictures of both of them (if I were an artist) and describe their personalities.  I really related, though, to Kai and his social anxiety.  The authors described his panic attacks and his struggles to do everyday things very well.  Garrett's reactions to Kai's anxiety were wonderful and should be emulated by everyone since he never made him feel ashamed for something Kai couldn't control.  This was a great story to which I would love to see a sequel, but I'll just have to settle fot the next in the series.  229 pages (Kindle edition).

"Rustic Melody" by Nic Starr

This story focused on two young men at a crossroads in their lives.  Joey Callaway has been working non-stop in his family's small town pub and hotel after his father's death leaves them drowning in debt.  Adam Chambers is a city boy who has taken a year off to travel and try to decide if he wants to continue working in his father's development company.  He doesn't like his father's unethical business practices, but the pressure to stay in the family business is strong.  When Joey finally takes a few days to himself to attend the Tamworth Country Music Festival, he sees Adam playing his guitar and is quite taken.  The two become more than friends and spend their holiday sightseeing and taking in the music, but Joey has to return to the pub when his mother is injured.  Will they ever see each other again?

This was a low-angst, gentle romance between two likable characters who didn't want to disappoint their families.  Joey's mom and Adam's sister are supportive, pushing both men to do what makes them happy.  The book takes place in Australia, which is almost always a plus for any story.  I'd like to read the next in the series.  174 pages (Kindle edition)

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

The Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I can’t believe people actually send teenagers away to special schools to try to brainwash them out of being gay/lesbian/bi/trans. That’s just insane, but I enjoyed Cameron’s story. It has bible belt undertones that resonate truth, and the characters reminded me of people I’ve known (which is both good and very bad, depending on the character).

Pages: 480

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last WordEvery Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating look into the kind of OCD that impacts thoughts more than actions. It’s another pro-therapy YA contemporary novel with interesting but messy characters.

Pages: 368

Haunted Missouri: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Show Me State by Troy Taylor

Haunted Missouri: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Show Me State

This book covered more history than hauntings. Stories are organized by geographical region and cover the state. No sleep lost.

131 pages.

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

Zac and MiaZac and Mia by A.J. Betts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book attempted to wrap fingers around my heart, but it was just so dark, angry, and slow paced that I wouldn’t let it. Every time it hooked a finger around my heart, I would peel it back before it could manage another.

I think I’ve read too many Cancer Kid books to be taken in by this one. It’s not that it’s not good. I enjoyed the story, overall. It’s just that it’s not stellar, and if I have to depress myself in regards to this topic, I really want stellar.

Pages: 304

Friday, July 29, 2016

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Summary: "Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood -- those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard -- a growing Red rebellion -- even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal."

I didn't hate this book. I didn't love it. I just generally liked it enough to keep going. Some of the writing is strong, compelling and witty. Some of it drags and it a bit eye-roll worthy. The entire world and plot is a combo of Hunger Games, The Selection series, and Shatter Me. It surprised me at the end (in a good way),  but I'm nervous that the next two books in the series will be typical revolution plot lines that we've seen a million times over. This book is a good read, but I think I'm a little jaded by previous series with similar tones and ideas. 

Favorite Quote: "If there was ever a person begging for an elbow to the face, it is Evangeline Samos." 

388 pages

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls is an excellent storyteller.  I loved her memoir, The Glass Castle, but I enjoyed reading Half Broke Horses even more.   In Half Broke Horses, Walls shares to remarkable adventures of her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, to whom Walls feels a kindred spirit.  Like many heroines of the American Frontier, Lily Casey Smith is brave, resourceful, and no-nonsense.

272 pages.

Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fat AngieFat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The words just rolled across my skin and through my mind in a way that was sometimes so beautiful and other times so painful. This book is about struggling with identity, and it covers many heavy topics. The prose is lyrical and full of voice.

Pages: 272

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Summary: "Hero. Foreigner. Queen. Elisa, at the age of seventeen, is all three. And all three draw enemies. Faced with assassins, court politics, and the threat of civil war, Elisa despairs of being the ruler her people need. Her only hope is the Godstone. She must master its power once and for all."

The Crown of Embers is the fun and intriguing sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. I love Elisa as she is a strong, smart and determined heroine. She never gives up and has a strong strategic mind. The action in this series is non-stop - it's great! 

