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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!
Thursday, March 28, 2019

Despite Appealing Pieces, Gothic Family Secrets Novel Doesn't Quite Come Together

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

10-year-old Virginia Wrathmell is glad to be out of the orphanage where she has lived since her parents died, but she's not quite sure what to think of her adoptive home and family.  Salt Winds is a strange, lonely place.  With its remote location on the moors, it feels otherworldly, sad, and somehow, dangerous.  While Virginia's new father, Clem, is warm and kind, the same can't be said of Lorna, her new mother, whose glamorous facade hides a temperament as shifting as the tides.  While she can't quite understand the tension in her adoptive parents' marriage, she knows it has something to do with Max Deering, the charismatic widower who lives nearby. 

With war raging in other parts of Europe, it's only a matter of time before the conflict comes to Salt Winds.  When Clem and Virginia spy a German airman making a risky parachute landing on their beach, Clem rushes to help him.  His kind act sets in motion events that will rock young Virginia to her core and threaten everything she's come to love about the place she's just beginning to think of as home.

The Orphan of Salt Winds, a debut novel by Elizabeth Brooks, features some of my favorite fictional elements—a moody, broody setting; a haunting Gothic vibe; and family skeletons bursting from hidden closets.  Unfortunately, for me, these appealing pieces didn't quite come together to create a satisfying whole.  While I found the story compelling enough to keep me reading, I also thought it was cold, stark, sad, and depressing.  Overall, I just didn't love it.  It turned out to be an okay read, but definitely not a memorable or captivating one.

(Readalikes:  The book's setting and premise reminded me of Kate Morton's novels, although the former lacks the warmth and charm of the latter.)  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Monday, March 25, 2019

World War II Internment Novel Tells Intriguing, Little-Known Story (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There is plenty about her confinement in the Crystal City internment camp during World War II that Elise Sontag Dove would gladly forget.  But as Alzheimer's slowly eats away her 81-year-old memory, there is one part of her internment experience she's desperate to remember—her best friend and fellow internee, Mariko Inoue Hiyashi.  After being repatriated to Japan, Mariko's parents forced her to remain in their homeland.  Elise hasn't heard from her in almost seven decades.  Now, with the help of Google, Elise must secretly engineer a reunion so she can—at last—thank Mariko for the girlhood friendship that changed Elise's life.

As Elise makes her clandestine plan, she reminisces about her unbelievable experience as the American-born daughter of unnaturalized German immigrants during the war.  From internment to expatriation to seeing firsthand the awful devastation of bombing in Germany, it's a harrowing story of sorrow, injustice, and, ultimately, hope.

I've read dozens of novels set during World War II, but I think this is the first time I've really encountered one about the plight of German-Americans during the war.  I knew about people of Japanese descent being interred, but not about those of German lineage suffering the same fate.  It's a fascinating piece of history about which I definitely wanted to know more.  The premise of The Last Year of the War, the newest dual-timeline historical novel by Susan Meissner, definitely interested me.  Unfortunately, the plot itself gets uneven and disjointed.  While the story centers on a friendship forged in the dusty Texan desert, only a tiny part of the tale actually takes place there, making the key theme of the novel feel less significant than it should have.  Other than that, The Last Year of the War is an enjoyable novel that stars sympathetic characters acting against a fascinating historical backdrop.  While I didn't end up loving this one, I did find it an intriguing and moving tale.  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild, non-graphic sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Last Year of the War from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


As part of the blog tour for The Last Year of the War, Penguin Random House has authorized me to give away a paperback copy of Susan Meissner's last book, As Bright As Heaven.  It's a heart-wrenching novel about a mother and daughter living in Philadelphia during the horrific outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Absorbing Historical Novel Empathetic and Intriguing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Nestled on the floor of a canyon at the place where Sulphur Creek and the Fremont River meet sits tiny, remote Junction, Utah.  It's 1888 and seven families affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) live in the small community, which has become an in-between place for in-between Saints.  

Raised in a polygamist family, Junction resident Deborah Tyler wants nothing to do with the practice.  More devout members of the faith may question hers, but Deborah's happy with her two decades of marriage to kind, hardworking Samuel, even if their union has not produced the children they long to have.  Still, Deborah has much to keep her busy—household chores, her glove-making business, and finding ways to fill the long hours she spends alone while Samuel is working in southern Utah and Arizona as a traveling wheelwright. 

