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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 (4)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (3)
- 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

23 / 100 books. 23% 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

61 / 165 books. 37% done!
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: The Shiny and New Still to Come

It's Tuesday again and you know what that means.  It's time to take a break from all the craziness happening in the world and focus on what's really important: books.  Kidding, kidding.  Top Ten Tuesday is an excellent excuse to take some time out for some bookish fun, though.  If you've never joined in before, you definitely need to give it a go.  Why?  Here are ten fantastic reasons.  Convinced?  Good.  Now, all you have to do is hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few instructions, build your own list, then spend some happy hours spreading the love across our wonderful book blogosphere.  What's not to love?

I'm all over today's topic since I'm always interested to see what new books are coming out.  Not that I need to be distracted by the shiny and new when I already have TBR piles all over the dang place.  Still.  I just can't help myself.  I'm excited about all the books still to come out in 2020.  Today, I'm going to restrain myself and just chat about ten ...

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020 (in order of release):

1.  We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin (available August 11)—A small Texas town is still reeling after the disappearance of a local young woman.  When a mysterious mute girl is found by the side of the road in the same town, a young police office becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened to both girls.  I'm always up for an intriguing mystery!

2.  When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (available September 1)—Concerned over the deterioration of her Brooklyn neighborhood, Sydney Green and her neighbor are trying to revitalize the place.  A delve into the area's history reveals some disturbing answers to the question of where all the residents are disappearing to.  Will Sydney be the next to vanish?    

3.  The Deadly Hours by Susanna KearsleyC.S. HarrisAnna Lee Huber, and Christine Trent (available September 1)—Huber is the only one of these authors that I've read before, but her involvement is more than enough to make me want to read this book.  The story features a cursed gold watch and the havoc it wreaks on all who own it throughout several centuries.   

4.  Rated by Melissa Grey (available September 3)—This dystopian YA novel takes place in a society where everyone's behavior is rated in real-time 24/7.  Your rating determines your place in life.  When a shocking act puts the spotlight on a prestigious high school where ratings are everything, things start to get very interesting for six special classmates ... [Update:  Someone pointed out that Rated actually came out last year. Oops! At least we don't have to wait to read it :)]

5.  The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox (available September 15)—I've enjoyed Fox's two previous novels, so I'm excited for her newest, which concerns a young woman who can commune with the dead.  When she runs away from home and ends up in a Boston cemetery, she becomes embroiled in a sinister scheme that puts her and her future in grave danger.

6.  To Tell You the Truth by Gilly Macmillan (available September 22)—I got a good start on this one while sitting at the DMV for three hours today so my son could get his driver's permit.  So far, I am loving the story, which revolves around a bestselling thriller writer whose wildly popular fictional character is starting to take over her life.  When her husband disappears, the author must ask herself some very disturbing questions ...

7.  The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult (available September 22)—Picoult's been a longtime favorite author of mine, so I always look forward to a new book from her.  Her latest is about a married woman who's still infatuated by a man she used to know.  When she miraculously survives a plane crash and the airline offers her the chance to fly anywhere in the world, she sees an opportunity to live a whole new life.  And takes it.  Intriguing, yes?

8.  The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (available September 29)—Are you a Knives Out fan?  Me, too.  This YA thriller is being compared to the hit movie thanks to its similar premise.  When a penniless high school senior inherits a fortune from a man she's never meant, she's stunned.  Why has he singled her out?  And what crazy game is he making her play in order to get the money she so desperately needs? 

9.  The Searcher by Tana French (available October 6)—French is one of my favorite thriller writers, so I'm always on the lookout for a new book from her.  It appears her newest is a departure from her Dublin Murder Squad series.  Still, it sounds like a compelling mystery.  It features a retired cop who's ready for some R&R in the Irish countryside.  When a local boy goes missing, however, the child's brother talks the detective into investigating the disappearance.  

10.  The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister (available December 1)—Twelve women join a secret Arctic expedition in the 1850's.  Not all of them make it back.  A sensational murder trial ensues.  Murder in the Arctic?  I'm SO in for this one!

