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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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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
- 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 (1)
- 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:

27 / 51 states. 53% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

22 / 50 books. 44% 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:

39 / 52 books. 75% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

26 / 40 books. 65% 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

25 / 100 books. 25% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

63 / 104 books. 61% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

68 / 165 books. 41% done!
Saturday, December 28, 2019

Taut, Exciting Dystopian/Survival Story an Engrossing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Three years ago, amidst chaos created by climate change and natural disasters, the United States drained Alaska of oil, then withdrew statehood to the cut-off land.  Residents who desired to leave were removed to Maine.  Those who refused were left to fend for themselves in the newly-designated "Sacrifice Area."  

Travis' prepper father saw no reason to flee Alaska then, but he does now.  With almost no food left and none to be found in the wild, his family is in danger of starving—and that's if they don't get killed first by the bands of hungry, half-feral people who roam the land, ready to kill for a can of soup.  Their trek toward the Arctic ends too soon, leaving 17-year-old Travis and Jess, his 10-year-old sister, on their own.  Determined to travel the 300+ miles to Anchorage, the pair sets out across the lonely wasteland.  Along the way, they encounter dangers of every kind, from wild beasts to treacherous weather to impossible roadblocks to people who will help them to those who would just as soon eat them.  With everything against them, can they make it all the way to Anchorage?  What will they find if they get there?  Will they ever be able to feel safe and at peace again?

The Wild Lands by Paul Greci is a taut, tense story that combines action/adventure, survival, and dystopian themes to create an exciting tale that should appeal to even reluctant readers.  Greci is an experienced outdoorsman, which shows as he details the inventive methods Travis' family uses to survive in a harsh, unyielding environment.  He's also a long-time Alaskan, which explains the vivid way he describes the land.  The setting is so atmospheric that I could see, hear, and smell it as well as feel the desperation cloying the air.  The characters are interesting, the prose strong, and the plot action-packed.  True, there's nothing really fresh or original about the story.  It's also a bit far-fetched, as the kids deal with literally every kind of survival/dystopian scenario there is on their journey.  Still, though, it's a pulse-pounding thriller that I enjoyed.  The ending is infuriating, yes, but also satisfying enough.  I'm just hoping Greci has a sequel in the works.

(Readalikes:  I'm trying to think of other novels that combine wilderness survival and dystopian elements, but no specific titles are coming to mind.  Ideas?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, mild innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Wild Lands from the generous folks at Macmillan for the purpose of Cybils Award judging.  Thank you!

YA Romance Cute, But Issue-y

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Don't Date Rosa Santos, a debut novel by Nina Moreno, is a little hard to describe.  Since my brain is tired, I'm just going to use the book's back cover copy, which sums the story up nicely:

Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that's what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you're a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides-literally-with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

As warm and breezy as the wind off the ocean on a summer's day, Don't Date Rosa Santos is a light, entertaining YA romance.  The relationships that shine the brightest in the book, though, aren't the romantic ones, but those between the members of Rosa's vibrant Cuban-American community.  It's easy to feel the love flowing among them, even if it's sometimes tough to remember who's who.  The love story between Rosa and Alex is also cute.  As far as plot and pacing go, though, I have some issues.  The whole curse thing around which the story revolves seems silly.  Would a whole community really believe some ridiculous superstition like that?  I don't think so.  As far as pacing, the flow of Don't Date Rosa Santos seems frenetic at times and too slow at others.  The story also feels disjointed, kind of here, there, and everywhere.  While I enjoyed Rosa's community, the cute romance, and the novel's bright, happy vibe, I had too many other issues with the book to really love it.  I liked it well enough, but it didn't bowl me over or anything.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Kasie West)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs) and innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find     

Somali Boy Soldier Novel Vivid, Action-Packed, and Moving

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

All Abdi Mohamed wants is for his family to be together and safe.  When they're rounded up by soldiers, the 16-year-old Somalian is given an ultimatum by his American captors—infiltrate the Al Shabaab jihadi group or else.  Abdi wants nothing to do with the terrorists, but he does want to find his older brother, Dahir, who was forcibly "recruited" by the group three years ago.  As the brother of an established Al Shabaab member, Abdi has an "in" few others do, which makes him valuable.  Even so, he has little choice but to do what he's told.  His captors promise that if he does a good job, they'll make sure his whole family gets relocated to America where they will be free and happy.    

