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2021 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska (1)
- Arizona (4)
- Arkansas (1)
- California (11)
- Colorado (2)
- Connecticut (2)
- Delaware (1)
- Florida (2)
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii (2)
- Idaho (1)
- Illinois (7)
- Indiana (1)
- Iowa (1)
- Kansas (1)
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland (2)
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan (1)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi (1)
- Missouri (1)
- Montana (3)
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (3)
- New Hampshire (1)
- New Jersey (1)
- New Mexico
- New York (11)
- North Carolina (2)
- North Dakota (1)
- Ohio (7)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (4)
- Pennsylvania (5)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota (1)
- Tennessee (3)
- Texas (6)
- Utah (2)
- Vermont (3)
- Virginia (3)
- Washington (6)
- West Virginia (1)
- Wisconsin (2)
- Wyoming (2)
- *Washington, D.C. (1)

Australia (3)
Canada (8)
China (2)
England (17)
France (2)
Ireland (2)
Italy (1)
Japan (1)
Norway (1)
Scotland (1)
Spain (1)
Switzerland (1)
The Philippines (1)
Wales (1)

My Progress:

51 / 51 states. 100% done!

2021 Fall Into Reading Challenge

My Progress:

21 / 24 books. 88% done!

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
(Hosted by Yours Truly!)

My Progress:

20 / 25 books. 80% done!

2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

Booklist Queen's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

41 / 52 books. 79% done!

2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

The 52 Club's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

47 / 52 books. 90% done!
Friday, December 03, 2021

World War II Homefront Mystery a Compelling, Thought-Provoking Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Gordon Hooper meets Dorie Armitage—the sister of his college buddy, Jack—he's instantly smitten. She's got a zest for life that is hugely appealing to his more sedate self. Before their romance makes it farther than a few flirty letters, Pearl Harbor is bombed, pulling the U.S. into war. As a Quaker, Gordon refuses to fight. Dorie is outraged at his cowardice and even more enraged that Gordon has convinced Jack to be a conscientious objector as well. She refuses to speak to either one of them ever again.

Three years later, Gordon and Jack have been assigned by the Civil Public Service (CPS) to work as smokejumpers in an Oregon forest. Although not everyone is happy about their presence, mostly the pacifists are left alone to do their jobs. As a member of the Women's Army Corps (WAC), Dorie also faces her share of prejudice. Still, she loves doing her part for the war effort by working as a mechanic at Fort Lawton, volunteering at a nearby hospital, and being a charming date for lonely, homesick soldiers-in-training. 

When Jack is badly burned in a suspicious wildfire, Gordon is devastated. And angry. He knows there's more to the story than his superiors are letting on. When he shares the awful news in a letter to Dorie, he never expects her to reply let alone show up at his strike camp on a phony Army assignment. Together, the two form a tense, secret partnership to find out what really happened to Jack. What they uncover shocks them both. With the fate of the nation hanging in the balance, they must examine the deepest parts of their hearts and souls as they decide what to do with a very dangerous secret.

I've been seeing nothing but rave reviews for The Lines Between Us by Amy Lynn Green, so I was thrilled when Bethany House sent me a copy of the book for review. I've read a lot of World War II novels, but only a few that take place entirely within the U.S. The Lines Between Us offers up a new perspective on what it was like for American soldiers who were given non-combatant assignments, whether by choice or not. Through Gordon, Jack, and Dorie, Green examines the roles and ideals of conscientious objectors versus those of a gung-ho soldier who's proud to fight for her country, even though her gender prevents her from serving on the front lines. This contrast provides plenty of tension and conflict to keep the story interesting, while also giving the reader some intriguing food for thought. Beyond that, The Lines Between Us is also a compelling mystery that brings to light a piece of WWII history I knew nothing about. The novel's characters are a likable bunch, whose flaws make them relatable, while allowing all to grow throughout the tale. Surprisingly, given that the book starts with a budding romance, the love stories here are subtle and not a major part of the tale. This is a Christian novel, so faith plays a central role. Still, the book never gets overly preachy or cheesy. In fact, characters are shown wrestling with the tenants of their various religions, struggling to understand what is right when their convictions are being challenged on every side. This questioning makes the characters both believable and relatable, while also prompting readers to ask themselves what they would do in a similar situation. For all these reasons and more, I very much enjoyed The Lines Between Us. I'm going to recommend it to my book club because it's a clean, interesting, well-written novel that is brimming with discussion-worthy material. You better believe I'm also going to be checking out the author's previous book as well as everything she writes in future.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I received a print copy of The Lines Between Us from the generous folks at Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Historical Grand Canyon Romance a Nicely-Balanced, Faith-Promoting Story

