Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: On Hold at the E-Library

Happy MonTueWedThurFriSatSunWhateverday!  My kids have now been out of school for a month thanks to Spring Break and COVID-19.  We've been plugging along pretty well, all considered, but my 11-year-old social butterfly did have a little breakdown yesterday over missing her friends.  She said (with a sad little sniff), "I love hanging out with my family, but I just want to see other people's faces!"  My husband owns his own business and has still been going to the office most days.  Yesterday, even he said, "I'm going a little crazy."  I haven't gone anywhere in days, but I've been busy reading, blogging, working on a cross-stitching project, cleaning, etc.  What have you been doing to stay sane during these crazy times?

Top Ten Tuesday is always a fun diversion, even in normal times.  If you haven't heard of it, remedy that!  All you have to do is hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few quick instructions, create your own list, then click around the book blogosphere checking out other people's lists.  It's a great way to spread the love—and who couldn't use a little of that right now?  The topic du jour is Top Ten Books I Bought/Borrowed Because ... I haven't bought any books lately, but I have been checking out e-books from my library.  So, that will be the focus of my list today.

Top Ten E-Books I've Borrowed From the Library During the Quarantine (and Why):

1.  A Single Light by Tosca Lee.  Why?

  • I enjoyed the first book, The Line Between.  It's a fast-paced, engrossing, well-written dystopian novel that is surprisingly clean and faith-promoting, although it's not a religious/Christian book.  
  • I had to know what happens to Wynter, Chase, and the others.
  • So far, A Single Light is darker than The Line Between but just as exciting.

2.  Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower.  Why?
  • that punny title!
  • A blogger (sorry, can't remember who) mentioned enjoying this cozy series that takes place in an Amish candy shop.  I'm in the mood for lighter mysteries and this first installment sounds fun.

3.  From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks.  Why?
  • I love middle-grade novels.
  • This mystery features a 12-year-old African-American girl who's curious about the father she's never met.  He's in prison for a terrible crime he insists he didn't commit.  Zoe's desperate to prove her dad's innocence.  Can she?  Sounds intriguing!

4.  Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry.  Why?
  • Stephanie from She's Probably at the Library gave it an excellent review.  She was especially impressed by the way religion (mine specifically) is portrayed in this book and thought I would enjoy both its story and the faith exploration.
  • The plot sounds interesting.  It features a teen girl who's obsessed with all the ways the world can end and a new friend who knows when it will.  Definitely sounds like my kind of book.

5.  The Eagle Catcher by Margaret Coel.  Why?
  • Back before I started blogging, I read several installments in Coel's Wind River Reservation mystery series.  As much as I enjoyed them, I didn't continue on with the series for some reason.  I'm ready to dive back in.
  • I need a Wyoming book for the 2020 Literary Escapes Challenge.
  • Since it's been so long since and I have a terrible memory, I won't remember whodunit! 

6.  The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams.  Why?
  • The fun premise:  In an attempt to save his crumbling marriage, a macho baseball player joins a secret romance book club, where he's coached by other alpha males on how to woo back his wife.
  • I need a "book about a book club" for a POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt.
  • I've read lots of positive reviews, so I'm hopeful it will be a light, entertaining read that's more sweet than steamy.  Too much to ask for??

7.  Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker.  Why?
  • I've long been fascinated by the mechanics of sleep and why we dream what we do, so this book just sounds crazy intriguing.

8.  Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin.  Why?
  • my aforementioned affinity for middle-grade novels
  • the cute, colorful cover art
  • The premise sounds interesting:  A 12-year-old girl notices her mother displaying disturbing behavior, the kind that has previously landed her in a mental hospital.  Desperate to fix her mom, the girl puts her faith in Bee Lady's magic honey, only to find the solution may have more to do with healing her own heart.  Sounds like a sweet read.

9.  Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf.  Why?
  • Lark's review
  • Small town setting + baffling mystery + family drama = Yes, please! 

10.  A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson.  Why?
  • A high school senior decides to reexamine a murder that rocked her town five years ago for her senior project.  What could possibly go wrong?  Now that's a compelling premise right there! 
There you go.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What other books do I need to add to my library e-book wishlist?  What books have you bought/borrowed lately and why?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

Monday, April 06, 2020

With Irresistible Jacky Faber, the High Seas Are Always Exciting!

