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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!
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Book-Covered Books

It's Tuesday, which can only mean one thing ... it's time for my favorite weekly meme!  The Top Ten Tuesday topic du jour is a book cover freebie.  Freebies often stump me, but with this one, I knew right away that I wanted to feature bookish book covers.  After all, there's nothing I love more than a lovely cover showcasing my favorite hobby in all its beautiful, cozy, whimsical glory.  I'll get to some favorites in a moment ... but first, I urge you to join in the TTT fun by visiting That Artsy Reader Girl, skimming a few guidelines, making your own list, then clicking around the book blogosphere to check out other bloggers' posts.  It's a good time, I promise.

Without further ado, here we go with my Top Ten Favorite Bookish Book Covers:

What about you?  Do you have a favorite cover featuring books and reading? Have you read any of the lovelies I featured today?  I've only read a few of them—which one should be next?  I'd love to hear from you.  Leave a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!  
Monday, January 27, 2020

MG Novel Straightforward, Thought-Provoking, and Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Twins are rare enough, but 11-year-old Minni King and her sister, Keira, are more unusual still.  Children of a Black mother and a white father, Minnie's skin matches her dad's while Keira's is the same shade as their mom's.  Their parents have always assured them that what matters most is that they're all part of the strong, tight-knit King Family, but that doesn't mean their unique family doesn't attract plenty of stares and ignorant comments from people in their mostly white Pacific Northwest community.  

When the girls' overbearing grandmother calls, insisting Minni and Keira come stay with her in Raleigh, North Carolina, in order to compete in the Miss Black Pearl contest, Keira's over the moon.  She's vivacious and gorgeous, the perfect candidate for a beauty pageant scholarship competition.  Shy and awkward, not to mention pale as milk, Minni can't think of anything more horrifying than being gawked at while prancing around a stage in a fussy dress and high heels.  Unable to talk her way out of going, Minni vows to face her fate with courage—the way her hero, Martin Luther King, always did.  
Mingling in a mostly Black society for the first time in her life, Minni feels very, very white.  While she struggles to define her own Blackness, she also bristles at her grandmother's constant criticism of Keira.  As the sisters each experience racism, prejudice, and confusion about their mixed ethnicities, they will both learn valuable lessons about identity, understanding, sisterhood, and family.  
As the white adoptive mother of a bi-racial child, I'm always glad to find books like The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier (who is the daughter of a Black father and a white mother).  They open my eyes to issues my daughter will likely face in her life and aid me in knowing how to help her through them.  While The Other Half of My Heart tackles issues like race and identity in a blunt, straightforward way, the story is also funny and entertaining enough to keep middle graders reading.  The plot's a bit loosey-goosey, but the story moves fast enough to prevent it from getting dull.  While the tale is predictable, I still found it enjoyable overall.  I listened to this one as an audiobook and especially liked the narrator, Bahni Turpin

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels about being Black (or bi-racial) in a white world, including The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods; Black Boy, White School by Brian F. Walker; Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins; SLAY by Brittney Morris; etc.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received a free audiobook of The Other Half of My Heart through a promotion at Audible.
Saturday, January 25, 2020

Winning Elements Combine to Create Compelling, Entertaining Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

1939—Aspiring artist Anna Dale is thrilled when her sketch wins a federal contest designed to install colorful murals on the walls of post offices throughout the United States.  Unexpectedly, the 22-year-old is assigned to paint in the tiny Southern town of Edenton.  With the recent death of her mother, Anna has nothing to keep her in New Jersey, so she settles down in the North Carolina town, determined to do her best to immortalize its virtues in her mural.  While some of the townsfolk welcome her with open arms, others look askance at her city airs, her unconventional ideas, and the fact that she bested Edenton's resident artist in the contest.  When a shocking turn of events shows Anna just how deep some people's resentment lies, she's forced to decide if completing the mural is really worth the risk.

