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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 29, 2018

Looking for a Light, Diverting Romance? Look No Further.

(Image from Becca Wilhite's blog)

After writing eleven book reviews today, I'm too tired to come up with another plot summary, so here's the official one for Wedding Belles by Melanie Jacobson, Jenny Proctor, Becca Wilhite, and Brittany Larsen:

Harper is an event planner with dreams of taking over the Charleston wedding scene . . . until she meets the biggest Bridezilla of her career. She needs the job, but the only way to keep it is to hire a temperamental chef with big dreams of his own.

Janie is a classical cellist booked to play a posh Charleston wedding. She’s excited to have the lucrative gig until the groom’s brother, Emmett, shows up and asks her to help him play a song he wrote for the happy couple. The only trouble? Emmett is her unrequited high school crush.

Lily has been Dahlia's best friend, partner-in-crime, and now her maid of honor . . . until suddenly there's no wedding, and she's left to clean up Dahlia's biggest mess of all. She's been friends with Deacon, the jilted groom, for just as long, and it's up to her to rescue him after Hurricane Dahlia blows through.

Sutton is a photographer running from her past. Only the pleas from her best friend to photograph her wedding could bring Sutton back to Charleston. Her plan is to get in and get out before her ex knows she and their daughter are in town. At least it’s the plan until she meets Max, who turns out to be the safe place she didn’t know she was looking for. 

I don't usually dig short stories, but I'm becoming a fan of romance novels centering around one main event that are told in parts.  Wedding Belles is no exception.  It offers a series of funny, upbeat stories written by some of my favorite Latter-Day Saint romance novelists.  Although the book has nothing to do with the Church, it is mostly clean (there are a few mild swear words) and completely sweet.  Naturally, I liked some of the stories more than others (the first and final are my favorites), but all of them are fun, warm, and engaging.  If you're looking for a light, diverting read, definitely pick up this swoony romance.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other romance novels by Melanie Jacobson, Jenny Proctor, Becca Wilhite, and Brittany Larsen)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Wedding Belles from the generous authors.  Thank you!

Mystery Opener A Little Disappointing Despite Positive Buzz

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After being wounded in Afghanistan a year ago, retired U.S. Army Corporal Mercy Carr is back home in Vermont to recover.  She's also mourning her fiancé, who was killed in action.  The 29-year-old is not alone in her sorrow—she's adopted Martinez's bomb-sniffing dog, a PTSD-laden Belgian shepherd named Elvis.  Together, the pair spend their days hiking off their grief in the Green Mountains.  Their peace is interrupted one day when they find a crying infant alone in the wilderness, perched not far from where Elvis alerts to the presence of both explosives and human remains.  Shocked by the discovery, Mercy calls the authorities.

Troy Warner, a U.S. game warden, is called to the scene.  Immediately intrigued by both the situation and the beautiful corporal, he enlists Mercy's unofficial help with the investigation.  Along with his patrol dog, Susie Bear, the four make a powerful team.  Together, they uncover an intriguing mystery featuring a missing mother, an endangered infant, and a possibly explosive situation at the town's Fourth of July celebration.  It's up to the four of them to get to the bottom of the situation before it gets horribly—fatally—out of hand.

Despite the positive buzz I've heard about A Borrowing of Bones, a debut novel by Paula Munier and the start of a series, I actually found the book to be a bit of a disappointment.  Although it stars a quartet of appealing characters, the humans are not very well developed.  The minor cast members suffer from the same problem, so much so that I had a hard time keeping track of who was who.  The plot is interesting enough, but it's bogged down by detail-heavy overwriting.  I did enjoy the small-town setting, as well as the fact that A Borrowing of Bones is unusually clean for a crime novel.  Overall, then, I liked the book enough to pick up the next volume in the series, but I'm not exactly chomping at the bit.  

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Engrossing Irish Crime Novel an Intriguing Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Cormac Reilly, now a detective sergeant, has never forgotten the call he took as a rookie twenty years ago that led him to a dead mother in County Mayo.  There, he discovered the body of Hilaria Blake, a bed-bound alcoholic with advanced-stage liver disease, dead of an apparent drug overdose.  In the freezing, dilapidated house, he encountered Hilaria's two children—Jack and Maude—both bruised and starving, reeking of neglect.  Cormac took them to the hospital and never saw them again, although their pathetic situation never quite left his mind.

