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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

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

My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Year in Books, 2017: Survey Says ...

The end of a year is one of my favorite times in Book Bloggerland.  It's always fun to check out everyone's stats and goals for the new year.  Just like I get excited about reclaiming my house after Christmas, I love cleaning up the blog so it's shiny and fresh for whatever's to come.  Here's to a fabulous 2018 both on the blog and off. 

I'll post my official stats later (I'm still hoping to squeeze in ONE more book before January 1st), but for now I'm going to do this fun end-of-the-year book survey created by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner.  If you want to follow suit, you're welcome to link up your post here.

Number Of Books You Read:  157—I'm just about done with #158 and I'm hoping to sneak in one more book before the new year.  We'll see.

Number of Re-Reads:  2

Genre You Read The Most From:  Probably mystery/thriller

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy 
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I read a number of books that could fit this category, but the one that stands out most is Year One by Nora Roberts
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 
At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourse by Latter-Day Women by Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook, eds. -- I was surprised by how much I loved this one.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I don't know about a specific book, but I feel like I "push" certain authors:  Kate Morton, Louise Penny, Sharon Bolton, Jane Casey, etc.

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

Starter: Wool by Hugh Howey
Sequel: Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman or How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
Ender: Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
 Emily Bain Murphy

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

 I didn't read much out of my comfort zone this year ...

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Anything by Megan Miranda, Peter May, Sharon Bolton, or Jane Casey 

9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I'm not much of a re-reader.  I do read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every Christmas and I'm in the middle of re-reading the Harry Potter series, so probably those.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

I love all the covers for The Gold Seer trilogy by Rae Carson.  Into the Bright Unknown is no exception. 
11. Most memorable character of 2017?
Olivia from You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?
 Worth the Wrestle by Sheri Dew

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read?

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer 

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017?

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Shortest:  Christmas at Ruby's by Holly Schindler (90 pages)
Longest:  Wool by Hugh Howey (528 pages) 

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
This might be spoiler-y, but Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Annie Gamache (from the Armand Gamache books by Louise Penny)
 19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, always
 20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny 

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

I'm too old for book boyfriends!

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Peter May is a master at bringing the Outer Hebrides in Scotland to life.  I always love reading his books set there.  I also love Julia Keller's depictions of West Virginia.  Both authors do a remarkable job of bringing their settings to life, highlighting both the ups and downs of life in such inhospitable places.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

It's All Relative by A.J. Jacobs

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

I cry over everything, so yeah ...

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy—it hasn't gotten nearly the buzz it deserves

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

Wool by Hugh Howey

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?

Lots.  There's no way I can remember them all, but here are a few:

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?

Uh ...

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Uh ... I'm not sure I did any of these this year ...

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Top Ten Tuesday is always a favorite.  I was pretty boring offline this year -- I went to zero author signings/festivals/conferences/etc. Boo hoo.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017?

I still literally do fist bumps and shout "YES!" every time a publisher sends me a hot book that I really want to read.  That happened a number of times this year.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

Same as every year -- keeping up with reviews.  Currently, I'm reviewing books I read back in June.  My to-be-reviewed stack of shame (see above) is pretty daunting.  Yikes!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My Top Ten Tuesday posts are always the most popular.  I try to comment on at least 25 blogs each time, so I get a lot of comments back.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Um, all of them??  Ha ha.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Through trial and error, my daughter and I discovered the best place to trade books (the most money back/store credit for your books) is at our local indie, Changing Hands.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Ha ha.  No.  I signed up for two reading challenges this year and didn't get anywhere near completing either one.  Oops.

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

 A Piece of This World by Christina Baker Kline
 2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?
The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?

Third book in The Knowing trilogy by Sharon Cameron

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?

One of these years I'm actually going to accomplish my goal of reading 200 books!

6. A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Friday, December 29, 2017

Despite a Didn't-Love-It Debut, Supernatural Detective Series Shows Promise

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since he was a little boy, Magnus "Steps" Craig has possessed a special ability.  Both a blessing and a curse, it enables him to see a person's "shine."  Normal people can't see the unique trails people leave behind them as they move throughout their lives; Steps can.  This secret ability has enabled the 27-year-old to work effectively as a member of the FBI's Special Tracking Unit (STU).  Few know about Steps' unusual talent, they only know that the "Human Bloodhound" has an uncanny knack for finding missing persons. 

