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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:

24 / 50 books. 48% 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:

65 / 104 books. 63% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

44 / 52 books. 85% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

71 / 165 books. 43% done!
Friday, July 26, 2019

Sophomore Novel Not As Dynamic or Engaging As Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There's not a lot of hope on the grim streets of Arlington, Texas, for the women society has cast away.  Addicts, prostitutes, unwed mothers, and others of their ilk have nowhere to go for protection or to get a hand up—at least not without selling their bodies and souls in exchange.  

When Mattie B. Corder, a penniless single mom with a sick toddler, hears about the Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption of Erring Girls, it seems like a trick.  Could there really be a refuge for women like her, a cost-free place that would shelter her and help her learn a trade, all while allowing her to keep her child?  When Mattie makes her way there, she's shocked to discover the home is exactly what it says it is.  Which isn't to say it's paradise.  Still, there she finds friendship, a purpose, and hope for her future.  As she gets to know Lizzie Bates, a former heroin addict and prostitute, the two women form an unbreakable bond that will see them through the tough times ahead.

Over 100 years later, librarian Cate Sutton stumbles across a mysterious cemetery.  When she learns that the graveyard contains the bones of former residents of a home for troubled women, her curiosity is piqued.  Inexplicably drawn to the place and its fascinating history, Cate becomes obsessed with finding out more.  Doing so may just help her come to terms with her own rocky past and find redemption, just like the Berachah women of so long ago.

Since Julie Kibler's debut novel, Calling Me Home, was one of my favorite reads of 2013, I jumped for joy when I heard the author would finally be publishing a second book.  The premise behind Home for Erring and Outcast Girls (available July 30, 2019) sounded appealing, so I eagerly downloaded an ARC from NetGalley.  Unfortunately, Kibler's sophomore attempt didn't enthrall me quite like her first book did.  While I appreciated the new novel's themes of kindness, compassion, second chances, and sisterhood, the story dragged for me.  It's lengthy, meandering, and peppered with prose that just isn't very dynamic.  The characters are sympathetic, but not fleshed out well enough to feel real.  In the end, then, I had a hard time getting through Home for Erring and Outcast Girls.  I wanted to love it, especially since I adored Kibler's debut so much; overall, though, this was just an okay read for me.  Bummer.

(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:  I received an e-ARC of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls from the generous folks at Crown (a division of Penguin Random House) via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Thursday, July 25, 2019

New Domestic Drama by Beloved Women's Fiction Author Too Dime-A-Dozen For Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For 42-year-old Amy Whey, life is beautiful in its happy simplicity.  Her days revolve around caring for her professor husband, their adorable baby, and her teenage stepdaughter.  On the side, she teaches scuba diving lessons and helps her BFF, Charlotte Baxter, run their neighborhood book club.  It may not be anything truly enviable, but for Amy, this stable, pleasant life represents everything she's ever wanted.

When beautiful, seductive Angelica Roux glides into the neighborhood in her flashy red sports car, alarm bells start ringing in Amy's head.  Before she knows it, "Roux" has slithered her way into not just the neighborhood, but also into Charlotte's beloved book club.  When she proposes a secret-spilling drinking game to the attendees, it seems like harmless fun—to everyone but Amy.  It soon becomes apparent that, as unwilling as Amy is to part with her deepest, darkest secret, Roux already knows it.  And she's ready—even eager—to shatter Amy's happy little world in order to get what she wants.  With everything on the line, can Amy beat Roux at her own game?  Or is her perfect life about to implode, hurting everyone she's ever loved?

I'm a big fan of Joshilyn Jackson's trademark Southern novels, in all their sweet, sassy glory, so I'm always eager to read her latest and greatest.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered her newest is a bit of a departure; instead of a heartfelt family drama, Never Have I Ever (available July 30, 2019) is a chilling domestic thriller.  While the novel stars a Southern setting, relatable characters, and juicy secrets, it lacks a lot of the warmth that saturates Jackson's other stories.  It's also less unique, more generic, just another domestic/psychological thriller among many.  That being said, Never Have I Ever is a compelling page-turner.  I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the tale, but not charmed in the way I usually am with Jackson's fiction.  While I appreciate her efforts to branch out, I'm really hoping Jackson returns to her roots for her next book.  It's with her quirky, earnest women's fiction that she really shines.

