Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

This is the story of the people who stayed behind during the Dust Bowl. Much has been written about those who migrated to get away from the misery, but we know little about the majority of the residents who stayed in place and rode it out.

The government encouraged farmers to plow up the natural buffalo grass, that anchored the soil of the Great Plains, and plant wheat. During World War I, they supplied Europe and America with millions of tons of grain, and became prosperous. However, in the process they destroyed the land, and when drought came in the 1930's, the winds blew away what was left. Residents lost everything they owned, including the land, and many died from malnutrition and 'black pneumonia'. The drought went on for eight years.

Having grown up with parents who lived through the 'Great Depression', I thought I knew a lot about it, but I learned that I didn't know it all! This book is a cautionary tale about our stewardship over the earth. If we destroy it, it may destroy us.

353 pages

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Leave MeLeave Me by Gayle Forman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Initially, I did not love this story, but it grew on me by the end, enough that I felt slightly more satisfied that I hadn't completely wasted my time.

My major complaint, beyond the initial disconnect, is that the story doesn't end far from where it started. None of the major issues are resolved, or even addressed. None of the mysteries are answered. Threads start and then just drop. Kerplop. Never to be picked back up.

While some of the characters are interesting, the majority of them don't change or grow.

(Spoilers removed)

Pages: 343

Boy by Anna Ziegler

BoyBoy by Anna Ziegler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this free from SYNC, and since it's a play, it transitions well to audiobook. It's dramatic and heart wrenching.

This takes place in the 1960s-1980s and is based on a true story. Back in the 60s, a well-meaning (but rather misguided) doctor convinces 2 parents to raise their infant son as a girl, after a tragic accident. They don't tell the child that he was born a boy, like his twin brother, and instead, they try to shape him into girl using sterotypical "girl talk" and "girl activities" to try to cultivate "female" interests.

This play explores gender identity, and the understandings of gender, from past perspectives, which were less than accurate. It's a short, painful read with touches of humor and hope.

Pages: 55

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Clash of Kings  (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 in A Song of Fire and Ice series

This book was slow for me, especially in the first half. I enjoy the many different story lines, but they drug a bit. It lacks strong forward motion for a while, and that left me with a feeling of random wandering. In return, my attention wandered, and I cheated on this book with other stories, which slowed my pace.

However, I do love many other things about the story lines, characters, and world, so I am still debating whether or not to continue reading this series. I think I need to take a break before moving on to book 3. I want to know what happens, but I feel exhausted.

Pages: 761

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall's first unexpected trip to the past led her into the arms of an 18th century Scottish warrior named Jamie Fraser. Now they are happily reunited, but Claire has left someone behind in the 20th century---her and Jamie's daughter, Brianna. Brianna has fallen in love with a Scottish historian named Roger Wakefield MacKenzie, a man who also has ties to the same mysterious stones that led Claire to Jamie. As Roger is helping Bree research what has happened to her parents, he stumbles upon a disturbing discovery he is determined to hide. Unbeknownst to him, Bree has uncovered the information herself. It leads her to the stone circle known as Craigh na Dun, resulting in Bree plunging headfirst into the past to meet the father she never knew, setting off a chain of events that could leave her stranded forever ... or perhaps just where she was always meant to be.

Book 4 in the Outlander series. 880 pages.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Awakening by Amanda Stevens

The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)The Awakening by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Readers who enjoy Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse stories will also like this series. I am sad I've read the last book!

416 pages

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since I'm late to this game, I'm not sure what I can add to the discussion on this novel.

In some ways, it's very Tolkien-esque, in that Martin definitely digs deep into the fantasy world building, and it's clear there are many layers of information hidden beneath the story that I will never even see or read. In fact, by the end of a novel by either author, I think I have probably forgotten more than I have learned, because it can be so difficult to file away all that information on a first read.

In other ways, it's nothing like Tolkien, in that Martin writes edgier, darker, bloodier, sexier, and more horrifying scenes and moments than Tolkien ever did. And I both like and hate that, at any given moment.

After I finished reading this, I watched the first season of Game of Thrones, and that worked great. The TV show stuck reasonably close to the book, and it helped me to see all the characters come to life on the screen before moving on to book 2.

Also, it should be noted that I listened to a lot of this on audiobook, and it's a particularly good recording. I think I almost prefer listening to it over reading it, though I did both, depending on what was convenient in the moment.

Last thought: I recommend this to anyone who digs deep fantasy. You have to be someone who can weather the storm of heavy descriptions, in-depth histories, an extraordinary number of characters, lengthy battles, and multiple, complex story lines. If you can tackle that, I think you'll find there's a lot here to love.

