Thursday, January 23, 2020

My First Audiobook a Slow, Gory Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As an aspiring journalist, 16-year-old Nathalie Baudin is thrilled to be writing a column for Le Petite Journal.  Even if the editor, an old family friend, hired her only as a favor to her unemployed mother and away-at-sea father.  Even if she has to dress as a boy to do her reporting.  Even if the job means spending her days studying corpses at Paris' public morgue.  Despite her unladylike interest in the macabre, she's as horrified as everyone else when a serial killer begins preying on the city's young women.  She's even more aghast when, while viewing the victims' bodies at the morgue, she begins having nauseating visions of them being brutalized.  Most confusing of all, the scenes are from the perspective of the killer.  Why is she having these strange visions?  What could they possibly mean?  

Soon Nathalie realizes that her gruesome waking dreams are a weird gift that could help the police find the killer who has been dubbed "The Dark Artist."  But that means opening herself to more violent visions, which leave her frightened and disgusted.  Is it worth her sanity to encourage the blood-soaked visions?  As Nathalie searches for answers, she stumbles across shocking secrets about her family and herself.  Her sleuthing soon attracts the attention of the murderer.  With a killer on her own tail, she must find answers—and fast—before she becomes the next corpse lying on a slab for all of Paris to view. 

Spectacle, a debut novel by Jodie Lynn Zdrok, has an intriguing premise and a creepy, atmospheric Jack the Ripper feel.  While neither of these elements is all that original, the combination presents a compelling jumping-off point.  Unfortunately, the story Zdrok spins from it is slow, with a lot of meandering around before it gets anywhere.  The tale gets repetitious and dull, making its 368 pages feel like double that.  Add in a lot of bloody, gory scenes, some of which made me feel physically ill, and Spectacle became a tough tale to get through.  I did become invested enough in the story to finish it, but in the end, I just didn't find the book all that enjoyable or satisfying.  Needless to say, I won't be bothering with the sequel, Sensational, which comes out in February.

I should mention that I listened to Spectacle as an audiobook—my first one ever.  The narrator, Laurie Catherine Winkel, is okay.  Her narration is a little stiff, with her French sounding more natural than her English.  My daughter says she sounds like the Google Translate voice.  I don't know if listening to Spectacle as opposed to reading it altered my experience with the book or not.  I think I would have felt the same way, no matter what, but I'm still a noob when it comes to audiobooks, so who knows?

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting [The Body Finder; Desires of the Dead; The Last Echo; and Dead Silence] as well as various books about Jack the Ripper)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language; violence; disturbing subject matter; and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received a free finished audio copy of Spectacle as part of a promotion offered by Audible.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Borrow, Not Buy Top Ten Tuesday List


It's Tuesday, so that can only mean one thing: it's time for my favorite bookish meme.  Since I already did a version of this week's topic (Top Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf) not long ago, I'm going to change it up a little and talk instead about the My Top Ten Most Recent Library Acquisitions.  I've always utilized my local libraries (both city and county), but after spending a pretty penny on new books in 2019, I'm going to try to borrow more and buy less in 2020. We'll see how that goes ...

First, won't you join the TTT fun?  It's easy and enjoyable, I promise!  All you have to do is head on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few quick instructions, make your own list, and then spend some happy hours surfing through the book blogosphere.  It's a great way to find reading recommendations, discover new blogs, and spread the love throughout our wonderful blogging community.

Alright, here we go with My Top Ten Most Recent Library Acquisitions:


1.  The Wake of the Lorelei Lee by L.A. Meyer (audiobook)—Ever since I found that I don't actually hate audiobooks, I've tried to have one on deck at all times.  I borrowed this one, the eighth installment in one of my favorite YA series, because of a recommendation from an anonymous blog commenter.  I always enjoy the Bloody Jack books and this one is no exception.  I'm especially taken with the narrator, the late Katherine Kellgren, who does an excellent job giving voice to the irrepressible Jacky Faber.  The books are hefty, so the audiobook is over eleven hours long.  Still, it's a fun one.


2.  A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths—I'm behind on the Ruth Galloway mystery series, but it's another one I've enjoyed immensely.  This installment, the fourth, concerns the murder of a museum curator, then the museum's owner.  Naturally, Ruth and D.I. Nelson are called in to investigate.  I can't wait to catch up with Ruth and Co.


3.  Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu—I've heard good things about this mystery series starring a feisty Singaporean widow who runs a restaurant and solves mysteries in her spare time.  The opening installment involves a murder and the disappearance of one of Aunty Lee's guests, two puzzling events that must be related.


4.  What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr—In this standalone from Barr, a woman in her 60's wakes up in the Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home.  Although she can't remember how she got there, Rose is convinced she's still in her right mind.  When another shocking event occurs, she becomes sure of it—someone is trying to eliminate her.  But why?