(Readalikes:  I feel like I've read a million books with a similar premise, but no titles are coming to mind.  Help?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, sexual content, depictions of/references to illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Never Have I Ever from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!
Tuesday, July 23, 2019

TTT: "Atmospheric," You Say? I'm There!

The topic du jour for my favorite weekly meme is all about book settings.  I love a vivid, well-developed backdrop and will pretty much always want to read a story described as "atmospheric."  While our lists today are supposed to be about settings we'd like to see more of, I'm just going to go with my favorite settings because, naturally, those are the ones I would like to see more of, right?  Incidentally, I created a similar TTT list back in April about topics/settings that always lure me in. 

Before we get to that, I just want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  All you have to do is click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few simple instructions, create your own list, then spend some happy hours hopping around the book blogosphere.  It's a great way to find new blogs to follow, drop in on old favorites, and, of course, add to ye olde TBR pile.  What's not to love?

Top Ten Settings I Love and Would Like to See More Of

1.  Wild West/Pioneers/Homesteading—Between my Mormon pioneer heritage and my love of genealogy, it's probably no surprise that I love me a good pioneer/homesteading story.  They always entertain me while leaving me in awe of the courage, determination, and strength it took for ordinary people to take on the extraordinary task of venturing into the wild, untamed west and trying to eke out a life there.

Favorite Examples:  Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson; the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder; the Gold Seer trilogy by Rae Carson; and Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

2.  Creepy old houses/Gothic—Give me a crumbling old mansion by the sea or a spooky plantation home on the bayou or an abandoned cottage hidden in the woods and I'm a happy reader.  I always love a shivery haunted house story.

Favorite Examples:  Pretty much anything by Kate Morton or Carol Goodman

3.  At Sea—As a high school exchange student, I once spent an entire day puking my guts out on a voyage across the Philippine Sea and I'm not sure I've quite recovered!  Landlubber that I am, I do possess a healthy appreciation for—and fear of—the raw and magnificent power of the ocean.  For this reason, I love a good "at sea" setting.  Be it a harrowing Titanic tale, a rollicking pirate yarn, or a good, old-fashioned shipwreck survival story, I'm all in.

Favorite Examples:  The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf, the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys     

4.  Isolated/Insular communities—I also find cloistered communities intriguing.  From gentle Amish settlements to sinister cult compounds to free-spirited hippie communes to religious retreats to secret societies, these types of settings always pique my interest.

Favorite Examples:  the Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong, Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

5.  Small towns (especially if they're hiding BIG secrets)—Because I was reared in a quaint little town, I'm naturally drawn to these types of book settings.  I especially love it when these placid villages are hiding juicy secrets that are about to crawl out of the closet to wreak a little havoc.

Favorite Examples:  the Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny; the Big Stone Gap series by Adriana Trigiani; the Grace Valley and Virgin River series by Robyn Carr; and just about anything by Joshilyn Jackson

6.  Australia—I've really been enjoying novels from Down Under lately.  I especially love those set in the Outback, where daily survival is not necessarily an assured thing.

Favorite Examples:  the Tomorrow, When the War Began series by John Marsden, anything by Jane Harper, and books by Liane Moriarty

7.  Antarctica—This unforgiving setting is another one that garners my endless fascination—and fear.

Favorite Examples:  My Last Continent by Midge Raymond 

8.  Bookstores and Libraries—I think people who love to read are naturally drawn to a bookish setting.  I am for sure.

Favorite Examples:  The Bookshop on the Corner and The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

9.  Obscure States, U.S.A.—Every year, I keep track of the states where the books I read are set, sometimes as part of an official reading challenge, sometimes just on my own.  Guess which states are the most difficult to cross off my list?  Inevitably, it's places like North Dakota, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Delaware.  According to my records, there is one state that has never made an appearance in my reading:  Arkansas.  So, if there's one setting I feel is underrepresented it's the less sexy states like poor neglected Arkansas. 

Favorite Examples:  I got nothin', which just proves my point!

10.  Scotland—I have some strong Scottish roots plus a keen interest in moody, broody settings, so this one is pretty much a given. 

