Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School. In this memoir, he gives an insider's analysis of a culture in crisis. He talks about the struggles of white, working-class American's, as seen through the prism of his own family.

His grandparents moved north from Appalachia to escape the poverty that permeated their existence, and provide a better opportunity for their children to move up into the middle class. That worked for them with employment in the steel mills of Ohio. Yet the family struggled with the demands of the middle-class, and Vance chronicles how social and class decline feels like when you grow up in it.

A lot is being written these days on the decline of this segment of the population, and the abuse, poverty, and drug and alcohol abuse so prevalent among this culture. No one has written it in such stark terms, from the viewpoint of one who has lived it and escaped it, albeit with the scars to prove it.

272 pages

Only Love can Break a Heart by Ed Tarkington

Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. In 1977, in small-town Virginia, Paul is sixteen and cool, cruising around in his Chevy Nova, listening to Neil Young, cigarette dangling from his lips, arm around his girlfriend. Paul and his girlfriend are always happy to take Rocky with them. But one day, in an act of vengeance against their father, Paul kidnaps Rocky from school and almost kills him. Leigh, Paul's girlfriend, promises to go away with him if he takes Rocky home. Paul and Leigh then disappear without a trace.

A few years later, Leigh returns, sans Paul. She will not talk about him, or their experiences, even where they've been.  Leigh eventually has a nervous breakdown, shortly before Paul returns. A mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, and Leigh and Paul are arrested and charged with the murder.  Rocky and his family must reckon with the past while dealing with this new reality.

336 pages

"Winter Blom" by DJ Jamison

This was a cute love story between a widower and a newspaper intern who is sent to interview him about his metal art.  Lane Cross works construction and does art to support himself and his six year old son who keeps running off his sitters.  He's immediately smitten when he meets Andy Blom, who's going to interview him for the local paper.  Lane tries his best to woo Andy while still dealing with his son's grief over his mother.  Andy is also mourning the death of his mother, so emotions are running high.  There are misunderstandings and lots of snow in this nice, little read.  156 pages (Kindle edition).

"Lover on Top: A Firefighter Romance" by Kristine Cayne

Another "later in life" coming out story, this one features "Hollywood" Wright, a firefighter who seems to love the ladies.  When he accidentally sets his kitchen on fire, he moves in with his best friend's younger brother, Chad, an out and proud paramedic.  Confusion, denial, and misunderstandings ensue along with a dangerous situation.  It doesn't help that Hollywood's father is a rabid homophobe who holds a high ranking position in the fire department.  Even though the two main characters acted like brats sometimes, I still liked the story.  292 pages (Kindle edition).

"For the Living" by L.A. Witt

This was a very well written story about a man coming to grips with the death of his wife and his sexuality at the same time.  Jay has been trying to make himself admit to his wife that he's gay for a year when she suddenly dies.  He's already overwhelmed with guilt for wanting to end his marriage, but after Misty dies he nearly comes unglued.  Luckily, he finds a confidant in a stranger, the assistant funeral home director, Scott.  As someone used to dealing with death and grief, Scott listens to Jay and tries to give him advice about working through his feelings and eventually coming out to his family.  I'm sure you can tell where this heading, but Jay's journey was still satisfying to read.  I like L.A.Witt's writing and will definitely read more.  279 pages (Kindle edition).

"Secrets and Lies" by Amanda Young

This is the first book in the Daywalker Legacy and features two brothers who are vampires.  Cadge won't leave his apartment due to his deep mourning for a dead lover, which leaves Teague to run their club alone.  Soon Teague's own lover stop seeing him, and he panics that nightfeeders may have gotten to him.  This was a different sort of story with gay vampire brothers fighting their own kind and nightfeeders to protect a human.  144 pages (Kindle edition).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Summary: "For Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman, executive assistants to the CEOs of newly merged Bexley-Gamin Publishing, it's hate-at-first-sight. So begins a series of daily passive-aggressive maneuvers, including the staring game, the mirror game, and the HR game, each played with the intensity of the Hunger Games. Their mutual antipathy grows when a new executive position opens at Bexley-Gamin, and both their bosses put their names up for the promotion. Then, the high-stakes games begin!"