Becoming an Al Shabaab soldier is risky enough, but being an embedded spy for the Americans is one hundred times worse.  If Abdi is found out, he knows he and his family members will die a slow, painful death.  His best bet is to get the information the Americans want, grab his brother, and get away from the jihadists as fast as he can.  Abdi's plan begins to go awry almost immediately.  Forced to keep his real purpose a secret, he must go along with Al Shabaab's drills and missions, doing what the others do.  It's not long before he's just as much of a murderer as all the others.  Can Abdi get away from Al Shabaab?  Does he even want to?  When a suicide vest is strapped to his chest, he will have to make an impossible decision.  

I haven't read any books, fiction or non-, about Somali's boy soldiers, so I found Let's Go Swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson completely fascinating.  The characters are sympathetic, interesting, and complex.  The plot speeds along at a furious pace, with lots of action and heart-pounding scenes.  Anderson's prose is strong and her descriptions vivid, all of which makes the novel come to terrifying life.  Timely and moving, Let's Go Swimming on Doomsday is an exciting, important read that should appeal to even reluctant readers.

(Readalikes:  I haven't read anything else on this subject, so I'm not sure what to compare Let's Go Swimming On Doomsday to.  Any suggestions?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Island a Strange Little Book That I Just Don't Get. At All.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 17-year-old Konrad "Rad" Schoe comes home to find his father dead and his twin brother, Key, almost catatonic, he's shocked.  Key insists he's not sure what exactly happened.  Did their father lose his balance and fall into the ravine?  Or did Key push him?  Rad can't be sure.  He also doesn't know what will happen to him and Key once the police discover what has happened.  While the boys figure out what to do, Rad reflects back, dissecting his life, his family's dynamics, and the enigmatic father he both loved and hated.

I'm not sure what to say about Island by Patrick Downes except that it's a strange little book.  It's more of a philosophical rumination than a novel.  Parts of it are intriguing, other parts are boring, and all of it is just ... odd.  The vibe is unrelentingly sad, heavy, and depressing.  Since it's only 177 pages long, I finished the book, but I had to force myself to get through it.  Maybe it's just me, but I did not get Island at all.  It wasn't an enjoyable or satisfying read for me.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Honestly, I have no idea.)


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 a finished copy of Island from the generous folks at Groundwood Books for the purpose of Cybils Award judging.  Thank you!

YA Canadian Survival Story Keeps Me (Mostly) Riveted to the Page

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Every summer, the Crows and the Hoebeeks trek out to their remote, neighboring cabins in the wilderness of northern Ontario.  The same age, Nate Crow and Dodge Hoebeek have spent happy days together swimming, fishing, exploring, and canoeing.  Then, four months ago, Dodge and his father took a trip into the mountains alone; neither one came home.  Although Mr. Hoebeek's body was recovered, Dodge's has never been found.  Nate has made it his mission to find Dodge.  Something in him can't help but hope that maybe his old buddy is alive, just holed up somewhere awaiting aid.

Nate finally convinces his father he's skilled enough in wilderness survival to trek to the cabin without adult supervision.  When the friend who was supposed to accompany him gets grounded, Nate decides to make the trip alone without telling his parents he'll be going solo.  As soon as he arrives, he realizes he's in for more than he bargained for.  Several rough-looking men, whom he recognizes from the news as escaped convicts, have taken over his family's cabin.  Paralyzed with indecision, Nate can't fathom what to do next.  With an incoming blizzard making everything worse, he must rely on his instincts and the survival skills he's learned over the years to escape the mountain alive.

The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones is an action-packed adventure/survival novel that will appeal to even reluctant readers.  There's enough going on to keep anyone's interest, although the flashback sections do slow down the story's forward momentum.  They humanize Dodge, who still seems like a jerk, but I'm not sure how much they actually add to the story.  The other chapters, though, are exciting enough to make up for the slow parts.  I saw the big reveal coming from a mile away, so that was a little disappointing.  Overall, though, The Starlight Claim is a decent action/adventure story that kept me (mostly) riveted to the page.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Starlight Claim from Candlewick Press for the purpose of Cybils Award judging.  Thank you!
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