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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

14 / 30 books. 47% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (5)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware (1)
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho (2)
- Illinois (2)
- Indiana (2)
- Iowa (1)
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan (1)
- Minnesota
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey (1)
- New Mexico (1)
- New York (5)
- North Carolina (4)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania (2)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (3)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (2)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia (1)
- Wisconsin (1)
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (2)
- Canada (2)
- England (10)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (4)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

38 / 51 states. 75% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

32 / 50 books. 64% 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

My Progress:

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

30 / 40 books. 75% 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

19 / 26.2 miles (2nd lap). 73% 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

87 / 165 books. 53% done!
Saturday, December 21, 2019

Both Bitter and Sweet, Sweeping Historical Novel Tells Clean, Touching Story

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In 1986, an extraordinary discovery in Seattle's Japantown draws a crowd of people, among them a 56-year-old Chinese-American named Henry Lee.  The widower is as amazed as everyone else to discover that The Paragon Hotel, which has been shuttered for decades, has been hiding a large, dusty collection of belongings left behind during World War II when Japanese families were forced out of Seattle and into internment camps.  Watching the event takes Henry back forty years, to his clandestine friendship with Keiko Okabe, a Japanese girl he met at school in 1942.  Outcasts among their white classmates, the two form a strong friendship that turns into a sweet, but forbidden romance.  Although they vow to meet up again after the war, Henry never hears from Keiko again.  What happened to the girl he once loved?  The search for Keiko will pry open Henry's most painful memories, remind him of impossible choices and sacrifices, and maybe, finally, bring him and his son together.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford's bestselling debut novel, tells a sweeping story of family, friendship, and finding what's been lost.  Vivid period detail brings to life Seattle's China and Japantown in the 1940s, making the story feel immersive and authentic.  The idea of abandoned family treasures left behind in a hotel to bear witness of a sad chapter in America's history is as intriguing as it is heartbreaking.  I found it an irresistible premise, even if the story itself gets a little long and dull.  Although the tale left me with unanswered questions, overall, I enjoyed it.  It didn't blow my socks off like it has for other readers, but I liked the clean, bittersweet tale that is, ultimately, a hopeful one.  I'll definitely check out more books by Ford.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Newest Not My Favorite Maeve Kerrigan, But Still ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Cruel Acts, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

A year ago, Leo Stone was convicted of murdering two women and sentenced to life in prison. Now he’s been freed on a technicality, and he’s protesting his innocence.
Not guilty?
DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are determined to put Stone back behind bars where he belongs, but the more Maeve digs, the less convinced she is that he did it.

The wrong decision could be deadly…
Then another woman disappears in similar circumstances. Is there a copycat killer, or have they been wrong about Stone from the start?
I'm a big fan of the Maeve Kerrigan series by Jane Casey and while Cruel Acts, the eighth installment, isn't my favorite, it's still an engrossing read.  It has some disturbing themes and yet, I couldn't stop turning pages.  The murderer's identity caught me by surprise, which is always good.  My favorite part of the novel and, really all the books in the series, is Maeve herself.  She's a great character—brave, tough, down-to-earth, and passionate about her job.  Watching her relationship with Josh Derwent, her work partner, evolve is always fun.  All in all, then, I found the book compelling, even if it's maybe my least favorite in the series.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left for Dead [novella], The Burning, The Reckoning, The Last Girl, The Stranger You Know, The Kill, After the Fire, Let the Dead Speak, One in Custody [novella], and Love Lies Bleeding [novella])


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, sexual innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

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

For a Thriller, This Generic Mystery Doesn't Really Thrill

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In 1985, Maureen Haddaway—a young woman trying to start anew—arrives in Opal Beach, New Jersey, one summer with the traveling carnival for which she works.  Drawn to the wealth and sparkle that define life for the rich townies, Maureen's paycheck-to-paycheck existence becomes entwined with their idyllic lives.  Before the summer ends, she vanishes without a trace.  It's assumed that a vagabond like Maureen simply moved on without telling anyone, but is it true?  Or did something more sinister happen to her?

Thirty-plus years later, 40-year-old Allison Simpson comes to Opal Beach to lick her wounds.  After a video of the television meteorologist ranting wildly about her cheating husband goes viral, she's fired from her job.  With nothing left to lose, Allison accepts a house-sitting gig on the shore, figuring she can get some much-needed R&R while figuring out what to do with herself now.  She hears the story of Maureen Haddaway's disappearance from Maureen's former Opal Beach BFF.  Before she knows it, Allison is obsessed with figuring out what happened to the beautiful carnie.  It soon becomes evident that someone in town does not want Allison digging into the past.  Can Allison figure out what happened to Maureen before she becomes the next woman to mysteriously vanish from Opal Beach?

Yeah, yeah, I know the premise at the center of One Night Gone, a debut novel by Tara Laskowski, sounds awfully familiar.  I've read dozens of mystery/thrillers with the same basic plotline.  Still, it's one I'm always sucked in by, especially when an author puts their own unique spin on it.  Unfortunately, Laskowski doesn't do anything special with this one.  The story feels far-fetched and generic throughout.  Its cast consists of cliché, one-dimensional characters who aren't even likable.  While I did want to know what really happened to Maureen, I can't say I cared overly much about either her or Allison.  Neither one appealed to me.  As far as plot goes, the tale is predictable, with no real twists or turns to keep the reader on their toes.  Overall, then, this "thriller" didn't offer many thrills.  For me, it was an average read at best.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking/partying and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of One Night Gone from the generous folks at Harlequin via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

MG End-of-the-World-Maybe Novel Is a Fun, Upbeat Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Elle Dross has been practicing for the Apocalypse for years thanks to her prepper grandfather.  She doesn't really believe in its inevitably, though, until she learns that a discredited Harvard professor is predicting that an asteroid will hit Earth in April.  It's possible the guy isn't totally legit, but what if he's right?  What if Grandpa Joe is right?  As scary as the end of the world could be, Elle knows her family would survive just fine.  So would her BFF Mack.  He might be blind, but he's run enough drills with her grandpa to know what to do.  Bonus:  Elle won't lose him to the blind school he plans to transfer to next year.  As for the rest of their middle school, their classmates, and all their drama?  The asteroid can blow it all to smithereens for all Elle cares.

Except.  Maybe it's her duty, as one of the few who believe in the prediction, to warn the people around her.  Before she knows it, she's running a secret doomsday club and printing an underground newsletter. Elle and her friends are prepared for anything—or are they?  As life changes around them, they all have to figure out how to deal with impending life shake-ups.  And some of those can be even more frightening than an asteroid hurtling towards Earth ...

Despite its rather dark premise, The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty is an upbeat, funny story that's mostly about friendship.  The characters are likable and relatable; it's easy to care about their problems and their fates.  Middle schoolers will relate to the theme of change, both in its inevitability and in its sometimes frightening nature.  Even though I'm not the book's target audience, I still really enjoyed this sweet, fun novel.  I especially appreciated the endnotes McAnulty includes, which give real, practical advice on emergency preparation as well as warning kids about how to find reliable information sources.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scary situations/ideas

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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