Favorite Examples:  anything by Peter May or Ann Cleeves and the Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber 

There you have it, ten settings I enjoy reading about and which I'd like to see more of.  What do you think?  Do we have any favorite settings in common?  Which would you like to see more of?  Can you think of any great books I need to read in the categories above?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!
Monday, July 22, 2019

Exciting Action/Adventure Storm Novel Perfect for Fans of I Survived Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tropical storms are just a part of life in Puerto Rico, so Alejo isn't really worried about Valerie, the latest one to blow in.  The 12-year-old is helping at the fancy seaside resort where his uncle works as the groundskeeper when the wind and rain really start to pick up.  Before he knows it, Valerie has been upgraded to a mega storm and the whole area is under evacuation orders.  With his uncle off on an errand, Alejo is stuck at the resort watching in horror as his world descends into chaos around him.  Although he knows it's smarter to hunker down in the hotel until help arrives, Alejo can't stand the thought of Padrino Nando—his aging uncle and guardian—out in the storm alone.  Against his better judgment, Alejo ventures out into the one they're calling la tormenta del siglo, the storm of the century ...

In New Orleans, Emily's not too concerned about Valerie either.  She's too busy trying to get the attention of her distracted mother, whose only focus has been on Emily's cancer-ridden brother.  When a little sniffling gets her kicked out of her germ-free house, Emily decides to run away to an island in the middle of Audobon Park.  Hiding out in her calm, secret fortress, she doesn't notice the storm brewing all around her.  By the time she realizes what's happening, it's too late ... like Alejo, she's stuck.  New Orleans is being evacuated around her and Emily has nowhere to go.

As the fates of two storm-tossed kids collide, Alejo and Emily experience the most terrifying, deadly adventure of their lives ... 

Storm Blown, an exciting middle-grade action/adventure novel by Nick Courage, is sure to win over even reluctant readers.  It's an adrenaline-fueled survival story starring two brave kids caught in a chaotic situation that grows crazier by the second.  Readers young and old won't be able to look away!  Courage throws in interesting storm facts that heighten the tale's suspense without bogging it down with unnecessary details.  Hand this one to fans of the I Survived series and other action-packed survival stories.  They won't be disappointed by this engaging, pulse-pounding read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis, Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, scary situations, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Storm Blown from the generous folks at Random House Children's.  Thank you!
Friday, July 19, 2019

Big-Hearted Hattie Novels Warm, Exciting, and Upbeat

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Hattie Ever After, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Hattie Big Sky.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Back in 2008, I raved about an engaging YA historical novel called Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson.  It concerns a 16-year-old orphan who receives a surprise inheritance from an uncle she never knew she had.  He bequeaths her his Montana homestead—if she can "prove it up" in the next ten months, she will become its proud owner.  With nothing to keep her in Iowa, Hattie heads west.  Over the course of the novel, she has countless adventures in the wilds of Montana as she makes a go of homesteading, which proves to be a whole lot tougher than it seems.

I adored Hattie Big Sky when I read it, but I didn't realize—until just a few months ago—that Larson had penned a sequel.  Hattie Ever After came out in 2014.  The newer novel picks up where its predecessor left off, with Hattie deciding to leave Montana after failing to prove up Uncle Chester's cabin.  She's always dreamed of being a reporter, so she heads to San Francisco where she's sure she'll immediately be hired by the best newspaper in town.  Like homesteading, getting the coveted job turns out to be a little more difficult than she thought it would be.  Nevertheless, determined to make her dream come true, Hattie uses her pluck and wits to make a name for herself in the cutthroat world of journalism.  Along the way, of course, she has all kinds of adventures that test her mettle.  Will she find success?

While I didn't love Hattie Ever After quite as much as I did the first book, the sequel is still a warm, fun, exciting novel.  With colorful historical details, a lively cast, and an entertaining plot, it's an enjoyable read.  I loved learning Uncle Chester's back story and finding out what happens to Hattie after her exploits in Montana.  If you dig clean, upbeat, engaging historical fiction, you can't go wrong with Larson's heartwarming Hattie novels.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Hattie Ever After from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: It's Amateur Hour On BBB!

The topic du jour for my favorite bookish meme is Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors.  Since I feel like I talk about the authors I love constantly here at BBB, I'm going to go off-script today and do the freebie topic that's actually scheduled for July 30.  I'll be in Utah attending a genealogy conference that day anyway, so it works.  Last week's character freebie inspired me to list My Favorite Super Sleuths of the Book World, which was fun, but I focused on the pros—real detectives and enforcement officers as well as other professionals who work with them (criminalists, forensic scientists, etc.).  Since the book world is full of amateur sleuths as well and they're just as entertaining to read about (sometimes more so), I'm going to focus on them today. 

