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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (8)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (2)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

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

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

TTT: My Bookish Tells

With all this self-isolation, I have completely lost track of the days of the week.  Other than Sunday, when we now hold worship services in our home instead of at the church building, each day is exactly like the other.  Know what I'm talking about?  Penn Holderness does:

Needless to say, I'm very proud of myself for remembering that today is Tuesday!  Yippee!  Time for my favorite weekly meme.  If you're not familiar with Top Ten Tuesday, you can educate yourself by clicking on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, where you can get all the info you need.  Join in the fun by creating your own list, then hopping around the book blogosphere to view other people's lists.  It's an enjoyable way to beat boredom, spread some love, and find more books to read.  I'm averaging a book a day right now, so I'm definitely up for new recommendations!

Today's topic is a fun one—Top Ten Signs You're a Book Lover.  I couldn't think of anything really unique that marks me as a bibliophile, but here goes:

1.  If you don't know me and you've never been to my house, your first clue that I love to read would be my license plate.  Above is my current one, but I've also had:  BOOKISH, NOZNABK, ADDLED ("She has read too many books and it has addled her brain."), etc.

2.  Bookish stuff—Another clue would be my bookish t-shirts (my favorite is for a local indie—it says, "Peace, Love, Books" on the back), mugs, artwork, etc.

3.  My blog—I've been posting reviews on my blog since 2006.  When I publish, links are also posted to my Facebook and Twitter.  I also hand out blog business cards at conferences and bookish events.  So, I'd say most people who know me, even a little bit, are aware that I run a book review blog.

4.  My home library—My house is full of books.  There are overfilled bookcases in our family room, the game room, my bedroom, my husband's office, my daughter's room, etc.  My little office nook is crammed full of them (See above.  I didn't bother tidying up so you could get a real feel for the bookish chaos—you're welcome!)  Several people have told me they've never seen so many books in a building that wasn't a library.  LOL.  What most people don't know is that the closet in my guest room is also stuffed full of review books in file boxes.  Houston, I *may* have a problem!

5.  My Goodreads TBR—I've heard other readers lament that they have several hundred "want to read" books listed on GR.  I have 5,549 and counting.  If that's not a sign that I'm a *little* book crazy, I don't know what is!

6.  I have THREE library cards—I'm lucky to live in a place where I have access to two large library systems, so I have cards to both the city and county libraries.  I also keep my daughter's county card on hand in case I need to check out more than the allowed 50 books.  Yes, it has happened.  More than once.

(my favorite Arizona indie)

7.  I've never met a bookstore I didn't like—Seriously.  Be it bright, clean, and modern or musty, dusty, and chaotic, I love me a bookstore.  Chances are excellent that I'll come out of any bookstore with at least one treasure.

8.  I'm never bored—Unlike most people, I have no problem waiting in airports, doctors' offices, carpool lines, stop-and-go traffic, etc.  As long as I have a book nearby (and you better believe I always do), I'm perfectly happy to hang around.  Even as a kid, I never needed to be entertained.  Having a book in hand means I'm never bored.

9.  I don't watch t.v.—Ask me about the hottest show on the small screen and you'll get a blank stare.  I rarely watch t.v, at least without a book or cross-stitch project on my lap.  The only time you'll really find me paying full attention to the boob tube is when I'm folding laundry and even then, I've started listening to audiobooks instead.

10.  Hermione Granger is my spirit animal—Bookish characters (and real people) are my favorite because I just get them!     

There you go, ten reasons that make it obvious I'm a little book obsessed.  What about you?  What are your tells?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT! 
Monday, March 30, 2020

Despite Adorable Cover Model, Who Rescued Who Just an Okay Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Elizabeth Barnes is fired after an off-the-cuff remark brings unexpected embarrassment to the tech company for which she works, the 32-year-old workaholic is at loose ends.  She still has a horde of followers on her social media accounts, but with no job, no family left and no true IRL friends, Elizabeth's once-glamorous Silicon Valley life suddenly seems very empty.  A surprise phone call from a British uncle she never knew she had comes at just the right time.  Not only will a trip across the pond give her a chance to reboot (not to mention fill her feeds with attention-getting travel selfies) and connect with estranged family members, but the sale of her father's land should bring in enough cash to tide her over until she can find new employment.  