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As her father's unofficial apprentice since childhood, 26-year-old Meg Pero has become an excellent photographer in her own right. Although females in the profession are basically unheard of in 1871, Meg sees no reason why she shouldn't be given a chance. All she has to do is convince the Army officials who hired her late father to help them survey the Grand Canyon that she is more than capable of working in his stead. Easier said than done. 

Captain Benjamin Coleridge is an engineer tasked with finding a way to cross the impenetrable Grand Canyon. He's got his own reasons for heading up the risky expedition, aims he plans to divulge to no one. His job gets infinitely more complicated when the indomitable Miss Pero shows up, insisting on tagging along. She broke his heart five years ago; he's not about to let her back in. He doesn't need the aggravation or the distraction. 

Despite Meg and Ben's awkward history, the two are soon trekking together into the wilds of Arizona Territory. They, along with the others in their small party, must endure treacherous terrain, dangerous wildlife, perilous storms, dissension in the ranks, and more as they seek to complete the impossible task they're assigned to do. Meg's willing to risk her life for the thrill of capturing pictures of never-seen-before views, but what about her heart? Giving Ben a second chance just might be the biggest gamble she's ever taken. What will happen when the expedition ends? Will he walk away again, taking her battered heart along with him? Or will the adventurers finally get their happily ever after?

When Lark raved on her blog about A Distance Too Grand—the first installment in Regina Scott's American Wonders series—I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I'm always up for a historical novel with an interesting setting, an intriguing premise, and eye-catching jacket art. Although I'm not always big on Christian novels, the other factors mentioned, plus Lark's recommendation, convinced me to give this one a go. I'm glad I did. I've been to the Grand Canyon many times (the north rim is only about a five-hour drive from my house), so I have no problem picturing it in my head, but Scott's descriptions of its breadth and beauty really did bring it to vivid life. Meg and Ben aren't captured quite as well as neither of them are particularly original or memorable characters. They are likable, though, and I definitely wanted them to get their long-awaited HEA. While A Distance Too Grand is categorized as a romance, I found it had a nice blend of action/adventure, mystery, and history to balance out the love story. As far as the Christian element goes, this one seemed more faith-promoting than preachy to me. Personally, I love that it's a clean, uplifting book that I can recommend to anyone without reservation. Sure, it's predictable and cheesy at times, but overall? I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I've already read the second book and am looking forward to the third, which came out in October.

(Readalikes: Nothing Short of Wondrous and A View Most Glorious by Regina Scott; also reminds me a bit of Misty M. Beller's books)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of A Distance Too Grand with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Ready for a Reading Challenge? Ready for a Reading Challenge!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Ours was busy but also relaxed. It was nice to have all four of my kids together for a few days. Now that it's over, we're in full Christmas mode. We have lights on the outside of the house, all of our decorations are out of the garage waiting to be put up, I've ordered my Christmas cards, I'm attending my book club's yearly lunch/book exchange this afternoon, and we'll be doing our annual decorating of a neighborhood tree tonight. Our usual tree was cut down in the middle of the night a couple years ago—the vandal disappeared with not only the tree but also all of our decorations! Good thing they were mostly bought at Goodwill. Hopefully, the thieving Grinch doesn't appear this year so everyone can enjoy the festive tree as they're driving past. 

