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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 (1)
- 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 (2)
- 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:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

24 / 50 books. 48% 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:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% 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

26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

65 / 104 books. 63% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

44 / 52 books. 85% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

71 / 165 books. 43% done!
Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Loved Waaaayyyy Back in the Day

It's Tuesday again, time for my favorite bookish meme.  I always look forward to this weekly event, especially now when there are so few ways to distinguish one day from all the rest!  How's everyone doing this week?  Are you surviving the quarantine in good spirits or starting to go stark raving mad?  Are you whipping through a book a day or finding it difficult to concentrate on reading when the outside world is still in chaos?  We're doing okay over here.  All of us have cabin fever, but we're being as cautious as we can by staying home, social distancing, washing our hands, etc.  We've had excessive heat warnings here in the Phoenix area—it's supposed to be in the upper 90s and low 100s all week.  Oh, joy!  I'm not a fan of hot weather, but at least I have air conditioning and a backyard swimming pool.  I really can't complain (I mean, I can, but I shouldn't).  For now, I'll just continue reading, cross-stitching, blogging, and attempting to keep my house from becoming a complete shambles.  I hope you all are doing well and keeping you and yours safe and healthy.

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a nostalgic one—Top Ten Books I Wish I Had Read As a Child.  I don't know about you, but I have been a voracious reader for my entire life.  As a kid, there was nothing I loved more than visiting our town's teensy tiny library.  When I couldn't convince my mom to drive me into town, I made the two-mile round trip on my own two feet.  The walk down wasn't so bad since it was all downhill, but the hike back up was a killer, especially in the summer heat with my arms full of all the books I could carry!  Needless to say, I was thrilled when I got my driver's license.  Not only could I drive myself to town whenever I wanted, but I could also cross the bridge into Oregon and check out books from a nearby town that had a much larger library.  I inhaled so many books in those days that, besides the Harry Potter series (which didn't come out until I was in my late 20's), I couldn't think of any that I wished I had read as a child.  I could, however, think of many that I loved back then, so I'm going to twist the topic du jour and list the Top Ten Authors/Books/Series I Loved As a Child.

Before we get to that, though, I have to give a shout out to Jana, our Top Ten Tuesday host.  If you want to join in the TTT fun, head on over to her blog, That Artsy Reader Girl.  You can find all the info you need on her lovely site.

Top Ten Authors/Books/Series I Loved as a Child (in no particular order)

1.  The Berenstain Bears series by Jan and Stan Berenstain—As a kid, I devoured this beloved picture book series about a bear family that lives in a quaint treehouse.  I was so caught up by the idea of dwelling in a tree that I spend many happy hours designing my own treehouse home on paper.  Funny enough, when I started reading the books to my own children, I found them wordy, didactic, and a bit dull.  My kids enjoyed the PBS television series based on the books, but never cared much for the written version.

2.  Shel Silverstein—My family owned several of Silverstein's books of poems.  Some of his verses aren't very PC and would probably be frowned upon in today's more sensitive climate ("[Sister] For Sale" comes to mind), but his poems are fun, silly, inventive, and wholly entertaining.  My siblings and I loved them.

3.  Dr. Seuss—Like most children, I adored books like Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  I'm glad to see that these classics have endured and are still being enjoyed by today's kids.

4.  Choose Your Own Adventure series by R.A. Montgomery—Oh my goodness, did I gobble these books down!  I had so many wild adventures through this series.

5.  Amelia Bedilia series by Peggy Parish—I loved this series about a very literal-minded housekeeper and her many adventures.  Parish died in 1988 and her nephew, Herman Parish, continued writing Amelia Bedilia books starting in 1995.  I haven't read any of the newer books, but I loved the older ones.

6.  The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder—I was mad about everything Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid.  I devoured both the books and the t.v. show, which appealed to my love of history and pioneer stories.

7.  Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene—Even as a young'n I loved mysteries.  This famous female sleuth was my absolute favorite!

8.  The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner—These simple mysteries were also among my favorite reads as a child.  I've re-read some of them as an adult and although they're written in a very basic way, I can still see why they're so appealing to kids.

9.  Christopher Pike—I read a lot of Pike when I was in middle school and even high school.  His mystery/thrillers kept me up way past my bedtime on many nights in the late 80s and early 90s.  My young heart was absolutely crushed when I wrote him a gushing fan letter and never received a response! 