2018—In jail for a crime she didn't commit, 22-year-old Morgan Christopher is surprised when she receives a visit from two women she doesn't know.  When they offer her a job restoring an old painting, at the bequest of a well-known artist who has recently died, Morgan's shocked.  Especially when she learns the task comes with a generous payout and immediate release from incarceration.  Morgan can't say no.  Although she knows nothing about art restoration and can't fathom why a famous painter would want her for the job, Morgan vows to do the best she can.  When she sees the painting—an old mural that was never installed at the Edenton, North Carolina, post office like it should have been—she's intrigued by the artist's odd renderings of the town.  Was Anna Dale insane?  Why did she paint such weird motifs?  The more Morgan works on the painting, the more she has to know: What happened to Anna Dale, a talented painter who was never heard from again after she left Edenton?

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain combines some intriguing elements—small-town secrets, a mysterious painting, and an impossible task assigned to an improbable underdog—to create an engrossing, entertaining mystery that I quite enjoyed.  Anna and Morgan are likable characters, both of whom are sympathetic and admirable.  Although I know little about painting, it was interesting to learn about the restoration process.  I also enjoyed the pacing of this story, which kept me engrossed and guessing.  The Big Reveal at the end of the book didn't surprise me at all, however, but that's okay because it felt so right.  With all of these winning elements, Big Lies in a Small Town is engaging, compelling, and enjoyable. I'll definitely be checking out Chamberlain's backlist now.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Big Lies in a Small Town from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!
Thursday, January 23, 2020

My First Audiobook a Slow, Gory Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As an aspiring journalist, 16-year-old Nathalie Baudin is thrilled to be writing a column for Le Petite Journal.  Even if the editor, an old family friend, hired her only as a favor to her unemployed mother and away-at-sea father.  Even if she has to dress as a boy to do her reporting.  Even if the job means spending her days studying corpses at Paris' public morgue.  Despite her unladylike interest in the macabre, she's as horrified as everyone else when a serial killer begins preying on the city's young women.  She's even more aghast when, while viewing the victims' bodies at the morgue, she begins having nauseating visions of them being brutalized.  Most confusing of all, the scenes are from the perspective of the killer.  Why is she having these strange visions?  What could they possibly mean?  

Soon Nathalie realizes that her gruesome waking dreams are a weird gift that could help the police find the killer who has been dubbed "The Dark Artist."  But that means opening herself to more violent visions, which leave her frightened and disgusted.  Is it worth her sanity to encourage the blood-soaked visions?  As Nathalie searches for answers, she stumbles across shocking secrets about her family and herself.  Her sleuthing soon attracts the attention of the murderer.  With a killer on her own tail, she must find answers—and fast—before she becomes the next corpse lying on a slab for all of Paris to view. 

Spectacle, a debut novel by Jodie Lynn Zdrok, has an intriguing premise and a creepy, atmospheric Jack the Ripper feel.  While neither of these elements is all that original, the combination presents a compelling jumping-off point.  Unfortunately, the story Zdrok spins from it is slow, with a lot of meandering around before it gets anywhere.  The tale gets repetitious and dull, making its 368 pages feel like double that.  Add in a lot of bloody, gory scenes, some of which made me feel physically ill, and Spectacle became a tough tale to get through.  I did become invested enough in the story to finish it, but in the end, I just didn't find the book all that enjoyable or satisfying.  Needless to say, I won't be bothering with the sequel, Sensational, which comes out in February.

I should mention that I listened to Spectacle as an audiobook—my first one ever.  The narrator, Laurie Catherine Winkel, is okay.  Her narration is a little stiff, with her French sounding more natural than her English.  My daughter says she sounds like the Google Translate voice.  I don't know if listening to Spectacle as opposed to reading it altered my experience with the book or not.  I think I would have felt the same way, no matter what, but I'm still a noob when it comes to audiobooks, so who knows?

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting [The Body Finder; Desires of the Dead; The Last Echo; and Dead Silence] as well as various books about Jack the Ripper)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language; violence; disturbing subject matter; and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received a free finished audio copy of Spectacle as part of a promotion offered by Audible.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Borrow, Not Buy Top Ten Tuesday List

It's Tuesday, so that can only mean one thing: it's time for my favorite bookish meme.  Since I already did a version of this week's topic (Top Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf) not long ago, I'm going to change it up a little and talk instead about the My Top Ten Most Recent Library Acquisitions.  I've always utilized my local libraries (both city and county), but after spending a pretty penny on new books in 2019, I'm going to try to borrow more and buy less in 2020. We'll see how that goes ...