Although Elizabeth receives a warm welcome in Fargrove, it's immediately apparent that she doesn't belong in the tiny backwater town.  Without a reliable Internet connection, she's losing followers by the second.  Still, when two intriguing opportunities—a temporary job organizing her uncle's artwork and an adorable puppy who's decided to adopt Elizabeth—land in her lap, Elizabeth finds she can't refuse either.  Then there's the stunningly handsome James Holworthy, whose eye she simply must catch... As life in Fargrove teaches her to value a simpler way of being, Elizabeth must decide what she really wants, who she really is, and where she truly belongs.

Even though I'm not a huge animal lover, I really can't resist the sweet pup on the cover of Who Rescued Who by professional dog trainer Victoria Schade.  I can't say I loved the novel, but I did very much enjoy gazing at its adorable cover model!  I also liked the story's quaint setting as well as the warm-hearted townsfolk who inhabit the small village of Fargrove.  For me, the secondary characters way upstaged the heroine and hero, neither of whom I found very appealing.  Although Elizabeth does change over the course of the novel, she's still a stuck-up, self-centered brat with whom I never felt much of a connection.  Perhaps it's because everything always turns up roses for her that I didn't feel invested in her "plight."  James comes off as equally as shallow.  Their insta-lovey romance feels forced—Elizabeth's bond with her dog is both more believable and better developed than her relationship with James.  Plotwise, there was enough going on in the story to keep me reading, but the tale definitely feels longer than necessary, especially since it offers no real surprises.  All in all, then, Who Rescued Who turned out to be just an okay read for me.  That gorgeous furball on the cover, though?  He/she gets an A+ all the way!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels about unmoored city women finding their place in the back of beyond, although no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Who Rescued Who from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Saturday, March 28, 2020

Second Appalachian Historical Mystery As Intriguing As First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Hollows, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Widows.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

When an elderly woman is hit by a train on an isolated piece of railroad track, Sheriff Lily Ross is called in to investigate.  While it's immediately clear that the woman is dead, it's not apparent just what she was doing out in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night, wearing only a flimsy nightgown.  Marks on her wrists indicate she had been restrained recently.  Was the death a tragic accident caused by a roaming senior citizen with dementia?  Suicide?  Or did something more sinister occur?  Lily doesn't believe the brakeman's tale about a ghost pushing the old lady off a cliff directly into the path of an oncoming train, but she can't shake the feeling that there's more to the incident than meets the eye.

Determined to figure out Jane Doe's identity and the truth behind her death, Lily starts digging.  Her probing leads her to a facility deep in the holler.  Hiding secrets both old and new, The Hollows asylum may be the key to solving Lily's current mystery as well as answering disturbing questions from the past.  In the midst of working the Jane Doe case, Lily's also dealing with the fallout from attempted integration at the mines, an upcoming election that could win her the sheriff's seat in her own right, and a shivery ghost story she's starting to believe in spite of herself.  Can Lily close the case?  Will she keep her job as sheriff, despite many thinking it's an unsuitable job for a lady?  And what about the ghost that haunts the holler?  Will it make a believer out of pragmatic Lily Ross?

I enjoyed The Widows—the first installment in Jess Montgomery's historical mystery series featuring Lily Ross—so I was eager to read its sequel, The Hollows.  Like its predecessor, the novel features an atmospheric Appalachian setting in an intriguing historical time period.  It discusses issues/groups I don't know much about, including prohibition, integration in the mining industry, women's issues in the 1920s, and the Women's Klu Klux Klan.  In addition, it brings together a cast of colorful characters, most of whom are likable and fun to read about.  Lily is no exception.  She's an understated heroine, which makes her all the more alluring.  To top it all off, Montgomery writes with assured, engrossing prose.  All of these elements come together to make The Hollows another winning historical mystery from Montgomery.  You better believe I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in this enjoyable series.