10.  Mary Higgins Clark—My dad introduced me to Clark, his favorite mystery author, when I was a teenager.  Her clean mystery/thrillers kept me up late on numerous occasions, turning pages far into the night.  I enjoyed her books more as a teen than as an adult, but I have great respect for Clark, who continued to write bestselling novels until she died in January at the age of 92.  

There you go, ten authors/books/series my child/teenaged self couldn't get enough of.  Were you a reader as a kid?  Which books did you love back in the day?  Which do you wish you had read then?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!
Monday, April 27, 2020

Depressing Vacation-Gone-Wrong Novel Doesn't Appeal

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Jenna Carlson has planned the perfect getaway to celebrate her husband's 50th birthday.  The bestselling YA novelist has rented a luxurious villa right on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  It will be the perfect place for the couple and their moody 16-year-old to relax and bond.  Peter's best friend and business partner, Robert "Solly" Solomon, has also been invited along with Ingrid, his beautiful, much-younger wife, his teenage son from his previous marriage, and his 5-year-old autistic son from his current one.  Solly's exuberance can be a bit much, but the vacation won't be as much fun without his larger-than-life personality.  All in all, Jenna is patting her back for organizing what is sure to be a flawless trip, the vacation of a lifetime.

The Carlsons have barely stepped foot on the beach, however, before tensions start running high.  Jenna's gritting her teeth over her daughter's surly attitude, Ingrid's insufferable begging for advice on novel-writing, Solly's irritating monologues, her husband's clandestine phone calls, and a budding romance between teenagers Clementine and Malcolm.  Jenna wants everything to go smoothly, but her perfect vacation is slowly turning into a perfect nightmare ...

Back in February, I made a Top Ten Tuesday list about vacation-gone-wrong novels that I wanted to readTomorrow There Will Be Sun, a debut adult novel by YA writer Dana Reinhardt, was on that list because it fits the bill.  While the problems the Carlsons experience on their getaway trip were interesting enough to keep me reading, I can't say I really enjoyed this book.  The characters are almost wholly unlikable, Jenna being especially obnoxious.  Although they do learn some valuable lessons from their beach vacation, the overall vibe of Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is negative and depressing.  When I closed the book, I found myself asking, "What was the point of that?"  It's not that I think the novel is poorly written—it's not—it just didn't appeal much to me overall.  Bummer.

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


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, April 21, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Curbside Checkout, Here I Come!

It's Tuesday again.  I think.  I don't know about you, but these days, my Tuesdays don't look much different from my Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays!  Nothing much has changed here except I've read a few more books, cross-stitched for a few (okay, a lot more than a few) more hours, and watched more episodes of The Middle.  I did have a Zoom meeting for my church "job" this morning, so that added some excitement to my day.  Other than that, it's the same ole, same ole around here.  I'm not complaining—we're all healthy and staying (more or less) sane at my house.  An extended member of our family died last week of COVID-19 after several weeks in the hospital, so that was a sobering reminder of why we're all sheltering in place.  Please keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy!

On a lighter note, it's time for Top Ten Tuesday.  If you're not familiar with this fun meme, you really should be.  Head on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the info.  Today's topic is Top Ten Book Titles That Would Make Great Band Names.  I love music as much as the next person, but I'm just not feeling this one today.  Instead, I'm going to give you a glimpse into my obsession with organizing my main Goodreads TBR list.  Because I reached the limit of how many books you can have in a bookshelf (5000, if you're curious), I had to make separate lists for non-fiction and children's books.  EDIT:  I'm so sorry if I freaked anyone out with my unintentional lie about Goodreads bookshelf limits!  What I meant to say was that if you go over 5000 on a single bookshelf, Goodreads will no longer let you put those books in want-to-read order (at least I can't figure out how).  Since ordering my books is my favorite part of GR list-making, I keep my lists under 5000.  Does that make more sense? So, today I'm focusing on the books on my adult fiction "bookshelf," listing the entries in want-to-read order.  I'm going to briefly mention the titles I've talked about recently or repeatedly and spend more time on those I haven't highlighted yet.

Here we go with Top Ten Books on My Goodreads Adult Fiction TBR List:

1.  The Sea of Lost Girls by Carol Goodman—I already talked about this book here.  I've also lamented the fact that a copy of it is being held hostage at my county library, gathering dust on the "Holds" shelf.  Well, good news!  I just learned that the library will start curbside checkout tomorrow.  I'm stoked.  I've been wanting to read this book ever since I heard about it, so yay!  I will liberate my on-hold book as soon as I can tomorrow morning.