When the dead body of a young woman is discovered, Steps recognizes her killer's "signature" from another crime scene.  Along with his partner, Jimmy Donovan, Steps travels to California to track down the bloodthirsty monster.  As they identify the murderer's victims, the duo began to close in on the killer's identity.  Then, his/her MO changes.  With a new puzzle to solve, the case becomes even more challenging.  With lives on the line—including their own—Steps and Jimmy have to find the killer.  Before they become the next victims.

I'd heard good things about Collecting the Dead, a debut mystery/thriller by crime analyst Spencer Kope, so I picked it up expecting an exciting, engrossing novel.  Did I get it?  Sort of.  While the story's compelling, I wouldn't call the book a page turner.  I wanted to know what was going to happen, yes, but I didn't find myself racing to the finale.  Still.  Collecting the Dead surprised me by being less dark and gory than other novels of this sort.  In fact, it's lighter and funnier than its fellows.  The humor is way overdone in parts, but overall, Steps comes off as a funny, likable narrator.  He acts like an old man, true, but he remains brave, devoted, and compassionate.  I enjoyed him as a narrator, even though I didn't end up loving Collecting the Dead.  This series has promise, though, so I'm willing to give the next installment a try.  I'm not chomping at the bit or anything, but I wouldn't mind taking another ride with Magnus "Steps" Craig.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of The Body Finder series [The Body Finder; Desires of the DeadThe Last Echo; and Dead Silence] by Kimberly Derting)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Collecting the Dead from the generous folks at Minotaur Books (a division of St. Martin's Press/Macmillan).  Thank you!
Thursday, December 28, 2017

Disappointing Gothic Thriller Gets Downright Ridiculous

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Eleanor Harper should be ecstatic about her new job as director of Cliffside Manor, an old TB sanitorium turned artists' retreat.  After working as a crime reporter for a city newspaper, she should feel nothing but relief at the prospect of living on the calm shores of Lake Superior and spending her days with benign artists too preoccupied with their own work to cause trouble.  So, why does she feel so unsettled by Cliffside Manor?  Why the sense of foreboding she just can't shake?

The more time Eleanor spends at Cliffside, the more she learns about the home's disturbing history.  When strange, inexplicable things start happening there, she's not even that surprised.  As each of the fellows residing at the manor identifies personal connections to Cliffside, Eleanor grows increasingly alarmed.  Could her predecessor have selected these specific people to be at Cliffside at this specific time?  Why would she do such a thing?  With more than one sinister force at play, Eleanor must find out what is really going on at Cliffside before it's too late for them all.

I love me a shivery Gothic tale, especially one set in a creepy old mansion.  The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb, therefore, seemed just the ticket.  While the tale is eerie, it suffers from a clumsily-structured plot, tell-y prose, and characters who lack any depth at all.  Our heroine has no real personality, making her a boring narrator.  Why not one, but two, men fall instantly, madly in love with her I have no idea.  Despite these issues, the first 2/3 of the story isn't that bad; the last 1/3, though, gets downright ridiculous.  As cringe-worthy as it is, I did finish the novel.  I guess that says something, but honestly, The End of Temperance Dare just did not do it for me at all.  I should have skipped it altogether.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a lot of The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and scary images

To the FTC, with love:  To tell you the truth, I'm not sure how I acquired this one.  Hm.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday (on a Wednesday): Books I Can't Wait to Read in 2018

I'm a day late with my favorite weekly meme, but that's because I forgot yesterday was Tuesday.  This Christmas-on-a-Monday thing has been throwing me off for weeks! I honestly didn't realize yesterday was Tuesday until about 5:15 p.m. when my phone reminded me of my daughter's gymnastics class, which takes place every week on—you guessed it—Tuesday.  I'm back on track now, but I didn't want to miss Top Ten Tuesday altogether, so I'm doing it anyway, even if it is a Wednesday.  It is Wednesday, right??

In case you don't know, Top Ten Tuesday is brought to us by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.  After January 16, the meme will be coming at us from That Artsy Reader Girl instead.  In the meantime, you can participate by clicking over to The Broke and the Bookish, reading a few TTT rules, making your own list, and hopping around to other blogs to check out theirs.  It's a great way to find new blogs, new books, and new friends.

