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My Progress:

13 / 30 books. 43% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

- Australia (2)
- Canada (2)
- England (10)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (4)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

35 / 51 states. 69% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

29 / 50 books. 58% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

50 / 52 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

29 / 40 books. 73% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

16 / 40 books. 40% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

11 / 25 books. 44% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

17 / 26.2 miles (2nd lap). 65% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

30 / 100 books. 30% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

74 / 104 books. 71% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

50 / 52 books. 96% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

84 / 165 books. 51% done!
Sunday, April 30, 2017

Thin Plot + Whiny Heroine = Ho Hum, But Hopeful YA Novel

(Image from Amazon) Riddick should have died when she was two years old.  The only reason she's still alive is because Bryon Exby saved her, sacrificing his own life in the process.  Now 16, Megan's a quiet, serious honor student who only feels truly comfortable when onstage performing school plays.  Which doesn't mean she needs more drama in her life.  But that's just what she gets when Charlotte Exby—Bryon's 14-year-old daughter—enrolls at Megan's high school.  Thanks to Megan, Charlotte never knew her father.  And she's not happy about that.

Although the girls don't exactly hit it off, the pair reluctantly decide to work together to fulfill the bucket list Bryon drafted prior to his death.  In the process, they learn some important lessons about friendship, family, and things both fragile and fierce. the plot summary for The Truth About Fragile Things by Regina Sirois seems a little thin, that's because it is.  The novel has no real driving plot, which makes the story rather episodic and unfocused.  Which isn't to say the book isn't interesting or compelling.  It is; the threads of the novel just feel as if they're very, very loosely woven together.  Megan, our heroine, isn't overly likable.  She's "fragile," which seems to mean she has to be whiny, melodramatic, and helpless.  While these things definitely bug, The Truth About Fragile Things is, overall, a hopeful novel with some thoughtful insight.  It's not a book that's really stuck with me, but it's not a bad one either.  

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Automatic Book Turn-offs

It's Tuesday, which means it's time again for my favorite weekly bookish meme, Top Ten Tuesday.  Participating is fun and easy.  If you've never done it before, hop on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read over the rules, make your own list, and voilá, you're in!

Last week, we talked about the things that entice us to pick up books.  This week, we're chatting about the opposite.  Which things make you avoid a book like the plague?  What are your reading turn-offs?  

Here are my Top Ten Things That Will Instantly Make Me Not Want to Read a Book

1.  Books that are excessively long.  I read a fair amount of chunksters, mind you, but I definitely think twice before picking them up.  Also, if a book is endless for no apparent reason, I will most likely not continue reading.

2.  Erotica.  No.  Just ... no.

3.  Half-naked people on the cover.  These books get an automatic bypass from me.  Scantily-clad folks on the cover = a sure sign a book is too "spicy" for my tastes.

4.  Naughty words in the title.  Do you have little kids?  Then you know why you don't want to read books with swear words on the cover.  "Mommy, that book has bad words!  Why are you reading a book with bad words?  What does **&&^^!! mean?"  Yeah.

5.  Self-published books.  I know, I know, but I've read too many terribly-written, poorly-edited self-published novels to want to read more.  In general, I don't read books that haven't been looked over by a traditional publisher.  Not that I haven't read terribly-written, poorly-edited traditionally-published books, but still ... 

6.  Books with poorly written/edited queries.  This one goes hand-in-hand with #5.  I get dozens of queries every day from authors/publishers/publicists asking me to review the book(s) they have on offer.  A clever, well-written/edited query goes a long way toward making me want to read a book.  The opposite is also true.  If a query contains sloppy prose, typos/grammatical errors, and flat writing, it's a pretty good indication that the book in question is going to be the same way.  No thanks.

7.  Poetry.  Unless a poem rhymes and is written by Dr. Seuss, I probably won't understand it.  Poetry makes me feel dumb, so I avoid it.

8.  Short Stories.  In spite of what I said in #1, I'm definitely the kind of reader who likes to sink into a rich, detailed novel where I can really get to know the characters and the world in which they live.  Short stories don't allow this kind of depth, so I rarely read them.