First, won't you join the TTT fun?  It's easy and enjoyable, I promise!  All you have to do is head on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few quick instructions, make your own list, and then spend some happy hours surfing through the book blogosphere.  It's a great way to find reading recommendations, discover new blogs, and spread the love throughout our wonderful blogging community.

Alright, here we go with My Top Ten Most Recent Library Acquisitions:

1.  The Wake of the Lorelei Lee by L.A. Meyer (audiobook)—Ever since I found that I don't actually hate audiobooks, I've tried to have one on deck at all times.  I borrowed this one, the eighth installment in one of my favorite YA series, because of a recommendation from an anonymous blog commenter.  I always enjoy the Bloody Jack books and this one is no exception.  I'm especially taken with the narrator, the late Katherine Kellgren, who does an excellent job giving voice to the irrepressible Jacky Faber.  The books are hefty, so the audiobook is over eleven hours long.  Still, it's a fun one.

2.  A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths—I'm behind on the Ruth Galloway mystery series, but it's another one I've enjoyed immensely.  This installment, the fourth, concerns the murder of a museum curator, then the museum's owner.  Naturally, Ruth and D.I. Nelson are called in to investigate.  I can't wait to catch up with Ruth and Co.

3.  Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu—I've heard good things about this mystery series starring a feisty Singaporean widow who runs a restaurant and solves mysteries in her spare time.  The opening installment involves a murder and the disappearance of one of Aunty Lee's guests, two puzzling events that must be related.

4.  What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr—In this standalone from Barr, a woman in her 60's wakes up in the Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home.  Although she can't remember how she got there, Rose is convinced she's still in her right mind.  When another shocking event occurs, she becomes sure of it—someone is trying to eliminate her.  But why?

5.  Second Sight by Aoife Clifford—I always like a good going-home-to-confront-secrets-of-the-past type books, so this one sounds appealing.  It's about a lawyer who returns to her Australian hometown after a devastating wildfire, only to witness an old friend commit a crime that propels her on a journey to uncover the secrets others would like to remain buried forever.

6.  Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson—I enjoyed Johnson's newest MG novel, Dog Driven, so I wanted to try another one by her.  Ice Dogs is a survival story about a girl who gets lost in the Alaskan wilderness during a dogsled race.  Sounds exciting!

7.  The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan—I've only read a couple of Colgan's novels, but I loved them both, so I want to read more from her.  The Café by the Sea is the first book in her Mure series.  It stars Flora, who returns to her hometown to lick her wounds, only to find herself caught up in the dramas of island and family life.  Fun!

8.  Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner—Graphic novels aren't really my thing, but this one jumped out at me while my 11-year-old daughter was perusing the shelves for Pokémon books.  The story centers on a half-white, half-Japanese boy who is sent to a California internment camp during World War II.  Should be a quick, interesting read.

9.  A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson—This is another book I noticed while browsing the children's section with my daughter.  Set in 1955, the story is about a 13-year-old girl who's frightened of growing racial tension in her Mississippi town.  Trying to decide if she should leave the state altogether or attempt to stay and push for change, she learns some valuable lessons about racism, community, and taking action.

10.  The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers—I've never read anything by Meyers, but the title of this 2013 novel caught my attention.  It's about a woman whose extramarital affair leaves her pregnant and alone.  Five years after she places the child for adoption, her lover's wife finds out what happened.  Told from the perspectives of three women caught in the drama, it's a novel about the consequences of infidelity, the journey toward forgiveness, and the power of family, even in the most unlikely of situations.