Two decades later, Cormac is back in Galway after a stint in Dublin.  Despite his work experience, he's handed cold cases to keep him busy, a not-so-subtle insult.  When a body is discovered in the river Corrib, Cormac is shocked to be called in on the case.  To his dismay, the deceased is Jack Blake, a 25-year-old civil engineer who Cormac once carried out of a ramshackle home in which lay his dead mother.  While the death is a suspected suicide, Maude—newly arrived in Ireland from her home in Australia—insists her brother did not kill himself.  While Jack's girlfriend, Aisling Conroy, isn't sure what to think, Maude tries to convince her and Cormac to look more closely at what she insists is a murder.  Cormac reluctantly does so, even though he's being pressured to arrest Maud.  When a colleague finds shocking new evidence, however, he starts to suspect Maud may be right, but can he prove it?  The case raises disturbing questions about the local police department.  Is Cormac being deliberately misled?  If so, why?  It's up to him to find out the truth before someone puts a stop to his questioning—for good.

The Ruin, a debut novel by Irish lawyer Dervla McTiernan, is the first in a new detective series featuring the likable Cormac Reilly.  It's a compelling, well-plotted mystery featuring a set of complex, intriguing story people.  The action isn't heart-pounding, but it's steady and engrossing.  I definitely had trouble putting the book down.  With an interesting setting, sympathetic characters, and a storyline that kept me guessing, The Ruin made for a very satisfying read.  I'll definitely be reading the next book in the series, The Scholar, when it comes out in March.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of crime novels by Tana French and Jane Casey


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Absorbing Lusitania Mystery An Engaging Gem

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

2013—Sarah Blake knows she's never supposed to open the trunk that belonged to her great-grandfather, an Irish steward who died when the RMS Lusitania sunk in 1915.  Unfortunately for her integrity, the writer is desperate for the money it takes to keep her mother in a reputable care home, which means she needs to publish a new book.  And fast.  Frantically searching for a unique subject, she turns to the trunk.  What she finds inside could lead to an explosive, best-selling story, not to mention a rewriting of history.

1915—Caroline Telfair Hochstetter, a Southern belle, can't quite figure out what her husband's up to.  His actions have become increasingly suspicious of late, putting a strain in their new marriage.  Hoping to reconnect while enjoying lavish accommodations on Lusitania, Caroline's dismayed to find a tempting old flame on board.  What secret is her husband keeping?  Could it—or a rekindling of old feelings—end her floundering marriage?  

1915—Tennessee Schaff can blend in anywhere.  That's what makes her so good at the long con, including her specialty—forging valuable art.  Tired of the dishonesty, Tennessee wants out.  Her partner promises to free her after they make their fortune on one last scam while aboard Lusitania.  The last thing the forger needs is a distraction like Robert Langdon, especially when she starts to realize this con is much more than it seems ...

As Sarah digs into the lives of her ancestor and the people he associated with on Lusitania, she makes some startling discoveries.  With the help of an arresting Englishman, she'll find her story and much, much more.

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Karen White, and Lauren Willig is an absorbing novel featuring fascinating historical details, a cast of intriguing characters, and an engrossing, twisty plot.  I loved learning about Lusitania, a doomed ship I knew little about.  That, plus the novel's other appealing characteristics makes The Glass Ocean a thoroughly engaging read that I very much enjoyed.  While I've read many books by White, I've never read anything by the other two authors—now, I very much want to.  The W's make for a winning combination of writers and I hope they continue to collaborate.  If you love historical fiction, definitely check this one out.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Glass Ocean at Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Far-Fetched Front Desk Still An Appealing, Empowering Story for Kids

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 10-year-old Mia Tang arrives in Anaheim, California, her head is filled with the same visions as any other kid—screaming happily on a roller coaster at Disneyland, splashing in the cool water of a hotel pool, and basking in the brilliant sunshine, warm and content.  That's not exactly what she gets when she lands at the Calivista Hotel.  For starters, she's not a guest.  She's living there because the room comes with her parents' housekeeping/hotel management jobs.  Also, the mean owner has banned employees from using the pool.  As for Anaheim being a happy, joyous place?  Apparently, that doesn't apply to Chinese immigrants whose English needs a little help.  Anaheim might be the setting for other people's dream vacations, but it's not turning out so dreamy for Mia.