Well, The Hating Game started off promising, but slowly dissolved into disappointment. I thought it would provide an insider-look into the publishing industry, but no, it really could have been any company that Lucy and Josh worked for. Lucy's thoughts begin to solely focus on Josh, as she has no other friends, interests or hobbies. Lucy and Josh are flat characters with almost no depth. What a shame! 

374 pages

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Summary: "Three female students from Ashbury High write to three male students from rival Brookfield High as part of a pen pal program, leading to romance, humiliation, revenge plots, and war between the schools."

The Year of Secret Assignments is the sequel(ish) to one of my favorite books from my teen years, Feeling Sorry for Celia. I enjoyed this trip down memory lane and appreciated the epistolary format! It's one of my favorite novel forms. In this installment, I enjoyed the fun and varied personalities of the boys and girls - they were a joy to read. A few of the entries were a tad long and boring, but overall, it was an enjoyable read! 

340 pages

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Summary: "Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes 

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first."

While I struggled with this book in the beginning, I unexpectedly fell deeply in love with the characters and this world. Kaz, Jesper, Inej, Nina, Matthias and Wylan have wound their way into my heart and will never let go! I cannot wait to get my hands on The Crooked Kingdom, which is the second and final book in this two-book series. 

Each chapter is from a different character's POV, which made for a fun story. With each chapter, the reader gets a little more backstory, piece by piece, to better understand the character's present situation and motivations. Matthias and Nina's story was intriguing and beautiful! I would read an entire book just dedicated to their history. 

Favorite Quote: “I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath.” 

465 pages

Friday, December 16, 2016

Paper Princess (Royals #1) by Erin Watt

Summary: "Ella Harper has spent her whole life moving from town to town with her mother, struggling to make ends meet. After her mother dies, Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. It's a life of wealth, excess, and deception. And Reed Royal is determined to send her back to the slums she came from. He says she doesn't belong with the Royals. If Ella is going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she'll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees."

This is one of those books that you enjoy well-enough while reading it, as long as you don't think too much. I initially couldn't put it down, as I was intrigued by Ella's grit and determination to survive on her own. However, once she moves in with the Royals, the book slowly goes downhill. The romantic lead is her "step-brother" Reed, and he is the WORST. I HATE him. He treats Ella like garbage, and not in the fun "enemies-to-friends" type of way. He has no redeeming qualities, and as soon as he shows Ella some affection, she falls head-over-heels in love with him. It's truly appalling. 

The author, Erin Watt, is actually two New Adult authors working together: Elle Kennedy and Jen Frederick. While I adore Elle Kennedy, I could not believe that she could write a character as great as Garrett in The Deal, and then allow a character like Reed to exist.

364 pages

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of BloodThe Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

This dark coming of age story is set in the Missouri Ozarks. The town of Henbane is fictional, but the day-to-day experiences of the characters are far from reality. Though I hope that many of the horrible occurrences of this book are. As Lucy seeks to find answer to the disappearance of her mother and elementary school friend, her allegiances are tested and she realizes that people, even those closest to us, are not always who we think they are. There are some beautiful pieces of prose scattered through an otherwise discomforting book. Audiobook.

302 pages

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I really enjoyed the Masterpiece Theatre production on PBS last year, so tried the novel.  Mantel immerses the reader in the court of Henry VIII with all its subterfuge and jockeying for power, but from the viewpoint of Thomas Cromwell, a person of low birth who becomes his chief advisor.  Cromwell is a master at the game of personal manipulation, but he is also quite the jack of all trades, skilled as a merchant, financier, and master of several languages. While much of the story covers the king's pursuit of a divorce from his first wife in order to marry Anne Boleyn, Mantel also makes clear how much general turmoil was going on not only in England but throughout Europe as Protestants, scientists and free thinkers began to question the dogma of the Catholic Church and its pope.  Excellent scene setting and character portrayal make this a stimulating read, although a bit long.  This book ends with the execution of Thomas More, while the sequel will continue the story of the royal court and Anne Boleyn's fateful demise.  532 pages.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Wild Card (The Dresden Files Graphic Novels)

 Wild Card (The Dresden Files Graphic Novels)