(Readalikes:  The Widows by Jess Montgomery)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Hollows from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you! 
Thursday, March 26, 2020

Atmospheric Australian Mystery/Thriller Engrossing and Surprising

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been two decades since Eliza Carmody left her hometown of Kinsale and she's not thrilled to be going back.  Especially because her visit is in her official capacity as a lawyer—for Colcart, the company locals blame for the devastating, deadly wildfire that nearly destroyed the town.  As Public Enemy Number One, her plan is to sneak in and out of Kinsale with no one, not her family, not the few friends she has left, being the wiser.  Stealth goes out the window when Eliza witnesses a startling crime committed by an old acquaintance.  Soon, her presence is known by everyone, forcing her to confront her estranged sister, her father—a former cop who's been in a vegetative state for a year following an accident—and the anger of a town simmering with grief and searching for answers.

When Eliza learns that human remains have been found near a local historic home, she's too curious to leave Kinsale.  She knows the place has secrets, secrets that may be tied to the disappearance of her best friend back in high school.  Against her better judgment, Eliza finds herself becoming deeply embroiled in these hometown dramas.  Determined to find the truth behind the bones, the fire, and the disappearance of her best friend, she must decide whom she can trust and how far she will go to uncover the long-held secrets of the town to which she never wanted to return.

Second Sight by Aoife Clifford is a taut, twisty Australian thriller that kept me totally engrossed.  It's atmospheric, compelling, and surprising.  I didn't see the murderer coming, which is always a bonus.  The novel is unrelentingly depressing and bleak, true, but I still quite enjoyed Second Sight.  I'm looking forward to reading more from Clifford.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Jane Harper, including The Dry, Force of Nature, and The Lost Man)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Help a Girl Out?

Good Tuesday morning!  How is everyone?  How's the apocalypse going for you all?  My family and I are still doing just fine.  We've got plenty of t.p., food, and medicine, so we're just hunkering down.  The weather here yesterday was absolutely beautiful, so we did venture out to a neighborhood park.  It was full of people walking their dogs, doing yoga, riding bikes, etc.  We ate our lunch in an empty ramada, fully intending to socially distance ourselves, but the first people my 11-year-old daughter saw were two of her really good friends.  The kids all squealed and jumped around, so excited to see each other!  It broke my heart, actually, that these little pals have been forced to isolate themselves when they enjoy playing together so much.  They did get to run around together for a couple of hours, happy as proverbial clams.  Since my daughter's friends are boys, there wasn't any touching involved (cooties, doncha know), but she—and they—got some much-needed time to exercise, bask in the sunshine, and hang out with buddies.  It certainly boosted her spirits and ours.  At any rate, I hope you and yours are healthy and safe during these crazy times.

Speaking of boosting spirits, it's time for Top Ten Tuesday.  Yay!  It's easy to join in the TTT fun—just hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few instructions, build your own list, then spend some happy hours checking out other people's posts.  It's a fun way to discover new blogs, check in on old favorites, and rake in the reading recommendations.  What could be more fun, especially when you're stuck at home in need of a distraction?  Today's topic is a good one, too—Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

Freebies always throw me for a little bit of a loop and this one is no exception.  I racked my brain for a unique, creative way to spin the topic and nothing came to mind.  So, I'm going to take the lazy woman's way out today and ask for reading recommendations instead of giving them out.  Here's the deal:  I'm a positive, happy person who gravitates toward mystery/thrillers/apocalyptic fiction, even in the End of Days, apparently.  I've read so many that right now my soul is seriously craving books that will lift my heart, make me laugh, and provide the kind of light, fun entertainment that's been lacking in my reading choices of late.  Help a girl out?  I like most genres, although I tend to steer away from high fantasy, poetry, serious sci-fi, and anything too dense/technical/boring.  Erotica and the like is absolutely off the table.  What have you got for me?  Here's a quick Top Ten list that will give you an idea of what I like and am looking for more of:

  • Light, entertaining stories that still have substance.  Any genre.  Bonus points if they're clean and well-written.
  • Inspiring biographies/memoirs
  • Easy, breezy romcoms
  • Family sagas (think Kate Morton and Karen White)
  • Action/adventure/survival stories where endurance/determination wins out in the end and/or where there's more going on than meets the eye (think LOST)
  • Women's fiction that's heartwarming without being cheesy or sappy
  • Mysteries that are engrossing, but won't give me nightmares (think cozies and Mary Higgins Clark-ish)
  • Humor (fiction or non-fiction, just something that is funny without being too crude or suggestive)
  • Sweet/small-town romance (think Robyn Carr without the R-rated bits)
  • Haunted house/ghost stories that are shivery and engaging, but not terrifying 
Okay, what do you have for me?  I'd seriously love any recommendations you can come up with.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!  
Thursday, March 19, 2020

Need Some Light, Fun Reading for the Apocalypse? Look No Further.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Wonton Terror, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from previous Noodle House mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

The opening of the Asian Night Market is Cleveland's culinary kick-off to summer.  It's a weekly food festival that brings the community together for delectable eats, lively entertainment, and warm conversation.  Lana Lee is thrilled to be at the festival selling Ho-Lee Noodle House's unparalleled cuisine, even if it seems they might be outsold by the popular Wonton on Wheels food truck parked next to them.  It's obvious something odd is going on with the truck's owners—who are old friends of Lana's parents—but Lana's shocked when their truck explodes on the first night of the festival, leaving one of its owners dead.  Was it a tragic accident or something more sinister?

As it becomes increasingly apparent that someone tampered with the food truck, Lana launches a clandestine investigation into the incident.  The more she digs, the more she realizes that Ronnie Chow was not a pleasant person.  A number of people had grudges against him, but who hated him enough to kill him?  Or did Ronnie do it himself in order to collect the insurance money?  The closer Lana gets to the truth, the more dangerous her life is becoming.  Someone doesn't want the truth to get out—and they will do anything to keep Lana from getting too close.  Has Lana finally gone too far with her amateur sleuthing?  Will her restaurant be the next one that goes up in flames?

I always enjoy reading about Lana's antics with her overbearing family, her quirky friends, and her dangerous investigations.  The Noodle House Mysteries by Vivien Chien are just fun.  Wonton Terror, the fourth installment in the series, is no exception.  It's entertaining, even though I solved the mystery pretty early on.  I don't expect a lot of surprises in a cozy mystery—I enjoy them because they make for clean, easy, distracting reading.  This series is one of my favorites for all those reasons.  I'm definitely in for seeing what happens to Lana and Co. next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Noodle House Mystery series, including Death By Dumpling, Dim Sum of All Fears, Murder Lo Mein, 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 disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

MG Novel Tells Sincere, Heartwarming Tale About the Importance of Farming, Family, and Friendship

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There's nothing 12-year-old Paige McBride likes better than working the Idaho farm her family has owned for generations.  Even with the recent death of her father, which has caused financial hardship, extra chores, and heavy sorrow, Paige is determined to keep the place running smoothly.  When she learns about her mother's decision to sell her beloved land, she vows it will never happen.  Not only does Paige have a foolproof plan to sabotage their realtor's schemes, but now she's got two unexpected secret weapons—a journalist who wants a hands-on farming experience and a wounded peacock of mysterious origins.  Paige will use them, as well as every other trick she's got up her sleeve, to rescue the farm she loves.  Will it be enough?

Wendy S. Swore's debut novel, A Monster Like Me, was one of the best books I read last year.  I loved it so much that I couldn't wait to read her sophomore effort, The Wish and the Peacock.  While her newest didn't move me as much as her first, I still enjoyed this poignant middle-grade novel.  Paige is an admirable heroine—she's smart, loyal, hard-working, and focused.  Her love for her home and family shines brightly.  Young readers will enjoy the story for the funny antics Paige and her friends employ to foil the adults' actions, but what will really stand out is our heroine's dogged determination to save the things and people she loves.  Paige's affinity for her land as well as the work she does on it ring with authenticity because Swore, herself, is a full-time farmer.  It's not surprising, then, that The Wish and the Peacock exudes sincerity and heart.  Overall, it's an empowering tale about the importance of friendship, family, legacy, and fighting for what you believe in.  I enjoyed it.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Wish and the Peacock from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