9.  Certain authors.  Just like I have auto-read authors, I have auto not-read authors.  If I've read enough of an author's books to know they're just not my cup of tea, I don't pick up their work.

10.  Deep, dense tomes.  My husband is a big fan of deep doctrinal books on religion, philosophy, science, etc.  Not me.  If I have to read a sentence (let alone a paragraph) five times in order to understand it, then it's not for me.  I much prefer clarity to complexity.  No one has ever accused me of being a deep thinker :)

So, what about you?  What will automatically make you reject a book?  Leave me a comment and I'll gladly return the favor.

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!
Monday, April 24, 2017

My Go-To Author For Light, Fluffy YA Romance Comes Through Again

(Image from Barnes & Noble an aspiring songwriter, Lily Abbott can't stop writing down potential lyrics in the notebook she carries with her everywhere.  When she zones out one too many times in class, her chemistry teacher confiscates the book, leaving Lily hopelessly bored.  Jotting down her favorite lyrics from the indie band she loves on her desk helps pass the time.  Next class period, Lily is shocked to find that someone has continued penning the song on her desk.  Soon, she and her anonymous correspondent are exchanging band recommendations, favorite songs, and increasingly flirty banter.  It's not long before they're sharing deeper, more meaningful thoughts.  Before Lily knows it, she finds herself falling—hard—for the mystery boy who makes her smile, laugh, and think.
Part of Lily is dying to know the identity of her secret pen pal; the other part is scared of ruining a fun romance with a reality check.  Who is her furtive Romeo?  Will she still like him when she knows?  Will he still like her?  How will a friendship-with-potential that works so well on paper play out in real life?  Lily is about to find out ... read a lot of dark, heavy books, so it's nice to take a break sometimes and enjoy a little fluff.  Kasie West is my go-to author for fun, light-hearted novels.  I can always count on her for quick, clean rom-coms that are cute, engaging, and humorous.  Yes, they're silly high school romances.  Yes, they're predictable.  But who cares?  They're enjoyable.  P.S. I Like You is no exception.  If you need to insert a little happy into your reading life, you really can't go wrong with a Kasie West novel.

(Readalikes: Other books by Kasie West, including The Distance Between Us; On the Fence; and The Fill-In Boyfriend)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for very mild innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of P.S. I Like You from the Whitney Awards Committee as part of my involvement with the Whitney Academy's judging panel.
Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spooky Literary Thriller an Intriguing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Nestled on four hundred acres of lush forest land in upstate New York, the Bosco estate exudes peace and stillness.  Over one hundred years ago, its mistress began inviting artists to her sprawling home, envisioning it as a retreat for creative souls.  Aurora Latham's dream lives on.  Although the Bosco estate has been neglected over the years, its gardens overgrown, its statuary crumbling, artists still clamber for an invitation to the exclusive colony.

Ellis Brooks is a short story writer working on her first novel, a fictionalized account of the tragic events that occurred in the Latham household in the summer of 1893.  After three of the Lathams' children died in a diphtheria epidemic, wealthy Milo Latham hired a famous medium to help his distraught wife try to contact the dead kids.  When a séance at the estate went horribly wrong, the medium and her accomplice disappeared—along with the Lathams' only remaining child.

The quiet and solitude of Bosco should be helping Ellis concentrate, but the more time she spends there, the more unsettled she becomes.  And she's not the only one.  The other artists-in-residence report seeing and hearing strange things.  As the truth of what happened in 1893 slowly comes to light, it becomes clear that whatever dark malevolence haunted the Bosco estate in the past hasn't entirely left.  Will any of the property's current residents escape unscathed?  No.  No, they will not ...

I've read several of Carol Goodman's novels and I think The Ghost Orchid might be my favorite of them all.  With a spooky atmosphere, some supernatural thrills, and a host of complex characters, it's a compelling read.  While I saw a number of the plot twists coming, I still found the novel intriguing overall.  Sad, yes, but gripping for sure.  