5.  Second Sight by Aoife Clifford—I always like a good going-home-to-confront-secrets-of-the-past type books, so this one sounds appealing.  It's about a lawyer who returns to her Australian hometown after a devastating wildfire, only to witness an old friend commit a crime that propels her on a journey to uncover the secrets others would like to remain buried forever.


6.  Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson—I enjoyed Johnson's newest MG novel, Dog Driven, so I wanted to try another one by her.  Ice Dogs is a survival story about a girl who gets lost in the Alaskan wilderness during a dogsled race.  Sounds exciting!


7.  The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan—I've only read a couple of Colgan's novels, but I loved them both, so I want to read more from her.  The Café by the Sea is the first book in her Mure series.  It stars Flora, who returns to her hometown to lick her wounds, only to find herself caught up in the dramas of island and family life.  Fun!


8.  Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner—Graphic novels aren't really my thing, but this one jumped out at me while my 11-year-old daughter was perusing the shelves for Pokémon books.  The story centers on a half-white, half-Japanese boy who is sent to a California internment camp during World War II.  Should be a quick, interesting read.


9.  A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson—This is another book I noticed while browsing the children's section with my daughter.  Set in 1955, the story is about a 13-year-old girl who's frightened of growing racial tension in her Mississippi town.  Trying to decide if she should leave the state altogether or attempt to stay and push for change, she learns some valuable lessons about racism, community, and taking action.


10.  The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers—I've never read anything by Meyers, but the title of this 2013 novel caught my attention.  It's about a woman whose extramarital affair leaves her pregnant and alone.  Five years after she places the child for adoption, her lover's wife finds out what happened.  Told from the perspectives of three women caught in the drama, it's a novel about the consequences of infidelity, the journey toward forgiveness, and the power of family, even in the most unlikely of situations.

There you go, ten books I recently grabbed off the library shelves.  Have you read any of them?  What have you checked out lately from the library or acquired from a bookstore?  I'd love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Cute YA Rom-Com Upbeat and Fun

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

From its peppy back cover plot summary to its charming cover to its totally apt title, you can tell that Tweet Cute, a debut novel by Emma Lord, is, well, cute.  It really is an adorable romance starring two likable characters who find themselves thrown together in a funny (if a little implausible) situation that gets increasingly impossible and confusing.  While there's some family drama thrown in for both Pepper and Jack to deal with, it's just enough to add substance to the story without throwing off its light, upbeat vibe.  Overall, Tweet Cute is an engrossing, entertaining rom-com that's just fun to read.  I enjoyed it.

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

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (two F-bombs, plus milder expletives), innuendo, and depictions of/references to underage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Tweet Cute from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press (an imprint of Macmillan) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Authentic and Compelling, Oakley's Latest an Enjoyable Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For years, Mia Graydon has had recurring dreams starring the same dark-haired man.  A man who is not her husband.  She hasn't thought a lot of it as her life has taken its own dream-like path toward fulfillment.  With a strong marriage to a handsome doctor, a spacious house (picket fence and all) in a quaint new town, a private studio which will allow for hours of peaceful painting, and a baby on the way after two miscarriages, Mia is experiencing the joy of hope and possibility unfurling before her.  It feels as if anything could happen in her happy, privileged life. 

Then, the unexpected occurs—Mia sees the man from her dreams.  To her absolute astonishment, Oliver is a real, flesh-and-blood person.  A nice one to boot and one with whom she feels instantly comfortable.  Even more amazing, he has been dreaming of her too.  As the two puzzle out the meaning (or lack thereof) behind their odd connection, Mia's orderly life starts to veer off the rails.  With things falling apart in her real life, her dreams of Oliver start to seem more and more appealing.  When it comes to a choice between salvaging her reality and chasing what could be, what will Mia ultimately decide to do?

You Were There Too, a new novel by Colleen Oakley, explores the intriguing question of what if?  It uses a unique premise to ruminate on common themes like marriage, infertility, grief, guilt, and familiarity vs. newness in romantic relationships.  The characters come off as authentic (flawed, but relatable), the prose is engaging, and the story compelling.  You Were There Too kept me guessing right up until the unexpected plot twist at the end which seems to come out of nowhere, but is actually inevitable and, when you think about it, not entirely surprising.  Overall, then, I found You Were There Too to be an engrossing, funny, poignant novel about love, loss, and the strange "coincidences" of life that maybe aren't so coincidental after all.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of novels by Joshilyn Jackson and Katherine Center)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), mild sexual content, and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of You Were There Too from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My Top ONE Tuesday Discovery


It's Tuesday!  You know what that means—it's time for my favorite weekly meme.  Top Ten Tuesday is always a good time.  You should really join in the fun.  All you have to do is click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few instructions, create your own list, and hop around the book blogosphere to visit other people's lists.  It truly is a great way to find new book blogs to read, add intriguing titles to your TBR mountain chains, and just spread the love throughout this wonderful online community of ours.