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for The Wake of the Lorelei Lee, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from previous Bloody Jack adventures.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

I've talked a lot about the Bloody Jack books by L.A. Meyer on my blog because it's long been one of my favorite YA series.  Reading it is like listening to a skilled storyteller recalling highly entertaining, obviously embellished tales full of adventure, romance, danger, and derring-do.  It matters little that the books are all basically plotless (other than Jacky needing to get out of whatever scrape she's currently gotten herself into) because they're just so darn fun!  I've especially enjoyed listening to the tales on audio.  Katherine Kellgren is an exceptional narrator.  Sadly, both Meyer and Kellgren have passed away—they were a brilliantly talented duo and I miss the perfection of their combined genius.  

The Wake of the Lorelei Lee is the eighth installment in the Bloody Jack series.  The novel starts with a very happy Jacky Faber in command of the ship she purchased with the Spanish gold she pocketed after her deep-sea diving adventures in Rapture of the Deep.  Under the false belief that she has been pardoned by her homeland's government, she is excitedly making her way toward England and her true love, Jamie Fletcher.  Of course, life is never that simple for ole Jacky.  Almost before she knows what's happening, she's a prisoner on her own ship, headed for a penal colony in New South Wales, Australia.  Scrappy Jacky never goes down without a fight, however, and this time will be no exception.  From riding an elephant to saving an island people from a tyrant to charming a powerful Chinese pirate, her latest adventure is another thrilling episode in the life of the inconquerable Jacky Faber.

As you can tell, Jacky's crazy adventures are always entertaining.  She's a spunky, irresistible heroine who's fierce, funny, and loyal.  It's impossible not to be drawn in by her engaging voice and her colorful, exciting escapades.  Although The Wake of the Lorelei Lee is a little more graphic than its predecessors, I still very much enjoyed listening to this engrossing tale.

 (Readalikes:  Other books in the series, including Bloody Jack, Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger, In the Belly of the Bloodhound, Mississippi Jack, My Bonny Light Horseman, Rapture of the Deep, The Mark of the Golden Dragon, Viva Jacquelina!, Boston Jacky, and Wild Rover No More)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs [unless I heard wrong], plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, sexual innuendo/content, and references to prostitution/rape

To the FTC, with love:  I bought an audio copy of The Wake of the Lorelei Lee from Audible with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Second Installment of Cadaver Dog Mystery Series Not Quite As Enjoyable As First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Secrets of Bones, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Scent of Murder.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Although Jazz Ramsey makes her living as an administrative assistant at St. Catherine's Preparatory Academy for Girls, her real passion is training cadaver dogs.  As the school embarks on its annual career day, in which local women visit campus to teach the students about their jobs, Jazz is asked to showcase her work with the animals.  To give the girls an exciting demo, she hides a bone in an unused attic space.  Her audience is delighted when Gus finds it easily; they're all shocked, however, when he scents human remains that were not hidden by Jazz.  When a skeleton is recovered from its hiding place in the attic, Jazz gets an even bigger surprise—the bones appear to belong to a fanatical religion teacher who mysteriously resigned from her job three years ago.  

Bernadette Quinn was almost universally disliked by St. Catherine's student body, administration, and presumably everyone who knew her.  Still, who would murder the pious teacher?  When the police zero in on Sister Eileen, Jazz refuses to stand by and let her beloved boss's name get dragged through the mud.  If the authorities are too inept to find the real killer, she'll launch her own investigation.  The more she digs, the closer Jazz gets to shocking secrets someone doesn't want revealed.  It soon becomes obvious that someone will stop at nothing to stop her from digging.  Can Jazz find the murderer before she becomes the next victim?

I enjoyed The Scent of Murder, the first installment in Kylie Logan's Jazz Ramsey mystery series, so I was eager to read the second, The Secrets of Bones (available May 5, 2020).  While I ended up enjoying the former more than the latter, I still found The Secrets of Bones to be intriguing and entertaining.  Jazz is a likable character, as are her canine companions.  It's always interesting to see working dogs in action; in fact, I wanted more of that in this installment.  As far as the mystery goes, I saw some of the plot twists coming, but not all of them.  There were a few plot holes that didn't get tied up satisfactorily to me.  In addition, I wanted more personality from Nick, Jazz's love interest.  Overall, then, I didn't love The Secrets of Bones.  Still, it was engaging and entertaining enough to convince me to keep with the series.  I just hope the next installment is a little tighter, with a stronger emphasis on Jazz's work as a cadaver dog trainer.