Today's TTT prompt—Top Ten Bookish Memories—is a great one. Unfortunately, although I've been a reader all my life, I can't think of any really interesting memories to share. So, I'm going to go rogue once again and talk about something else today. 

Most of you know I love reading challenges. Historically, I've been awesome about signing up for a bunch of them and awful about actually completing them! I happen to be rocking my challenges this year, so I'm getting excited about which I want to take on in 2022. Last year, when my favorite reading challenge blog went dark, I even decided to create my own so that there would be a central place to find the many new challenges that are posted every year. Apparently, I have been a little too enthusiastic, as I copied and pasted challenge posts into my blog. I got two cease and desist emails from two separate bloggers accusing me of plagiarism over the weekend! Oops. Since my posts were clearly marked with links to the blogs that had made the posts and it was obvious I was not hosting all of the challenges, I figured it was all good. Wrong! If I "plagiarized" your challenge post, I am so sorry. I didn't intend to do anything offensive and certainly not anything illegal. The posts from this year have all been rewritten in my own word (I'm leaving the posts from last year as is since I got no complaints on them, the year is almost over, and it would be a big pain to do so). So, if you're interested in reading challenges for 2022, take a look at Ready for a Reading Challenge. I'll be updating it constantly as I come across more challenges, so keep checking back. If you're hosting a reading challenge in 2022, let me know. I'd love to advertise it for you (in my own words, with clear links to your post, of course). I haven't entirely decided which challenges I will be doing in the new year, but I've listed ten I'm either planning on or considering. 

Before we get to that, though, I encourage you to join in the TTT fun. It's a good time, I promise! All you have to do is click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, scan a few quick instructions, make your own list, and spend some happy hours visiting other fantastic blogs. What's not to love?

Top Ten Reading Challenges I'm Signing Up For And/Or Considering for 2022 

1.  2022 Literary Escapes Challenge (hosted by Lori/Dollycas @Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book)—This challenge involves reading a book set in all of the 50 U.S. states. You get points for every country as well. It's my favorite reading challenge, so I do it every year. Naturally.

2.  2022 Reading Challenge (hosted by Goodreads)—I like to set a personal reading goal at Goodreads every year as well. It's been 200 books read for the past few years and this year, for the first time, it looks like I will not just reach that goal but actually surpass it. Only 16 more to go! I'm going to go for 200 again in 2022.

3.  2022 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge (hosted by POPSUGAR)—This annual prompt-based challenge is always a fun one. I don't think I've ever actually finished it, but I'm getting close this year with only 13 prompts left. The 2022 prompt list hasn't been released yet (which is why I'm using last year's logo). I'm excited to see what will be on it.

4.  Booklist Queen's 2022 Reading Challenge (hosted by Rachael @Booklist Queen)—I love prompt-based challenges and I've been having fun with this one this year (only 11 more to go), so I've signed up to do it again next year. Also, props to Rachael—although she did send me a cease and desist email, she was extremely nice about it!

5.  2022 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge (hosted by Rick Mills @The Mystillery)—This challenge involves counting up the corpses in the mystery books you read. Sure, it's a little morbid, but it's also a lot of fun. Rick is a great challenge host and always has several running at a time. Check them all out since you can do several of them concurrently. The 2022 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge officially opens on January 1, so stay tuned. You can get a feel for what the challenge is all about by checking out this year's challenge page. Be sure to note who's in 11th place :)

6.  2022 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge (hosted by Lori/Dollycas @Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book)—I enjoy a good cozy, so I've been doing this fun challenge this year. I've only read 11 cozies so far, fewer than I thought I would, but that's okay. I'll read more in the new year with this challenge. I'm signing up for the "Peckish" level.

