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My Progress:

13 / 30 books. 43% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

35 / 51 states. 69% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

29 / 50 books. 58% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

50 / 52 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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42 / 52 books. 81% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

29 / 40 books. 73% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

16 / 40 books. 40% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

11 / 25 books. 44% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

17 / 26.2 miles (2nd lap). 65% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

30 / 100 books. 30% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

74 / 104 books. 71% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

50 / 52 books. 96% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

84 / 165 books. 51% done!
Friday, December 20, 2019

YA Cult Novel Poignant and Moving

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although they've grown up together and are the same age, Agnes Little and Honey Harper have very different attitudes about life at Mount Blessing.  Agnes follows the rules at their religious commune with exactness, wanting to impress not just God but also Emmanuel, their leader.  Honey Harper, the only orphan at Mount Blessing, has no such desire.  She despises rules, Emmanuel's strict leadership, and the cloistered life they lead.  Honey longs for the things she sees on her forbidden t.v.—chic clothes, fast food, and public school.  

When Agnes' grandmother makes a surprise visit to Mount Blessing, she witnesses an alarming practice that no one outside the community is supposed to know about.  Already shocked, Nana Pete is even more disturbed when Agnes' little brother sustains a serious injury that Emmanuel refuses to have checked by a medical professional.  Not able to take anymore, Nana Pete hustles her two grandkids and Honey into her car and makes a run for it.  As the three kids leave behind everything they've ever known, they are forced to forge a new future.  Honey may crave the experience, but Agnes is scared to death.  Can she make a new life away from her family and community?

Having grown up in a religious commune, Cecilia Galante brings an insider's view to The Patron Saint of Butterflies, her first YA novel.  Although the book doesn't bring anything really new or different to the cult escapee genre, it still tells a poignant and compelling story.  The main characters are sympathetic; I definitely cared about them and wanted good things to happen for them.  Although Galante's portrayal of a community of faith is sensitive in many ways, it makes it clear that violent extremism is absolutely not okay.  The touching story teaches some valuable lessons about faith, friendship, and finding your way in a new world.  I liked it.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought an e-copy of The Patron Saint of Butterflies from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Forward Action in Search and Rescue Novel Gets Bogged Down by Details, Details, and More Details

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When a woman goes missing in the Colorado wilderness, Sheriff Colm McCormac calls on skilled and capable Pru Hathaway to find her.  An archaeological law enforcement ranger for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the 42-year-old is also the handler of the only search and rescue dog in the county.  If anyone can find the missing hunter, it's Pru and her dog.  Despite few clues and worsening weather, Pru is determined to find the woman, no matter what the risk.  The more she learns about Amy Raye Latour, a 32-year-old wife and mother, the more determined—even obsessed—Pru becomes with solving the mystery of Amy Raye's disappearance.  Can she find the woman before exposure kills her?  Or is she already on the hunt for a corpse?

I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of exciting search and rescue stories set in remote places where danger lurks around every corner.  That explains why I picked up Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets.  Did it satisfy my craving for riveting action/adventure reading?  Kind of.  The novel definitely tells a compelling story.  Problem is, the plot gets bogged down by details.  Lots and lots and lots of details.  If you're looking for adrenaline-fueled action with shocking twists and turns to keep you burning through pages, you're not going to find them here.  This is a straight-up survival/ search-and-rescue story, told from the alternating perspectives of the woman doing the surviving and the one doing the searching.  As we get to know both, their secrets and backstories are slowly revealed, making the book more character- than plot-driven.  Except for Amy Raye, who's kind of hard to take, the cast is likable and interesting.  The prose is capable, just way too detailed for me.  For all these reasons, I liked Breaking Wild but didn't end up loving it.  Looking back, I had the same complaints with The Last Woman in the Forest, so maybe Les Becquets just isn't for me.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

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

Hard-Hitting Family Drama Highlights Dangers of Opioid Abuse

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Still grieving the loss of her stillborn daughter, 46-year-old Sylvie Snow keeps her sadness at bay by staying busy.  Very busy.  She scurries around making meals, cleaning messes, chauffeuring her son to and fro, working full-time, and lately, playing nursemaid to her needy husband as he recovers from a broken ankle he sustained while on a rigorous bike ride he never should have attempted.  Add to her already overloaded schedule the planning of her son's upcoming bar mitzvah—the one he cares zilch about—and she's about ready to explode.  When the three-year anniversary of her daughter's death dawns, Sylvie realizes she just can't handle another day of her frenzied life.  Not without some help.