Predictably, this week's prompt is:  Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2018.  Here we go:

1.  The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell JohnsonAvailable January 2.  Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner just published a fabulous list of 2018 adult fiction titles she's looking forward to reading.  This dystopian novel was among them and I agree, it sounds compelling.  Billed as The Hunger Games meets Station Eleven, it's sure to be a book I'll love.

2.  The Craftsman by Sharon BoltonAvailable (in the U.S.) October 18.  I enjoy Sharon Bolton's crime novels, so I'm excited for her newest.  It's about a woman whose career is made when she apprehends a coffin-maker accused of burying people alive.  After the man's death, much to her horror, events of the past start repeating themselves.  Did she convict the wrong killer?

3.  The Belles by Dhonielle ClaytonAvailable February 20.  I've been looking forward to this one ever since I first heard about it.  It takes place in an alternate (futuristic?) New Orleans where everyone is born grey and needs the help of a Belle to be made beautiful.  Camellia wants to be the queen's favorite Belle, but fulfilling her dream will not come without a price ...

4.  Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthurAvailable January 8.  This novel concerns a woman whose estranged mother goes missing after a tropical storm wreaks havoc in Vermont.  It's about her search for her mother and is supposed to be an atmospheric story about coming home.  I'm in!

5.  The Job of the Wasp by Colin WinnetteAvailable January 9.  I love me a good Gothic ghost story, so this one sounds right up my alley.  It's about a child who arrives at an isolated school for orphaned boys only to find that there's something very strange about his new home ...  

6.  The Woman in the Window by A.J. FinnAvailable January 2.  This Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who thinks she's witnessed a murder sounds very intriguing.

7.  Force of Nature by Jane HarperAvailable February 6.  I enjoyed reading The Dry, an Australian murder mystery, earlier this year.  This is the next book in the series, which I'm definitely looking forward to reading.

8.  Dread Nation by Justina IrelandAvailable April 3.  I'm not huge into zombie novels, but I don't mind them if they're done well.  This one, about a zombie invasion that derails the Civil War and changes American history forever, sounds interesting.

9.  The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim FuAvailable February 13.  This novel revolves around a group of women who come together again years after suffering through a traumatic event while at summer camp together.  Sounds good!

10.  Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. YatesAvailable January 9.  Similarly, this novel is about three people whose lives are forever changed by a violent BB attack during childhood who come together as adults because the past, of course, can never stay in the past. 

So, what do you think?  Do we have any books in common this week?  What are you looking forward to reading in 2018?  I'd truly like to know.  If you leave a comment on this post, I'll gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT!     
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Casey's Crime Series Just Keeps Getting Better

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Let the Dead Speak, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

When Chloe Emery returns early to her mother's house in Putney after a visit with her dad, she's shocked to find the place covered in blood.  The only living thing remaining in the home is the family cat.  It appears as if Kate Emery, Chloe's mother, has been murdered.  But where is the body?  And why would someone commit such a savage act against a 42-year-old single mum?

Maeve Kerrigan, a newly promoted DS, is assigned the case along with the always mercurial DS Josh Derwent.  As the duo investigate the crime, they find themselves hitting roadblocks at every turn.  The Norrises, the Emerys' disapproving neighbors, are strangely unhelpful, even when it's obvious that Chloe and the Norris' teen daughter know much more than they're saying.  Could the neighborhood bad boy have had something to do with Kate's death?  The case gets curiouser and curiouser with every clue ...

As Maeve hunts down answers in an increasingly puzzling case, tries to sort out her even more baffling love life, and tangles with a moody Derwent, she'll have to use all her patience, savvy, and detecting skills to make sense of it all.