(Readalikes:  Other novels by Carol Goodman and those by Kate Morton)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mystery Series Debut Tense and Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan is used to being ridiculed by her mostly male colleagues.  They mock her gender, her looks, her Irish heritage, her "womanly" empathy, her work habits—everything.  Although the 28-year-old lets it roll off her back, she's still eager to prove she's a valuable member of the London murder squad, that she's there on her own merit and not because she's sleeping with the boss (a rampant, untrue rumor).  She longs to be part of the hunt for a vicious serial killer called The Burning Man.  Solving the case would earn her much-needed bragging rights.  Not to mention bring a murderer to justice.

When a new victim is found, Maeve and her colleagues are puzzled.  The murder seems to be the work of The Burning Man, but the M.O. doesn't quite fit.  Are they looking for the same killer or a copycat?  Assigned to look into the private life of the dead woman, Maeve makes some startling revelations that lead to more mystifying questions.  Who was Rebecca Haworth?  What led to her brutal death?  With few solid clues, it's difficult to find answers.  The more Maeve learns about Rebecca, though, the more determined she is to find the woman's killer.  Even if it means putting her own life on the line.  Which it inevitably will.

The Burning, the first book in the Maeve Kerrigan series by Irish crime writer Jane Casey, is a tense, fast-paced thriller.  While the mystery at its center is certainly compelling, it's the characters that really come first here.  Maeve is tough, but caring and devoted.  Eternally likable, she's also flawed, which makes her feel very real.  Louise North, who is Rebecca's best friend and a dual narrator with Maeve, is likewise intriguing.  While I would consider The Burning a character-driven novel, the plot definitely moves along at a clip.  The story isn't quite as twisty as I wanted it to be, but it definitely kept me riveted.  A few chapters in, I found myself reserving the next two books in the series.  That's how much I liked The Burning, especially its understated but unforgettable heroine.  I've learned since that Casey just knows how to pull me in—once I start one of her books, I (almost literally) can't stop reading.  Fair warning.

(Readalikes:  Books by Sharon Bolton and Tana French; also other novels in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; The Kill; After the Fire; and Let the Dead Speak)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TTT: They Get Me Every Time (Part II)

It's been awhile since I did a Top Ten Tuesday, but I love this week's topic, so here I am. If you want to join in with this fun weekly meme (and you totally should), click on over to The Broke and the Bookish and read up on how to participate.  Then, craft your own post, share it with the world, and get ready to find some great new book blogs and get lots of reading inspiration!  What are you waiting for?  Go.  Now.  Seriously.  Go!

This week's topic is Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book.  It was originally introduced back on April 30, 2013.  Reading over my TTT post from that day, I realize how little my reading tastes have changed over the last four years.  I still like what I like.  So, here are the top words/topics that will entice me to pick up a book pretty much every time, some of which will be repeats from my original post:

1.  Creepy old houses with mysterious pasts.  There's something about this topic that I just can't resist.  Favorite book(s) in this category: anything by Kate Morton

2.  Adoption.  Ever since we adopted our youngest child 8 1/2 years ago, I've read everything I can find about adoption.  Fiction, non-fiction, doesn't matter.  I find the topic endlessly fascinating.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery; How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr; A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly 

3.  Racial Identity/books featuring biracial characters.  Since my adopted daughter is biracial, I also read everything I can find about racial identity.  I'm as white as I could possibly be, so this isn't a subject I know much about.  By exploring it, I hope I can help my daughter understand and celebrate her unique ethnic background.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda; Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

4.  Books about books.  What bibliophile could possibly resist this topic?  Favorite book(s) in this category:  The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak; The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee; The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

5.  "Psychological Thriller."  What can I say?  If a book is labeled as such, there's an excellent chance I'll snatch it right up.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan; The Hollow City by Dan Wells; anything by Sharon Bolton

6.  Coming home.  I'm a sucker for novels about damaged people coming home to heal.  They can be cheesy, sure, but those that are done well hit me right in the heart.  Favorite book(s) in this category: pretty much anything by Karen White or Kate Morton

7.  Family Secrets.  Oh, how I love a novel with some juicy skeletons hiding in the closet!  Favorite book(s) in this category:  Again, just about anything by Karen White or Kate Morton

8.  The Titanic.  I don't know why, but this is another subject that totally fascinates me.  Favorite book(s) in this categoryThe Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf and The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