Before we get to that, though, I have to give a shout-out to our lovely host Jana.  You can find her over at That Artsy Reader Girl, where you can also get the 4-1-1 on all things Top Ten Tuesday.  Join in by reading some brief instructions, crafting your own TTT list, then clicking around the blogosphere to spread the love among a ton of fabulous book blogs.  It's a great time to revisit old favorites, discover new sites, and, of course, add to your always-growing TBR pile mountain mountain chain.  What's not to love?

Okay, so here we go with my Top Ten Favorite Amateur Sleuths of the Book World.  These are the folks who have no (legitimate) reason to investigate crime, although mysteries just keep falling into their laps!  Their careers range from housekeeper to archaeologist to restaurant server to journalist, but their side gigs are the same—crime solver.  Because of this, their stories are often far less believable than those of their professional counterparts, but, as I said above, no less entertaining.  I'm including the cover to the first book in their respective series so you know where to start.

Who are your favorite amateur sleuths of the book world?  Who do you love reading about, whether their crime-solving is totally, ridiculously far-fetched or not?

Top Ten Favorite Amateur Sleuths of the Book World:

1.  Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene—Nancy is probably the most well-known sleuth in this category and, as a kid, I inhaled any book that starred her.  I haven't read a Nancy Drew book in years, so I don't know what I'd think of them now, but I used to adore Nancy—and definitely wanted to be her!

2.  Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol—Another childhood favorite, Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown is a boy who helps his police chief father solve crimes in their small town.  He's whip-smart (hence his nickname) and always gets his man.  This is another series I ate up as a kid.

3.  Veronica Speedwell by Deanna Raybourn—Among the amateur sleuths I've encountered as an adult, Veronica is definitely one of my very favorites.  She's a Victorian woman, but an unapologetic one who defies convention and just does what she pleases.  For work, she sells rare butterflies and spends her days cataloging a museum full of treasures for a wealthy friend.  Along with Stoker, her handsome, querulous partner, she stumbles on all kinds of mysteries begging to be solved.  Veronica is smart, funny, and just a delightful character all-around.

4.  Dr. Ruth Galloway by Elly Griffiths—Ruth is an archaeologist in Norfolk, England, who prefers the solitude of her isolated home and her own company to anywhere and anyone else.  When the police ask for her help with a discovery of bones near her property, Ruth becomes a consultant to the department and goes on to have many adventures.  She's an understated character, but one whose intelligence and wit make for enjoyable reading.

5.  Amelia Peabody by Elizabeth Peters—Another unconventional lady, Amelia is a wealthy spinster living in late 19th Century England.  She has a disconcerting, scholarly obsession with Egypt, which leads her to many adventures and mysteries involving the ancient land. 

6.  Kat Halloway by Jennifer Ashley—This new kid on the block is a sought-after cook in a posh mansion in Mayfair.  Her central position in the household means she's a key witness to all kinds of wrongdoing.  Kat's efficiency and no-nonsense ways make her not just a master of the kitchen, but also a pretty darn good detective.

7.  Lady Kiera Darby by Anna Lee Huber—As the wife of a cruel anatomist, Kiera was made an unwitting partner in her husband's unnatural schemes.  Now a widow, she's trying to put her past behind her.  And yet, she keeps finding herself at the center of mysterious happenings.  Using her intelligence, her powers of observation, and her natural curiosity, she and an enigmatic friend are earning themselves a reputation as a detective team that is second to none.

8.  Lana Lee by Vivien Chien—After her temper gets the better of her at her lucrative corporate job, Lana's empty pockets force her to return to Ohio.  The last thing she wants is to wait tables at her parents' Chinese restaurant under her mother's shrewd eye, but she has little choice.  Turns out, life in the Asian Village strip mall is a lot more exciting than one would think.  An alarming amount of dead bodies are turning up in the small community, and Lana's keen powers of observation are coming in handy for the handsome detective assigned to investigate the crimes.  Lana's spunky but self-deprecating, making her a fun heroine to follow.

9.  Jazz Ramsey by Kylie Logan—Jazz, a cadaver dog trainer, only has one book under her belt, but I'm excited for more to come.  She's smart, brave, and caring, all traits I love in an amateur sleuth. 

