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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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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

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38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

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25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

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9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

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

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% 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

59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Friday, October 27, 2017

Second Charlie Cates Novel An Engrossing, Eye-Opening Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Shimmering Road, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Gates of Evangeline.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

Now that Charlotte "Charlie" Cates has found love again, she's eager to move on with her life.  With a new baby growing inside her, the 39-year-old journalist is looking forward to a promising future with kind, hardworking Noah Palmer.  Just when everything seems to be coming up roses, however, Charlie gets some shocking news.  Her mother—a drug addict who abandoned her daughter when she was just a toddler—has been killed in a double murder.  The other victim?  Jasmine Cassell, a half sister Charlie never knew existed.  As if that weren't enough, she's having visions again.  This time the distressed child is Micky, Jasmine's daughter.

Although Charlie's energy should be focused on her own child, she can't ignore her niece's plaintive pleas.  Something terrible happened to the child's mother and grandmother.  Determined to find the truth, Charlie starts digging.  Her search takes her into the chaos of northern Mexico, the desolate Arizona desert, and deep into the murky waters of her own troubled past.  Ultimately, her investigation is leading her to the most dangerous destination of all—into the hands of a cold-blooded killer.  Trouble is the last thing Charlie needs, especially in her delicate condition, but she's heading right for it ...

I picked up The Shimmering Road by Hester Young without realizing it's a sequel to The Gates of Evangeline, which I read last year.  It seriously took me a few chapters to catch on!  Maybe that's because Young's second endeavor is much, much better than her first.  Where Evangeline felt flat and predictable, The Shimmering Road remains tense and compelling throughout.  While it's a disturbing read, it's also engrossing, eye-opening.  Overall, I enjoyed this one.  I'll definitely be watching for the last book in the Charlie Cates trilogy which will hopefully come out in 2018.

(Readalikes:  The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs plus milder expletives), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Spotlight: The Long Way Home by Kevin Bannister

So many books, so little time ...

Although I spend many hours every week with my nose crammed in a book, there's still no way I can read all the tomes I want to read.  Inevitably, many fall by the wayside.  Such is the case with The Long Way Home, a debut novel by Canadian author Kevin Bannister.  Although I've not had time to read it yet, I think the tale has an intriguing premise.  Here's the back cover blurb:

Set in the turbulent times of the War of Independence, The Long Way Home follows the lives of Thomas Peters and Murphy Steele who are friends, former slaves, fellows-in-arms and leaders of the Black Brigade. Their real-life story is an epic adventure tale as they battle bounty hunters, racism, poverty and epidemic in their adopted country after the war.

The Long Way Home has resonated with readers around the world as an unforgettable account of courage, hope and determination triumphing over despair and injustice. Thomas Peters, thoughtful and charismatic, and Murphy Steele, strong and impulsive, lead their followers on an inspirational search for a place where they can be free.

I'd never heard of this duo before.  It sounds like they have a very compelling story.  If you're interested in reading about them, be sure to pick up this book.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the novel.  Anyone read it?  Anyone planning to?

If you'd like more opinions (or, you know, an opinion from someone who's actually read the book), please follow along on the book's tour by clicking on the following links:

www.tlcbooktours.comMonday, August 28th: A Holland Reads
Friday, September 1st: What Is That Book About? – author guest post
Monday, September 4th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, September 6th: 100 Pages a Day… Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Thursday, September 7th: Reading Reality
Thursday, September 7th: Mama Vicky Reads
Friday, September 8th: Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, September 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Monday, September 18th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 26th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, October 2nd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, December 11th: Suzy Approved

Monday, October 23, 2017

Icebreaker Introduces Unique, Compelling Dystopian World

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been 300 years since the Oyster, a rusted icebreaker, set sail.  After three centuries on the sea, no one remembers why the ship left land, why it's still afloat, or what they're all doing living on top of each other in a glorified tin can.  All the passengers know is that they belong to one of three tribes—the officers who make up the Braid and live on the upper deck; those who dwell in Dufftown on the middle decks; and the engineers who occupy the bottom decks known as Grease Alley.  Although each tribe performs certain functions that keep their floating home functional, the groups do not intermix.  In fact, the fighting between them has escalated to a point where all-out war seems likely in the very near future.

Unlike the Oyster's other passengers, 12-year-old Petrel does not belong to a tribe.  Her mixed parentage makes her an outcast who is unwelcome on any part of the ship.  The orphan survives by staying invisible, speaking only to the two rats who are the sole pals she has in the world.  When a strange, frozen boy is pulled onto the Oyster, Petrel wonders if she's finally been given a chance to make a real, human friend.  What Petrel doesn't realize is that the boy has his own goal, a mission that could destroy the Oyster and everyone on it ... 