One night while Deborah is worrying about Samuel, who's been gone much longer than expected, a stranger shows up at her door seeking refuge.  Helping a polygamist on the run from the law—which is what this man obviously is—could get her in big trouble.  Still, her bleeding heart gets the best of her.  When a U.S. marshal comes along soon after, Deborah finds herself in deeper trouble than she could have ever imagined.  With Samuel away, she has only his stepbrother, Nels Anderson, to help her.  And he's just as guilty as she ... 

As the two try to figure out how to get themselves out of the very hot water they're now in, Deborah must wage a fierce internal battle between right and wrong, justice and safety, and hope and despair.

The Glovemaker, a new historical novel by Ann Weisgarber, tells a tense, compelling tale that kept me turning pages to find out what was going to happen next.  The setting is unique, the historical details intriguing, and the characters sympathetic.  Deborah and Nels are both realistically flawed, making them relatable in their authenticity.  While Weisgarber in no way romanticizes plural marriage, her portrayal of the practice among early Church members is surprisingly sensitive, even empathetic, which makes the story even more absorbing.  Overall, The Glovemaker is engrossing, interesting, and hopeful.  I enjoyed it.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Glovemaker from the generous folks at Skyhorse Publishing via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!
Friday, March 22, 2019

So-So YA Thriller Doesn't Do Justice to Intriguing Premise

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 17-year-old Chloe Holden accidentally runs into a stranger in a convenience store, she's shocked by his reaction.  Yes, she knocked into the teen guy and made him spill his slushie, but it was a total accident, so what's with the hateful threats?  She's never seen the guy before.  Why is he acting like he knows exactly who she is?  

Chloe starts at her new school only to find herself the subject of a death glare from the same strange kid.  She finds out he's senior Cash Colton, a foster kid who's known for making trouble.  When Chloe finds herself defending him after a fight at school, the two become tentative friends.  As they get to know each other better, Cash explains his weird initial reaction to Chloe—his foster parents' toddler was kidnapped 15 years ago and Chloe, who was adopted at 3 years old, looks just like her.  Shocked by the very idea, Chloe begins to question everything she's ever known—and not known—about herself.  Who is she, really?  The more she and Cash dig into her past, the more disturbing and dangerous the present becomes ...

In Another Life by C.C. Hunter boasts an intriguing premise, the kind that usually pulls me right in.  While I found the idea at the center of the novel compelling, the execution didn't quite do it for me.  Chloe, Cash, & Co. feel like flat, generic stereotypes and the plot gets more far-fetched and melodramatic as it goes along.  Several points don't make sense, like why Cash doesn't just grab some DNA samples on the sly and have them tested, which made the story feel illogical to me.  All in all, then, I didn't love this one.  It kept me engrossed enough to finish, true, but overall, I just wasn't that impressed.  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of In Another Life from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press.  Thank you!
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

TTT: Spring (Reading) Has Sprung!

I'm a day late to the Top Ten Tuesday party this week, but I love seasonal TBR lists so much that I didn't want to miss out on the fun!  I can't wait to see what everyone's reading this Spring.  Even though this season is all about sunshine, renewal, rebirth, and soft, pastel-colored days, my reading for the upcoming months is kind of the opposite.  I'm in need of some light, happy reads to sandwich between these dark, heavy ones, so if you've got some great Spring-ish recommendations, hit me up!

Without further ado, here are the Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR:

1.  The Lost Man by Jane HarperI've enjoyed Harper's two previous books, so I'm looking forward to her newest.  I wish it were another installment in her Aaron Falk series, but this one's a standalone.  It revolves around two brothers trying to get to the bottom of a third brother's suspicious death in the Queensland outback.

2.  Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan BrennertI loved Moloka'i when I read it back in 2007 and am delighted that a sequel just came out.  Right now I'm re-reading Moloka'i so I can remember who's who and what's what, then I'll move on to its sequel.

3.  The Vanishing Stair by Maureen JohnsonMy teen daughter and I both really enjoyed Truly Devious, a YA mystery set in a remote boarding school.  When my daughter spied the sequel at Half-Price Books, she begged me to buy it.  Let's just say it didn't take much convincing!  We're both excited to delve into this one.