TTT: Spring Has Sprung on Mt. TBR, Part Two

I don't know about your Spring, but mine isn't going quite the way I thought it would!  I had no idea my kids' Spring Break would be extended by a month or that I would be standing in line at the grocery store this morning with half the city just to buy laundry detergent or that all my local libraries would be closed for the duration.  Wow, what a time we're living in!  Despite the fact that I'm a Type 1 diabetic, I'm really not all that worried about the coronavirus—I have a year's supply of food in my house (my church's leadership has been preaching emergency preparedness for decades), plenty of toilet paper (I'm a Costco regular), a cabinet full of Bath & Body Works hand soap (I can't resist a sale), a couple month's worth of insulin (T1D strong!), and a *few* books on my shelves to keep me entertained.  I'll be fine.  I'm a bit of a hermit anyway, so I got this.  I hope you are healthy and calm amid all this chaos.  If you need a distraction from reality, there's nothing like a book to take you away from it all!

If you're not familiar with Top Ten Tuesday, you really should be.  It's my favorite weekly bookish meme.  Playing along is super easy and it's a great way to get acquainted in our fabulous book blogging community.  All you have to do is head on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few quick instructions, create your own list, then spend some happy hours checking out everyone else's posts.  It's a good time, I promise.

Today's topic is Top Ten Books on My Spring 2020 TBR.  You may recall that I got a jump on this topic last week, listing ten of the books I want to read this Spring.  I even read three of them last week.  Go, me!  Today, I'm giving you the second half of the list, in no particular order.

Spring Has Sprung On Mt. TBR, Part Two:

1.  Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman—This is a bit of a cheat since I actually just finished this book.  It may seem weird to read a dystopian novel while we're sorta living in one, but I enjoyed this novel about a drought in California reaching epically awful proportions.  The story is fast-paced, engrossing, and thought-provoking.  It's an interesting time to be asking yourself the kinds of questions that come up in this book:  How will I act/react when faced with a devastating crisis?  Am I in it for myself or do I care more about helping others?  How far would I go to protect my family?  How prepared am I for a natural disaster/pandemic/local or global crisis?  

2.  The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray—I was supposed to read this novel last week for a blog tour, but I'm a *little* behind.  The story concerns a family whose matriarch and patriarch are arrested, plunging them from a respected couple into a reviled one.  As the rest of the family grapples with the shocking development, they have to ask themselves what really happened.  Is the revered couple guilty or innocent?

3.  The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison—I'm not sure why dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels are so appealing to me right now, but this one sounds super intriguing.  It's about a midwife who has to find her place in a world that has changed irrevocably as the result of a pandemic that has decimated the world's population.  Maybe a little too real?

4.  Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn—On a lighter note, this warm-hearted romance featuring a calligrapher with an uncanny ability to read signs others can't see sounds like fun.

5.  All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White—I enjoyed The Glass Ocean, which was penned by this trio, so I'm excited to check out their newest joint venture.  This triple-timeline historical looks intriguing.

6.  The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey—A YA romance set in a bookstore?  Yes, please!

7.  When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman—I couldn't find a detailed plot summary for this book, but it gets good reviews and I've heard high praise, so I'm going to check it out.

8.  Big in Japan: Accidental Sumo by Jennifer Griffith—I was looking for a book set in Japan to read for the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, and this contemporary YA sounds fun.  It's about an overweight teenager who finds the kind of fame and popularity overseas that he's never had in Texas.  Naturally, all the attention is not all it's cracked up to be ...

9.  The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (available April 7, 2020)—I'm really not into bloodsuckers, but when a novel is described as "Steel Magnolias meets Dracula," I don't know how anyone can resist!  Looks like a super fun read.

10.  The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate (available April 7, 2020)—I enjoyed Wingate's Before We Were Yours, so I'm excited to read another novel by her.  Her newest concerns a trio of young women who journey across a tumultuous country in 1875 and the modern-day teacher who discovers their unforgettable story.  I'm in, for sure!