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Pages: 244

 Wizard for Hire, Harry Dresden comes up against a mysterious baddie, who is pitting all the powerful forces in Chicago against each. The white court vampires against the mob, the mob against the police, the police against any law breakers out there. Harry has no choice but to turn to some of the Faye for assistance. Thomas, Molly, Mouse, Karin Murphy and Butters all take part in this story which happens after the novel White Knight.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

 The Guest Caby 

This novel by the acclaimed Japanese poet, Takashi Hiraide, is a subtle, moving story that could take place anywhere. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. Since they are both writers and work from home they keep their own hours and are awake when the neighbors have gone to sleep. One day a cat invites herself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. The couple start leaving a window open for her and start buying treats for the cat. They begin to think of her as their cat, even though they know she belongs to the family next door and always leave in time to see the young boy off to school each morning.The description of how the cat changes their lives is interesting but there are also descriptions of the garden and house in great detail. The details of the visits with the cat are also told in order of their emotional effect more than a strict timeline, which seems fitting as the author is known as a poet.

The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling, Brooke S. Passey

 The Only Pirate at the Party 

Larceny and Old Lace by Tamar Myers

Larceny and Old Lace (Den of Antiquity #1) by Tamar Myers

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pages: 211

For Whom The Bell Pulls Tolls

Abigail Timberlake is recently divorced and trying to support herself by opening an antique store called the Den of Antiquity. She had to sell some of her personal items to get the store started on the same street as her aunt's antique/junk shop. Then Aunt Eulonia Wiggins is found dead in her shop strangled by an antique bell pull from one of the neighboring shops. Abby doesn't believe there's anyway Rob, the owner of the shop, would have murdered her aunt so she sets out to track down the real killer. 

This novel introduces many of the reappearing characters in this mystery series and makes you want to read more adventures with them. This particular title. I had to request through Inter-Library Loan from our local public library. 

The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook

 The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook: Every Recipe Is Free of Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Nuts, and Eggs

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Pages: 189
Since my niece was diagnosed with Celiac's I have been looking for recipes for foods to make for her. Real comfort food made with safe ingredients for people who have all kinds of food allergies. Included in this book is some favorites she has been missing such as Twinkies. They even look like regular Twinkies. I will have to make several of these recipes for her soon!

Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn by Grant Morrison

 Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn by 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Summary: "Trials and tribulations of a single girl living and working in London. During a turbulent flight Emma pours her heart and soul out to a complete stranger, only to live to regret it."

I found this book through reading rave reviews of it on Goodreads and thought that it surely couldn't live up to the hype. But no, I was wrong, it exceeded the hype!

Emma Corrigan is fun, charming, entertaining and relatable, which makes her my top choice for English heroines! Sophie Kinsella captures the charm of British humor to the fullest extent, and I wish that JoJo Moyes would inject more of that into her writing. I loved the witticisms and quips and inside look into Emma's world. She seemed more real and relatable than Bridget Jones, and I truly laughed out loud in multiple places. In a few plot points, I was afraid that Emma would fall into overdone and cliched responses, but she responded in a sincere and thoughtful way. 

On to the next Sophie Kinsella novel!

357 pages

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my all-time favorite book series, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on Marissa Meyer's new book, Heartless.

....I wish I had never heard of it. 

....I wish I had never read it. 

....Marissa Meyer is the one who is HEARTLESS. 

453 pages

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia

Summary: "Romeo and Juliet meets The Fast and the Furious in this edgy romance set in the suburbs of Washington, DC."

Well, I LOVE The Fast and the Furious, so I was quite anxious to get my hands on this one! The Lovely Reckless was also recommended by Katie McGarry, and I can see why! The angst and romance were very similar to Katie McGarry's plot and story-telling style. While I enjoyed myself throughout this book, it left a little to be desired.  

I'm sure you could predict the entire thing!

374 pages

Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Clinch" by Charity Parkerson

Gunnar is a boxer, Liam is a stripper, and they went to high school together.  Now they have lived in the same apartment building for two years, but Gunnar still doesn't recognize Liam.  When he does, they fall in lust and angst ensues. 

This book felt like it took forever for me to finish.  The writing was inconsistent, the characters were unoriginal, and the story didn't seem to have a point.  241 pages (Kindle edition).