There you have it—ten upcoming releases that I can't wait to read.  What do you think of my list?  Do we have any titles in common?  Which new releases are you excited about?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!              
Friday, June 26, 2020

Based-On-a-True-Story Historical Novel Heartbreaking and Authentic

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For farm girl Stefania "Fusia" Podgórska, nothing is as exciting as life in the city of Przemysl, Poland.  Delighted to be free of pigsty stink and the endless clucking of chickens, the 13-year-old takes a job in a grocery store owned by the Diamants, a kind Jewish family.  Four years later, she has become like a daughter to them.  Unbeknownst to Mr. and Mrs. Diamant, the 17-year-old, who is Catholic, is secretly engaged to their son, Izio.  Although she hides the secret from her adopted family, there is nothing she wouldn't do for the Diamants.  

When Poland is invaded by the German Army, Przemysl is not spared.  Jews are being rounded up and shipped off to places unknown.  As residents disappear, the city becomes a ghost town.  Fusia is left on her own, the only person who can care for Helena, her 6-year-old sister.  Then, comes a knock on her apartment door.  Max Diamant, Izio's older brother, has jumped from a death camp train.  He begs Fusia to hide him from the Nazis.  Determined to save her friend, she complies.  It's not long before word spreads and Fusia finds herself sheltering not just Max, but twelve other Jews in the small house she's now renting.  While she does everything she can to feed and protect her charges, her situation is becoming increasingly desperate.  

Another knock on Fusia's door changes things once again.  This time, it's two Nazi officers requisitioning her house.  Unable to refuse their demands, the terrified young woman begins a tense tightrope walk to keep her Nazi house "guests" distracted, her Jewish refugees hidden, and her precocious little sister from running her mouth and dooming them all.  

I've read all but one of Sharon Cameron's unique, imaginative YA novels, so I was shocked when I learned her newest was historical fiction in the most traditional sense.  The Light in Hidden Places is based on the wartime experiences of Stefania Podgórska, who really did hide more than a dozen Jews in the same home where Nazi officers lived.  It's an extraordinary story of courage, daring, and compassion.  While Fusia's dangerous efforts to defy the Nazis are not anything that WWII fiction lovers haven't read about before, they still make for a suspenseful, awe-inspiring story.  In Cameron's capable hands, the reader can really feel the characters' terror as their situation grows more and more desperate.  Thanks to her careful depictions of them, Cameron's story people stand out as not just empathetic, but also human and authentic.  It's impossible not to root for their survival.  The author's note at the end of the novel explains the true fates of the people in the story, which makes the tale that much more real.  Cameron is a writer I've long admired and The Light in Hidden Places just solidifies her place as a favorite.  I loved this novel as much as I have her others.  I'll always be on the lookout for more from her.

To learn more about Stefania, visit The Stefi Foundation.  A 1996 TV movie called Hidden in Silence also tells her story.  In addition, an interview with Helena Podgórska can be viewed on Sharon Cameron's website. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Diary of Anne Frank and other World War II/Holocaust novels)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, scenes of peril, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Light in Hidden Places from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Bookish Meme Turns the Big 1-O

With all the chaos going on in the world right now, it's probably not too surprising that I had a nightmare last night.  What's funny is that with all of the anxieties, fears, and worries my dreaming brain could have focused on, it chose to entertain me with a bookish nightmare.  I know it's because I had planned to retrieve my on-hold books from curbside pick-up this morning and I was worried about making it there within the library's pick-up hours (don't judge—quarantine has made me so lazy that 8 a.m. now seems like the crack of dawn).  At any rate, I dreamt that I was doing my darndest to get to the library on time, but obstacles kept getting thrown in my path—an injured child that needed help, downed trees, deep mud, the Burger King breakfast my husband insisted on having, etc.  By the time my dream self finally made it to the library, it was 1:00 in the afternoon!  No matter how much I begged the librarians to just let me get my books, they refused.  In the dream, I was frustrated and upset (naturally).  When I woke up (in plenty of time to get to the library, thank you very much), I got a good chuckle out of my terrifying nightmare.  Although this morning's library pick-up line was the longest one I've ever seen, I didn't mind waiting.  It made me happy to think so many people (myself included) would soon be enjoying their new library books.  I picked up the following (most of which I talked about here):

Now that I can sleep easy again, let's get to the actual point of this post—it's Top Ten Tuesday!  It's a fun one because today marks TTT's 10th year of existence.  I started participating in this weekly meme on February 26, 2013, with this post about auto-buy authors.  Tuning in for TTT has been a joy for me over the years, so much so that I decided to use today's anniversary freebie topic to discuss the Top Ten Reasons I Love Top Ten Tuesday.  Before we get to that, though, be sure to click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl and give Jana—our fabulous TTT host—lots of love.  Happy Birthday, TTT!