I saw Icebreaker, a middle grade novel by Australian author Lian Tanner, on a list somewhere on the Web of the best dystopian novels of all timeWhile I'm not sure I agree with that designation, I did enjoy this action/adventure story about a plucky girl who triumphs over an inhospitable world by carving out a life for herself with tenacity, courage, and heart.  It's a unique tale, strange, but also exciting and compelling.  In the end, I didn't love Icebreaker enough to continue with the series.  Still, I found it an entertaining read.

(Readalikes: the Icebeaker world reminds me of the one in Wool by Hugh Howey)


If this were a novel, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Food, Glorious, Food!

It's Tuesday again, which means it's once again time for my favorite weekly meme.  This week's topic has to do with food.  Who can't get behind that, amirite?  Technically, lists are supposed to be about Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned in Books, but I'm going to go ahead and give mine my own little twist.  Since I eschewed them last week, I'm going to feature book jackets this time around.  And not just any ole cover art, but the kind that makes your mouth water so much you just want to lean over and lick the picture right off the paper.  Yummmm ...  

Before we get to that, though, I want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  All you have to do is click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read a few quick guidelines, make your own list, and join the party.  It's a great way to discover new book blogs and add exciting new reads to your TBR mountain chain.  C'mon, you know you want to!

Okay, here we go with Top Ten Drool-Worthy Foodie Book Covers

1.  The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch—I'm not a big honey fan, but this cover is scrumptious-looking!  The story sounds good, too.  It's about a woman who lets her queen honeybee choose where she's going to live next.  She ends up in New York City, where she brings together a group of neighboring misfits through the magic in her honey.

2.  The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert—This novel looks delicious all around.  It's a romance about a chef and the restaurant critic who's trying to ruin her career.  A case of mistaken identity leads to love, but can this new relationship survive once the truth comes out?

 3.  When In Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison—Cupcakes I can give or take, but frosting?  Can't resist it.  Especially if it's nice, thick buttercream yum.  So, yeah, I'm basically in love with this cover.  The story sounds cute and really similar to The Wedding Bees.

4.  The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses—Jam isn't really my, well, jam, but I do love blueberries.  Also cafes because they smell delectable.  The title of this one also evokes warm memories of The Blueberry Cafe, a little place in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, that a fellow exchange student and I loved to visit because it reminded us of home.  Appropriate, since this novel is about a woman going home to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish.

 5.  The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi—Speaking of The Philippines, I ate the tastiest (also smelliest—I'm looking at you, durian) fruit there.  The mangoes were especially glorious.  This novel is about a young Indian woman who's returning to her homeland after seven years to break horrifying news to her very traditional parents—she's engaged to an American.  

 6.  The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs by Dana Bate—Again with the frosting!  Delish.  This novel, which is about a woman who launches an underground supper club, sounds fun, too.

 7.  Lion House Bakery—I love this cookbook, one in a series featuring recipes from the historic Lion House restaurant in Salt Lake City.  My favorite recipe is the one featured on the cover—crescent rolls.  They're unbelievably good.  My mother-in-law bakes the best ones I've ever tasted; even though I use the exact same Lion House recipe, mine never turn out as well. 

8.  Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee—Mmmm, chocolate.  As long as it's white or milk, I'm in.  The novel sounds intriguing as well.  It's about an overweight young woman who embarks on a journey to change her body and her life.

9.  Rhymes With Cupid by Anna Humphrey—I'm not going to add this anti-Valentine's Day romance to my TBR list, at least not for the story.  The ice cream sundae on the cover, though ...

10.  First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen—I've never read anything by Allen, but her book covers are all so pretty!  Maybe that's because lots of them feature food.  First Frost, a novel about sisters and their magical food concoctions, sounds engaging.

What do you think?  Do any of these covers make your tongue salivate and your stomach growl?  Have you read any of my picks?  What food-laden jacket art/books do you love?

Leave me a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor.  Happy TTT!
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Before the Year Ends: A Belated Top Ten Tuesday List

I'm a little late to the TTT party this week, but I didn't want to miss out, so I'm doing it anyway.  I'm a rebel like that!  I'm not wild about the topic du jour (Fall book covers/themes), however.  I'm probably just bitter that everyone else gets to enjoy gorgeous Fall colors and crisp, cool weather while I'm melting in the Phoenix area.  Cue pity party.  At any rate, I'm going to go back to a list that I missed out on a few weeks ago (with a little twist):  Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading Before the End of the Year.