The topic du jour is Top Ten Bookish Discoveries I Made in 2019.  I did find some new authors and blogs last year, but I feel like I've already talked about them.  So, I'm going to talk about a bookish discovery I've made this year.  Since there's only one, this won't be a list, but more of a discussion.  I really do value your advice and recommendations, so please leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but my big discovery of 2020 is ... wait for it ... audiobooks.  I'm sure I'm the last person on Earth to jump on this particular bandwagon.  However, in reading lots of 2019 wrap-up posts, I realized something—bloggers that read a heck ton of books last year often attributed their astounding numbers to, you guessed it, audiobooks.  So, I decided to give them a try.  Audible had a New Year's sale that offered a free trial membership, some free books, and an easy reading (listening) challenge that will net me a $20 Amazon gift card to boot.  Serendipity!  I signed up.
For my first audiobook, I decided on a book I've been eyeing for awhile—Spectacle by Jodi Lynn Zdrok.  It's a YA novel about a 16-year-old Parisian girl who visits the city's public morgue, which prompts her to have strange visions about a string of grisly murders.  It sounded interesting, so I downloaded the book and started listening.  The narrator, Laurie Catherine Winkel, seemed a little stiff, her French words sounding more natural than her English ones, but she sounded even weirder at higher speeds, so I listened to the story at normal speed.  I kept the audio running while I ran errands in the car, scrubbed my kitchen, folded laundry, worked on the computer, etc. and was surprised at how well I could multi-task.  In the past when I've tried to listen to books I've either fallen asleep or gotten so distracted by other things that I missed half of what the narrator was saying.  The only problem with Spectacle was the tale seemed to go on and on and on and on.  When I downloaded the book, I hadn't paid any attention to its length.  I actually gasped when I finally realized it was ELEVEN HOURS long.  Needless to say, it was an interesting first-time listening experience.

Now, I'm listening to a MG novel called The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier.  The Audie Award-winning narrator, Bahni Turpin, is much more animated than the last one and the book is much shorter.  I'm enjoying it.

All in all, my audiobook experiment is going well so far.  I'm curious, though, as to how the rest of you use this resource.  Do you listen to audiobooks?  Why or why not?  How often do you "read" them?  Which books have been your favorite to listen to?  Who are the best narrators?  Any other tips for me from you audiobook lovers?  I'd love any advice on how to use audiobooks most effectively and enjoyably.

Happy TTT!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Debut Proves Rader-Day Improves With Time

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been 10 months since a student shot Dr. Amelia Emmett in the pelvis.  Although she's still walking with a cane, popping pain pills, and suffering from panic attacks, the professor is determined to get back in the classroom at Rothbert University.  Despite her colleagues' misgivings and the whispers that trail after her wherever she goes, Amelia aims to prove she's ready and able to reclaim her life.  No one needs to know that she's shaking in her high heels.  Just like no one needs to know how obsessed she is with the question why.  Why did the shooter—a kid Amelia had never met, never taught, never spoken to—choose her as his victim?  Why had he deliberately waited outside her office door with a gun?  Why had he tried to kill her before taking his own life?  None of it makes an ounce of sense.

Nathan Barber, a grad student in sociology, has come to Rothbert for one reason—to research Dr. Emmett.  Intending to do his dissertation on the shooting, he offers to be Amelia's teaching assistant in an effort to get closer to her.  When Amelia wises up to his plan, she can't keep herself from encouraging Nath to do some sleuthing around campus.  She wants to know why she was shot even more than he does.  But the clues Nath uncovers only create more questions and when the truth finally comes to light, it will be even more shocking than either Amelia or Nath ever imagined.

I've enjoyed a couple of Lori Rader-Day's newer novels, so I was interested to see how her debut, The Black Hour, compared.  I liked it least of the ones I've read because although it boasts a compelling premise, the story plods along slowly, with the action only picking up at the end.  A few times, I almost put the book down.  In addition to a sluggish plot, the main characters are pretty blah.  Amelia's sympathetic, but not very likable.  Nath's just boring (admittedly so).  The book's vibe doesn't help—it's dark and depressing.  Considering all this, why did I keep reading?  Well, it's the same question that haunted Amelia and Nath—why?—that kept me turning pages.  In the end, though, I didn't find The Black Hour all that satisfying.  I finished it, but I definitely didn't love it.  The good news is I know for certain that Rader-Day's novels improve with time!

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

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Black Hour from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Debut Medical Mystery by Wife/Husband Duo Engrossing, But Otherwise Nothing Special

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In need of a start-over, forensic pathologist Jessie Teska moves from L.A. to San Francisco.  The 31-year-old is not thrilled with the foggy city, her cramped converted cable car apartment, or the aging equipment in the dingy building where she's employed as an assistant medical examiner.  She needs to make it all work, though, even if she's feeling increasingly overworked and underpaid. 