Top Ten Reasons I Love Top Ten Tuesday (in no particular order):

1.  It's a great way to discover new blogs to love.  
2.  It encourages me to drop in on blogs I might forget about or neglect otherwise. 
3.  It helps me find new books for the ole TBR mountain chain.
4.  It's a fun way to compare and contrast my reading/bookish habits with those of other book bloggers.
5.  Even if I don't love every TTT topic, they give me fresh ideas for posts.
6.  It reminds me of how diverse the book blogosphere is, especially when it comes to genres read, writing style, etc.
7.  I just can't get enough of bookish lists!
8.  It's a fun way to get to know other book bloggers and to interact with each other in a positive, supportive way.
9.  It gives me a warm, fuzzy sense of belonging.  TTT people are my people!
10.  TTT is a good ole time.  I look forward to it every week.

So, there you go, ten reasons I love TTT.  What do you adore about it?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT! 
Monday, June 22, 2020

And ... That's a Big Ole Meh From Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since her mother's marriage and the subsequent birth of her baby brothers, Hazel Box has been feeling like the odd woman out.  With all of her emotions boiling inside her, she needs to do something before she erupts.  When she gets a surprise message on social media from Eve Warrington, a sophisticated teen who claims to be Hazel's half-sister, it feels like perfect timing.  Even better, Eve is planning to spend two weeks in Maine with their father and wants Hazel to come along.  The getaway is just the something Hazel has been waiting for—not only will she get a break from her family, but she'll have the chance to get to know her father and her half-sister at the same time.  What could possibly go wrong?  

I'm a fan of novels about family members finding each other, so I jumped at the chance to read That Summer in Maine by Brianna Wolfson.  It sounded like a cute, upbeat sister story that would be both entertaining and poignant.  Turns out, less than half of the novel focuses on Hazel and Eve.  The first part of the story concerns the girls' mothers and how they both fall in love with the same man, get pregnant, and learn how to live with the consequences.  Since the women's stories are nothing unique or all that interesting, the focus on them makes the first part of the book drag on and on.  The action picks up when the camera's eye turns back on the girls.  Although their half of the novel is more engaging, it's still not super compelling.  The plot flip-flops here, there, and everywhere without going much of anywhere.  It doesn't help that the characters are irritating—the mothers are needy, the girls are brats, and the dad is pretty darn clueless—and many of their decisions make no sense at all.  Wolfson's tell-not-show prose just makes everything worse.  For all these reasons, I put That Summer in Maine down several times.  In the end, though, I decided to stick it out.  Why?  I really don't know because this novel drove me crazy!  I like its premise, its tranquil cover, and its out-of-the-way setting.  Other than that?  Meh.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder invectives), depictions of underage drinking, and mild sexual content/innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of That Summer in Maine from the generous folks at Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Saturday, June 20, 2020

Hawaiian World War II Novel Offers Rich, Atmospheric Setting and Intriguing (Enough) Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Lana Hitchcock learns her estranged father is dying, she rushes from Oahu to her hometown of Hilo on the Big Island.  Too late to make amends, she's mourning her loss at her childhood home when Pearl Harbor is attacked.  Lana is stunned by the news; even more shocking is her dad's apparent prediction of the war reaching Hawaii's shores.  According to a note he left her, Lana's father built a safe house up in the mountains near an active volcano.  When the police begin rounding up "suspicious" persons for questioning, Lana knows she must act to save her dad's beloved neighbors.  Into her car, she piles two German girls whose parents have been detained, an elderly Japanese man, his adopted teenage son, the girls' oversized dog, two nene geese, and all the food she can stack in among them.  With her heart banging in her chest, she flees to the secret house where she will hide her wards for the duration.  

Numerous surprises await the group in Volcano, including an unfinished house with a secret room, wild horses roaming the property, a nearby military camp turned into internment housing, and the handsome soldier whose attentions to Lana are dangerous for them all.  Can Lana keep the people in her care safe in spite of dwindling rations and soldiers crawling all over Volcano?  Will they be killed outright by Japanese soldiers?  Or will the lot of them be imprisoned by their own countrymen?  With danger around every corner, will Lana lose everything that's important to her?