(Readalikes:  The Scent of Murder by Kylie Logan; also reminds me of A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Secrets of Bones from the lovely folks at Macmillan via those at Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Friday, April 03, 2020

Jazz Age Murder Mystery Clean, Exciting, and Enjoyable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After almost a decade as an apprentice to the late Harry Houdini, 26-year-old Wren Lockhart knows all about creating the perfect illusion.  She does it both onstage and off, concealing her true self behind a confident vaudeville act and a wardrobe of gentleman's clothing designed to both draw attention and deflect it.  Given her guarded life of wealth and privilege, no one would guess at Wren's humble beginning as the daughter of a drunken theater owner.  She'd like to keep it that way.  

When a daring illusionist act by a man Houdini denounced as a fraud goes horribly awry, leaving a man dead, Wren is unwittingly drawn into the ensuing police investigation.  Although she desires only to be left alone, she understands the gentle threat issued by FBI agent Elliot Matthews—if she doesn't cooperate, he will reveal to the public what he knows about her past.  Desperate to keep her secrets hidden, Wren agrees to help.  It soon becomes apparent, however, that she's not the only one willing to risk everything to keep the truth under wraps.  With her reputation, her secrets, and even her heart on the line, Wren must make sure Elliot's case gets solved.  And quickly.  Before everything she's worked so hard to build crumbles before her very eyes.

I discovered Kristy Cambron last year and have since been eager to read everything she's ever written.  The Illusionist's Apprentice proved a good place to start.  With plenty of rich detail, its Jazz Age/vaudeville setting comes to vivid, vibrant life.  The characters are warm, likable, and interesting.  Plotwise, the novel moves along at a brisk enough pace, making for an exciting story.  I especially appreciate Cambron's ability to create a compelling mystery but keep it PG-rated.  Although she's considered a writer of Christian fiction, God/religion is touched on only lightly in this novel.  However, Cambron does make sure to emphasize the continual triumph of light over darkness, good over evil.  The Illusionist's Apprentice does touch on some dark subjects, but its overall tone is positive and uplifting.  For all these reasons and more, I very much enjoyed this intriguing historical mystery. 

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and mild innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Backlist Hannah Book Just Okay

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Exhausted from years of trying to have a baby with nothing but heartbreak to show for it, Angie Malone has had enough.  Enough of the miscarriages, enough of the failed adoptions, enough of the marriage that has crumbled under the strain.  With divorce on the horizon, she moves back to her tiny seaside hometown of West End, Washington.  Between all the drama her big, loud Italian clan cooks up and her new task of saving the family's struggling Italian restaurant, Angie should have plenty to focus on besides her crushed dreams.

When Lauren Ribido walks into Angie's life, everything changes.  With her world-weary countenance and ill-fitting Salvation Army wardrobe, it's clear the 17-year-old is in need of some TLC.  Especially when her alcoholic mother disappears, leaving Lauren to fend for herself.  As Angie pours all the love she's been storing up for her own child into this abandoned young woman, she cautions herself against growing too attached.  When Lauren announces that she's pregnant, Angie can't help the hope that flutters in her heart.  She knows better than to play the "What if" game, but what if Lauren can provide the one thing Angie wants most in the world?  How far will Angie go to make that happen?  And what of the teenaged mother?  What does she want?  If their desires conflict, what does that mean for their newly-discovered closeness?  What will happen as the two frightened women try to navigate their unknown futures?