When the body of a young Filipino nursing student, dead of an apparent heroin overdose, lands on Jessie's table, she's taken aback.  Especially when she notices several inconsistencies between the detectives' version of what happened to her and the story her corpse is telling.  Although she's told repeatedly to let it go, Jessie can't.  Something about the death doesn't compute.  With more and more bodies piling up on her table, she's convinced—there's more to these overdose deaths than meets the eye.  No one else seems to care, but Jessie won't rest until she figures out what's really going on.  Even if it means putting herself in the crosshairs of a killer's weapon.

First Cut is the debut novel of wife/husband team Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell and the first installment in a new mystery series.  A Harvard-educated forensic pathologist with many years of experience, Dr. Melinek clearly knows her stuff.  First Cut is filled with interesting, though graphic and gory, depictions of medical examiner life.  Storywise, the novel isn't anything mystery/thriller lovers haven't seen before.  The tale is predictable, the killer not all that surprising.  There's enough action to keep readers turning pages, though.  Jessie is a complex, admirable heroine, although she's impulsive and has questionable people-judging skills.  Overall, First Cut is an engrossing book, but one I didn't end up loving.  I doubt I'll continue with the series. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs)

Grade:



If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of First Cut from the generous folks at HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 Is Looking Promising Already


My kids are back in school, so the holidays must be officially over.  Never mind the fact that my Christmas decorations aren't completely packed away or that my family is still nibbling on holiday treats.  I'm ready for the new year, darn it!  2020's not going to get away from me like 2019 did.  I hope.  

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is Top Ten Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020.  I already did a Winter TBR list that featured a lot of 2020 releases, so check that one out.  Never fear, though, I have more, which you will find listed below in order of release date.  Before you scroll down, though, take a minute to join in the TTT fun.  It's super easy—just click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, scan a few quick instructions, write up your own list, then hop around the book blogosphere checking out other people's posts.  I promise it will be a good time!

Okay, here we go with Top Ten (Okay, Eleven) Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 (not including those from my Winter TBR list):



1.  The Girls With No Names by Serena Burdick (available January 7)—An ARC of this novel is winging its way to me as we speak.  I can't wait!  This historical concerns two sisters who live near a home for wayward girls.  When the girls unearth a shocking secret about their father, everything changes.  Then, one of the sisters disappears.  Assuming their father has incarcerated his missing daughter at the nearby home, the other hatches a daring rescue plan.   


2.  The Hollows by Jess Montgomery (available January 14)—I loved The Widows, a historical novel about a woman who takes over as sheriff after her husband's death in 1920s Ohio.  The second book in the series, this one concerns an elderly woman who is killed by a train while walking through an underground railroad tunnel.  Who was the woman?  And what was she doing on the train tracks?  It's up to the sheriff to find out. 


3.  Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (available January 14)—This dual-timeline novel is the story of an innocent convict who is released from prison early in return for restoring an old mural.  A lot of my favorite tropes are rolled up in this one, so I'm expecting to enjoy it.


4.  Remembrance by Rita Woods (available January 21)—This triple-timeline historical novel about slavery looks intriguing. 


5.  Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar (available January 24)—Teenager Grace is so ill that her mother, Meg, who is beloved and admired in her town, does little else but care for her.  When Meg is found brutally murdered, with Grace nowhere to be found, the confusing mystery befuddles the town.  What in the world happened to the mother and daughter?  Sounds good, no?  


6.  Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald (available February 4)—After being struck by lightning, a woman wakes up in the hospital only to find out her mother has been murdered.  The police are suspicious of her convenient amnesia.  Desperate to prove her innocence, she sets out to find the truth.


7.  The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte (available March 3)—In this YA novel, a teen raises her sister from the dead for one day as a desperate measure to get answers about their parents' deaths.  Without enough clues as to what really happened, the girls team up to find the truth while being pursued by ill-intentioned foes.  Sounds fun!


8.  The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O'Shaughnessy (available March 3)—I just requested an e-ARC of this MG novel from NetGalley.  It's about a girl who discovers her estranged father will be judging a singing competition in Nashville.  She signs up to compete, but exactly how is she going to secretly get herself to Tennessee?  Adventure ensues ...  


9.  The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (available March 5)—I've enjoyed the first two books in McTiernan's Cormac Reilly series and I've been anxiously awaiting this third installment.  Looks like it's told from the perspective of both Reilly and another detective.  Interesting.


10.  Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia (available April 7)—I'm a big fan of Mejia's thrillers, so I'm excited for her newest which centers around a forensic accountant hired to track down millions of dollars of missing prize money.