Then, Mia starts working the front desk when her parents are too busy to manage that and room cleaning.  Suddenly, she has a purpose.  As she organizes the office, takes care of guests, and gets to know the hotel's permanent residents, Mia's gloom starts to dissipate.  She still has to deal with the greedy, dishonest hotel owner and his snooty son; worry over her parents' secret hiding of illegal immigrants; and deal with demanding guests; but at least she has a purpose.  Will her growing skills be enough to help her family survive in a hostile new environment?  Will she be able to keep the Calivista Hotel running?  Or will the Tangs be forced to start over once again or, worse, turned over to the authorities?  

Inspired by her own experience working at a California hotel with her immigrant parents, Kelly Yang's Front Desk is a bright, engaging book about using your talents to help people.  It's got plenty going on to keep readers engaged and wondering how everything is going to turn out.  While I enjoyed the story overall, I had trouble believing a 10-year-old would be giving as much responsibility as Mia had or that adult guests would trust a child with handling money, fielding complaints, and dealing with check-in/check-out.  I realize that Yang was an exceptionally bright 10-year-old (she entered college at 13, started Harvard Law School at 17, and graduated at 20), but still ... Mia talked and acted like no 10-year-old I've ever known.  That major suspension of disbelief tainted the book for me.  Still, Front Desk is an appealing story that young readers will find entertaining and empowering.  I didn't love it, but that's okay.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other MG books about immigrant families trying to find their way in America, although no specific titles are coming to mind.)


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 Front Desk from the library at my child's elementary school.

Southern Gothic Vibe + Dark Family Secrets + Appealing Characters = a Mystical, Mesmerizing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since her mother died on her 30th birthday, Althea Bell has dreaded the start of her own third decade.  Something happens to the Bell women at 30.  Always has, always will.  At 29, Althea is trying to shake off the superstition.  After all, she's just out of rehab.  Her life isn't ending; it's beginning.  

With nowhere else to go, Althea returns to Mobile, Alabama, eager to make amends with the father she hurt with her descent into addiction.  As the family black sheep, she knows not to expect a celebratory welcome home party.  Still, she's surprised when she's thrown out of the family home by her brother, who's running for governor, and his ambitious wife.  Althea's even more shocked to discover that they plan to have her admitted to the local psychiatric hospital as a preventative measure.  

Disturbed by her brother's announcement and subsequent revelations about a dark family secret, Althea takes off, determined to find the truth about the curse that has haunted the Bell women.  With an old boyfriend by her side, she will not rest until she's uncovered every unsavory bit of her hidden family history.  As her actions grow increasingly dangerous, Althea will have to remain sober, focused, and, above all, sane to avoid the fate that has befallen the women before her.  She is not insane and she is not cursed ... or is she?

It's a little tough to describe the plot of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter.  Suffice it to say, the book tells a mesmerizing, mystical tale and I had a very hard time putting down.  It's far-fetched, yes, but it's also an addicting story featuring appealing characters and an intriguing mystery.  The tale kept me tearing through pages, racing toward a satisfying end.  This isn't my favorite of Carpenter's books, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books by Emily Carpenter, including The Weight of Lies and Every Single Secret)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, depictions of illegal drug abuse, disturbing subject matter, and sexual content

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

Empathetic, Hopeful Historical A Memorable Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Struggling journalist Ellis Reed is in desperate need of a juicy story to propel him out of the society pages into the more prestigious world of investigative reporting.  When he happens upon an arresting sight—two kids sitting on a sagging porch in rural Pennsylvania beside a sign reading "Two Children for Sale"—he snaps a photograph.  It's a heart-wrenching scene that says volumes about the struggles people all over the country are facing in the midst of the Great Depression.  Ellis never intends to publish the picture, but when it is inadvertently shown to his editor, the man in charge sees a golden opportunity.  After the original image is accidentally destroyed, Ellis is sent to get another, which leads to a staged photograph and the subsequent destruction of an innocent family.  As the situation grows increasingly out of control, Ellis is haunted by what he's done.  He can't tell the truth without ruining his now successful career, but he can't live with himself if he doesn't. 

Equally horrified by her role in the situation, Lillian Palmer vows to help Ellis reunite a family torn apart by lies and besieged by unwanted public attention.  Risking her own position at the newspaper, she has to decide how far she's willing to go for redemption and for her developing relationship with Ellis.  Can Lillian and Ellis put to rights a situation that gets more complicated every day?  Or have they doomed themselves and a guiltless family to a lifetime of sorrow and remorse? 