4.  The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie (available March 26, 2019)—This YA novel about a young woman who captains the last mining ship in the Outpost sounds like a riveting adventure story.  

5.  The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan ReichsI picked up this MG adventure tale at Half-Price Books as well (I canNOT be trusted in a bookstore).  It sounds eerie and fun.  I can't wait to dive in!

6.  The Daughter's Tale by Armando Lucas Correa (available May 7, 2019)—This dual-timeline historical novel is about a French-American woman in the present who receives a stack of letters her mother wrote during WWII.  As the woman unravels the secrets of her past, she discovers some surprising truths.  Sounds like my kind of book!

7.  The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (available May 21, 2019)—An ARC of this intriguing novel landed on my doorstep recently.  It's about a servant, a former slave, who's accused of murdering her employer and his wife.  Frannie claims she can't remember anything about the incident.  As her court case progresses, shocking secrets will out.  Sounds tantalizing, doesn't it?

8.  Woman 99 by Greer MacallisterThis historical thriller concerns a woman who's distraught when her sister is committed to an infamous insane asylum.  Desperate to protect her sibling, she follows her inside to discover a wealth of atrocities being performed against the helpless and hopeless.  Sounds heartbreaking but compelling.

9.  The Strangers by Margaret Peterson HaddixI enjoy this author's books, even though they're a bit hit and miss for me.  Still, they often have unique and intriguing premises, which I always appreciate.  Her newest centers on three children who are shocked when they hear of a trio of kidnapped children who bear remarkable similarities to themselves.  Could these groups of children be one and the same?

10.  How High the Moon by Karyn ParsonsThis MG historical novel stars a light-skinned African-American girl whose mother is away pursuing a Jazz career.  When Ella visits her over Christmas, she learns some shocking truths about her family.  Returning to the South, she's in for another unpleasant surprise.  As Ella deals with life's curveballs, she must figure out who she really is and what she truly wants.  I'm in.

So, there you have it, a few books that are really tempting me for Spring reading.  How about you?  What will you be enjoying this season?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT (on a Wednesday)!   
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Of the 42 Books I've Read This Year, Only This One Gets An "A"

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Sophie knows all about monsters.  She sees them everywhere.  Thanks to The Big Book of Monsters, which she always lugs with her, she can identify one in seconds.  The snarling boys who tease her at school are obviously goblins, Principal Marsh is just as swamp monster-ish as her name implies, and the bulky intruder who swoops in out of nowhere to date Sophie's mom can only be the cunning shapeshifter known as Koschei the Deathless.  Of course, she's also surrounded by good monsters, like her new friend, Autumn, whose bubbly nature marks her as a fairy and Sophie's kindly grandmother who can only be a good witch.  
It's not just The Big Book of Monsters that gives Sophie her special Spidey senses.  She knows monsters because she is one.  She's had a monster mark on her face since she was a baby.  Her mother, who's just a normal human, calls it a hemangioma, but Sophie knows it's more than a blood tumor birthmark.  It's an outward sign of her inner monstrous-ness.
When Sophie figures out how to create a spell powerful enough to end her monster curse and make her mark disappear, she vows to do whatever it takes to get rid of her sordid secret.  As she works to create the magical necklace that will disappear her mark forever, she'll discover true friends, a different perspective on the monster-filled world, and maybe, just maybe, a new way of seeing and appreciating herself—hemangioma and all.

I've read 42 books so far this year and only one has earned an "A" from me:  A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore.  This empowering MG novel boasts an engaging premise that will appeal to anyone who's ever felt out of place, sympathetic (but not pathetic) characters, and a compelling storyline that will keep readers turning pages to find out what happens next.  Sophie is a relatable character, not just because she feels other but because her thoughts and actions are age-appropriate for a girl who's celebrating her 11th birthday.  Her childlike worries feel authentic, which makes them even more heartbreaking.  As our heroine comes to some hard truths, however, she begins to see the world around her in a new light.  Coming to understand the beauty of her own—and others'—uniqueness opens her eyes.  Swore's skillful storytelling makes Sophie's transformation feel both organic and true.  The lessons she learns along the way are woven into the story subtly enough that A Monster Like Me never feels preachy or sappy.  It's simply a beautiful, entertaining, uplifting book that I enjoyed more than anything else I've read this year. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, and a little of Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and depictions of bullying