It's no secret that I enjoy the Maeve Kerrigan mysteries by Irish crime writer Jane Casey.  Our heroine is a down-to-earth copper who's brave and devoted but also fallibly human.  It's easy to root for her as she chases killers in London while dealing with private entanglements that are almost as dicey.  Let the Dead Speak, Maeve's seventh adventure, is just as engaging as its predecessors.  It boasts a twisty mystery, lots of action, and an ending I didn't see coming.  The story is a depressing one, to be sure, but as with all the Maeve Kerrigan books, Let the Dead Speak is engrossing, addicting, and satisfying.  As always, I can't wait for the next installment in this compelling series that just gets better as it goes.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left For Dead [novella]; The Burning; The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; The Kill; and After the Fire)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Let the Dead Speak from the generous folks at Minotaur Books (a division of St. Martin's Press/Macmillan).  Thank you!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Novella Exudes Such a Strong Sense of Place It Will Leave You Longing For Your Own Ruby's

(Image from author's website)

Once upon a time, folks in tiny Sullivan, Missouri, gathered at Ruby's Place—an elegant, family-friendly nightspot—to meet friends, celebrate special occasions, and dance the night away.  A warm, welcoming refuge all throughout the year, Ruby's Place became even more inviting during Christmastime.  Sparkling with holiday spirit, it seemed almost ... magical.

As a child, nothing delighted Angela Lowe more than her annual Christmas visit to Ruby's with her chic aunt.  Just like Angela has changed over the years, so has Sullivan, and so has its once-beloved bar.  Abandoned long ago, the building is a ramshackle ruin, its "For Lease" sign an optimistic plea to a deteriorating town.  Its crumbling exterior mirrors Angela's own.  Lonely and disappointed by life, she feels as hopeless as Ruby's Place looks.  

A week away from Christmas, Angela happens past the old bar.  As she peers through its grimy windows, seeking even a speck of its old holiday sparkle, she gets a shock courtesy of Ruby's "spirits."  Still vibrant inside the moldering walls of the old nightspot, the ghosts of Christmases past are alive and well.  Not only that, but they've got a plan for Angela Lowe ...

Christmas at Ruby's, a novella by Holly Schindler, tells a sweet holiday story about the power of hope.  Its charming premise leads to an imaginative tale with such a strong sense of place that it will leave you longing for your own Ruby's Place.  Or at least for a full-length novel featuring Ruby's and all its colorful inhabitants.  If you're looking for a quick, heartwarming read to get you in the holiday spirit, look no further than Christmas at Ruby's.  It's an engaging, uplifting tale perfect for these busy, fun-filled days leading up to the big holiday.  

*At 99 cents for the e-book and only $6 for a paperback, Christmas at Ruby's is an affordable gift, perfect for holiday giving.*

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Christmas at Ruby's from the always generous Holly Schindler.  Thank you!
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Rest Easy, Kris Kringle, I Got This!

Not gonna lie—I don't really trust Santa Claus to deliver the bookish goodies I want to see under my tree this year.  No offense to the Big Guy, but he's got a lot on his plate this time of year.  Rest easy, Kris Kringle, I got this.  

Before I show you my list, do me a favor and join in the fun!  You need a break from all the holiday stress you're probably feeling, so hop on over to The Broke and the Bookish.  Check out the Top Ten Tuesday rules, make your own list, then click around the book blogosphere to discover lots of new blogs to love, familiar ones to re-visit, and, of course, to find all kinds of great reading recommendations.  It's a good ole time, I promise!  Please note:  After January 16, TTT will be hosted on That Artsy Reader Girl blog.

Top Ten Books (and Bookish Things) I Hope Santa (Is) Bringsing Me:  

1.  Year One by Nora RobertsNothing says Christmas quite like a good dystopian, amirite?  Actually, I just got tired of waiting for this one at the library, so I used a Barnes & Noble coupon and got it at a discount in a real, brick-and-mortar store.  

2.  The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan—I love the pretty cover on this one.  The story, which is about a man who becomes an obsessive collector of found things after his fiancé dies following him losing a precious keepsake of hers, sounds interesting too.

3.  Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia—This YA was on all kinds of "best of" lists this year.  Again, I was too impatient to wait for it at the library, so I bought myself a copy.

4.  Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero—It's become a tradition for my 15-year-old daughter and me to visit Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe every December.  We trade in old books, then use our store credit plus my birthday discount to stock up on new reads for the next year.  I grabbed Meddling Kids because I've heard such good things about it.  While my girl and I were discussing it at the store, a young man standing near us piped up to say:  "My girlfriend just read that!  She loved it."  A ringing endorsement, if I ever heard one!