2.  The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda (available June 20, 2020)—I enjoy Miranda's thrillers and this one sounds as intriguing as her others.  It involves a woman who achieved celebrity status as a child when she miraculously survived a near-drowning.  As the 20th anniversary of the event approaches, the girl—now a woman living under a different name—starts experiencing strange symptoms that link her disturbing past to her threatened present.  Can't wait!

3.  All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White—I highlighted this title here.

4.  In Five Years by Rebecca Serle—talked about it here

5.  The Cutting Place by Jane Casey—Maeve Kerrigan is one of my favorite fictional police detectives.  In Casey's newest, the 9th installment in the series, Maeve is sent to investigate the death of a young female journalist who was killed while working on a story about an elite gentleman's club.  I'm in for anything Maeve!

6.  The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate—I've talked about this one before.  I'm in the middle of the novel right now and I'm really enjoying it.

7.  The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan—I'm not sure what's going on with the U.S. publication of this book.  It came out in Australia in February but is not available for a reasonable price anywhere else as far as I can tell (there is a $40.87 copy listed on Amazon and a $30.36 one on BookDepository).  Presumably, the hang-ups are because of COVID-19.  Hopefully, The Good Turn will be more widely available soon. 

This is the third installment in the DI Cormac Reilly series, which I enjoy.  The story begins with the suspected kidnapping of a young girl.  Short-staffed and hindered by red tape, Cormac and his partner make a horrible mistake in the case, which leaves the former suspended and the latter banished to a small town where he discovers some odd findings in a murder case that has supposedly been solved ...

8.  Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen—An Atlantic City boardwalk psychic starts having strange visions that she thinks are related to two recent murders.  When she launches her own investigation into the killings, she puts herself right in a killer's path ...

9.  Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter (available October 20, 2020)—I enjoy Carpenter's immersive thrillers and her newest sounds just as intriguing as her other books.  This one revolves around Eve Candler, a woman who has kept her grandmother's secrets for years.  No one else knows that the revered evangelist and faith healer was a complete fraud and a con artist to boot.  When an even bigger secret about her grandmother surfaces, Eve risks everything to find out the truth.

10.  Before Familiar Woods by Ian Pisarcik—I love the big lies in small towns trope, so naturally, I find the premise of this book appealing.  It has to do with the murders of two boys and the subsequent disappearances of their fathers.  It's left to one mother to figure out what is happening in her not-so-quaint little town.

There you go, the top ten books on my adult fiction Goodreads TBR shelf.  Have you read any of them?  What are the most tantalizing titles on your TBR list?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!
Monday, April 20, 2020

Unlikable Characters + Unsatisfying Ending = Meh

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Em Moore has always been the quieter, less dynamic part of the successful writing duo, T.E. Blakemore.  Now that Teddy Blake, her business partner and only real friend, has died, Em's not quite sure how to proceed.  Unmoored but determined to finish T.E. Blakemore's latest project—a biography of famed actor and movie director Garrett Malcolm—Em convinces their reluctant publisher to let her continue solo.  If she can't prove her ability to carry on alone, she could lose what little she has left in her lonely life.

Determined to prove her worth, Em talks handsome, intimidating Garrett into letting her finish his book.  In order to gain closer access to her subject, she moves into a guesthouse on his property.  Although the celebrity is less than forthcoming, Em is managing to slowly get to know him.  Hints of skeletons in Malcolm's closet pique Em's interest even more.  Scintillating secrets will ensure the book is a bestseller.  When the police launch an investigation into Teddy's death, Em has to grapple with the shocking secrets of more than one man.  Can she make sense of it all while completing the most important project of her career?

Despite dragging a bit in places, The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes is a compelling novel which took at least one turn I didn't see coming.  I can't say I loved it, though.  The characters are almost wholly unlikable, the story is depressing, and I found the surprise ending unsatisfying.  All in all, then, I just didn't care for The Perfect Ghost much.  Bummer.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Saturday, April 18, 2020

Riches-to-Rags Memoir Funny, Poignant

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

English teacher Jennifer McGaha was casually going about her happy upper-middle-class life when she got the shock of a lifetime—she and her husband were bankrupt.  Not only that but they owed over $100,000 in back taxes.  Having always left the handling of family finances up to her accountant spouse, McGaha had no idea just how bad their money situation had gotten.  Feeling betrayed, angry, and worried, she realized with alarm that she and her husband could go to jail, even though she had had no clue their yearly taxes weren't being paid.  Although that didn't end up happening, the couple did have to make some major adjustments.  And fast.  