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of A Monster Like Me from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Friday, March 15, 2019

YA Romance-Made-in-the-Psych-Ward Novel Teaches Important Lessons

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Addie Foster's obsessive tics and lengthy routines become too debilitating, the 17-year-old is admitted to the psych ward of a Seattle hospital to get help with her OCD.  Surrounded by a group of teens battling schizophrenia, severe depression, delusions, and more, life at the facility is never boring.  Addie is especially taken with Fitz, a boy her age who's smart, funny, and brave.  Even though he's constantly fighting with the voices inside his head, Addie feels like Fitz is the only person who's ever really gotten her.  A teenage romance kindled in the psych ward is not likely to go anywhere, but Addie doesn't care—she's just grateful to have a true friend on the inside.

Then Fitz asks Addie to help him break out of the hospital.  For reasons he won't explain, Fitz insists he has to go to San Juan Island and it has to be now.  Addie understands obsessions, but she's not too keen on breaking out, especially when she's finally making progress with her OCD.  Still, she can't deny her new pal (who is maybe becoming more than a friend), so a plan is hatched ... Will it work?  What will happen when the pair is on the outside trying to make important decisions without their medication, their doctors, or their hospital friends?  Can their lives—their romance—ever really work outside the psych ward?

Waiting for Fitz is a debut novel by Spencer Hyde, a college professor who spent three years of his adolescence at Johns Hopkins being treated for severe OCD.  His experience makes the book feel authentic.  It also colors his fictional treatment of mental illness—he normalizes the issue without ever trivializing it.  Hyde's sympathetic view helps the reader see the patients in his novel (and thus their real-life counterparts) as teens who are just like everybody else, even as they deal with unique problems.  He preaches hope for those with mental illness, encouraging them to never, ever give up. 

Addie and Fitz are likable leads, although they are definitely not your average high schoolers.  They're old souls whose unusual interests will probably not resonate with most young adults.  While these oddities may alienate teen readers, it does keep the characters' developing relationship ... interesting.  That being said, the first half of Waiting for Fitz really dragged for me.  There's a lot of talking and philosophizing to wade through without much action to perk up the plot.  In fact, the plot doesn't even really start until the middle of the book, which is (not) coincidentally when the story really begins to get engaging.  The problem, I think, is that Addie has no real story goal so she doesn't do much, especially in the book's initial chapters.  Fitz is the star of the show, making Addie's role in the story kind of murky.  Despite the action picking up in the second half of Waiting for Fitz, I ended up not loving the novel.  I did care about the characters and became invested enough in them to finish the book.  All in all, though, this was just an okay read for me.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Waiting for Fitz from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Savage Wells Series a Satisfying, Swoony Delight

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While Healing Hearts is more of a companion book than a sequel to its predecessor, The Sheriffs of Savage Wells, reading them out of order may result in spoilers.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

In the small Western town of Savage Wells, Wyoming, men outnumber women at least 2:1.  Unless he wants to marry a woman old enough to be his grandmother, Gideon MacNamara has to take extreme measures.  As the only doctor for miles around, he's not just lonely but also exhausted from overwork.  Desperate, he sends out a request for a mail-order bride who has nursing experience.  He's not expecting a passionate romance from the union, but at least he can get some help with his bustling medical practice.  

A nurse with a devastating secret she's desperate to keep hidden, Miriam Bricks is grateful for the opportunity to work, even if it is in the middle of nowhere.  When she arrives in Savage Wells, however, she realizes—to her horror—that there's been a terrible mix-up.  Apparently, she's expected to be not just a nurse, but also a wife to a man she's never met!  Her refusal to marry Gideon, a man beloved by the town, makes Miriam an immediate outcast in Savage Wells.  Only Gideon offers her kindness.  He hires her as a nurse, no strings attached.  As the two work together day in and day out, a warm friendship forms between them. 
Just as their friendship is starting to develop into more, Miriam's past comes calling.  The exposure of her secrets could mean the end of Miriam's new life and love.  What will Gideon say when he hears the truth?  Will there be anything left of their friendship or will both of them walk away with shattered hearts?