I'm a big fan of Kristin Hannah's recent blockbuster novels, The Nightingale and The Great Alone.  While waiting for her to produce another stunning masterpiece, I've been making my way through her backlist.  I've enjoyed some of these older novels—others, not so much.  The Things We Do For Love (2004) falls somewhere in the middle.  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either.  Its premise intrigued me and I was definitely interested to see where the story would go.  Unfortunately, although I sympathized with Angie, I didn't really like her.  To me, she seemed self-centered, fickle, and short-sighted.  This made it tough for me to side with her, while I had no problem rooting for Lauren.  This, plus the fact that The Things We Do For Love seemed to ramble on longer than necessary, made the novel less enjoyable than it could have been.  In the end, then, I feel a bit ambivalent about this one.  Like I said before, I didn't love it, didn't hate it.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Safe With Me by Amy Hatvany and How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Things We Do For Love at Target with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

TTT: My Bookish Tells

With all this self-isolation, I have completely lost track of the days of the week.  Other than Sunday, when we now hold worship services in our home instead of at the church building, each day is exactly like the other.  Know what I'm talking about?  Penn Holderness does:

Needless to say, I'm very proud of myself for remembering that today is Tuesday!  Yippee!  Time for my favorite weekly meme.  If you're not familiar with Top Ten Tuesday, you can educate yourself by clicking on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, where you can get all the info you need.  Join in the fun by creating your own list, then hopping around the book blogosphere to view other people's lists.  It's an enjoyable way to beat boredom, spread some love, and find more books to read.  I'm averaging a book a day right now, so I'm definitely up for new recommendations!

Today's topic is a fun one—Top Ten Signs You're a Book Lover.  I couldn't think of anything really unique that marks me as a bibliophile, but here goes:

1.  If you don't know me and you've never been to my house, your first clue that I love to read would be my license plate.  Above is my current one, but I've also had:  BOOKISH, NOZNABK, ADDLED ("She has read too many books and it has addled her brain."), etc.

2.  Bookish stuff—Another clue would be my bookish t-shirts (my favorite is for a local indie—it says, "Peace, Love, Books" on the back), mugs, artwork, etc.

3.  My blog—I've been posting reviews on my blog since 2006.  When I publish, links are also posted to my Facebook and Twitter.  I also hand out blog business cards at conferences and bookish events.  So, I'd say most people who know me, even a little bit, are aware that I run a book review blog.

4.  My home library—My house is full of books.  There are overfilled bookcases in our family room, the game room, my bedroom, my husband's office, my daughter's room, etc.  My little office nook is crammed full of them (See above.  I didn't bother tidying up so you could get a real feel for the bookish chaos—you're welcome!)  Several people have told me they've never seen so many books in a building that wasn't a library.  LOL.  What most people don't know is that the closet in my guest room is also stuffed full of review books in file boxes.  Houston, I *may* have a problem!

5.  My Goodreads TBR—I've heard other readers lament that they have several hundred "want to read" books listed on GR.  I have 5,549 and counting.  If that's not a sign that I'm a *little* book crazy, I don't know what is!

6.  I have THREE library cards—I'm lucky to live in a place where I have access to two large library systems, so I have cards to both the city and county libraries.  I also keep my daughter's county card on hand in case I need to check out more than the allowed 50 books.  Yes, it has happened.  More than once.

(my favorite Arizona indie)

7.  I've never met a bookstore I didn't like—Seriously.  Be it bright, clean, and modern or musty, dusty, and chaotic, I love me a bookstore.  Chances are excellent that I'll come out of any bookstore with at least one treasure.

8.  I'm never bored—Unlike most people, I have no problem waiting in airports, doctors' offices, carpool lines, stop-and-go traffic, etc.  As long as I have a book nearby (and you better believe I always do), I'm perfectly happy to hang around.  Even as a kid, I never needed to be entertained.  Having a book in hand means I'm never bored.

9.  I don't watch t.v.—Ask me about the hottest show on the small screen and you'll get a blank stare.  I rarely watch t.v, at least without a book or cross-stitch project on my lap.  The only time you'll really find me paying full attention to the boob tube is when I'm folding laundry and even then, I've started listening to audiobooks instead.