After acknowledging the part her own ignorance played in the situation and forgiving her husband, McGaha pressed on.  Foreclosing on their dream home, the couple moved to the cheapest rental they could find—a ramshackle, 100-year-old farmhouse deep in a remote Appalachian holler.  Even though it was infested with mice and falling down around their heads, at $250 a month, they would have to make do.  With zero homesteading skills between the two of them, the McGahas set about learning how to do things they never could have imagined themselves doing:  wrestling snakes, making their own yogurt, breeding goats, raising chickens, etc.  In the middle of all their adventures and misadventures, the couple made an incredible discovery.  Living closer to the land had brought them closer to each other, teaching them invaluable lessons about contentment, endurance, self-reliance, and the true meaning of home.

Flat Broke With Two Goats is a funny and poignant memoir about everything McGaha has learned from her riches-to-rags experience.  While it deals with some heavy themes, on the whole, the book is upbeat and entertaining.  It does ramble on a bit, making for some dull patches.  It even takes an odd turn into a jarring section on the author's abusive first marriage, which doesn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the narrative.  On the whole, though, Flat Broke With Two Goats is an engrossing, empowering memoir.  Although I could have done without all the animal mating stories, overall, I liked this one, even if I didn't love it.  

P.S.  I listened to the book on audio and thought Pam Ward did an excellent job with the narration.  

(Readalikes:  Coop by Michael Perry)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Even If Her Newest Isn't My Fave, Carr Holds a Special Place in My Heart

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Twenty years separate sisters Adele Descaro and Justine Somersby.  Although they live near each other and have communicated over the years about their parents' declining health, the two have never been close.  Now that their mother has died, the women find they have more in common than they ever have before.  Both are at a crossroads in their lives, which has left each of them anxious, worried, and emotionally at sea.  Having been their mother's primary caregiver for the last eight years, 32-year-old Adele has to decide what to do about a job, the graduate education she abandoned in order to help at home, and the surprising demands of the man who's been her gentle, patient best friend throughout her life.  When Justine discovers her husband of 30 years has been cheating on her, she's devastated.  Divorcing the only man she's ever loved is heartbreaking, but it's also given her the freedom she never knew she wanted.  As she picks up the pieces of her shattered life, Justine finds herself relying more and more on her little sister.  While the sisters find their way back to each other and themselves, they experience healing along with new problems.  Will their new-found closeness bring them together or tear them even more apart?  

I've read a number of books by the prolific Robyn Carr, mostly her small-town romance novels set in Grace Valley and Virgin River.  What I love most about Carr is that her warm, genuine nature shines through in both the towns and the characters she creates.  Her settings are inviting, her story people authentic, and her writing upbeat, even when discussing tough subjects.  Although Carr's newest women's fiction effort, Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, is not my favorite of her many novels, it still showcases the trademarks I just mentioned.  While not as developed as Grace Valley and Virgin River, Half Moon Bay comes off as a charming little town full of cheerful, concerned folks.  Adele drove me crazy with her flakiness and fickleness, it's true.  Still, I enjoyed seeing the relationship between her and Justine (whom I found much easier to identify with) evolve in a realistic way.  Carr does tackle some difficult subjects in Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, but overall this is an easy, uplifting read with the kind of guaranteed HEA Carr does so well.  I didn't love her newest as I have some of her older novels, but Carr has a special place in my heart and I'll always be willing to read whatever she writes.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels by Carr as well as those by Kristan Higgins)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, disturbing subject matter, and sexual content (only one scene, but it's fairly detailed)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Sunrise on Half Moon Bay from the generous folks at Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Oh, What Do You Do in a Quarantine, When All the World Is Closed?

I love Top Ten Tuesday, but I'm not always feeling the topic du jour.  Today's is Top Ten Books I Enjoyed But Rarely Talk About and ... I got nothin'.  I seriously can't even think of one book.  So, I'm going to twist the topic and chat with you about Top Ten Things I've Been Doing in Quarantine Besides Reading.