Paul Snow refuses to take the Hydrocodone his doctor prescribed for his ankle.  Sylvie's in pain, too, so she decides to pop one of his pills, just to see.  The results are almost instant.  Her sadness blurs a little; she feels kinder, more patient, calmer.  Amazing!  Before she realizes it, Sylvie has become a bona fide junkie, willing to do anything—risk everything—for another hit.  The more desperate she gets, however, the more her life really starts to fall apart.  Soon, the truth will out and Sylvie must face some startling truths about herself before she loses everything that means anything to her.

With opioid abuse constantly in the news, Invisible As Air by Zoe Fishman, is a timely, affecting novel about the holes in our hearts and the alarming ways in which we sometimes try to fill them.  Sylvie is a relatable Everywoman whose utter normality makes a hard-hitting statement about just what a junkie looks like these days.  With his own "harmless" coping mechanism wreaking havoc on the family, Paul's is an additional cautionary tale about the destructive nature of burying feelings, hiding pain, and seeking help in all the wrong ways and places.  Stuck in the middle, Teddy represents all the innocents damaged by people trying to get by instead of getting real.  As you can tell, Invisible As Air is not a happy read.  It's heartbreaking, eye-opening, and depressing.  Compelling and ultimately hopeful, yes, but also not the most uplifting or mood-boosting read in the world.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Heroine by Mindy McGinnis)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, sexual content, and depictions of prescription drug abuse

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Invisible As Air from the generous folks at HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Unrelentingly Grim, Salem Witch Trials Novel is a Tough Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Author Kathleen Kent grew up hearing stories about her ancestor, Martha (Allen) Carrier, one of the first women to face charges of practicing witchcraft in Salem Village, Massachusetts.  Amid the superstition and paranoia pervading the area at the time, any woman who didn't conform to society's ideal was suspect.  In The Heretic's Daughter, which is narrated by Sarah Carrier, Martha's oldest daughter, Martha is portrayed as a stern, authoritative woman whose outspoken ways make her stand out in her strict Puritan community.  Tongues have long wagged over Martha's unsettling forthrightness.  When it catches the notice of attention-hungry accusers, it leads to her eventual imprisonment for witchcraft and death by hanging in 1692.  Guilt by association meant her husband and most of her children, Sarah included, also spent time in jail.  The Heretic's Daughter tells the whole unbelievable story.   

I've read many books about the Salem Witch Trials and none of them were light, happy reads!  The whole subject is heart-wrenching and disturbing.  Truthfully, I wouldn't have picked this one up (although the topic does fascinate me) if it weren't for book club.  One of the leaders, who is a direct descendant of Martha, picked The Heretic's Daughter as a Halloween read, which was apropos.  Appropriately sad and depressing, the novel is rather dry, even dull in places.  It's also grim, unrelentingly so.  These elements made it difficult for me to get into and really enjoy the read.  So, while I can't say I liked the book, I can say it's interesting.  With lots of fascinating historical detail, plus some truly devastating descriptions of imprisonment, the book is vivid and affecting.  Comparing actions of the day with modern "witch hunts" made for a lively, thought-provoking book club discussion.

Being a genealogy nerd, I, of course, had to figure out if I, too, was related to Martha Carrier.  Guess what?  I am!  Not directly, but we are long-lost cousins going way back.  It's likely you are, too.  If you have a family tree posted on FamilySearch, you can look up Martha (Allen) Carrier's profile and click "View My Relationship" to see if and how you are connected to her.  Don't have a family tree?  No problem.  You can make one easily on the site—as soon as you add a deceased relative, your tree should automatically populate using information already in the FamilySearch database.  It's a simple, fun way to trace your roots and learn about your ancestors, even famous ones like Abraham Lincoln (my cousin), Helen Keller (my cousin), Albert Einstein (not my cousin), or even Martha Carrier (my cousin).  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books about witchcraft/the Salem Witch Trials, like The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill, Father of Lies by Ann Turner, and Dear America: I Walk in Dread by Lisa Rowe Fraustino)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, mild sexual content, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

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