5.  Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan—I'm reading this British thriller right now.  It's about two teenage boys who sneak out of the house one night; one ends the night by fighting for his life in a Bristol hospital.  The other boy, a refugee from Somalia, is too traumatized to speak about the incident.  What really happened that night?  I finally forced myself to put down Odd Child Out at about 11 last night.  I can't wait to finish it today.

6.  Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman—I'm not going to bother sticking this one under the tree since I've already read it and all.  I enjoyed Vengeance Road and this is a worthy companion novel.  It's not really a sequel since it stars different characters, but it does look in on some old favorites.  If you're looking for a fun, action-packed YA series to enjoy, give this one a go. 

7.  The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman—This summery novel was in the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble.  I'd never heard of it before, but it gets great reviews on book sites.  It's about a young Russian woman who tricks her family into immigrating to the U.S.  When she becomes crippled, she's abandoned in New York City and must find a way to survive.  

8.  The Book Lover's Calendar 2018—I bought one of these on clearance last year and have enjoyed it immensely.  Naturally, I couldn't resist grabbing the 2018 version.

9.  No Time to Clean Tea Towel from Bas Bleu—Although I can't justify spending almost $13 on a dish towel, I think this one's adorable.  And SO spot-on!
10.  Reader's Paradise Puzzle from Bas Bleu—I like puzzles and this one looks fun.

How about you?  What books or bookish things are you hoping to find under your Christmas tree?  I'd love to know.  Leave me a comment and I'll gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT!     
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Keller Changes Things Up In a Very Good Way With Sixth Bell Elkins Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Fast Falls the Night, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Bell Elkins novels.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

When a young woman overdoses on the dirty floor of a gas station bathroom, it's a sad, tragic death.  Not an out-of-the-ordinary one, however.  Not in Appalachia, where life is tough, people are discouraged, and illegal drugs are plentiful.  Addiction and all the ugliness that goes along with the "Applachian virus" are just part of life, especially in the small town of Acker's Gap, West Virginia.  When another overdose occurs within hours of the first, however, then another, then another, it quickly becomes apparent that the victims have partaken of a bad batch of heroin.  Laced with a lethal tranquilizer, the drugs are toxic.   

Bell Elkins, the Raythune County prosecutor, is as alarmed as everyone else by the escalating death toll in her little town.  In order to stop the madness, she and the police need to locate the dealer responsible for the tainted drugs.  It's a frantic, adrenaline-fueled, race-against-the-clock hunt that is unlikely to result in a happy ending.  Not everyone believes county resources should be used to fight a losing battle, but it's happening anyway.  At least for one night. 

As if Bell doesn't have enough on her plate with the desperate drug investigation, she has to deal with a sister who's dying of cancer, a boyfriend who's pressuring her into marriage, and a shocking revelation that will shake her to her core.  For the 45-year-old prosecutor, it's going to be a very, very long night ...

I've enjoyed all the books in the Bell Elkins mystery series by Julia Keller and have come to expect a certain formula from them.  That's why Fast Falls the Night—the sixth installment—surprised me so much.  Keller changes things up this time around in a few ways.  First, this story takes place over a 24-hour period, which makes for a much faster paced novel than usual.  Second, she focuses on new characters and relationships.  As much as I love Bell and miss Nick Fogelsong, injecting some new blood helps make Acker's Gap feel more interesting and alive.  Third, Keller ends the book with a cliffhanger.  Although this is par for the course with lots of mystery/thriller series, Keller always wraps her stories up at the end.  At first, I thought Fast Falls the Night's very abrupt conclusion was due to a printing error in my ARC.  Nope.  While the not-so-satisfying finale was definitely unexpected, I can't deny that it's making me crazy for the next installment in the series.  I have to know what happens, darn it!  I also have to say that I like the changes Keller makes in Fast Falls the Night.  They've injected new energy into the series.  I would have been anxious for the next Bell Elkins book anyway, but now I'm chomping at the bit.  August 2018, come quick!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Bell Elkins series, including A Killing in the Hills; Bitter River; Summer of the Dead; A Haunting of the Bones [novella]; The Devil's Step-Daughter [novella]; Ghost Roll [novella]; Last Ragged Breath; Evening Street [novella]; and Sorrow Road)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Fast Falls the Night from the generous folks at Minotaur Books, a division of St. Martin's Press/Macmillan.  Thank you!
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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson


The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

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