7.  2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (hosted by Marg @Intrepid Reader and Baker)—I love hist-fic, so this one is a no-brainer. You simply read as much in the genre as you can and post links to your review on the challenge site. Easy peasy. The 2022 challenge hasn't been officially announced yet (which is why I'm using the 2021 logo), but Marg says it will be up this week, so watch her blog for more info.

8.  The 52 Club's 2022 Reading Challenge (hosted by The 52 Club)—As its name indicates, this challenge involves a prompt for every week of the year. 52 prompts is a lot, but I've been enjoying this challenge as well (only 5 more to go). I'll probably sign up for it again in 2022. We'll see.

9.  The Nerdy Bookworm 50 Books a Year Reading Challenge 2022 (hosted by Emily @)Emily the Book Nerd)—I've probably overdone it with the prompt-based challenges already, but it seems like everyone is hosted one in 2022 and I do love them. This challenge *only* has 50 prompts, so I'm definitely considering it.

10.  2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge (hosted by Shelleyrae @Book'd Out)—I didn't read a ton of non-fiction this year, but I enjoyed all the ones I did read, so I'm interested in expanding my NF horizons in 2022. This challenge would be a good way to motivate myself.

So, there you go. I'm definitely going to do 1-7. We'll see about the rest. I'm also still looking for a fun challenge that is not prompt-based. Any recommendations? What about you? Are you a reading challenge addict? Which ones have you done this year? Which are you planning to conquer in 2022? I'd truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Saturday, November 27, 2021

YA Romantic Adventure a Fun, Exciting Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The Texas River Odyssey is a grueling, 265-mile competition that pits canoers against every kind of danger—from raging rapids to snapping alligators to paralyzing exhaustion to agonizing injuries. Sadie Scofield can't wait to tackle the race. Not only is the 17-year-old out to prove that she, like competitors from the past three generations of her family, can finish the race but she also has to redeem herself after last year's debacle. Because of her, her father's 20 year finishing streak ended. Their relationship hasn't been the same since and Sadie can't stand it. This year, she's teamed up with her older brother, Tanner. Despite some tough competition, she knows they have an excellent chance of finishing the race, maybe even winning. If she can just make her dad proud, maybe things will go back to normal between them.

When Tanner joins another team at the last minute, Sadie is shocked. And desperate. Her only option is to team up with John "Culley" Cullen, the boy she once called her best friend. She hasn't spoken to him in six years, not since a bitter family feud turned them into enemies. With no other choice, the two form a tense, awkward partnership. Out of synch from the get-go, it seems unlikely the pair will make it through the next hour, let alone through three days of forced closeness while competing in a punishing race against dozens of well-oiled teams. Can they set aside their differences long enough to finish? As the competition intensifies, tempers flare, and truths from the past are revealed. Will the tension break the uneasy duo? Or will it bring them together in ways neither of them could ever have imagined?  

Contemporary YA isn't my usual genre, but In the Same Boat—a debut novel by Holly Green—sounded like a fun change of pace, so I decided to give it a whirl. The story features competitive canoeing, something I've never read about before. It may be a little over-focused on the race at its core, but the story offers lots of interesting details about canoeing and the canoeing community, which helps bring the setting to vivid life. Although a lot of unfamiliar terms are used in the novel, which sometimes made it tough for me to picture exactly what was happening, I got the drift enough to become engaged in the story. It's got plenty of action, tension, and conflict to keep the reader burning through the pages. While I'm not a competitive person and really can't understand the kind of drive that would make anyone want to compete in an exhausting, dangerous river race, Green created convincing motivations for the main characters so I got while they were all in. Sadie and Cully are both sympathetic and determined, which made me root for them, even though I didn't really love the former. All in all, though, I enjoyed this book. It's a quick, entertaining read that teaches some good lessons about friendship, family, being enough, and working to accomplish one's goals. 

(Readalikes: I don't read much in this genre, so I'm not sure what to compare In the Same Boat to. Any ideas?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of In the Same Boat from the generous folks at Scholastic in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

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