11.  Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (available April 28)—I love me a good pioneer story and this one sounds excellent.  It's about a young widow crossing the Overland Trail who faces hardships along the way.  An unexpected romance with a man who is half-Pawnee adds challenges to her already full plate.  
    
There you have it, eleven new releases I'm looking forward to.  What do you think of my picks?  Are you excited for any of these as well?  What other titles should I be keeping on my radar?  I'd truly love to know what you think.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Friday, January 03, 2020

While It's Nothing to Really Sing About, Christmas Bells is a Heartwarming Holiday Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music.  I like a jolly "Frosty the Snowman" or "Up on the Housetop" as much as the next person, but it's the tender, inspiring hymns about the Savior's birth and His influence on the world that really touch my soul.  "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is one such hymn.  Since Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is my favorite poet (he's also the only one whose poems I can actually make sense of), I knew a little bit about the story behind his famous Yuletide poem, but when I heard that Jennifer Chiaverini had written a whole novel about it, I knew I wanted to read it.  Naturally, I intended to enjoy the book before Christmas, but that didn't happen so I made Christmas Bells my first priority in the new year.

The novel actually tells two stories concurrently—one (Longfellow's) which takes place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1860-1864, the other which is set in present-day Boston.  The former is based on the true events which led to Longfellow's creation of the Christmas Bells poem, while the latter is a completely fictional tale that concerns several members of a church congregation who come together because of a Christmas concert performed by its children's choir.  The characters highlighted in both tales are in need of some holiday cheer, comfort, or courage.  All could use the kind of miracles that seem to happen only at Christmastime.  Will they get them?

I was most excited to read about Longfellow, so I was a little disappointed to find that his sections of the book got a little long and a little dull.  They included some interesting information, but Longfellow's chapters felt more like a history textbook than a novel.  The modern story was compelling enough to keep me reading, but it didn't turn out to be anything really mind-blowing either.  While Christmas Bells isn't as dazzling as I wanted it to be, it does make for heartwarming holiday reading.  I liked it, I just didn't love it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for war-related violence and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Christmas Bells from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Katherine Center Does It Again With Another Warm, Engaging Romance

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

You probably thought you were done with BBB book reviews until 2020.  No such luck!  I stayed up way too late last night/this morning to finish How to Walk Away by Katherine Center.  Her newest, Things You Save in a Fire, was one of my favorite reads of 2019, so now I'm reading her backlist.  Isn't it great when you find a new author to love and they've got a bunch of already-written books for you to explore?  

How to Walk Away concerns Margaret Jacobsen, a 28-year-old Texan on the cusp of making all her dreams come true.  With the ink still drying on her shiny new MBA, she's poised to land a dream job.  She's purchased a new condo and is waiting patiently for the marriage proposal she knows is coming from her boyfriend, Chip.  Then, irony of ironies, the woman who hates to fly is involved in a small plane crash that leaves her with third-degree burns on her upper body and paralysis below the knees.  Devastated, but determined, she plans to make a quick recovery, then resume the life-of-dreams she knows is still possible.

As Margaret struggles with treatments, especially physical therapy under the merciless hand of Ian Moffat, she's plagued by feelings of doubt, depression, and grief.  While everything in her perfect Before life slowly falls apart, leaving only her bleak Now, Margaret can't even think about how things might look After.  Soon, the only bright spots in her day are visits from her long-estranged sister and her Scottish PT who never cracks a smile.  As the weeks wear on, Margaret starts to understand that she may never walk again.  Also that her crush on Ian remains quite unrequited.  With nothing else to look forward to in life, what is Margaret going to do?  Is hope another Before thing that has deserted Margaret?  Will she find something to live for or will she keep her date with her suicide calendar?

Despite its grim subject matter, How to Walk Away is actually a warm, humorous, upbeat book.  Margaret's voice is engaging, even while she deals with the terror of her new normal.  She's self-deprecating and funny, but also brave, loyal, and resolute.  It's impossible not to root for her.  The love story at the center of the novel is sweet.  With its themes of appreciating what you can do, serving others as a way to steer your focus away from yourself, and looking to the future—however bleak it might seem—with hope and courage, How to Walk Away is an empowering novel that's entertaining, fun, and moving.  I loved it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

2019: A Year of Reading, By the Numbers


Total Books Read:  168 (19 more than last year; 18 fewer than my highest of 186 in 2011; 53 more than my lowest of 115 in 2008)

Number of fiction books read:  162 (96%) 
Number of non-fiction books read:  6 (4%)
Number of adult books read:  129 (77%)
Number of young adult books read:  28 (17%)
Number of middle grade/chapter books read:  11 (7%)
Number of books by female authors:  143 (85%) 
Number of books by male authors:  21 (13%)
Number of books by multiple authors, female and male:  4 (2%)
Number of books by Latter-day Saint authors:  13 (8%)
Number of books read, personal collection:  44 (26%)
Number of books read, review copies:  77 (46%)
Number of books read, borrowed from the library:  47 (28%)
Number of reading challenges joined:  5
Number of reading challenges completed:  1 (although I got closer than I ever have on reading a book from every state + Washington, D.C.)