Healing Hearts by Sarah M. Eden stars one of the minor characters from its predecessor, The Sheriffs of Savage Wells.  Gideon and Miriam are less colorful leads than Cade and Paisley, but they're no less likable.  Both are sympathetic, selfless people who deserve a happy ending.  Their romance is sweet and slow-building but swoony all the same.  Although they're not as fiery as Cade and Paisley, there's still plenty of tension and playful banter flying between them to keep things interesting.  Like its predecessor, Healing Hearts is clean, fun, upbeat, and entertaining.  I found it just as enjoyable—maybe even a little more so—than The Sheriffs of Savage Wells.  If you like light, funny historical romance, you can't go wrong with this series.  It really is a satisfying, swoony delight.

(Readalikes:  The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden, as well as other proper romances by the same author)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild violence

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

Clean Historical Romance a Fun, Entertaining Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Savage Wells, Wyoming Territory, might be a small, quiet settlement, but the town is growing fast and its anxious mayor fears trouble is just around the corner.  He needs a tough, dedicated sheriff to keep the peace.  Offering an unusually high salary should lure in the right man for the job.

Legendary lawman Cade O'Brien is certain that man is him.  Assuming his reputation will have proceeded him, he expects to waltz right in and take the position, no contest.  He's shocked when he spies other applicants—one of whom is a woman.  Cade never expected to have to prove himself capable but after a decade of bloody battles with violent criminals, he'll do anything for the easy tranquility Savage Wells offers.

Paisley Bell knows it's unusual for a woman to want to be sheriff, but the truth is she's been doing the job for months, even if the former sheriff took all the credit for her hard work.  She may not have a chance against someone as infamous as Cade O'Brien, but Paisley will not back down.  Not only does she need the money to care for her ill father, she knows and loves Savage Wells like no one else.  No one can do the job as well as Paisley and she won't back down until the position is hers.
While Cade and Paisley vie for the job, they have to contend with quirky townspeople, the return of Paisley's ex-fiancé, a threat to the town bank, and most troublesome of all—their growing attraction for one another.  With so much at stake, who will win and who will lose?

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden is a fun historical romance filled with likable characters, lively banter, and an entertaining storyline.  Sweet and clean, it has a swoony love story at its center that can be savored by readers of all ages.  At 336 pages, the novel is a good 100 pages longer than it needs to be, which bugs a little.  Still, despite the book's unneeded length and the subplot that is too thin to justify it, overall I enjoyed this funny, upbeat romance.  If you're looking for an uplifting read to make you smile, look no further.  You just found it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of its sequel, Healing Hearts by Sarah M. Eden as well as other proper romances by the same author)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild violence

To the FTC, with love:  I bought an e-copy of The Sheriffs of Savage Wells from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Luminous Debut Novel Touching and Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After losing her mother to cancer and fighting her own devastating battle with the disease, Joanna Teale needs a distraction.  The 26-year-old graduate student finds it in Southern Illinois' Shawnee Forest, where she spends all her time studying the nesting success of indigo buntings.  Renting a cabin on an isolated stretch of road, she lives a quiet, lonely existence that suits her just fine.

When a young girl appears on Jo's doorstep out of the blue, the busy biologist shoos her away.  The child, who insists she has no Earthly home because she came from the stars, is barefoot and covered in bruises.  In spite of herself, Jo lets the waif in—just until she can decide what to do with her.  The police seem uninterested in a wandering country kid and Jo doesn't see the girl's picture on any Missing Children sites.  Not knowing what else to do, she cares for the odd child, who continues to insist she's an alien sent to Earth to study human beings.  Increasingly concerned about the girl's obviously turbulent home life, Jo enlists the help of Gabe Nash, her handsome, reclusive neighbor, to help her solve the problem of the girl who calls herself Ursa Major.  

The more the adults bond with the special child, the more inclined they are to believe Ursa's crazy origin story.  When the happy bubble Jo, Ursa, and Gabe have created eventually pops, though, they will all be faced with some hard questions.  Who is Ursa Major, really?  Where did she come from?  And how has the strange little girl managed to steal their hearts so completely?