There you go, ten books I'd like to read this Spring.  What are you reading?  Have you read any of my picks?  What did you think?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.  

Happy TTT!
Monday, March 16, 2020

Speedwell/Stoker Always an Entertaining Combination

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for A Murderous Relation, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Veronica Speedwell mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

While Veronica Speedwell and Revelstoke "Stoker" Templeton-Vane have a paying job as organizers of a gentleman's specimen collection, they've become better known for their ability to solve mysteries.  So well known in fact that their newest client is none other than the Queen of England.  Her son, Prince Albert Victor, has given a valuable jewel—inscribed with his famous initials—to his lover, the proprietress of a "high-class" brothel.  If his frequent visits to the illicit venue are discovered, let alone his close relationship to Madame Aurore, it could be disastrous for the crown.  Veronica and Stoker are tasked with the job of removing the incriminating gem from the club's premises before its presence is discovered by anyone else.

Worse, there is some disturbing evidence connecting the risk-taking prince to a series of brutal murders being attributed to a serial killer nicknamed Jack the Ripper.  When Veronica and Stoker's investigation at the brothel leads them to Madame Aurore's corpse, a shame-faced prince, and a group of thugs bent on harming them all, their undercover adventure turns into something much, much more dangerous.  Will Veronica and Stoker escape with their lives?  Can they save the queen's family from humiliation?  Or is the prince in a lot more trouble than anyone could have imagined?

I've loved the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn since it started.  The pair at its center is lively, fun, and always entertaining.  It's delightful to watch their relationship evolve, as their magnetic attraction to each other has been evident from the beginning.  Besides the enjoyable characters, A Murderous Relation features an intriguing mystery, humorous repartee, and a plot that's both engaging and engrossing.  I could have done without the brothel scenes, but overall, I enjoyed this fifth installment in the series.  I'm very much Team Veronica/Stoker and I can't wait to see what they get up to next!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Veronica Speedwell series, including A Curious Beginning, A Perilous Undertaking, A Treacherous Curse, and A Dangerous Collaboration)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of A Murderous Relation from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Tuesday, March 10, 2020

TTT: Spring Has Sprung on Mt. TBR, Part One

Ahhh, Tuesday!  My favorite day of the week in the book blogging world. I've been a little bit MIA from BBB lately thanks to my attendance at RootsTech—a big, multi-day genealogy conference.  Since I was in Salt Lake City for the event, I took the opportunity to do some on-site research on some of my Mormon pioneer ancestors.  The Church History Library held an absolute gem—a series of letters written to my great-great-great grandfather from his mother in England while he was eking out a life in Ogden, Utah, in the 1860s and '70s.  Since they hadn't been indexed or transcribed, I spent a few hours sending the letters from microfilm to my email address, page by page.  Once I got home, I couldn't wait to transcribe them, a painstaking but very fulfilling process.  Reading the letters made me laugh, cry, and shake my head.  Let's just say that moms haven't changed much in 150 years!

Hoping to strike gold again, I visited the Salt Lake City Cemetery in search of a more recent ancestor who died in a coal mine cave-in near Helper, Utah, in 1925.  Find a Grave did not have any photos, so I went headstone-hunting hoping to take one for myself.  Imagine my dismay when I found this:

Considering the age of some of the headstones in this cemetery, it's amazing more haven't toppled, but nope—the stone I sought was the only one laying face forward on the ground!  Try as they might, my husband and aunt couldn't lift the heavy stone so we could read its inscription.  Such is the life of the genealogist, I guess.  You win some, you lose some.  Ironically, a quick visit to Billion Graves (which I somehow hadn't thought to check) revealed a perfectly clear photo of the headstone taken while it was still upright, proving I'm not quite the thorough genealogist I thought I was!  Good thing I attended RootsTech to hone my skills.   

Anyway, all this is to say that I'm home, recovered from my vacation, and ready to get the blog updated.  Participating in TTT seems like the best way to get back into the swing of things!