Speaking of tracking where the books I read are set, here are the Top 3 states and the Top 3 countries I "visited" most this year:

1.  Washington and Florida - tie (8), last year was New York (9)
2.  New York and Ohio - tie (7), last year was California (7)
3.  California and Texas - tie (6), last year was Massachusetts (5) -- Exciting update!  I finished a Texas book early this morning, so Texas beats out California to make a triple-way tie between it, New York, and Ohio, leaving California by itself in 3rd place.

1.  The United States (110 + some that were in U.S. but didn't specify a state)
2.  England (17)
3.  Canada (7)

How did your reading year turn out?

Just for my records, these are the books I read in 2019:

168. HOW TO WALK AWAY BY KATHERINE CENTER (DEC)
167. THE DEAD GIRL IN 2A BY CARTER WILSON (DEC)
166. FRANKLY IN LOVE BY DAVID YOON* (DEC)
165. ON THE COME UP BY ANGIE THOMAS (DEC)
164. HEROINE BY MINDY MCGINNIS (DEC)
163. DOG DRIVEN BY TERRY LYNN JOHNSON (DEC)
162. I'M NOT DYING FOR YOU TONIGHT BY KIMBERLY JONES AND GILLY SEGAL* (DEC)
161. SLAY BY BRITTNEY MORRIS (DEC)
160. WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH BY ELIZABETH ACEVEDO* (DEC)
159. PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING BY RANDY RIBAY (DEC)
158. EVEN IF I FALL BY ABIGAIL JOHNSON (DEC)
157. THE WILD LANDS BY PAUL GRECI (DEC)
156. DON'T DATE ROSA SANTOS BY NINA MORENA (DEC)
155. LET'S GO SWIMMING ON DOOMSDAY BY NATALIE C. ANDERSON* (DEC)
154. ISLAND BY PATRICK DOWNES (DEC)
153. THE STARLIGHT CLAIM BY TIM WYNN-JONES (DEC)
152. ONLY A BREATH APART BY KATIE MCGARRY (NOV)
151. THE LAST AFFAIR BY MARGOT HUNT (NOV)
150. DEATH AT FIRST SIGHT BY LENA GREGORY (NOV)
149. DAY ZERO BY KELLY DEVOS (NOV)
148. FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU BY MITALI PERKINS (NOV)
147. THE PAINTED CASTLE BY KRISTY CAMBRON (NOV)
146. SMOKE SCREEN BY TERRI BLACKSTOCK (NOV)
145. SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS BY JESSIE ANN FOLEY* (NOV)
144. THE BEAUTY OF THE MOMENT BY TANAZ BHATHENA (NOV)
143. MURDER LO MEIN BY VIVIEN CHIEN (NOV)
142. SCARS LIKE WINGS BY ERIN STEWART (NOV)
141. THE ODDS OF YOU AND ME BY CECILIA GALANTE (NOV)
140. A DIFFERENT KIND OF STRONG BY DANIEL L. TROTTER (NOV)
139. SOMEWHERE OUT THERE BY AMY HATVANY (NOV)
138. BEYOND A REASONABLE STOUT BY ELLIE ALEXANDER (OCT)
137. SAFE WITH ME BY AMY HATVANY (OCT)
136. THE BRIGHT UNKNOWN BY ELIZABETH BYLER YOUNTS* (OCT)
135. BEFORE THE DEVIL FELL BY NEIL OLSON (OCT)
134. THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE BY RUTA SEPETYS* (OCT)
133. THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS BY LISA JEWELL (OCT)
132. COLOR ME IN BY NATASHA DIAZ (OCT)
131. HOPE'S HIGHEST MOUNTAIN BY MISTY M. BELLER (OCT)
130. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET BY JAMIE FORD (OCT)
129. CRUEL ACTS BY JANE CASEY (OCT)
128. ONE NIGHT GONE BY TARA LASKOWSKI (OCT)
127. THE WORLD ENDS IN APRIL BY STACY MCANULTY* (OCT)
126. A PROMISE TO BREAK BY KATHRYN SPURGEON (OCT)
125. A GIRL NAMED ANNA BY LIZZY BARBER (SEP)
124. THE PATRON SAINT OF BUTTERFLIES BY CECILIA GALANTE (SEP)
123. BREAKING WILD BY DIANE LES BECQUETS (SEP)
