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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

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Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

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25 / 40 books. 63% done!

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2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

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9 / 25 books. 36% done!

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6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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22 / 100 books. 22% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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60 / 165 books. 36% done!
Thursday, December 26, 2019

Third Installment Another Fun Entry in an Always Entertaining Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Murder Lo Mein, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Noodle Shop mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Lana Lee is biased, yes, but she knows her family's Chinese restaurant, Ho Lee Noodle House, employs the best chef of Asian cuisine in the city.  And she intends to prove it.  It's Asian Village's turn to host Cleveland's annual Best Noodle Contest; winning the cooking competition would be a major boost for the shopping center and for the Lees' eatery.  Peter Huang can take home the prize for Ho Lee, Lana is sure of it.  

The competition has barely gotten underway when one of its judges is strangled to death at The Bamboo Lounge after receiving a threatening note in a fortune cookie.  As more ominous cookies make the rounds, the other judges begin to fear for their lives.  Lana can't let a killer run amok on her turf.  Detective Adam Trudeau, Lana's "sort-of-maybe boyfriend guy" (11), begs her to leave the sleuthing to the police, but Lana can only promise so much.  She can't let more people die and she won't let Asian Village's reputation be ruined because of nefarious happenings on its grounds.  If the cops can't catch the killer, Lana will.  Even if it means she's next on the murderer's list ...

Murder Lo Mein is the third book in Vivien Chien's always entertaining Noodle Shop Mystery series.  Like its predecessors, this novel is a light, fun read.  The setting is unique, the characters are likable, and the plot moves along quickly.  This isn't my favorite installment, but I still enjoyed it and will definitely keep going with the series.  It's one of the few cozy series I really like.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Noodle Shop Mystery series, including Death by Dumpling, Dim Sum of All Fears, Wonton Terror, Egg Drop Dead, and Killer Kung Pao)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Murder Lo Mein with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Burn Recovery Story Heart-Wrenching, But Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A raging fire stole everything from Ava Lee—her parents; her cousin, who was her best friend; her home; and her peace.  It also left her with scars over 60% of her body.  Recovery has been a slow, agonizing process.  Now that she's had a year at home, her uncle and aunt, who are now Ava's guardians, want Ava to return to high school.  They think it's time she lived a "normal" life.  Ha!  Ava's new normal is a waking nightmare, starring herself as Frankenstein's monster.  The last thing she wants to do is walk down the halls of a school, where everyone will gawk and laugh at The Burned Girl.  In an effort to please her uncle and aunt, the grieving parents of her dead cousin, Ava swallows her fears and acquiesces.  

When Ava meets another burn victim named Piper, she's stunned.  Despite her gruesome scars, Piper is brash and fearless, daring their classmates to poke fun.  Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a kind boy who seems to see past Ava's ruined face.  With two newfound friends by her side, Ava feels more confident than she has since the fire.  Will that be enough to help her build a new life for herself?  Or will trying to live a "normal" life just lead to more problems for a girl who's already experienced more than her fair share of trauma?
I'm not sure I've ever read a book about a character recovering from severe burns.  Scars Like Wings, a debut novel by Erin Stewart, was inspired by a real burn victim, her descriptions based on the true-to-life processes used to help him heal.  What results is a painful, heart-wrenching read that will make your heart ache with sympathy for fictional Ava and especially for her brave real-life counterparts.  Scars Like Wings isn't all doom and gloom, though.  In the end, it's a hopeful novel about healing, friendship, and learning to love yourself in spite of perceived flaws.  The story's predictable, but it's also powerful, moving, and empathy-inducing.  I enjoyed it and will definitely keep an eye out for more from this promising author.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Wonder by R.J. Palacio, A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore, and Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), rude humor/innuendo, and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Simple, But Intriguing Premise Leads to Compelling, Poignant Novel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With less than two weeks left of probation after writing a bad check at the grocery store, freedom is in sight for 25-year-old Bernadette "Bird" Connolly.  If she can keep her nose clean for thirteen more days, she'll finally be able to move on.  She can't wait to leave her mother's house and make an independent life for herself and her 4-year-old son, Angus.  Everything will be better in just thirteen short days.

In the meantime, Bird is shocked to learn that James Rittenhouse, an old co-worker of hers, is on the run from the police.  According to the news, he beat up a man in a bar, then escaped a police vehicle while being taken to the station.  Armed with a gun stolen from one of the officers, James is considered very dangerous.  The James Bird once knew could never have done such a thing.  In fact, he once did her a big favor, one for which she is still in his debt.  Her heart breaks a little for him, but there's nothing she can do to help the fugitive.

Then, Bird makes a shocking discovery—James is hiding in the abandoned choir loft of the church Bird's mother attends.  Wounded and in pain, he begs Bird to help him.  Aiding James puts her impending freedom at great risk, but she can't walk away while he bleeds out in the church.  Can she?  She can't turn him in, not after what he did for her.  But what does she really owe him?  What should she do?  With the clock ticking for both Bird and James, Bird must make an impossible choice ...

The premise of The Odds of You and Me by Cecilia Galante is what drew me to this book.  It asks such a simple, but intriguing question, one which pricks the reader's conscience by asking, "What would you do?"  I don't know that I would have made the decision Bird does in the book, but her actions sure make for a compelling novel.  Bird is a sympathetic heroine, one who's easy to empathize with and root for.  She's flawed, but she's also compassionate, brave, and devoted to her son.  I definitely wanted a happy ending for her.  Did I get it?  I won't spoil anything for you.  I can say, though, that I enjoyed this novel.  Even though the story didn't close in quite the way I wanted it to, the tale still felt satisfying overall.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Poignant Sisters Novel a Decent Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Thirty years ago, a struggling young mother was arrested and sent to jail.  She had no choice but to surrender both of her girls—4-year-old Brooke and 6-month-old Natalie—to the state.  Believing they would be kept together, Jennifer Walker served her time knowing—hoping—that her daughters would have a better life without her.

Raised by an adoptive family, Natalie, now 35, is happily married with two children of her own.  She runs a small catering business out of her home.  Growing up in foster care took its toll on Brooke.  At 39, she's a cocktail waitress whose only significant relationship is with a married man.  The sisters haven't seen each other since they were separated from each other as children; until very recently, in fact, Natalie had no idea Brooke existed.  Now that she does know, she can't stop herself from reaching out.  After that?  Natalie wants them both to seek out their birth mother.  What happens when the two women finally meet?  Will Brooke help Natalie find Jennifer?  What will happen if they do?

Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany is a poignant, compelling story about two women's journeys to reacquaint themselves with each other and, ultimately, rediscover themselves.  While there's nothing really original or memorable about them as characters or about their story, the novel is still engrossing.  I can't say I loved it, but overall, it made for a decent read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Far From the Tree by Robin Benway)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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