10.  Nichelle Clarke by LynDee Walker—I just "met" Nichelle, an investigative reporter in Richmond, Virginia, in Front Page Fatality, but I'm enjoying the book and its heroine.  Nichelle is skilled, confident, and not afraid to take a risk.  So far, she's making an excellent amateur sleuth.  I can't wait to read more of this series.

There you have it, ten of my favorite fictional amateur sleuths.  Who are yours?  I just realized that all of mine (but one) are females.  Are there any great male amateur sleuths out there?  I'd love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!     
Monday, July 15, 2019

Cute Bookish Rom Com a Fun Romp

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Usually, I write my own plot summaries, but I think the one on the back cover of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman sums things up perfectly, so I'm not going to bother reinventing the wheel.  Not this time, anyway.

Meet Nina Hill: a young woman supremely confident in her own shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, and a cat named Phil.  If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified.  They all live close by!  They are all—or mostly all—excited to meet her!  She will have to...Speak.  To.  Strangers.  And as if that was not enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her.  Does he not realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options:

1.  Completely change her name and appearance.  (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2.  Flee to a deserted island.  (Hard pass, see: coffee.)
3.  Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth.  (Already doing it.)

It is time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she is not convinced real life could ever live up to fiction.  It is going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.  

Cute, right?  Although Nina is not quite as adorkable as the summary makes her sound, she's still a highly relatable character, one in whom any book lover will recognize themselves.  It's easy to root for this introverted bluestocking as she navigates the rocky worlds of family, romance, and newfound wealth.  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is chock-full of fun, interesting characters.  It also features an engaging, upbeat plot and some life lessons that are especially pertinent to those of us who are wont to stick our noses in a book and ignore real life.  While the novel has a couple raunchy parts that will stop me from recommending it as widely as I otherwise would, I still enjoyed this light, entertaining, bookish read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), mild sexual content, rude humor, illegal drug use, and innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Tenth Installment in Beloved Mystery Series Not My Favorite, But Still Satisfies

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for The Long Way Home, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from previous Armand Gamache mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

After a long, distinguished career as the chief inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, Armand Gamache has happily retired to the quaint town of Three Pines.  Although he's used to a life full of danger and risk, he's found peaceful contentment in walking his dog, reading on his favorite park bench, spending time with his family, and enjoying the company of his many friends in Three Pines.  Police work is far from his mind.  Until he's approached by Clara Morrow, who's anxious over her husband's failure to return home.  After a trial separation of one year, the couple agreed to reconnect at their home.  Peter is overdue.  Clara has not heard a word from him in the last twelve months, but the man she knows would not fail to show for such an important appointment.  Considering her husband's mental state when he left, Clara can't help but worry.

Nothing if not loyal, Armand agrees to take the "case."  With the help of Jean-Guy Beauvoir—Armand's former partner and new son-in-law—and their friend Myna, a Three Pines bookshop owner, they set off to find Peter.  The further the trio travels into the depths of Québec, the more concerned they all become.  What has happened to Peter?  Has his tortured soul soured completely?  Is he even still alive?  The closer the three come to the truth, the more anxious they grow.  What has happened to the complicated, but good man they all once knew and loved? 

Frequent readers of this blog know I'm a huge fan of the Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny.  I love me a meaty mystery, but I especially adore one that features interesting characters, a vivid setting, and skilled prose.  This series hits every one of those spots every time.  Some of the installments are better than others, of course, and I have to admit that The Long Way Home—the 10th book in the series—is not my favorite.  That being said, it's still an enjoyable read featuring a lovable cast of characters, a twisty plot, and the incomparable Armand Gamache, who continues to be one of my favorite literary characters of all time.  Since there are currently fourteen books in this series, with the fifteenth coming out in August, it's obvious that Armand will not truly be retiring from sleuthing anytime soon.  I can't wait to see what he does next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; A Fatal Grace; The Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; The Hangman [novella]; A Trick of the Light; The Beautiful Mystery; How the Light Gets In; The Nature of the Beast; A Great Reckoning; Glass Houses; Kingdom of the Blind; and A Better Man.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Long Way Home from Changing Hands Bookstore, my local indie.
Friday, July 12, 2019

A Lot to Love in Engaging, Atmospheric Native American Mystery Series Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Fire-Sky tribal member Sandra Deering had everything going for her, including a college degree she was about to receive.  Why would she have committed suicide just when she stood on the cusp of getting everything she'd worked so hard for?  It doesn't make any sense, especially since Sandra's is the latest in a string of suspicious deaths linked to the Fire-Sky people.  Like Sandra, the victims appear to have been murdered by a killer familiar enough with the tribe's beliefs to make sure his/her victims cannot receive proper burials, dooming their spirits to wander the earth forever.    