There you go, ten books I recently grabbed off the library shelves.  Have you read any of them?  What have you checked out lately from the library or acquired from a bookstore?  I'd love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!
Monday, January 20, 2020

Cute YA Rom-Com Upbeat and Fun

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

From its peppy back cover plot summary to its charming cover to its totally apt title, you can tell that Tweet Cute, a debut novel by Emma Lord, is, well, cute.  It really is an adorable romance starring two likable characters who find themselves thrown together in a funny (if a little implausible) situation that gets increasingly impossible and confusing.  While there's some family drama thrown in for both Pepper and Jack to deal with, it's just enough to add substance to the story without throwing off its light, upbeat vibe.  Overall, Tweet Cute is an engrossing, entertaining rom-com that's just fun to read.  I enjoyed it.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (two F-bombs, plus milder expletives), innuendo, and depictions of/references to underage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Tweet Cute from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press (an imprint of Macmillan) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Thursday, January 16, 2020

Authentic and Compelling, Oakley's Latest an Enjoyable Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For years, Mia Graydon has had recurring dreams starring the same dark-haired man.  A man who is not her husband.  She hasn't thought a lot of it as her life has taken its own dream-like path toward fulfillment.  With a strong marriage to a handsome doctor, a spacious house (picket fence and all) in a quaint new town, a private studio which will allow for hours of peaceful painting, and a baby on the way after two miscarriages, Mia is experiencing the joy of hope and possibility unfurling before her.  It feels as if anything could happen in her happy, privileged life. 

Then, the unexpected occurs—Mia sees the man from her dreams.  To her absolute astonishment, Oliver is a real, flesh-and-blood person.  A nice one to boot and one with whom she feels instantly comfortable.  Even more amazing, he has been dreaming of her too.  As the two puzzle out the meaning (or lack thereof) behind their odd connection, Mia's orderly life starts to veer off the rails.  With things falling apart in her real life, her dreams of Oliver start to seem more and more appealing.  When it comes to a choice between salvaging her reality and chasing what could be, what will Mia ultimately decide to do?

You Were There Too, a new novel by Colleen Oakley, explores the intriguing question of what if?  It uses a unique premise to ruminate on common themes like marriage, infertility, grief, guilt, and familiarity vs. newness in romantic relationships.  The characters come off as authentic (flawed, but relatable), the prose is engaging, and the story compelling.  You Were There Too kept me guessing right up until the unexpected plot twist at the end which seems to come out of nowhere, but is actually inevitable and, when you think about it, not entirely surprising.  Overall, then, I found You Were There Too to be an engrossing, funny, poignant novel about love, loss, and the strange "coincidences" of life that maybe aren't so coincidental after all.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of novels by Joshilyn Jackson and Katherine Center)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), mild sexual content, and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of You Were There Too from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My Top ONE Tuesday Discovery

It's Tuesday!  You know what that means—it's time for my favorite weekly meme.  Top Ten Tuesday is always a good time.  You should really join in the fun.  All you have to do is click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few instructions, create your own list, and hop around the book blogosphere to visit other people's lists.  It truly is a great way to find new book blogs to read, add intriguing titles to your TBR mountain chains, and just spread the love throughout this wonderful online community of ours.

The topic du jour is Top Ten Bookish Discoveries I Made in 2019.  I did find some new authors and blogs last year, but I feel like I've already talked about them.  So, I'm going to talk about a bookish discovery I've made this year.  Since there's only one, this won't be a list, but more of a discussion.  I really do value your advice and recommendations, so please leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but my big discovery of 2020 is ... wait for it ... audiobooks.  I'm sure I'm the last person on Earth to jump on this particular bandwagon.  However, in reading lots of 2019 wrap-up posts, I realized something—bloggers that read a heck ton of books last year often attributed their astounding numbers to, you guessed it, audiobooks.  So, I decided to give them a try.  Audible had a New Year's sale that offered a free trial membership, some free books, and an easy reading (listening) challenge that will net me a $20 Amazon gift card to boot.  Serendipity!  I signed up.
For my first audiobook, I decided on a book I've been eyeing for awhile—Spectacle by Jodi Lynn Zdrok.  It's a YA novel about a 16-year-old Parisian girl who visits the city's public morgue, which prompts her to have strange visions about a string of grisly murders.  It sounded interesting, so I downloaded the book and started listening.  The narrator, Laurie Catherine Winkel, seemed a little stiff, her French words sounding more natural than her English ones, but she sounded even weirder at higher speeds, so I listened to the story at normal speed.  I kept the audio running while I ran errands in the car, scrubbed my kitchen, folded laundry, worked on the computer, etc. and was surprised at how well I could multi-task.  In the past when I've tried to listen to books I've either fallen asleep or gotten so distracted by other things that I missed half of what the narrator was saying.  The only problem with Spectacle was the tale seemed to go on and on and on and on.  When I downloaded the book, I hadn't paid any attention to its length.  I actually gasped when I finally realized it was ELEVEN HOURS long.  Needless to say, it was an interesting first-time listening experience.