10.  Hermione Granger is my spirit animal—Bookish characters (and real people) are my favorite because I just get them!     

There you go, ten reasons that make it obvious I'm a little book obsessed.  What about you?  What are your tells?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT! 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Despite Adorable Cover Model, Who Rescued Who Just an Okay Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Elizabeth Barnes is fired after an off-the-cuff remark brings unexpected embarrassment to the tech company for which she works, the 32-year-old workaholic is at loose ends.  She still has a horde of followers on her social media accounts, but with no job, no family left and no true IRL friends, Elizabeth's once-glamorous Silicon Valley life suddenly seems very empty.  A surprise phone call from a British uncle she never knew she had comes at just the right time.  Not only will a trip across the pond give her a chance to reboot (not to mention fill her feeds with attention-getting travel selfies) and connect with estranged family members, but the sale of her father's land should bring in enough cash to tide her over until she can find new employment.  

Although Elizabeth receives a warm welcome in Fargrove, it's immediately apparent that she doesn't belong in the tiny backwater town.  Without a reliable Internet connection, she's losing followers by the second.  Still, when two intriguing opportunities—a temporary job organizing her uncle's artwork and an adorable puppy who's decided to adopt Elizabeth—land in her lap, Elizabeth finds she can't refuse either.  Then there's the stunningly handsome James Holworthy, whose eye she simply must catch... As life in Fargrove teaches her to value a simpler way of being, Elizabeth must decide what she really wants, who she really is, and where she truly belongs.

Even though I'm not a huge animal lover, I really can't resist the sweet pup on the cover of Who Rescued Who by professional dog trainer Victoria Schade.  I can't say I loved the novel, but I did very much enjoy gazing at its adorable cover model!  I also liked the story's quaint setting as well as the warm-hearted townsfolk who inhabit the small village of Fargrove.  For me, the secondary characters way upstaged the heroine and hero, neither of whom I found very appealing.  Although Elizabeth does change over the course of the novel, she's still a stuck-up, self-centered brat with whom I never felt much of a connection.  Perhaps it's because everything always turns up roses for her that I didn't feel invested in her "plight."  James comes off as equally as shallow.  Their insta-lovey romance feels forced—Elizabeth's bond with her dog is both more believable and better developed than her relationship with James.  Plotwise, there was enough going on in the story to keep me reading, but the tale definitely feels longer than necessary, especially since it offers no real surprises.  All in all, then, Who Rescued Who turned out to be just an okay read for me.  That gorgeous furball on the cover, though?  He/she gets an A+ all the way!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels about unmoored city women finding their place in the back of beyond, although no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Who Rescued Who from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Second Appalachian Historical Mystery As Intriguing As First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Hollows, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Widows.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

When an elderly woman is hit by a train on an isolated piece of railroad track, Sheriff Lily Ross is called in to investigate.  While it's immediately clear that the woman is dead, it's not apparent just what she was doing out in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night, wearing only a flimsy nightgown.  Marks on her wrists indicate she had been restrained recently.  Was the death a tragic accident caused by a roaming senior citizen with dementia?  Suicide?  Or did something more sinister occur?  Lily doesn't believe the brakeman's tale about a ghost pushing the old lady off a cliff directly into the path of an oncoming train, but she can't shake the feeling that there's more to the incident than meets the eye.

Determined to figure out Jane Doe's identity and the truth behind her death, Lily starts digging.  Her probing leads her to a facility deep in the holler.  Hiding secrets both old and new, The Hollows asylum may be the key to solving Lily's current mystery as well as answering disturbing questions from the past.  In the midst of working the Jane Doe case, Lily's also dealing with the fallout from attempted integration at the mines, an upcoming election that could win her the sheriff's seat in her own right, and a shivery ghost story she's starting to believe in spite of herself.  Can Lily close the case?  Will she keep her job as sheriff, despite many thinking it's an unsuitable job for a lady?  And what about the ghost that haunts the holler?  Will it make a believer out of pragmatic Lily Ross?

I enjoyed The Widows—the first installment in Jess Montgomery's historical mystery series featuring Lily Ross—so I was eager to read its sequel, The Hollows.  Like its predecessor, the novel features an atmospheric Appalachian setting in an intriguing historical time period.  It discusses issues/groups I don't know much about, including prohibition, integration in the mining industry, women's issues in the 1920s, and the Women's Klu Klux Klan.  In addition, it brings together a cast of colorful characters, most of whom are likable and fun to read about.  Lily is no exception.  She's an understated heroine, which makes her all the more alluring.  To top it all off, Montgomery writes with assured, engrossing prose.  All of these elements come together to make The Hollows another winning historical mystery from Montgomery.  You better believe I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in this enjoyable series.