If you're not familiar with Top Ten Tuesday, it's a super fun weekly meme.  You should definitely join in. It's simple.  Just head on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read some quick instructions, make your own list, and then spend a few happy hours hopping around the book blogosphere checking out other people's lists.  If you're looking for an easy way to feel more connected here while spreading the love to some awesome blogs and adding to your TBR pile at the same time—well, you've found it.  Jump on in, the water's fine :)

This week's topic is Top Ten Authors Who Have a Fun Social Media Presence.  I don't follow many authors, so I'm going to fast forward to next week's topic: Top Ten Books on My Spring 2020 TBR.  Since there are at least 20 books on my Spring TBR, I'll share ten this week and ten next week.  Here goes:

Top Ten Books on My Spring 2020 TBR (Part One):

1.  The Wish and the Peacock by Wendy S. Swore—Swore's debut, A Monster Like Me, was one of my favorite novels of 2019.  I was super excited to get an ARC of her newest, which I'm reading now.  It's a poignant story about a 12-year-old girl who's desperate to hold on to the family farm she loves, which is being sold in the wake of her father's death.  She'll do whatever it takes to sabotage the sale, even tame a wild peacock!  So far, the book is sweet and funny.  I'm enjoying it.

2.  The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron—I'm a big fan of Cameron's books, which are unique and thought-provoking.  Her newest tells a more traditional story than her others.  It's a WWII novel about a real Polish teenager who hid 13 Jews in her tiny apartment, even with Nazis living next door, throughout the war.  Sounds fascinating!

3.  When We Were Lost by Kevin WignallLark recommended this YA novel about a high school field trip to Costa Rica gone horribly wrong.  It sounds like a tense, exciting adventure/survival story.  I just grabbed it from the library and I can't wait to dig in.

4.  My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira—This is an older historical that I somehow missed reading.  It's about a 17-year-old midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon.  The Civil War is raging and she offers her services as a nurse, which leads to an adventure that is full of excitement, danger, heartbreak, romance, and sorrow.

5.  Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi (available June 23, 2020)—This one is kind of a cheat since it doesn't come out until the end of June, but I'm hoping to get an early copy of it, so ... I really enjoyed Rossi's Never Sky series, but her latest is a completely different kind of novel.  It's a historical featuring a young woman who snatches a surprise opportunity to assume a different identity.  Eventually, she becomes a Revolutionary War spy for George Washington.  Based on a real person, this one sounds super intriguing!

6.  The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth—Not gonna lie, even as a kid, I found Mister Rogers' Neighborhood a little too trippy!  I was never a fan of the Land of Make Believe (so weird!), but I enjoyed the rest of Mister Rogers' show as well as the calm, accepting, positive vibe he put off.  It's been fun getting to know this wonderful man better through recent movies.  My book club chose this book for our March meeting and I can't wait to read it.

7.  The Last Blue by Isla Morley (available May 5, 2020)—I loved The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, which features a "Blue" from the unique Kentucky clan.  I've been interested in reading more about these people, so when Morley offered me a copy of her newest, I gladly accepted.  Her novel is about a pair of journalists who travel to the wilds of Appalachia to study the Blue People of Kentucky for a government WPA project.  The experience opens their eyes and changes their lives forever.

8.  The Supremes at Earl's All You Can Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore—This one came up in a Google search I did for "happy novels."  It's about a trio of friends who have been by each other's sides through thick and thin.  This year, however, will be their most challenging yet.  Sounds a little intense, but I'm hoping happy wins out in the end!

9.  A Good Neighborhood by Therese Ann Fowler—This one's gotten some excited buzz lately, and it does sound interesting, especially considering I have a bi-racial daughter.  The novel concerns a family with a bi-racial son whose ordered lives are challenged when their uppity new neighbors start causing tension, which causes everyone in the neighborhood to ask important questions about race, class, and interracial romance.

10.  In Five Years by Rebecca Serle—This novel, which comes out today, sounds like a thought-provoking one!  It concerns a woman who knows exactly where she will be in five years.  Until one night when she has a very real-feeling dream in which she's shown an entirely different future.  What does it all mean, if anything?  Oooh, the possibilities with this premise ... I'm excited to see what happens.

There ya go, ten books I'm hoping to read this Spring.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What's on your TBR list this season?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT! 
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