With a haunting premise and a compelling plot, Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris is an evocative novel about the sometimes long-reaching consequences of one split-second decision.  Peopled with flawed, but authentic characters, it tells an empathetic story that highlights the abject desperation that characterized a devastating period in American history.  Although this is a sad story, it's also a hopeful one.  Sold on a Monday kept me reading, hoping, and yearning for a happy ending.  I enjoyed it immensely.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Shivery Gothic Story a Satisfying Yarn

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been two centuries since the famed Salem Witch Trials took place, but that doesn't mean a Massachusetts woman can't still be accused of conjuring evil.  Lydia Montrose should know.  Although the 18-year-old is quiet and serious, there's a restless itch inside her that sometimes grows into more.  It's whispers of a scandal involving her older sister, however, that force the family to flee Boston.  As they settle into Willow Hall—their country home in tiny, isolated New Oldburg—both Lydia and her younger sister, Emeline, feel happier, especially thanks to their association with handsome John Barrett.  While Lydia falls helplessly in love with the only man who's ever really noticed her, Caroline, the eldest, only grows more self-centered.    

Despite its idyllic setting, Willow Hall is a place acquainted with tragedy and sorrow.  It's not long before its quiet darkness seeps into the sisters' souls, taunting them with a power that will take its toll on the entire Montrose family.  As the dormant force that lies asleep inside Lydia slowly awakens, she will have to harness what she doesn't understand in order to save everyone and everything she's ever loved ... 

The Witch of Willow Hall, a debut novel by Hester Fox, has gotten a lot of buzz this year.  And deservedly so.  Its bewitching (See what I did there?) backdrop, compelling plot line, and shivery Gothic vibe combine to create a read that is engrossing and entertaining.  Lydia is a sympathetic heroine whose bravery and kindness make her an appealing character to follow.  Her relationship with her sisters feels authentic, true.  While this is a sad novel, it ends on a hopeful note which, combined with its other appealing aspects, makes The Witch of Willow Hall a very satisfying read.  I loved it.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and a little bit of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Witch of Willow Hall from the generous folks at Harlequin via those at NetGalley.  Thank you! 

Art History Thriller Not Quite Thrilling Enough

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As the daughter of a passionate collector, 19-year-old Paulien Mertens knows art.  She especially loves the Post-Impressionist paintings in her father's collection and longs to turn the family's barn into a museum showcasing the genre.  Those dreams turn to dust when her father—along with many other art lovers—become the victims of a multi-million dollar con game perpetuated by Paulien's fiance, George Everard.  Implicated along with her lover, Paulien is forced to flee Belgium in shame.  It's 1922 and she is penniless and alone.  Not without a bit of pluck, she runs to Paris, where she reinvents herself as a French art critic named Vivienne Gregsby.  When she's hired as a translator by an eccentric American art collector, Paulien is once again enfolded into the vibrant world of art that she loves so much.  As long as she keeps her true identity well hidden, she can revel in the chance to travel and consort with exciting new artists while helping Dr. Edwin Bradley acquire interesting paintings for his museum in Pennsylvania.  She encourages her boss to recover her father's precious Post-Impressionist paintings, which she vows to return to their rightful owner as soon as possible.

While Paulien schemes to make her long-held dream come to pass, she finds herself in George's clutches once again.  He wants her to do him a favor in exchange for his silence about her real identity.  Before she knows it, she finds herself in an even bigger quandary—she's being accused of murdering Dr. Edwin Bradley.  Can Paulien clear her name?  Or will she lose everything, once again?

I adored The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro's 2012 debut, so I was excited to try another of her historical art thrillers.  Unfortunately, I wasn't as enamored of her newest, The Collector's Apprentice.  While Shapiro's depiction of the 1920s art scene in Paris is interesting enough, it gets a little too detailed for someone like me who isn't all that interested in art.  The extra information weighed down the story for me, making it drag, especially in the middle.  I also didn't care much for the cast of this novel.  Paulien is not all that sympathetic; although she wants justice for her father, her pursuit of it comes off as greedy, calculating, and manipulative.  Overall, I still enjoyed the book.  It just dragged and didn't engage me nearly as much as The Art Forger did.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and books by Susan Vreeland)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (one F-bomb, plus milder expletives) and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Collector's Apprentice from the generous folks at Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Empowering MG Novel Urges All to See Each Other More Clearly

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When you're in junior high, nothing draws in the bullies quite like being different.  Flint would know.  With a debilitating eye disease called keratoconus, he has to work harder than most just to see normally.  Calling him "Squint," his middle school tormentors love to mock him at every turn, making his lonely existence even more difficult.  Flint tries his best to ignore the taunts, focusing instead on the epic superhero comic book he's writing and illustrating.  His goal is to submit it to a "Find a New Comic Star" contest before his eyelids thin enough to blind him completely.  When he wins, Flint will finally receive the respect and friendship he craves.