Now, I'm listening to a MG novel called The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier.  The Audie Award-winning narrator, Bahni Turpin, is much more animated than the last one and the book is much shorter.  I'm enjoying it.

All in all, my audiobook experiment is going well so far.  I'm curious, though, as to how the rest of you use this resource.  Do you listen to audiobooks?  Why or why not?  How often do you "read" them?  Which books have been your favorite to listen to?  Who are the best narrators?  Any other tips for me from you audiobook lovers?  I'd love any advice on how to use audiobooks most effectively and enjoyably.

Happy TTT!
Monday, January 13, 2020

Debut Proves Rader-Day Improves With Time

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been 10 months since a student shot Dr. Amelia Emmett in the pelvis.  Although she's still walking with a cane, popping pain pills, and suffering from panic attacks, the professor is determined to get back in the classroom at Rothbert University.  Despite her colleagues' misgivings and the whispers that trail after her wherever she goes, Amelia aims to prove she's ready and able to reclaim her life.  No one needs to know that she's shaking in her high heels.  Just like no one needs to know how obsessed she is with the question why.  Why did the shooter—a kid Amelia had never met, never taught, never spoken to—choose her as his victim?  Why had he deliberately waited outside her office door with a gun?  Why had he tried to kill her before taking his own life?  None of it makes an ounce of sense.

Nathan Barber, a grad student in sociology, has come to Rothbert for one reason—to research Dr. Emmett.  Intending to do his dissertation on the shooting, he offers to be Amelia's teaching assistant in an effort to get closer to her.  When Amelia wises up to his plan, she can't keep herself from encouraging Nath to do some sleuthing around campus.  She wants to know why she was shot even more than he does.  But the clues Nath uncovers only create more questions and when the truth finally comes to light, it will be even more shocking than either Amelia or Nath ever imagined.

I've enjoyed a couple of Lori Rader-Day's newer novels, so I was interested to see how her debut, The Black Hour, compared.  I liked it least of the ones I've read because although it boasts a compelling premise, the story plods along slowly, with the action only picking up at the end.  A few times, I almost put the book down.  In addition to a sluggish plot, the main characters are pretty blah.  Amelia's sympathetic, but not very likable.  Nath's just boring (admittedly so).  The book's vibe doesn't help—it's dark and depressing.  Considering all this, why did I keep reading?  Well, it's the same question that haunted Amelia and Nath—why?—that kept me turning pages.  In the end, though, I didn't find The Black Hour all that satisfying.  I finished it, but I definitely didn't love it.  The good news is I know for certain that Rader-Day's novels improve with time!

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Black Hour from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
Thursday, January 09, 2020

Debut Medical Mystery by Wife/Husband Duo Engrossing, But Otherwise Nothing Special

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In need of a start-over, forensic pathologist Jessie Teska moves from L.A. to San Francisco.  The 31-year-old is not thrilled with the foggy city, her cramped converted cable car apartment, or the aging equipment in the dingy building where she's employed as an assistant medical examiner.  She needs to make it all work, though, even if she's feeling increasingly overworked and underpaid. 

When the body of a young Filipino nursing student, dead of an apparent heroin overdose, lands on Jessie's table, she's taken aback.  Especially when she notices several inconsistencies between the detectives' version of what happened to her and the story her corpse is telling.  Although she's told repeatedly to let it go, Jessie can't.  Something about the death doesn't compute.  With more and more bodies piling up on her table, she's convinced—there's more to these overdose deaths than meets the eye.  No one else seems to care, but Jessie won't rest until she figures out what's really going on.  Even if it means putting herself in the crosshairs of a killer's weapon.