If you want to join in the TTT fun, it's not too late.  Click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read up on the TTT rules, make a list of your own, and have a jolly old time hopping around the book blogosphere.  It's a great way to find new book blogs to love.  The last thing on Earth I need is more titles on my TBR pile mountain mountain chain, but I still love getting recs from TTT lists.  Bring 'em on.

Here we go with the Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading Before the End of the Year:

 1.  The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah—I loved The Nightingale, so I've been anxiously awaiting a new novel from Hannah.  There's not a lot of info on this one, but apparently it's about a family struggling to survive in Alaska.  I'm down with that.  (Even though this one doesn't come out until February 2018, I'm hoping to get an ARC to read this year.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.)

 2.  The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis—My book club chose this book for our October read.  Even though it's one of my husband's all-time favorite books, I haven't read it yet.  We saw the play on Valentine's Day a few years ago, which sounds like the ultimate irony.  In actuality, The Great Divorce has nothing to do with romance—it's an allegorical tale about heaven and hell, good and evil, etc.

 3.  You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis—I enjoyed Ellis' The End or Something Like That, so I'm interested to see what she does with this MG novel about a girl's plan to win a million dollars in order to save her family from their depressing trailer park existence.

 4.  Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie—With the movie coming out soon, everyone wants to read this one (as evidenced by the fact that there's a looonnnggg wait list for it at the library).  I first read And Then There Were None years ago, so it's definitely time for me to try another classic Christie mystery.

 5.  Caroline by Sarah Miller—I was a raging Little House on the Prairie fan as a child.  It's been that long since I've read the series; I'd like to re-read it soon, then move on to this novel written from Mrs. Ingalls' perspective.

 6.  Reading People by Anne Bogel—Another thing I was obsessed with as a kid was those personality quizzes you could always find in teen magazines.  Reading People goes beyond those to discuss how personality shapes everything we do.  Sounds fun!

 7.  The Emperor's Ostrich by Julie Berry—I'm a big Berry fan, so I'm excited to read her new MG novel about a young dairymaid who sets off in search of her lost cow with a magical map to guide her way.

 8.  Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence—I adore books about books, so this one sounds right up my alley.  It's a collection of love and break-up letters written by a librarian to the tomes she loves and loathes.

 9.  Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan—This novel about a woman who's on a quest to understand the life of her missing father has been getting a lot of buzz.  I'll be interested to see if it deserves it or not.

10.  Healing Your Family History by Rebecca Linder Hintze—I'm so Mormon that another thing I'm totally obsessed with is genealogy.  Lately, I've been able to help other people research their own family trees.  Listening to their stories has made me absolutely fascinated with how all of us are influenced by our family histories.  My husband keeps recommending this book, which talks about how to break free from destructive familial patterns, to everyone he knows. 

So, there you have it.  I'm hoping to read 77 more books this year to hit my goal of 200 and these are just ten that are on my list.  What else should I read before 2017 disappears?  What titles are you still hoping to read this year?  Leave me a comment and I'll gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT (on a Wednesday)!

Saturday, October 07, 2017

WWII Circus Novel An Atmospheric, Not-to-Be-Missed Masterpiece

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Kicked out of her home in Holland after becoming pregnant with the child of a Nazi soldier, 16-year-old Noa Weil is forced to seek shelter elsewhere.  Aching from the loss of her baby, who was taken by the Nazis, she's bereft and adrift.  She sleeps in the German train station where she cleans to make enough money to live.  Noa's only goal is to to keep well under the radar, drawing no attention to herself whatsoever.  So, when she comes upon an unsupervised boxcar full of Jewish infants headed for a concentration camp, she hesitates.  But only for a moment.  Determined to save at least one baby, she snatches a child and runs.  

On the brink of death after trudging through the brutal winter countryside, Noa finds shelter with a German circus.  To fool the Nazis, she will have to blend in with the family of performers.  Although she has little experience, she's to undergo rigorous training as an aerialist.  

Astrid Sorrell, a master aerialist who's hiding her own secrets, wants nothing to do with the ludicrous scheme to turn Noa into a circus performer.  The only thing Astrid needs less than a bumbling student is a rival who's younger, prettier, and surprisingly successful at her new job.

When the circus attracts the most unwelcome attention of local Nazi soldiers, however, the women will have to band together to save themselves and those they love.  