9.  Mormon/LDS.  As a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with Mormon pioneer ancestry, I have a natural interest in the history, culture, and legacy of my church.  I'm especially intrigued by books about Mormonism written by people who are not members.  There are a lot (a lot) of false ideas out there about us and it's intriguing to read about others' perceptions of us.  I'm also interested in LDS history, doctrine, contemporary novels, etc.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  At the Pulpit by Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook (eds.) and Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison

10.  Pioneers/Oregon Trail/Old West.  Closely related to #9 is my fascination with pioneers, especially those who settled the American West.  You don't grow up Mormon without hearing an abundance of pioneer stories, through which you learn to appreciate all these people suffered and survived in the name of adventure, religious freedom, and Westward Expansion.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; These Is My Words and its sequels by Nancy E. Turner; The Gold Seer trilogy [Walk On Earth a Stranger; Like a River Glorious; Into the Bright Unknown] by Rae Carson   

So, what words or subjects always get you to pick up a book?  What do you think of mine?  Which favorite books do you have in the categories I listed?  Now that you know what I like, hit me up with some great reading recommendations!  If you comment, I'll be sure to return the favor.

Happy TTT!

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Spinelli Novel A Poignant, Thoughtful Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Cammie O'Reilly knows what it's like to have a caretaker, but not a mother.  Hers died 12 years ago when Cammie was just a baby.  For as long as she can remember, it's been her and her father, who works as a warden at the local prison.  Since the O'Reillys live in an apartment above the entrance to the facility, she's always had one of the female inmates—a prison trustee—as a housekeeper and Cammie-keeper.  Which is all well and good, but this is a pivotal time for Cammie; she wants a mother of her own to help her through it.

There are plenty of women in the Hancock County Prison from whom to choose.  Maybe they're not the most ideal candidates in the world, but Cammie's not all that picky.  Boo Boo, a flamboyant shoplifter, would be a fun mother.  Eloda, the current Cammie-minder isn't exactly the warm and fuzzy type, but she would do.  Cammie just has to do a little scheming to make all her mother-shaped dreams come true.

Of course, procuring a mother isn't that easy.  Neither is growing up, as Cammie is finding out the hard way.  Between her determined mom-scheming, her friends acting strangely, the discovery of an unlikely new pal, and the arrival of an intriguing inmate, her emotions are running high.  It will be a summer full of startling revelations—truths that will change everything for one "Cannonball" Cammie O'Reilly.

I've never read anything by Jerry Spinelli, so when a copy of his newest—The Warden's Daughter—arrived at my kids' school library, I jumped at the chance to read it.  The jail setting caught my attention, as did Cammie's endearing plight.  While I didn't end up loving the novel, I did find it a thoughtful and poignant book that tells a sad but intriguing story. Overall, I did like the tale, which reminded me a lot of the old Rolling Stones adage "You can't always get what you ... you get what you need."

(Readalikes: Reminds me of the Al Capone series [Al Capone Does My Shirts; Al Capone Shines My Shoes; and Al Capone Does My Homework] by Gennifer Choldenko)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs)

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed a copy of The Warden's Daughter from my kids' elementary school library.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Light, Sweet Romance An Enjoyable Read (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Sarah Whitaker is used to standing on her own two feet.  In breeches and work boots no less.  Running a sheep farm in the Australian Outback, in a colony overrun with poisonous spiders, venomous snakes, and exiled convicts, is not for the faint of heart. Sarah may be a lady, but she's also as tough as the wilderness surrounding her.  She has to be.  With no family to protect her, no guardian to instruct her, and no neighbors to come to her rescue, she's on her own.  And doing just fine, thank you very much. a money-earning stunt goes horribly wrong, Daniel Burton (who happens to be the brother of Meg, who stars in Miss Burton Unmasks a Prince) is scheduled to hang.  Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, he knows he deserves his fate.  When an influential relative intervenes, however, Daniel can't help but jump at the chance to start over.  Although he's required to serve a 14-year sentence in an Australian penal colony, he will not be treated as the other convicts.  Unlike them, he'll be allowed to own land, to work his own farm, and to make his own profits.  Determined to prove himself a solid, trustworthy man, he sets himself to the task.
Neither Sarah nor Daniel expect to become neighbors.  Nor could they predict the sparks that fly between them from the moment they meet.  As the two become reluctant friends, then much more, Daniel knows he has to tell the wary Miss Whitaker the truth about his past.  She's learned to trust no one as a general rule.  What will happen when he reveals the things he's been concealing?  Will their young romance wilt before it's even had a chance to blossom?