First Cut is the debut novel of wife/husband team Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell and the first installment in a new mystery series.  A Harvard-educated forensic pathologist with many years of experience, Dr. Melinek clearly knows her stuff.  First Cut is filled with interesting, though graphic and gory, depictions of medical examiner life.  Storywise, the novel isn't anything mystery/thriller lovers haven't seen before.  The tale is predictable, the killer not all that surprising.  There's enough action to keep readers turning pages, though.  Jessie is a complex, admirable heroine, although she's impulsive and has questionable people-judging skills.  Overall, First Cut is an engrossing book, but one I didn't end up loving.  I doubt I'll continue with the series. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of First Cut from the generous folks at HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 Is Looking Promising Already

My kids are back in school, so the holidays must be officially over.  Never mind the fact that my Christmas decorations aren't completely packed away or that my family is still nibbling on holiday treats.  I'm ready for the new year, darn it!  2020's not going to get away from me like 2019 did.  I hope.  

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is Top Ten Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020.  I already did a Winter TBR list that featured a lot of 2020 releases, so check that one out.  Never fear, though, I have more, which you will find listed below in order of release date.  Before you scroll down, though, take a minute to join in the TTT fun.  It's super easy—just click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, scan a few quick instructions, write up your own list, then hop around the book blogosphere checking out other people's posts.  I promise it will be a good time!

Okay, here we go with Top Ten (Okay, Eleven) Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 (not including those from my Winter TBR list):

1.  The Girls With No Names by Serena Burdick (available January 7)—An ARC of this novel is winging its way to me as we speak.  I can't wait!  This historical concerns two sisters who live near a home for wayward girls.  When the girls unearth a shocking secret about their father, everything changes.  Then, one of the sisters disappears.  Assuming their father has incarcerated his missing daughter at the nearby home, the other hatches a daring rescue plan.   

2.  The Hollows by Jess Montgomery (available January 14)—I loved The Widows, a historical novel about a woman who takes over as sheriff after her husband's death in 1920s Ohio.  The second book in the series, this one concerns an elderly woman who is killed by a train while walking through an underground railroad tunnel.  Who was the woman?  And what was she doing on the train tracks?  It's up to the sheriff to find out. 

3.  Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (available January 14)—This dual-timeline novel is the story of an innocent convict who is released from prison early in return for restoring an old mural.  A lot of my favorite tropes are rolled up in this one, so I'm expecting to enjoy it.

4.  Remembrance by Rita Woods (available January 21)—This triple-timeline historical novel about slavery looks intriguing. 

5.  Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar (available January 24)—Teenager Grace is so ill that her mother, Meg, who is beloved and admired in her town, does little else but care for her.  When Meg is found brutally murdered, with Grace nowhere to be found, the confusing mystery befuddles the town.  What in the world happened to the mother and daughter?  Sounds good, no?  

6.  Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald (available February 4)—After being struck by lightning, a woman wakes up in the hospital only to find out her mother has been murdered.  The police are suspicious of her convenient amnesia.  Desperate to prove her innocence, she sets out to find the truth.

7.  The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte (available March 3)—In this YA novel, a teen raises her sister from the dead for one day as a desperate measure to get answers about their parents' deaths.  Without enough clues as to what really happened, the girls team up to find the truth while being pursued by ill-intentioned foes.  Sounds fun!

8.  The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O'Shaughnessy (available March 3)—I just requested an e-ARC of this MG novel from NetGalley.  It's about a girl who discovers her estranged father will be judging a singing competition in Nashville.  She signs up to compete, but exactly how is she going to secretly get herself to Tennessee?  Adventure ensues ...  

9.  The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (available March 5)—I've enjoyed the first two books in McTiernan's Cormac Reilly series and I've been anxiously awaiting this third installment.  Looks like it's told from the perspective of both Reilly and another detective.  Interesting.

10.  Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia (available April 7)—I'm a big fan of Mejia's thrillers, so I'm excited for her newest which centers around a forensic accountant hired to track down millions of dollars of missing prize money.

11.  Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (available April 28)—I love me a good pioneer story and this one sounds excellent.  It's about a young widow crossing the Overland Trail who faces hardships along the way.  An unexpected romance with a man who is half-Pawnee adds challenges to her already full plate.  
There you have it, eleven new releases I'm looking forward to.  What do you think of my picks?  Are you excited for any of these as well?  What other titles should I be keeping on my radar?  I'd truly love to know what you think.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!
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