If you're bored and looking for a fun distraction, hop on the Top Ten Tuesday party bus.  It'll be a good time, I promise!  Just head on over to That Artsy Reader Girl to read a few instructions.  Then create your own list, following this week's prompt or changing it up if that works better for you.  Next, spend some happy hours clicking around the book blogosphere.  It's a great way to discover new blogs, show some love to old favorites, and, of course, add awesome new titles to old Mount TBR.  What's not to love?

Top Ten Things I've Been Doing in Quarantine Besides Reading (in no particular order):

1.  Blogging—You'd think with all of the time I have on hand I would have caught up on writing reviews by now.  Not exactly.  I have been reviewing, but I've also been reading about a book a day, so I'm still way behind.  Maybe I'll be on top of things before the quarantine ends?  Not likely ...

2.  Cross-stitching—I used to spend a lot of time cross-stitching.  These days, I can go years without picking up a needle and thread.  In the past few weeks, though, I've felt a hankering to get back to my old hobby.  I finished the project above last week and have started on a new design that celebrates the Fourth of July.  Of course, I haven't just been stitching—I've been shopping for patterns, floss, etc. online (mostly at 123Stitch); reading cross-stitching blogs; even checking out the FlossTube channel my friend and her friend created, M and M Stitchers.  The nice thing about cross-stitching is that I can stitch away while listening to an audiobook, watching t.v., or just chatting with the fam.

3.  Housework—I'll be honest, I never feel motivated to do housework.  Even less so lately.  But, needs must sometimes, right?  There are always toilets to scrub, laundry to sort, dishes to wash, etc.

4.  Words With Friends—I've always been a big Scrabble fan and WWF is a fun, online version of the game.  If you play, hit me up.  My username is sjwordnerd.

5.  Boggle With Friends—Even more than WWF, I love BWF.  It's a fun, fast-moving, addicting game that is a perfect distraction.  My username is sjwordnerd on BWF as well.

6.  Watching t.v./movies—Prior to the quarantine, I only really watched t.v. when I was folding laundry.  As I mentioned above, I've been stitching more, so I've been watching more.  Since my kids are home all day, whatever we watch has to be family-friendly.  My husband and I just finished Limitless; now we're working on Blue Bloods.  I also watched Groundhog's Day (an old favorite), Outbreak (I'd forgotten how terrifying it is, especially considering the state of things these days.  Also, it has a 90's PG-13 rating, meaning it had a lot more F-bombs than anticipated.  Oops.), 93 Days (another pandemic flick, based on a true story), and The Fighting Preacher (an interesting, uplifting movie about a couple who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1900s in upstate New York and how they overcame the hate and prejudice they encountered there). 

7.  Sleeping—Back in the old days (you know, January), I'd get up at 6 every morning to get my kids off to school and then get on with my day, which was always full of appointments, errands, shopping, volunteering at the school, housework, projects, etc.  These days, I crawl out of bed around 9, shower somewhere around noon, and usually take a nap around 3 because why not?  I literally have nowhere else I need to be but in my nice, comfy bed!

8.  Eating—I don't know about you, but I think I've gained 20 lbs. so far this quarantine.  Although we've had some trouble finding the groceries we regularly buy, we've still managed to eat plenty of food.  Both my 18-year-old daughter and I have been baking away, both out of boredom and craving sweets.  So, yeah, I'm going to be stepping up my weight loss game once if this quarantine ever ends.

9.  Genealogy—As I've mentioned before, I'm in the middle of getting accredited as a professional genealogist through ICAPGen with a specialty in the Great Lakes area of the United States.  I was supposed to head to Salt Lake City in early May to complete my testing, but that has been postponed.  In the meantime, I'm finishing up a big project so I can certify in the Southwest U.S. region as well.

I've also been spending a lot of time indexing old records through FamilySearch.  I've done this for years and it's a fun, easy way to volunteer your time.  After these records are indexed, which makes them easily searchable, they are published online at FamilySearch.  The genealogy site is, and always will be, completely free.  Anyone can use the records found therein to research their family history.  Likewise, anyone can help index the records.  If you're looking for a way to volunteer from your home, check it out.

10.  Hanging With the Fam—Being cooped up together as a family for a month hasn't been a breeze, but it hasn't been bad either.  We've had more time than usual to eat together, chat together, laugh together, watch movies together, and basically just to enjoy each other's company.  It's been a lovely byproduct of an unpleasant time in the world.