122. INVISIBLE AS AIR BY ZOE FISHMAN (SEP)
121. THE PASSENGERS BY JOHN MARRS (SEP)
120. THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER BY KATHLEEN KENT (SEP)
119. THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE BY KATHERINE CENTER* (SEP)
118. WILDER GIRLS BY RORY POWER (SEP)
117. STRANDS OF TRUTH BY COLLEEN COBLE (SEP)
116. IRISH STEWED BY KYLIE LOGAN (SEP)
115. THE LOVELY AND THE LOST BY JENNIFER LYNN BARNES (SEP)
114. THE COLD WAY HOME BY JULIA KELLER* (AUG)
113. THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL BY STACEY LEE* (AUG)
112. THE CHOCOLATE MAKER'S WIFE BY KAREN BROOKS (AUG)
111. THE PERFECT SON BY LAUREN NORTH (AUG)
110. THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS BY JOANNA GOODMAN (AUG)
109. THE BUNGALOW BY SARAH JIO (AUG)
108. CHANGELING BY WILLIAM RITTER (AUG)
107. THE LAST RESORT BY MARISSA STAPLEY (AUG)
106. HOUSE OF ECHOES BY BRENDAN DUFFY (AUG)
105. MAGIC HOUR BY KRISTIN HANNAH (AUG)
104. NO OCEAN TOO WIDE BY CARRIE TURANSKY (JUL)
103. WHEREVER SHE GOES BY KELLEY ARMSTRONG (JUL)
102. BURIED LEADS BY LYNDEE WALKER (JUL)
101. OPEN HOUSE BY ELIZABETH BERG (JUL)
100. STORM BLOWN BY NICK COURAGE (JUL)
99. THE RECKONING BY JOHN GRISHAM (JUL)
98. FRONT PAGE FATALITY BY LYNDEE WALKER* (JUL)
97. THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL BY ABBI WAXMAN* (JUL)
96. THE NANNY BY GILLY MACMILLAN (JUL)
95. STONE MOTHERS BY ERIN KELLY (JUL)
94. BECAUSE OF THE RABBIT BY CYNTHIA LORD (JUN)
93. THE BOOKSHOP ON THE SHORE BY JENNY COLGAN* (JUN)
92. HER MOTHER'S DAUGHTER BY DANIELA PETROVA (JUN)
91. THE GIRLS OF AUGUST BY ANNE RIVERS SIDDONS (JUN)
90. THE STRANGER DIARIES BY ELLY GRIFFITHS* (JUN)
89. DAISIES AND DEVOTION BY JOSI S. KILPACK (JUN)
88. NATALIE TAN'S BOOK OF LUCK & FORTUNE BY ROSELLE LIM (JUN)
87. AFTER THE LIGHTS GO OUT BY LILI WILKINSON (JUN)
86. THE SPIES OF SHILLING LANE BY JENNIFER RYAN* (JUN)
85. IF ONLY I COULD TELL YOU BY HANNAH BECKERMAN (JUN)
84. MY SISTER'S GRAVE BY ROBERT DUGONI (JUN)
83. A FAMILY OF STRANGERS BY EMILIE RICHARDS (JUN)
82. SUMMIT LAKE BY CHARLIE DONLEA (JUN)
81. LADY IN THE LAKE BY LAURA LIPPMAN (MAY)
80. EDUCATED BY TARA WESTOVER (MAY)
79. RIVER BODIES BY KAREN KATCHUR (MAY)
78. THE PUMPKIN WAR BY CATHLEEN YOUNG (MAY)
77. TOMORROW'S BREAD BY ANNA JEAN MAYHEW (MAY)
76. DEAR MRS. BIRD BY A.J. PEARCE* (MAY)
75. RESEARCH LIKE A PRO BY DIANA ELDER, AG (MAY)
74. MIRACLE CREEK BY ANGIE KIM (MAY)
73. I'LL NEVER TELL BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE (MAY)
72. INVISIBLE HEROES OF WORLD WAR II BY JERRY BORROWMAN (MAY)
71. MAYHEM AT THE ORIENT EXPRESS BY KYLIE LOGAN (MAY)
70. THE TURN OF THE KEY BY RUTH WARE (MAY)
69. THE LAST BY HANNA JAMESON (MAY)
68. THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR BY HESTER FOX (APR)
67. THE SCENT OF MURDER BY KYLIE LOGAN (APR)
66. THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE BY MARIAH STEWART (APR)
65. THE MISSING YEARS BY LEXIE ELLIOTT (APR)
64. DIM SUM OF ALL FEARS BY VIVIEN CHIEN (APR)
63. WHAT THE DEAD KNOW BY LAURA LIPPMAN (APR)
62. HATTIE EVER AFTER BY KIRBY LARSON (APR)
61. THE LONG WAY HOME BY LOUISE PENNY* (APR)
60. HEARTS OF THE MISSING BY CAROL POTENZA (APR)
59. IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE BY SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON (APR)
58. THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE KIMONO BY ANA JOHNS (APR)
57. LITTLE LOVELY THINGS BY MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY (APR)
56. THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN BY LISA SEE* (APR)
55. HATTIE BIG SKY BY KIRBY LARSON* [RE-READ] (APR)
54. BEYOND THE POINT BY CLAIRE GIBSON (APR)
53. WHO MOVED MY GOAT CHEESE? BY LYNN CAHOON (APR)
52. A DANGEROUS COLLABORATION BY DEANNA RAYBOURN* (APR)
51. THE SCHOLAR BY DERVLA MCTIERNAN (APR)
50. SEVEN AT SEA BY ERIK AND EMILY ORTON (MAR)
49. WOMAN 99 BY GREER MACALLISTER (MAR)
48. THE WILD INSIDE BY JAMEY BRADBURY (MAR)
47. THE MISSING PLACE BY SOPHIE LITTLEFIELD (MAR)
46. THE LAST HOUSE GUEST BY MEGAN MIRANDA (MAR)
45. THE LOST MAN BY JANE HARPER* (MAR)
44. MOLOKA'I BY ALAN BRENNERT* [RE-READ] (MAR)
43. IN ANOTHER LIFE BY C.C. HUNTER (MAR)
42. A MONSTER LIKE ME BY WENDY S. SWORE* (MAR)
41. I AM NOT ESTHER BY FLEUR BEALE (MAR)
40. THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA BY BRENDA WOODS (MAR)
39. WAITING FOR FITZ BY SPENCER HYDE (MAR)
38. THE LAST WOMAN IN THE FOREST BY DIANE LES BECQUETS (MAR)
37. WHERE THE FOREST MEETS THE STARS BY GLENDY VANDERAH (MAR)
36. WITHIN THESE LINES BY STEPHANIE MORRILL (MAR)
35. MURDER ONCE REMOVED BY S.C. PERKINS (MAR)
34. HEALING HEARTS BY SARAH M. EDEN (MAR)
33. THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC BY AMANDA RAWSON HILL (MAR)
32. THE SHERIFFS OF SAVAGE WELLS BY SARAH M. EDEN (FEB)
31. THE NIGHT VISITORS BY CAROL GOODMAN (FEB)
30. THE SISTERS HEMINGWAY BY ANNIE ENGLAND NOBLIN (FEB)
29. THE SUSPECT BY FIONA BARTON (FEB)
28. LITTLE BIG LOVE BY KATY REGAN* (FEB)
27. JUST IN TIME: THE RESCUE BEGINS IN DELAWARE BY CHERI PRAY EARL AND CAROL LYNCH WILLIAMS (FEB)
26. THE QUINTLAND SISTERS BY SHELLEY WOOD (FEB)
25. SONG FOR A WHALE BY LYNNE KELLY (FEB)
24. THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF RACHEL DUPREE BY ANN WEISGARBER (FEB)
23. DEATH BY DUMPLING BY VIVIEN CHIEN (FEB)
22. THE MILITARY WIFE BY LAURA TRENTHAM (FEB)
21. HOME FOR ERRING AND OUTCAST GIRLS BY JULIE KIBLER (FEB)
20. THE ORPHAN OF SALT WINDS BY ELIZABETH BROOKS (JAN)
19. THE GLOVEMAKER BY ANN WEISBARGER (JAN)
18. NEVER HAVE I EVER BY JOSHILYN JACKSON (JAN)
17. THE EULOGIST BY TERRY GAMBLE (JAN)
16. INHERITANCE BY DANI SHAPIRO (JAN)
15. MURDER MADE TO ORDER BY LENA GREGORY (JAN)
14. SISTERS OF SHILOH BY KATHY AND BECKY HEPINSTALL (JAN)
13. NO EXIT BY TAYLOR ADAMS (JAN)
12. UNTIL THE DAY I DIE BY EMILY CARPENTER (JAN)
11. SCONE COLD KILLER BY LENA GREGORY (JAN)
10. THE LIAR'S ROOM BY SIMON LELIC (JAN)
9. IN DOG WE TRUST BY BETH KENDRICK (JAN)
8. THE WIDOWS BY JESS MONTGOMERY* (JAN)
7. BETWEEN, GEORGIA BY JOSHILYN JACKSON (JAN)
6. ON THE SAME PAGE BY N.D. GALLAND (JAN)
5. THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR BY SUSAN MEISSNER (JAN)
4. THE AU PAIR BY EMMA ROUS (JAN)
3. TO BE HONEST BY MAGGIE ANN MARTIN (JAN)
2. SOMETHING IN THE WATER BY CATHERINE STEADMAN (JAN)
1. THE GOWN BY JENNIFER ROBSON (JAN)
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