410 pages

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Bride by Julie Garwood

The Bride (Lairds' Fiancées, #1)The Bride by Julie Garwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the first romance novels I ever read, back in high school. The BFF gave it to me, and I fell into a whole, strange new world of reading. After that, we read everything we could get our hands on by this author, because she has a way of transporting you to a different time and place. She also writes strong and interesting characters, who often butt heads, which makes the stories even more fun.

It was strange to reread this after so many years, but 36 year-old me had to see if this book was still as good as 15 year-old me thought, and I definitely was disappointed. I did notice things like clunky, unnatural dialogue in a few spots, but I still enjoyed the story and will remember it fondly.

Pages: 368

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Haters by Jesse Andrews

The HatersThe Haters by Jesse Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jesse Andrews is a bold and honest writer, and that’s what I like best about his quirky stories and characters. He has a real feel for the way teenagers actually communicate and interact that makes every story seem so genuine, even when what’s happening is ridiculous or almost slapstick.

He writes really strong and interesting male characters. He’s a bit like Andrew Smith in that regard. Neither neglect to have female characters who are unique and unexpected in their stories, but the most interesting characters in most of their novels are guys. And the most interesting relationships are usually between the guys in each story, even when it’s just a best friends or bromance situation.

I don’t mind that at all, and I enjoy reading such interesting male characters. I would, however, be very curious to see what either of these authors would do with a female lead.

Pages: 336

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tim by Colleen McCullough

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Tim was born with a mental problem but grew big and strong by his parents. When they die of old age, a friend takes in Tim but has to deal with social issues and peers.

Audio:  7 hrs.
Print:  255 pages

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

This covers U.S. history over the years against Native Americans with destruction of whole societies and misuse of Indian funds. In the 50s and 60s there were relocation centers. In 1972, a meeting of 75 nations was locked in a fed building with all the information about the years of extermination of Indian tribes by the U.S. government.  They read it and published it.

Audio:  11 hrs. 22 min.
Print:  312 pages

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

My Lady JaneMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was so clever and funny. It’s definitely reminiscent of The Princess Bride.

It’s basically a fictionalized history of English royalty, during Shakespearean times, with a magical twist. If all history could be like this, students across America would stop falling asleep reading boring social studies textbooks.

I demand more books like this. RIGHT NOW! Go on, then. Get to work, writers. I am not a patient person.

Pages: 512

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Summary: "Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers knows better than to trust a rich boy. But then she meets the richest guy of all, who proves money might not matter after all."

+ Another fun book by Kasie West! 

- But another disappointing ending! Kasie West does a great job of setting up interesting characters and story lines, but she frequently leaves the characters (and the reader) hanging at the end. 

+ I love her books as they are a fun, short and sweet read, but I am getting frustrated by the lack of closure toward the end. 

- She's cutting out some really good stuff by not resolving certain aspects of the characters' lives. 

312 pages

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Nothing but a wonderful hospital director who will do anything because of her power.  This book contains murders and conclusions that answer almost everything.

Audio:  11 hrs. 50 min.
Print:  528 pages

Monday, July 18, 2016

Half Blood Series Books by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Daimon (Covenant, #0.5)Daimon by Jennifer L. Armentrout  (Novella 0.5)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novella falls in the timelines before book 1, but I didn’t read it until later. It covers the short, dramatic gap of time right before book 1 starts. If it were me, I’d read book one before reading it, because it’s mostly backstory—interesting backstory—but it is not critical for understanding the series.

If you love the books or the world, you’ll want to read it. It’s the story of Alex and her mother on the run, and it stops right where book 1 starts.

Pages: 86

View all my reviews Elixir (Covenant, #3.5)Elixir by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Novella 3.5)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is Novella 3.5 in the Half Bloods series.

This was fascinating and heartbreaking. It shows you some new sides to the characters that you don’t fully see in book 4.

I read the beginning of book 4 before I started this novella, and I thought that was a helpful/interesting approach. You can technically read it before book 4, or any time after that.

Pages: 80

View all my reviews Apollyon (Covenant, #4)Apollyon by Jennifer L. Armentrout  (Book 4)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a solid read but didn’t fascinate me quite as much as Book 3. The ending is very dramatic and unexpected.