I'm not the biggest romance reader, but I do enjoy a fun Regency love story occasionally to balance out heavier, darker reads.  Jennifer Moore's novels always deliver a quick, adventure-filled tale peopled with likable characters and sweet romance.  I've read most of Moore's books, all of which I enjoyed.  Her newest, Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart, takes place in the Outback, giving the story an exotic bent that makes it even more intriguing.  The tale is predictable, sure, but who cares?  It's a light, engaging read that is romantic, clean, and delightful.  If you're looking for a breezy, swoon-y read, you really can't go wrong with a Jennifer Moore novel.  Her newest is no exception.

If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!


Interested in following along on the Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart blog tour?  Just click on the links below:

April 14th,

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Saturday, April 08, 2017

I Hate to Play Favorites, But ...

 (Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for How the Light Gets In, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Armand Gamache mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

"Three Pines, he knew, was not immune to dreadful loss.  To sorrow and pain.  What Three Pines had wasn't immunity but a rare ability to heal" (117).

Things are not going well for Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec.  Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's faithful protegé, has left his mentor's side in a fit of anger, choosing a life of addiction and alliance to a corrupt leader over service at the side of the man he's always thought of as a second father.  Most of the Inspector's loyal detecting team is also gone, leaving him with untested, disrespectful rookies.  With the Sûreté's higher ups calling for Gamache's dismissal, the decorated policeman's sterling reputation may be tarnished beyond repair.  Exposing corruption within the Sûreté is the only way to save his job, but does he have the guts to take on his most powerful enemies?  Is it worth losing everything—and everyone—that matters to him?

In the midst of this personal turmoil, Gamache receives a call from Myrna Landers, owner of the used bookstore in Three Pines.  She's worried about a friend who failed to return to the tiny village as expected.  Myrna's reluctance to expose the woman's identity puzzles Gamache until he learns that 77-year-old Constance Pineault was once a very famous woman, a household name not just in Canada, but all over the world.  Who killed the reluctant celebrity?  And why?  It's up to Gamache to find out.  

Juggling the case in Three Pines as well as a major internal crisis decades in the making, Gamache may be in over his head.  Especially without his loyal subjects by his side.  Will the Chief Inspector emerge triumphant?  Or will his brilliant career come to a tragic, shameful end?

It's no secret how much I love Louise Penny's immersive mystery series set mostly in the unforgettable hamlet of Three Pines.  I adore it for many reasons, but mostly because of the kind, intelligent man at its center.  Armand Gamache is a character like no other, one who inspires admiration from both his fictional colleagues and leagues of real people who enjoy reading about his exploits.  It's tough for a raging fangirl like me to see the great man suffer, so How the Light Gets In—the ninth installment in the series—was a bit of a painful read for me.  And, yet, I think it's my favorite Gamache novel so far.  It's tense, exciting, fascinating, funny, and tender.  I loved it, from its first sentence to its last (especially the last).  I can't wait to see what's in store for this beloved cast in the next book, The Long Way Home.  That title sounds kind of ominous, actually ... should I be worried?

(Readalikes: Other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; A Fatal Grace; The Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; The Hangman [novella]; A Trick of the Light; The Beautiful Mystery; The Long Way Home; The Nature of the Beast; A Great Reckoning; and Glass Houses)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of How The Light Gets In from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
Friday, April 07, 2017

Second Tomorrow Book As Entertaining As First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Dead of the Night, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Tomorrow, When the War Began.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.) 

Australia has been taken over by an unknown enemy.  The little town of Wirawee is under siege.  Guarded by armed soldiers, Ellie Linton's family and friends are being held at gunpoint.  She and a handful of her teenage friends have evaded capture so far, but two of their group are now in custody.  They can't leave Kevin and Corrie in enemy hands.  From what the teens can gather, no one is coming to save their country, let alone their village.  If anyone's going to be rescued, it will be up to Ellie and her friends.