I'm a longtime fan of Pam Jenoff's WWII novels.  The author—a lawyer who has worked for both the Pentagon and the State Department—is a Holocaust expert who infuses her stories with vivid historical detail; tense, engaging plot lines; and heroines who are sympathetic yet strong.  Her newest, The Orphan's Tale, is a haunting, character-driven novel that drew me in from the first word, keeping me utterly spellbound until the last.  It's sad, but memorable and undeniably compelling.  If you're a fan of well-written WWII fiction, as I definitely am, you will not want to miss this absorbing story.  Just be sure to clear your calendar because once you start, you won't be able to put this one down.

(Readalikes:  It's billed as The Nightingale [by Kristin Hannah] meets Water For Elephants [by Sara Gruen] and I think that's pretty apt.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, mild sexual content, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff at Costco with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.)
Friday, October 06, 2017

The Knowing a Surprising, Smashing Sequel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

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

As one of the Knowing—evolutionary wonders who possess perfect memories—Samara Archiva enjoys a privileged life underground.  Safe from the dangers of Outside, she's cloistered with others like her.  Focused on preserving and strengthening their special community, the Knowing learn to cache their memories, mastering the constant onslaught of emotions that comes with such a "gift" as theirs.  Cold, logical decisions rule underground.  Anyone who can't—or won't—comply leaves.  One way or another.

Sam has never been able to cache as well as the others.  Tortured by her memories, the 18-year-old wants only one thing—to Forget.  Barring that, she longs to be useful, to use what she Knows to Do something valuable.  As a physician-in-training, she has skills that can help the vulnerable people Outside.  Doing so, however, is strictly forbidden.  If the Council catches her sneaking off on her mercy missions—just one of her rebellions—Sam is as good as dead.  When she realizes exactly how much danger she's in, she knows she must flee, must find the Cursed City of Canaan and Forget everything.  It's the only way to save herself and those she loves.

On a long-term anthropological mission to find the lost civilization of Canaan, Beckett Rodriguez gets a whole lot more than he bargains for when he comes upon Samara Archiva in a dark cavern.  The 18-year-old Texan wants to help the desperate woman, but he has his own orders to obey.  Does Beck dare to risk both his life and mission to save a strange, intriguing girl he's just met?  Especially when his own worldview is being shattered with every second he spends in Sam's company?  With enemies on every side, the two must unite to piece together the truths of their very different worlds ...

For me, 2017 started off on a lovely reading high thanks to a gem of a book called The Forgetting.  The first in a YA trilogy by Sharon Cameron, it's a beautiful, compelling novel about the power of memory.  Its follow-up, The Knowing, takes the story in an unexpected direction, expanding the world Cameron introduced in The Forgetting.  With fresh characters, a unique setting, and a different (but complementary) plot, it rises above any second-book syndrome, taking the series in a compelling new direction.  Packed with action, it provides an exciting, engrossing reading experience.  Lest you think it's all adrenaline all the time, The Knowing also offers some fascinating explorations of pain, emotion, memory, all part of what makes us human.  In short, it's a great, clean read that will appeal to a variety of readers. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Knowing from the generous folks at Scholastic via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!
Thursday, October 05, 2017

Cash's Second a Tense, Gritty Page Turner

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although they're not technically orphans, 12-year-old Easter Quillby and her little sister, Ruby, might as well be parent-less.  Their mother is dead and they haven't seen their good-for-nothing father in years.  When Wade Chesterfield shows up out of the blue with plans to break the girls out of their group foster home, Easter is shocked.  She barely knows her dad and isn't sure it's a great idea to ride off into the sunset with him.  Not that she really has a choice.

As the Quillby sisters' ad litem guardian, ex-cop Brady Weller is naturally concerned about the girls' disappearance.  It's even more worrisome that they're with Wade, who Brady discovers has recently been involved in a multi-million dollar robbery.  Brady's not the only one on their tail.  A bouncer with a score to settle, Robert Pruitt is also tracking Wade.  With both men hunting him, it won't be long before his freedom ends—one way or another.  Will two frightened little girls get caught in the crossfire?  Or will Wade's dream of starting over actually come to fruition?  What would be best for Easter and Ruby?  Will they live long enough to find out? 

This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash's second novel, tells a tense, gritty story that will keep you turning pages until you get to its surprisingly hopeful end.  Although none of the adults in this tale are particularly likable, the Quillby girls are certainly sympathetic characters.  Overall, their tale is a sad, depressing one.  It has a satisfying, redeeming conclusion, however.  In the end, I didn't love this one, but I liked it well enough.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little bit of The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and depictions/mention of illegal drug use 

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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