Pages: 835

Monday, May 15, 2017

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Kindred SpiritsKindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an adorable novella with the perfect combination of Star Wars nerdery, line culture, and unlikely friendships.

Everything by Rainbow Rowell is brilliant. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer.

Pages: 96

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell

Summary: "In Toulouse, Louisiana finding your one true love happens sometime around high school. If you're lucky, he might be the man you thought he was. But as four friends are about to find out, not every girl has luck on her side."

Well, I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It was a somewhat cozy and easy read. It made me laugh a little, cry a little and sigh in frustration a lot. The story is told from 4 different points of view, but they all kind of meshed together. And some of the messages, whether intentional or not, were a bit alarming at times. Actually, the girls' relationships with their boyfriends/husbands were downright disturbing throughout much of the book.

Ultimately, it was an okay read, and I liked the author's writing style. I may give her future books a chance as well.

308 pages

The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

The Visitor (Graveyard Queen, #4)The Visitor by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth book in the series unveils more clues regarding the heritage and strange calling of both the series' protagonist and her love interest. Photography and stereoscopy play a key role in the plot.

379 pages.

Better Than New by Nicole Curtis

Better Than New: How Saving Old Homes Saved MeBetter Than New: How Saving Old Homes Saved Me by Nicole Curtis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nicole Curtis's work ethic is admirable. It's what I love about her show. She is willing to clean, repair, and restore old homes. By doing so, she preserves their unique character and reduces the construction waste that would be created by tearing homes down in order to build something new. The way that the book was organized by houses was clever. But the focus of the book was on Curtis's career and relationships.

224 pages.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Summary: "When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, having survived a car accident, she has lost a big chunk of her memory--three years to be exact. And that's not all. Somehow Lexi went from a twenty-five-year-old working girl to a corporate big shot with a sleek new loft, a personal assistant, a carb-free diet, and a set of glamorous new friends. And who is this gorgeous husband--who also happens to be a multimillionaire?"

I couldn't stay away from Sophie Kinsella for long...her books are just so fun and interesting. I loved Remember Me? for the laughs as well as the intrigue. It pulled me in, and I couldn't put it down! 

Even though there were a few plot holes and loose ends, I enjoyed this book very much overall. 

389 pages

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Thing About Love by Julie James

Summary: "FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army Ranger clashed during their training at Quantico and gladly went their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to be assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting."

The Thing About Love is Julie James' highly anticipated next installment in her wonderful FBI/US Attorney series. 

That being said, I think I was anticipating this book just a little too much and thus set my expectations way higher than they should have been. The premise is juicy, but the story just didn't live up to its high potential. I loved the entire FBI Training scenario, as well as the enemies-to-lovers storyline, but the actual case/plot of the story significantly lacked action and excitement. It never quite made my heart race or had me eagerly turning the page. Usually, the plots of James' books are intense, but this one just fell a little flat. I'd still give the book around 4 stars...just lower your expectations.

384 pages

Monday, May 1, 2017

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

All the Best PeopleAll the Best People by Sonja Yoerg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I drug my feet while reading this multigenerational adult novel, because it’s so gorgeous and intense. Yoerg has a style that’s beautiful, simple, and subtle. She says powerful things that really sit with me.

Actually, she rarely tells me what to think. Instead, she shows the story in a way that makes me think knew things, different things, or forgotten things, which is what I love best about her stories. She has a real talent for storytelling, and nothing ever feels forced or false. It’s always truthful, raw, and introspective.

I confess, I was almost afraid of where this was headed--not that it might be bad--just that it might hurt to get there. But it doesn’t hurt, not any more than it should. There were moments when this story could have gone in 10 different directions, and I remain fascinated by the direction it chose. It took me time to wrap my head around the characters and the way their stories wove together across time, but it was so well done, with each generation and voice contributing another layer.

Also, I love the subtle interchanges between magic and reality, luck and choice, good and bad. There are so many fascinating contrasts in this story, and the historical elements were a nice touch, as well. It’s clear Yoerg did her research, and she approached the history of mental illness in a way that is honest, accurate, and sometimes disturbing.

Now, I’ve said plenty, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the lake-dwelling people of Vermont, who were endlessly fascinating to me. I’d read a whole story about these “pirates” if one existed.

Pages 368

PS: The release date for this book is tomorrow, May 2, 2017!

The Prophet by Amanda Stevens

The Prophet (Graveyard Queen, #3)The Prophet by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amanda Stevens introduces a dynamic new character and increases the romance in the third book in the Graveyard Queen series.

347 pages