Monique "Nicky" Matthews, a sergeant and special agent working with the Fire-Sky Pueblo Police, is called in to investigate.  Along with her partner, a suave newcomer she's not sure she can trust, Nicky begins looking into the odd deaths.  Guided by good police work as well as the strange visions that have always been a part of her life, she uncovers some very sinister goings-on on the rez.  

Determined to catch a murderer and bring closure and peace to the victims' families, Nicky will stop at nothing to solve the case.  With the people she loves being threatened and her own neck on the line, she'll have to risk everything to bring the cold-blooded killer to justice.  Can Nicky catch the culprit in time to save lives or will her spirit be the next to join the tortured souls already on eternal walkabout?

In the tradition of Tony Hillerman, Carol Potenza has penned an exciting, well-written mystery steeped in Native American tradition and culture.  Although the Fire-Sky people are fictional, their beliefs are based on those of known tribes, giving Hearts of the Missing an authentic feel.  The characters in this satisfying debut are well-drawn and complex, the setting is vivid and atmospheric, the plot is taut and twisty, and the prose is skilled and readable.  In short, there's a lot to love here.  I thoroughly enjoyed this series debut and can't wait to see what the next installment brings.

(Readalikes:  I've read very little Hillerman, but Hearts of the Missing definitely reminds me of his novels, as well as the Wind River Reservation mystery series by Margaret Coel.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (two F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, references to illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Super Sleuths of the Book World

I've been a bit absent from the blog of late thanks to a huge genealogy project I'm working on.  It's the first step in earning accreditation from ICAPGen and it's been a doozy!  The finish line is in sight, so I'm taking a break from that to give my blog a little love today.  It's been feeling neglected, poor baby!  I'm just about ready to submit my genealogy project; after that, I'll be back to BBB to post long overdue reviews, announce the winner in the giveaway I hosted recently, comment on your posts, answer emails, etc.  In the meantime, let's riff on today's fun Top Ten Tuesday prompt:  Character Freebie (any topic you want that deals with book characters). 

As always, TTT is hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl.  Click on over to her blog to read some quick instructions, then join the party.  It's an enjoyable way to show your love across the book blogosphere, find new blogs to enjoy, and, of course, add to your always-growing TBR list.  What could be more fun?

For today's topic, I'm going to go with my Top Ten Favorite Fictional Sleuths You've (Probably) Never Heard Of.  It's no secret that I love me a good psychological thriller/crime novel, especially if it's set in an exotic locale.  Even though they're often gritty, gory, and disturbing, giving me nightmares and corroding my delicate soul, I can't seem to stay away from my guilty pleasure!  So, when I saw today's topic, I immediately knew I wanted to use this freebie to highlight some of my favorite crime-stopping stars of the fictional (book, not screen) world.

To be clear, I'm going to be talking about professionals (we'll save amateurs for another time), or at least characters who work closely with the police department, even if they're not coppers themselves.  Even though a list like this would usually include household-name sleuths like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Harry Bosch, etc., the truth is, I'm not much for classic mysteries and I haven't read a lot of the popular modern(ish) crime writers like Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton, etc.  So, yeah, the police personnel in this list might be folks with whom you're not familiar at the moment, but they're characters you're definitely going to want to get to know if you enjoy crime fiction.  All the folks featured are series leads, so the first book in their various series is shown.

Interestingly enough, my list features five police(ish) investigators from North America and five from the U.K.  I threw in a new favorite from Australia just to even things out.  I know I'm missing awesome detectives from all over the world, so please let me know which I should be getting to know.  Who are your favorite fictional detectives?   

Top Ten Eleven Favorite Fictional Sleuths You've (Probably) Never Heard Of: 

1.  Armand Gamache (Canada)—My hands-down favorite fictional detective of all-time is Louise Penny's delightful Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.  A consummate gentleman, he's intelligent, kind, and honorable.  He's also shrewd and tenacious when he needs to be.  I love him and his comrades so much that I'm reading this series slowly so I can savor every delicious word! 