Spearheading a revolution is tough enough, but Ellie's also got to deal with increasingly tense group dynamics, her feelings toward two very different boys, and constant worry about the welfare of her parents and friends.  If the kids are going to help anyone, they have to work together.  But how can they fight back against a dangerous enemy?  How much are they willing to risk in order to rescue their friends, free their families, and save their town?  If they die in the attempt, who will be left to care about tiny Wirawee?

I enjoyed Tomorrow, When the War Began—the first installment in John Marsden's enjoyable dystopian series—so much that I bought all the subsequent, difficult-to-procure books.  The Dead of the Night, the second volume, picks up where the first one ends.  Like its predecessor, it's narrated by Ellie, who's tasked with writing about the teens' adventures for posterity.  Her voice is conversational, which makes her story feel both intimate and authentic.  She's a worthy heroine—tough, courageous, and self-deprecating.  The novel is mostly action-driven, so there's plenty going on.  Full of tension, adventure and excitement, the ongoing story is one that will appeal to both boys and girls.  A worthy follow-up to Tomorrow, When the War Began, The Dead of the Night is an engaging, enjoyable read that kept me totally immersed throughout.  If you enjoy fast-paced dystopian/survival stories, try this series—a definite oldie but goodie.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Tomorrow series, including Tomorrow, When the War Began; A Killing Frost; Darkness, Be My Friend; Burning for Revenge; The Night is For Hunting; and The Other Side of Dawn


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Dead of the Night from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha. 
Wednesday, April 05, 2017

"Locked Room" Mystery Another Intriguing Installment in An Always-Appealing Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Beautiful Mystery, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Armand Gamache novels. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Concealed deep in the Québec wilderness, in a remote spot accessible only by boat, the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups is not a place that welcomes visitors.  Even the most determined tourists are turned away from the 300-year-old community of Gilbertine monks.  Isolation guarantees the holy men the quiet peace they need to worship God and tend to their simple chores.  Although the Gilbertines have recently received worldwide attention due to a recording of their ancient and achingly beautiful Gregorian chants, they desire only to be left alone.  

When Frére Mathieu, the order's choirmaster, is brutally murdered in the abbot's private garden, the monks are forced to ask for outside help.  Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûrete de Québec, is soon on the job along with his right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.  As the duo investigates the crime, they find an order torn between privacy and publicity, its loyalties divided between two dynamic leaders.  Discontent wafts through the monastery's silent corridors.  Tension simmers below the surface—in one of the gentle brothers, it has bubbled over.  But which one?  Who was angry enough to bash Frére Mathieu's head in?  It's up to Gamache and Beauvoir to find out.  

At the same time Gamache and Beauvoir are examining the cracks in the Gilbertines' peaceful exterior, they're experiencing troubling fissures a lot closer to home.  When time-honored loyalties are put to the ultimate test on both fronts, no one will escape unscathed—not the Gilbertines, nor the Sûrete de Québec and its infamous Chief Inspector.

As much as I love Three Pines—the quaint village where most of Louise Penny's books are set—I'm always intrigued when the author chooses a different location for one of her mysteries.  The monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups (which is fictional, unlike the Gilbertines who existed but went extinct) is a fascinating locale, especially because it creates a "locked room" mystery that is all the more complex despite fewer players on scene.  Like the previous seven books in the Armand Gamache series, The Beautiful Mystery offers a compelling, multi-layered story peopled with interesting characters.  Kind, intelligent Gamache is always my favorite.  I enjoyed the deeper look at his psyche, especially as it intertwines with that of his protegé, Beauvoir.  I'm not going to lie, though, the ending of The Beautiful Mystery broke my heart more than a little.  Gamache's pain went straight to my heart.  I had to inhale the next book in the series immediately, just to reassure myself that the Chief Inspector would be okay.  At least eventually.  My investment in these characters is a testament to Penny's skill at creating a vibrant, believable world filled with people I wish I knew.  I love this series, which gets better with every installment.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; A Fatal Grace; The Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; The Hangman [novella]; A Trick of the Light; How the Light Gets In; The Long Way Home; The Nature of the Beast; A Great Reckoning; and Glass Houses)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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