Flint, who always sits alone at lunch, can't quite believe it when the cool new girl sits next to him in the cafeteria.  Even though she's been accepted by the popular crowd, McKell Panganiban seems genuinely nice.  The more Flint gets to know her, the more he realizes that, like him, McKell has some amazing hidden talents she's reluctant to share.  As the two begin to trust each other with their secret skills, they make some amazing discoveries about each other and about themselves.  When a dynamic YouTube star urges them to make the most of the time they've been given, Flint and McKell realize their new friendship might just give them the courage they need to finally do the things that scare them most.

I greatly enjoyed Mustaches for Maddie, last year's heartwarming MG novel by husband/wife duo Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, so I was excited to read their newest offering, Squint.  Like its predecessor, Squint is a warm, uplifting story that encourages empathy, compassion, and accepting others despite their differences.  Although it deals with tough subjects, Squint remains positive without ever feeling cheesy or overly sentimental.  Instead, it's a funny, engaging story that both entertains and empowers.  In the same vein as Wonder, it's a book that reminds us to look more closely at each other—and ourselves—to find the hidden beauty inside us all. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Wonder by R.J. Palacio and other MG novels about learning to accept others despite their disabilities/differences)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Squint from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Memoir of Escape From North Korea as Fascinating as it is Horrifying

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If you've heard Hyeonseo Lee's popular TED talk about her childhood in North Korea and her subsequent escape from the country, you have an idea of the harrowing things she experienced as a child and young woman.  In her memoir, The Girl with Seven Names, Lee tells her story in greater detail.  She talks about growing up in North Korea in a loving family, feeling secure and sheltered, not realizing how many of her countrymen suffered daily because of extreme government control, poverty, and ignorance.  As her eyes opened and things became more difficult at home, Lee desired escape.  At 17 years old, she snuck into China on a lark.  Tasting freedom for the first time, she remained in the country, hiding her true identity to avoid being deported.  Yearning to be reunited with her family, Lee then risked everything to get them out of North Korea.  Always fearful of discovery, she experienced constant worry as well as a personal crisis as "the girl with many names and no identity" (142) that affects her even today.  Now married to an American and living in South Korea, she has become a passionate spokesperson/activist for North Korean human rights as well as a sought-after speaker.  

Not knowing much about the plight of North Koreans, I found The Girl with Seven Names as fascinating as it is horrifying.  It's a chilling, matter-of-fact recounting of unbelievable oppression and suffering, the kind of thing most Americans can't even begin to imagine.  Although it's a quick read, it's an eye-opening one that is both gripping and inspiring.  If you're as ignorant as I was about what has gone on in North Korea, I definitely recommend picking up this moving, informative book.  

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (one F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and references to illegal drug use, prostitution, rape, and other disturbing subject matter

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

Tense, Gritty Survival Story Is Hatchet for a New Generation

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Sequoiah "Jess" Cooper's mother dies in a car accident, the 16-year-old is sent to live with her father, a survivalist whom she hasn't seen in ten years.  Although he officially resides in Alaska, Carl Green really lives in a rustic cabin in a remote stretch of the Canadian wilderness.  There's no running water, no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no Internet, and no other people.  It's just the way Carl likes it.  Jess, on the other hand, feels like she's time traveled to the 1800s; she needs to find a way to beam herself back to civilization and the sooner, the better.  

Jess has only started getting to know her father when two men helicopter in, murder Carl, and set fire to his cabin.  A horrified Jess is left alone without food or shelter to fend for herself in a strange, hostile environment.  With no way to communicate with the outside world, she can't call in the authorities.  Knowing her father's killers will return, she has only one option—prepare herself.  With a frigid winter on the horizon, it will take all of Jess's skill just to stay alive.  But that's not her only goal.  She will bring her father's murderers to justice, even if it costs her her own life, which it probably will ...

I Am Still Alive, a debut YA novel by romance writer Kate Alice Marshall, tells a tense, gritty tale about one girl's determination to survive against all odds.  Jess is a tough, determined heroine, one for whom it's easy to root.  Her story is spare and grim, but it's also exciting and thoroughly engrossing.  I couldn't put it down.  If you like Hatchet-type stories, be sure to give this one a go.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen as well as other outdoor survival stories)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

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