There you go.  That's what I've been up to.  What have you been doing to keep yourself busy and sane during the quarantine?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!
Saturday, April 11, 2020

YA Grief Novel Odd, Depressing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since the death of his wife, Rafe Torres has been disintegrating.  Inconsolable, he drinks too much, gambles too much, owes too much and parents too little.  His four daughters have had it with picking up the pieces after their dad's many mess-ups.  Desperate for escape, they try running away, only to be caught by a despondent Rafe who promises to do better.  Not long after the sisters' botched escape, Ana plunges to her death while sneaking out her bedroom window.  Her death drives Rafe deeper into despair, leaving Iridian, Jessica, and Rosa to fend for themselves. 

A year after Ana dies, the three Torres girls are living a chaotic, feral existence in a house that feels both empty and oppressive with the weight of their grief.  Seventeen-year-old Iridian is biding her time working a part-time job and dating Ana's abusive ex-boyfriend.  Iridian—a 16-year-old dreamer—reads incessantly and pours her heart out in her journal.  An old soul, 13-year-old Rosa roams the city at night, talking to birds and searching for an escaped zoo animal.  Their separate orbits collide when each of them notices strange things happening inside their home.  They hear Ana's laughter whispering through the halls, see her handwriting appearing on the walls, and smell a familiar scent lingering in the air.  Could it be Ana's ghost trying to convey a message to her sisters?  What is it she's trying to tell them?  As the girls puzzle out the clues together, they finally feel a smidgeon of hope that might just show them the way out of the deep, dark well of their grief.

I'm not sure what to say about Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry except that it's a strange, strange novel.  With its odd combination of realistic fiction, magical realism, and horror, it seems a little confused about its own identity.  Although Tigers, Not Daughters is a quick read, the story doesn't offer much in the way of plot.  Made up of vignettes told from each sister's perspective, it never feels very cohesive.  In addition, the vibe of this novel is unrelentingly sad, depressing, angry, and just ... weird.  Its depiction of the overwhelming and sometimes destructive nature of grief is on point, but the rest of the story didn't really come together for me.  I wasn't sorry to see it end.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of a comparable title.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Tigers, Not Daughters from the generous folks at Algonquin in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Thursday, April 09, 2020

Oregon Trail Adventure/Romance Novel Gives Me All the Feels

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After a short, disappointing marriage, 20-year-old widow Naomi May is ready to move on with life.  Her restless spirit longs for adventure, which is exactly what she gets when she and her family embark on a journey along the Oregon Trail.  What she doesn't expect is to fall in love.  Even though Naomi knows a match between her and John "Two Feet" Lowry, a half-Pawnee muleskinner, would be considered scandalous even in the wild, wild West, she can't help but be drawn to his quiet strength.  As the two trek along the trail with their company, they experience problems of every kind—illness, inclement weather, theft, broken wagon parts, animal stampedes, contention among the travelers, etc.—but when the worst happens, Naomi's heart is ripped in two.  Abducted by hostile Indians, her baby brother ripped from her arms, she fears she'll never see those she loves again.  Will she ever be reunited with her family?  What about John?  And what about all the happiness and prosperity they were hoping to find in Oregon?  When everything else has been stripped away, where does one find the hope to carry on?

Perhaps it's my own pioneer ancestry or the fact that I grew up along The Oregon Trail, but I love me a good wagon trail story.  Where the Lost Wander (available April 28, 2020) by Amy Harmon certainly fits the bill.  It's an epic, expansive road trip novel that offers adventure, excitement, romance, heartbreak, and joy.  Harmon's vivid prose helped me put myself in my ancestors' place and really feel these characters' emotions—everything from boredom with the monotony of walking the trail to frustration with slow wagons and nasty weather to fear of attack by man and beast to the excitement and wonder of first love and childbirth to the sorrow of loss and grief.  Harmon doesn't romanticize the pioneer experience, but she does capture it in all its glorious triumph and agony. I loved Naomi and John, with their respective family and friends.  While none of them gets an entirely happy ending, our leading lad and lady do receive a satisfying and hopeful one.  If you can't tell, I loved this book, which swept me away, making me laugh, cry, and celebrate the indomitable strength and spirit of my own ancestors, who—like the May Family—risked their lives to find a place of safety and refuge far away, in the West.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee; Heart's Journey by Kristen McKendry; The Gold Seer trilogy [Walk On Earth a Stranger; Like a River Glorious; and Into the Bright Unknown] by Rae Carson; and The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Where the Lost Wander from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson


The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

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