(Readalikes:  The Widows by Jess Montgomery)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, disturbing subject matter, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Hollows from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you! 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Atmospheric Australian Mystery/Thriller Engrossing and Surprising

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been two decades since Eliza Carmody left her hometown of Kinsale and she's not thrilled to be going back.  Especially because her visit is in her official capacity as a lawyer—for Colcart, the company locals blame for the devastating, deadly wildfire that nearly destroyed the town.  As Public Enemy Number One, her plan is to sneak in and out of Kinsale with no one, not her family, not the few friends she has left, being the wiser.  Stealth goes out the window when Eliza witnesses a startling crime committed by an old acquaintance.  Soon, her presence is known by everyone, forcing her to confront her estranged sister, her father—a former cop who's been in a vegetative state for a year following an accident—and the anger of a town simmering with grief and searching for answers.

When Eliza learns that human remains have been found near a local historic home, she's too curious to leave Kinsale.  She knows the place has secrets, secrets that may be tied to the disappearance of her best friend back in high school.  Against her better judgment, Eliza finds herself becoming deeply embroiled in these hometown dramas.  Determined to find the truth behind the bones, the fire, and the disappearance of her best friend, she must decide whom she can trust and how far she will go to uncover the long-held secrets of the town to which she never wanted to return.

Second Sight by Aoife Clifford is a taut, twisty Australian thriller that kept me totally engrossed.  It's atmospheric, compelling, and surprising.  I didn't see the murderer coming, which is always a bonus.  The novel is unrelentingly depressing and bleak, true, but I still quite enjoyed Second Sight.  I'm looking forward to reading more from Clifford.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Jane Harper, including The Dry, Force of Nature, and The Lost Man)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Help a Girl Out?

Good Tuesday morning!  How is everyone?  How's the apocalypse going for you all?  My family and I are still doing just fine.  We've got plenty of t.p., food, and medicine, so we're just hunkering down.  The weather here yesterday was absolutely beautiful, so we did venture out to a neighborhood park.  It was full of people walking their dogs, doing yoga, riding bikes, etc.  We ate our lunch in an empty ramada, fully intending to socially distance ourselves, but the first people my 11-year-old daughter saw were two of her really good friends.  The kids all squealed and jumped around, so excited to see each other!  It broke my heart, actually, that these little pals have been forced to isolate themselves when they enjoy playing together so much.  They did get to run around together for a couple of hours, happy as proverbial clams.  Since my daughter's friends are boys, there wasn't any touching involved (cooties, doncha know), but she—and they—got some much-needed time to exercise, bask in the sunshine, and hang out with buddies.  It certainly boosted her spirits and ours.  At any rate, I hope you and yours are healthy and safe during these crazy times.

Speaking of boosting spirits, it's time for Top Ten Tuesday.  Yay!  It's easy to join in the TTT fun—just hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few instructions, build your own list, then spend some happy hours checking out other people's posts.  It's a fun way to discover new blogs, check in on old favorites, and rake in the reading recommendations.  What could be more fun, especially when you're stuck at home in need of a distraction?  Today's topic is a good one, too—Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

Freebies always throw me for a little bit of a loop and this one is no exception.  I racked my brain for a unique, creative way to spin the topic and nothing came to mind.  So, I'm going to take the lazy woman's way out today and ask for reading recommendations instead of giving them out.  Here's the deal:  I'm a positive, happy person who gravitates toward mystery/thrillers/apocalyptic fiction, even in the End of Days, apparently.  I've read so many that right now my soul is seriously craving books that will lift my heart, make me laugh, and provide the kind of light, fun entertainment that's been lacking in my reading choices of late.  Help a girl out?  I like most genres, although I tend to steer away from high fantasy, poetry, serious sci-fi, and anything too dense/technical/boring.  Erotica and the like is absolutely off the table.  What have you got for me?  Here's a quick Top Ten list that will give you an idea of what I like and am looking for more of:

  • Light, entertaining stories that still have substance.  Any genre.  Bonus points if they're clean and well-written.
  • Inspiring biographies/memoirs
  • Easy, breezy romcoms
  • Family sagas (think Kate Morton and Karen White)
  • Action/adventure/survival stories where endurance/determination wins out in the end and/or where there's more going on than meets the eye (think LOST)
  • Women's fiction that's heartwarming without being cheesy or sappy
  • Mysteries that are engrossing, but won't give me nightmares (think cozies and Mary Higgins Clark-ish)
  • Humor (fiction or non-fiction, just something that is funny without being too crude or suggestive)
  • Sweet/small-town romance (think Robyn Carr without the R-rated bits)
  • Haunted house/ghost stories that are shivery and engaging, but not terrifying 
Okay, what do you have for me?  I'd seriously love any recommendations you can come up with.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!  

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Need Some Light, Fun Reading for the Apocalypse? Look No Further.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Wonton Terror, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from previous Noodle House mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

The opening of the Asian Night Market is Cleveland's culinary kick-off to summer.  It's a weekly food festival that brings the community together for delectable eats, lively entertainment, and warm conversation.  Lana Lee is thrilled to be at the festival selling Ho-Lee Noodle House's unparalleled cuisine, even if it seems they might be outsold by the popular Wonton on Wheels food truck parked next to them.  It's obvious something odd is going on with the truck's owners—who are old friends of Lana's parents—but Lana's shocked when their truck explodes on the first night of the festival, leaving one of its owners dead.  Was it a tragic accident or something more sinister?

As it becomes increasingly apparent that someone tampered with the food truck, Lana launches a clandestine investigation into the incident.  The more she digs, the more she realizes that Ronnie Chow was not a pleasant person.  A number of people had grudges against him, but who hated him enough to kill him?  Or did Ronnie do it himself in order to collect the insurance money?  The closer Lana gets to the truth, the more dangerous her life is becoming.  Someone doesn't want the truth to get out—and they will do anything to keep Lana from getting too close.  Has Lana finally gone too far with her amateur sleuthing?  Will her restaurant be the next one that goes up in flames?

I always enjoy reading about Lana's antics with her overbearing family, her quirky friends, and her dangerous investigations.  The Noodle House Mysteries by Vivien Chien are just fun.  Wonton Terror, the fourth installment in the series, is no exception.  It's entertaining, even though I solved the mystery pretty early on.  I don't expect a lot of surprises in a cozy mystery—I enjoy them because they make for clean, easy, distracting reading.  This series is one of my favorites for all those reasons.  I'm definitely in for seeing what happens to Lana and Co. next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Noodle House Mystery series, including Death By Dumpling, Dim Sum of All Fears, Murder Lo Mein, Egg Drop Dead, and Killer Kung Pao)  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

MG Novel Tells Sincere, Heartwarming Tale About the Importance of Farming, Family, and Friendship

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There's nothing 12-year-old Paige McBride likes better than working the Idaho farm her family has owned for generations.  Even with the recent death of her father, which has caused financial hardship, extra chores, and heavy sorrow, Paige is determined to keep the place running smoothly.  When she learns about her mother's decision to sell her beloved land, she vows it will never happen.  Not only does Paige have a foolproof plan to sabotage their realtor's schemes, but now she's got two unexpected secret weapons—a journalist who wants a hands-on farming experience and a wounded peacock of mysterious origins.  Paige will use them, as well as every other trick she's got up her sleeve, to rescue the farm she loves.  Will it be enough?

Wendy S. Swore's debut novel, A Monster Like Me, was one of the best books I read last year.  I loved it so much that I couldn't wait to read her sophomore effort, The Wish and the Peacock.  While her newest didn't move me as much as her first, I still enjoyed this poignant middle-grade novel.  Paige is an admirable heroine—she's smart, loyal, hard-working, and focused.  Her love for her home and family shines brightly.  Young readers will enjoy the story for the funny antics Paige and her friends employ to foil the adults' actions, but what will really stand out is our heroine's dogged determination to save the things and people she loves.  Paige's affinity for her land as well as the work she does on it ring with authenticity because Swore, herself, is a full-time farmer.  It's not surprising, then, that The Wish and the Peacock exudes sincerity and heart.  Overall, it's an empowering tale about the importance of friendship, family, legacy, and fighting for what you believe in.  I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Wish and the Peacock from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
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