Pages: 360

Sentinel (Covenant, #5)Sentinel by Jennifer L. Armentrout  (Book 5)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this series, but the audiobooks were a challenge. The reader (Justine Eyre) had a strange breathy tone that made it hard for me to hear and concentrate on the words and sentences, especially when I kicked it up to a normal speed for human speech (2X or 2.5X –I typically listen to all audiobooks at 2-3 times the recorded speed, as they are recorded so slowly that otherwise I would zone out by the end of the first sentence).

I did reduce the speed and attempted to make the best of it throughout the series. She did a good job with the reading in general and the voices. It is just the way her voice recorded that does not work for me (plus the volume on the audio was cued so low I could barely hear if there was any noise around me at all, even with earbuds), and I found myself rewinding more than in any other audiobook before, since I frequently missed or couldn’t understand what had been said.

Part of the issues with her strange/breathy tone could have been resolved if they had simply cued the audio to a louder volume, so it wouldn’t sound like the whole story was being read in a stage whisper, which made me constantly strain to hear and understand. I found it very frustrating, but I continued to listen, as I had already purchased the series and enjoyed the actual stories.

Pages: 360

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Orbiting JupiterOrbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The voice is so unexpected in this Middle Grade contemporary novel about a boy whose family takes in a foster son with a complicated past.

I initially had a difficult time settling into this story. I admit that I read the first page twice before I progressed, and even then, I was still bewildered about what was happening. It took a couple of pages before I was able to sort out the scene and stop rereading paragraphs. I don’t know if that was me being a bad reader in that moment, the writing, the really abrupt start to the scene, or some combination of those.

Either way, I’m glad I pushed forward. This was such a good story, and it’s a quick read. I fell in love with the voice, once I got used to it, and the characters were lovable and different.

I had my heart set on the way this story should end.

It definitely did not end that way, but I guess I’ll get over it.

Pages: 192

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Problem with ForeverThe Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Once I started this, I couldn’t stop. The story and characters were so compelling.

It was fascinating to see how two kids that grew up in the same terrible foster care situation could end up so different but still so connected.

Pages: 480

Friday, July 15, 2016

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Symptoms of Being HumanSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is incredible. It's the story of Riley, who is gender fluid. Per a therapist’s suggestion, Riley starts a blog about being gender fluid. It attracts a lot of attention, both good and bad.

This is more of a character driven novel than a story with a really intense plot, but that worked for me, as what I was interested in, throughout the story, was Riley.

It makes me happy that so many great LGBTQ+ YA titles have been released in 2016. Adults should read more YA, because the authors are bold and honest. They tackle topics that people need to understand better. YA novels actually make me feel better about the state of our future, as I can’t help hoping that kids that grow up reading these awesome books are likely to turn out more open-minded and less judgmental than our current adult population.

Pages: 357

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Deity by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Deity (Covenant, #3)Deity by Jennifer L. Armentrout  (Book 3 in the Half Bloods series)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, Seth. *shakes head*

Book 3 has a slam-bang finish, so you’ll want to have book 4 on hand before you finish.

Pages: 360

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection PileThe First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book to be really helpful, not because it told me stuff I don’t know, but because it reminded me of things I knew but have sometimes been shortsighted about. Also, the examples and suggestions were great. Every single time I read a chunk of this book, it made me want to go write, or edit, which is how I want to feel after reading something like this.

There were sections that didn’t apply to me or felt too basic, so I just skimmed over those. That’s to be expected though, as every writer has different strengths and knowledge. There were sections that explained something I thought I was confident and competent with in a way that made me realize I could do even better if I’d put a little more editing focus on that particular topic or subject. Since first drafts are terrible, it’s easy to focus on the major issues first and never get back around to those smaller things that can make a huge difference.

I didn’t read this to perfect the first 5 pages of any of my novels. I read it, because I think all the pages in a novel have to be as good as the first 5. I figured the advice would apply to a whole novel, and it definitely does.

Pages: 208

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Starflight (Starflight, #1)Starflight by Melissa Landers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fun YA Sci-Fi novel has a Firefly vibe that I adored.

The fast-paced story is full of charming misfits and snark. There’s no instalove, which was refreshing. I couldn’t put it down.

Pages: 369

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Promise by Rober Crais

Posted for Paul Mathews

Elvis Cole looks for Amy, who lost her son to a terrorist bomber. She disappears with money and her expertise of explosives.

Audio:  8 hrs. 6 min.
Print:  416 pages