2.  Dr. Temperance Brennan (Canada and U.S.)—Tempe is not a police officer, but she is a forensic anthropologist who works closely (very closely sometimes) with a sexy detective to solve murders both in Montreal and in the U.S.  Like her creator, Kathy Reichs, Tempe is a knowledgable, dedicated scientist.  She's also spunky, funny, caring, and just a whole lot of fun.  I've read all the books in this series and am stoked that a new one will be out soon.

3.  Bell Elkins (U.S.)—I've talked about this series, penned by Julia Keller, a lot, so this name may ring a bell (see what I did there?).  Belfa is the prosecuting attorney for a fictional, down-on-its-luck county in West Virginia.  Working with her friend in the local police department, she solves crimes committed by a host of quirky Appalachian characters.  I'm caught up on this series and anxiously awaiting the newest installment, The Cold Way Home, which comes out next month.

4.  Lincoln Rhyme (U.S.)—A brilliant creation of Jeffery Deaver, Lincoln is a quadriplegic forensic criminalist.  He's smart, sarcastic, self-deprecating, shrewd, and determined to put bad guys behind bars, even if, these days, he has to do it from a wheelchair.  I'm behind in this series, but it's one I enjoy, especially because of its unique hero.

5.  Anna Pigeon (U.S.)—Admittedly, I've only read the first book in Nevada Barr's series starring Anna, but I like her and will definitely read more about her.  In Track of the Cat—the series opener—she's a 39-year-old widow working as an enforcement ranger at a national park in Texas when she comes across the body of a dead colleague.  Unable to convince her superiors that the death is suspicious, Anna decides to investigate on her own.  As a sleuth, she's brave, compassionate, and likable.  I'll definitely pick up more books in this exciting series. 

6.  The Dublin Murder Squad (Ireland)—This is a bit of a cheat since the squad is made up of more than one detective, but still ... I've enjoyed all of Tana French's books starring this collection of coppers solving crimes in The Fair City.  French only publishes every two years, which makes die-hard fans like me very impatient for each new installment!

7.  Maeve Kerrigan (England)—This Irish-born detective constable works the mean streets of London in a constant effort to convict bad guys while proving herself to her mostly-male colleagues.  While the male coppers ridicule her for her "womanly" empathy, it's a big part of what makes her a great detective—and an eternally likable character.  Jane Casey has created a tough, but caring police professional of whom I just can't get enough.  Maeve's newest adventure, Cruel Acts, comes out soon.  I can't wait!

8.  Lacey Flint (England)—A detective constable assigned to locate London's stolen property, Lacey is just as enigmatic and complex as her oxymoronic name suggests.  Intent on proving herself capable of more than tracking down missing bicycles, she takes on risks and danger in an effort to show her male colleagues just how valuable she can really be.  Sharon Bolton is a master of gritty crime novels and Lacey Flint is, in my humble opinion, her greatest creation to date.

9.  Cormac Reily (Ireland)—With only two books under his belt, this detective sergeant working in Galway is a new kid on the block.  But he's definitely one to watch.  Cormac is an understated character, one who's going to be very intriguing to watch as his series moves on.  Dervla McTiernan has definitely caught my attention with the first two Cormac Reily books. I'm anxiously awaiting the third! 

10.  Fin Macleod (Scotland)—In The Blackhouse, the first book in a trilogy starring Fin, the Edinburgh detective is sent to his native Outer Hebrides to investigate a murder there that bears an unsettling resemblance to one that has just occurred in Edinburgh.  Fin is a complex, empathetic character who's as moody and broody as the islands he once called home.  I've read a number of books by Peter May and Fin is my favorite of his many creations.

11.  Aaron Falk (Australia)—Like McTiernan, Jane Harper has published two crime novels featuring an intriguing male detective about whom I'd like to read more.  Aaron is a Federal Police investigator who's as underrated as Cormac Reily, but also committed and compassionate.  I was a *little* disappointed to discover that Harper's third novel doesn't feature this intriguing character (even though it was an excellent crime novel just the same).  Here's hoping her next one does.

There you go, eleven fictional detectives I enjoy reading about.  Which police(ish) sleuths do you dig?  What are your favorite crime novels (and/or writers)?  I'd love to know, especially if they're similar to the ones I've listed above.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT! 
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