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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)
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- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan
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- Nebraska (1)
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- New Hampshire
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- New York (4)
- North Carolina (4)
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- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania (1)
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- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (3)
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- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (1)
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- 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:

22 / 50 books. 44% 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:

26 / 40 books. 65% 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

25 / 100 books. 25% 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!
Thursday, February 01, 2018

Simple, But Wise Wishtree a Beautiful Gem

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although Red is a northern red oak—one of the most common trees in North America—he (really he/she because trees have no gender) has a personality all his own.  He likes to crack bad jokes; tease Bongo, his crow BFF; and shelter young animals in his sturdy trunk.  Over the 216 years he's been alive, Red has seen it all.  He's witnessed kindness and crime, conflict and peace, prosperity and poverty.  The people in his neighborhood think him magic—every year, they festoon his branches with their fondest wishes written on scraps of fabric hoping that he can make them come true.  

This year, the tender wish of a young Muslim girl pierces Red right down to his roots.  Already the victim of ignorance and hate, Samar wishes only for a friend.  Red isn't supposed to interfere in human affairs, but for once he's tempted to break the rules.  Can a tree without magical powers really make a difference in the world?  Red is about to find out ... 

I've become a big fan of Katherine Applegate's moving middle grade novels.  If you've read The One and Only Ivan or Crenshaw, you'll understand why.  Wishtree, her newest, only solidifies her position as one of my favorite children's authors.  This short tale is thoughtful and funny, simple and wise.  With a timely message about acceptance and inclusion, it's an important book for everyone to read.  Not surprisingly, I adored Wishtree.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

Beautiful, Multi-layered Orphan Island Offers Plenty of Food for Thought

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although the kids on the island can't remember their lives away, they know they're better off on their island paradise.  After all, their home is a magical place full of beauty, camaraderie, and safety.  They're sheltered, always.  They can't fall off the cliffs—the wind pushes them right back.  They can't be bitten or stung—even the poisonous snakes are docile as lambs.  As long as they follow the rules, the island protects and provides.  

One of the rules dictates that every year a young child arrives mysteriously in a self-propelled green boat.  The oldest islander must then climb into the boat and be steered away, never to be heard from again.  No one knows where the newbies come from or where the Elders go.  They simply welcome those who come and mourn those who leave.  It has always been this way; it will always be this way.  After all, everyone knows the rhyme:  Nine on an island, orphans all, Any more, the sky might fall.

When a new child arrives at the island begging for her "mama," Jinny—the eldest—begins to question everything she's always been told.  Who are she and her friends, really?  Why are they on this strange island?  As Jinny digs for answers, she sets in motion a shocking chain of events that will change everything.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder is a gorgeously-written middle grade novel that explores a variety of intriguing themes.  Although it's a compelling mystery/adventure with enough action to keep a child's attention, the story's also rich in symbolism and allegory that will please deep-thinking adults.  Multi-layered and mysterious, Orphan Island will keep you guessing, especially since its ending remains open to interpretation.  If you're looking for a read that will provoke lively conversation at your next book club meeting, give this one a go.  I'm not sure I'd consider Orphan Island a favorite of mine, but it's definitely worthy of an A grade.  Even months after reading it, I'm still pondering all its possible meanings. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Giver by Lois LowryThe Maze Runner by James Dashner, and of the The Truman Show)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed a copy of Orphan Island from my daughter's elementary school as part of my volunteer work with the school's reading program.

Despite Tension-Filled Setting, WWII Romance a Bit of a Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Even though Sicily has been occupied by German forces for several years, life remains fairly simple for 18-year-old Marianna De'Angelis.  She helps her mother with household chores, keeps the family's animals fed, and loves to accompany her father on fishing trips.  Whatever food remains unsold after market day, Marianna distributes to homeless families displaced by the war.  Although she worries about her soldier brother, she refuses to give up hope that he will return home safe and sound.  Soon, she prays, Italy will be free from strife and life in the countryside will once again be peaceful and happy.
Marianna's prosaic life takes an unexpected turn when she meets Massimo Scalvone, a 21-year-old soldier from Foggia.  On leave in order to care for his elderly grandparents, he will be living on a neighboring farm for the summer.  Marianna can't deny her attraction to the handsome stranger, even when she discovers that their growing love for each other could get them both killed.  With Massimo taking ever greater risks and Marianna engaged in her own daring activities, it's only a matter of time before the Nazis find them out.  Will their newfound love survive the great conflict that threatens to tear them—as well as everyone and everything they care for—apart?  Or will their tender young romance become just another casualty of a brutal, deadly war?

With a colorful historical setting, The Fisherman's Daughter by Melinda Sue Sanchez, offers a love story set against an intriguing backdrop.  I've read a number of WWII books, but none set in Italy, so I enjoyed this aspect of the novel.  Despite its tension-filled setting, though, The Fisherman's Daughter gets off to a slow start.  A very slow start.  The action picks up in the last 3/4 of the book, but the rest of the tale is a bit of a slog.  Although both Marianna and Massimo are perfectly nice characters, they're a little too perfect, making them seem flat and dull.  Neither has much in the way of a personality.  Plus, although they talk an awful lot about the chemistry flaming between them, I never actually felt any.  To me, their relationship seems insta-lovey and melodramatic.  I appreciate The Fisherman's Daughter for its interesting setting as well as for its uplifting themes and restrained, yet realistic depictions of war; however, its slow pacing and underdeveloped characters bug.  Overall, then, this turned out to be just an okay read for me.  Oh well.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (one instance); violence; blood/gore; and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Fisherman's Daughter from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!

May's Newest Not My Favorite, But Still Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Ruairdh Macfarlane proposes investing in tweed, his wife balks.  After all, what do the two of them know about fabric?  Will they be able to survive if they sink their life savings into a small, Hebridean textile business?  Niamh has a background in business and marketing, but she still thinks her husband's idea is crazy.  Against all odds, the duo create a successful company.  When their unique take on Harris Tweed catches the attention of bigwigs in the fashion world, it looks like their dreams of fame and fortune are finally coming true.

Although Niamh and Ruairdh have been friends since childhood and spouses for a decade, their solid bond seems to be cracking.  While on an important business trip to Paris, Niamh accuses Ruairdh of cheating on her with Irinia Vetrov, a married Russian fashion designer.  Furious, he stomps out of their hotel room.  She spies him climbing into Irina's car, which explodes only moments later, killing them both.  A shocked Niamh soon finds herself the prime suspect in her husband's murder.  The only way to clear her name is to find out what really happened.

Even in the Macfarlane's remote home in the Hebrides, Niamh becomes the target of someone bent on doing her harm.  Why did her husband die?  And who is trying to kill her now?  

I'm a big fan of Peter May's novels, especially those set in the moody, broody Hebrides.  He has a way of making the locale come alive for me in all its stark, striking glory.  A lot of I'll Keep You Safe (available March 6, 2018), May's newest thriller, takes place off-island, which is maybe why I didn't like it quite as much as some of his others.  It also felt more graphic.  Its format differs from May's previous novels, which made for an interesting contrast.  I did enjoy delving into the characters' back stories, although I realized that, like a true Hebridean, I'm leery of outlanders and prefer an all-local cast.  Still and all, I'll Keep You Safe is a tense page turner that definitely kept my attention.  While I saw the killer coming, there was at least one twist that caught me by surprise.  His newest isn't my favorite, but I still love May and will read anything he writes, especially if it's set in the always-fascinating Hebrides.

(Readalikes:  Other books by Peter May; also those by Ann Cleeves)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of I'll Keep You Safe from the generous folks at Quercus.  Thank you!
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