Where the Forest Meets the Stars is a luminous debut novel by endangered bird specialist Glendy Vanderah.  It features an intriguing premise, a cast of likable, sympathetic characters, and a slow-building plot that kept me turning pages nonetheless.  Although the novel deals with some tough subjects, overall it tells a hopeful, touching novel about the power of love in a world that has too little of it.  I enjoyed this lustrous tale and will definitely be watching to see what this talented author does next.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Where the Forest Meets the Stars from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing via those at TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


Would you like more opinions on Where the Forest Meets the Stars?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by clicking on the links below:

Instagram Tour:

Monday, February 25th: @lovelyreadergirl
Tuesday, February 26th: @bookishconnoisseur
Wednesday, February 27th: @theliteraryllama
Thursday, February 28th: @tarheelreader
Friday, March 1st: @stephaniehowell
Saturday, March 2nd: @somekindofalibrary
Sunday, March 3rd: @bookclubwithbite
Monday, March 4th: @bookish_nel
Tuesday, March 5th: @amberafterglowreads

Review Tour:

Monday, February 25th: Erica Robyn Reads
Tuesday, February 26th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, February 27th: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, February 28th: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Friday, March 1st: From the TBR Pile
Monday, March 4th: Booklover Book Reviews
Tuesday, March 5th: Openly Bookish
Wednesday, March 6th: Book Fidelity
Thursday, March 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Sunday, March 10th: @love_my_dane_dolly
Monday, March 11th: Tar Heel Readers
Tuesday, March 12th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Saturday, March 16th: Inky Moments and @inkymoments
Monday, March 18th: Book by Book
Tuesday, March 19th: Books & Bindings
Wednesday, March 20th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, March 21st: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, March 22nd: The Lit Bitch
Monday, March 25th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, March 27th: Audio Killed the Bookmark
Thursday, March 28th: @somekindofalibrary
Monday, March 11, 2019

WWII Love Story Sweet, But Heart-Wrenching (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Evalina Cassano, a 17-year-old Italian-American, falls in love with the Japanese-American boy who delivers produce to her family's restaurant, she knows their developing relationship will only lead to trouble.  And that's before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.  In the aftermath, paranoia against anyone of Japanese descent sweeps through the country, making Evalina and Taichi's clandestine romance even more dangerous.  When Taichi's family is sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center, Evalina promises she'll wait for his return.  No one knows how long the Japanese-Americans will be detained or what the world will be like when the war's over.  Can Evaline keep her promise to Taichi?  Is there any hope for a future together, even when barbed wire fences and armed guards aren't standing between them?

Taichi Hamasaki has always been an obedient rule follower.  His secret courting of Evalina is the only exception.  He can't even bear to tell her the truth about what life is really like inside Manzanar.  As things heat up inside the camp, with tempers flaring, gangs forming, and angry mobs causing havoc, Taichi can't remain silent anymore.  Even if it means ticking off the most dangerous residents of Manzanar.  Can he survive life inside the fence, let alone hope for any kind of future beyond it?  The grimmer things get, the more he fears that freedom will never be his.    

I've read many books about World War II, but not too many about the experience of the more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans who were held inside internment camps all over the western U.S. for the duration.  I want to know more about the subject, so when I read the premise to Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, I knew I had to read it.  And I'm glad I did.  The novel paints a vivid, heartbreaking portrait of what Japanese-Americans went through as they were forced out of their homes, moved into hastily-built camps, and pushed into eking out a life in a situation that must have felt completely hopeless.  Both Evaline and Taichi are sympathetic characters for whom it's easy to root.  Their love story is sweet, but heart-wrenching.  Morrill writes with both sensitivity and skill, which makes Within These Lines a compelling, thought-provoking, and memorable read.  I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  The Year Before the War by Susan Meissner; Island of Sweet Pie and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman; and Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Within These Lines from the generous folks at Blink via those at The Fantastic Flying Book Club in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Want more opinions on Within These Lines?  Follow along on the book's blog tour:

March 4

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March 5

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March 6

Confessions of a YA Reader - Author Guest Post
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March 7

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March 8

Cheyenne Reads - Author Q&A + Book Review
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March 9

Absolute Bookishness - Book Review
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March 10

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Bookish Geek - Author Q&A

March 11

Disappear In Ink - Book Review + Favorite Quotes
Bookish_Kali - Book Review + Favorite Quotes

Want to win a copy of Within These Lines for your very own?  Enter to win (U.S. only) using the following link:  Good luck!

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