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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (8)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (2)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

22 / 100 books. 22% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

60 / 165 books. 36% done!
Saturday, March 19, 2016

Action-Packed Survival Story Perfect for Reluctant Readers

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Davey Tsering isn't really a beach person.  Still, the 13-year-old landlubber is not going to waste his first day on a remote island in the Florida Keys sleeping in!  That might be some people's idea of fun (his parents and little brother, for instance), but Davey's got a better plan.  Packing along his favorite Tolkien fantasy, he sneaks out of the hotel room to find a secluded reading spot.  Figuring he'll be back before his family wakes up, he doesn't bother to leave a note.  Davey finds a perfect stretch of hidden beach and settles in for a quiet, leisurely morning of reading—just him and his buddy, J.R.R.

The faded No Swimming sign on his beach doesn't bother Davey as he has no intention of swimming.  He's just going to wade a bit to cool off.  What he doesn't count on is the tide coming in or the fierce undertow that yanks him off his feet.  Suddenly, he's floundering in deep water, unable to swim back to shore.  Davey prays for rescue, but as the hours drag on, his hope fades.  If no one knows where he is, how will they ever find him?  As he fights to stay afloat, alert, and away from ocean predators, the most deadly of sea creatures start to circle ...

Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrop is the kind of book that turns reluctant readers into repeat library customers.  It's a tense, action-packed story that will keep kids riveted.  This fast-paced survival story shows how ordinary people can display extraordinary courage in the face of impossible difficulties.  It also teaches some subtle lessons about responsibility, making smart choices, and respecting nature's awesome, unexpected power.  Mostly, though, Surrounded by Sharks is just an exciting, breath-stealing yarn.  Not only will kids enjoy the tale, but they might learn something from it—for instance, did you know the scent of human urine is just as enticing to a shark as blood?  I had no idea.  Recommend Surrounded by Sharks to the reluctant reader in your life; they'll be mesmerized by it, guaranteed.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of I Survived: The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis and a little of the YA novel Sharks & Boys by Kristen Tracy)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, blood/gore, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Southern Kate Morton-ish Saga Not As Satisfying As I'd Hoped

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Hope Stevens doesn't have a lot of reason to stick around Chicago.  Her marriage is done, her part-time job at a graphic design firm is going nowhere, and she's feeling bruised all over.  It's a perfect opportunity for the 31-year-old painter to get away, to recharge somewhere far from the stress of her everyday life.  In little Wedding Tree, Louisiana, Hope's beloved grandmother needs help after being hospitalized from a bad fall.  The 91-year-old can't be left alone.  Hope volunteers not just to stay by her side, but also to help the elderly woman clean out her cluttered home so she can move in with her son in California.  

Adelaide McCauley welcomes her granddaughter's help and company.  Especially since Adelaide's mother has made it clear (from beyond the grave, no less) that Adelaide will not be "crossing over" until she's spilled the shocking secret she's been guarding for most of her life.  The old woman can't just blurt it out, so she begins at the beginning, telling Hope all about her World War II romance with a man who wasn't her husband.  Adelaide dreads the story's end, terrified that the heartbreaking truth will change the warm friendship that's blossoming between herself and Hope.  

The relationship with her grandmother isn't the only one that's blooming for Hope.  She's become enmeshed in the lives of her neighbors, a handsome attorney and his two young daughters.  Although Hope is sure Matt sees her the way everyone else seems to—as a ditzy, impulsive screw-up—she's falling in love with him in spite of her best intentions not to.  Does Hope dare to pursue a romance that has no chance of lasting?  Can she learn her grandmother's secrets before it's too late?  Will the floundering Hope find herself in Wedding Tree or will she leave town as heartbroken as when she came?

When I read the plot summary for The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells, I thought, "Ooooh, sounds like a contemporary Southern version of a Kate Morton novel."  As you can probably imagine, that idea had me practically salivating.  I adore multi-generational family sagas, especially those set in the South, so I expected to love this one.  Why didn't I?  It just lacked a little something for me.  Weird considering The Wedding Tree is, overall, a happy, upbeat novel about forgiveness and renewal.  Hope and Adelaide are both interesting women, sympathetic but spunky.  Their voices give the story a funny, engaging tone that makes it enjoyable, despite sometimes difficult subject matter.  What is missing from the novel, then?  Well, subtlety.  And conflict.  And suspense.  More of all three would have made the story richer, more substantial.  The tale gets too predictable, wrapping up in a way I found anti-climactic.  As a whole, I enjoyed this light read, just not as much as I wanted to.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of a Kate Morton novel [because of its premise, not its prose] or one of Karen White's Southern family sagas)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs) and some surprisingly graphic sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Wedding Tree from the generous folks at Berkley/NAL (a division of Penguin Random House).  Thank you!
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