I've read tons of World War II novels, but very few that focus on life in Hawaii after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Sara Ackerman, who was born and raised in the islands, has written several, including her newest, Red Sky Over Hawaii.  There's a lot to love about this book, from its rich, atmospheric setting, to its dip into fascinating Hawaiian folklore, to its light sprinkling of magical realism.  The fact that it's a clean read filled with likable characters is also a plus.  However, although Ackerman's story people are mostly good and honorable, they're not super rounded or fleshed-out.  I didn't feel like I really knew Lana or her leading man, which made it difficult to detect any chemistry between the two.  Similarly, the book's plot is rather lackadaisical.  Since Lana and company are basically hiding out, hoping not to get caught, not a lot happens to them.  There is never a point in their tale when the reader really has to worry about their well-being, which makes their story a little dull.  Despite these irritants, overall I enjoyed Red Sky Over Hawaii.  I didn't love the book like I wanted to, but I did like it.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Red Sky Over Hawaii from the generous folks at Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: It's Summertime and the Reading is Fine, Part Two

My favorite Top Ten Tuesday prompts are those dealing with seasonal TBR lists.  I enjoy them so much that I started my Summer 2020 list early.  To see the adult books I'm hoping to read this summer, click here.  Today's Part Two list will deal just with children's books, including YA and MG.  I'm going to feature new and upcoming titles because I've discovered some intriguing-looking ones that I really, really want to read. 

Before we get to that, I want to mention two things.  First, TTT is hosted every week by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl.  Click on over to her blog to get all the deets on this fun weekly meme, as well as reviews, giveaways, etc.  Second, after this TTT discussion about how different readers use Goodreads, I decided to revamp my TBR lists on the site.  I deleted the 5000 books on my main TBR shelf and started over from scratch!  Then, I sorted all of the books I want to read into lists according to genre, setting, topic, etc.  I put the titles I'm most excited about in want-to-read order on a "Top 100" list, in the hopes that I can keep the list manageable.  If you want to check out my new and improved TBR lists on Goodreads, feel free.  The link is on the left sidebar.

Okay, here we go with Top Ten Books on My Summer 2020 TBR List (Part Two):

1.  Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy (available July 21, 2020)—I was blown away by Murphy's inventive debut, The Disappearances when I read it back in 2018.  I've been waiting and waiting for her sophomore novel and it's finally (almost) here.  I can't wait to dive into this book about magic and a mystery.   

2.  Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte—Inspired by the real deaf community that thrived on Martha's Vineyard in the early 19th Century, this MG novel is about Mary, a deaf girl who has grown up feeling secure in a community where nearly everyone is deaf and knows sign language.  When an ambitious scientist arrives on the island determined to get to the root of its prevalent deafness, Mary becomes a science experiment in the hands of a cruel captor.  What will happen to her and her unique community?  Sounds like a fascinating book.

3.  Orphan Eleven by Gennifer Choldenko—I enjoy Choldenko's books, especially her Alcatraz series, so I'm always excited when she comes out with a new book.  Her newest concerns a mute orphan who joins the circus, where she has to find her voice again in order to work with the animals.

4.  On the Horizon by Lois Lowry—I love historical fiction, so I'm definitely intrigued by Lowry's newest.  The MG novel concerns two infamous events—the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.  Based on Lowry's personal experience growing up in Hawaii and historical research, the book takes an intimate look at how both events changed the lives of those who experienced them firsthand.

5.  Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk—Another historical, this MG novel is set during the Great Depression.  Because of economic hardship, Ellie and her family have to sell everything they have and move to a remote mountain location.  As if things aren't bad enough already, her father drifts into a coma after an accident for which Ellie is blamed.  To heal her father and soothe her guilt-ridden soul, she goes in search of a magical hag who can mend all kinds of hurts. 

6.  The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte—This YA underwater dystopian sounds compelling.  It concerns Tempe, a teenage girl who dives deep into the water that covers her world to search for treasures in the remains of the drowned cities of old.  She needs to earn enough to pay scientists to bring her dead sister back to life.  Her sister took a secret to her grave and Tempe is desperate for answers.  I'm in! 

7.  All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker—This MG novel features a young artist whose father, an art restorer, goes missing leaving behind only a cryptic note.  There's no one she can turn to for help, so she sets about solving the mystery of her missing father and the painting that seems to be linked to his disappearance.

8.  Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz—Greg over at Book Haven featured this YA survival novel on his blog last week.  You better believe any book billed as LOST meets Stranger Things is going to get my immediate attention!  Naturally, it concerns a group of shipwrecked survivors and monsters both human and not.

9.  Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams—I don't know why, but I find cults super fascinating, so the premise of this YA novel caught my attention.  Admittedly, the main plot (a teen girl comes to realize she lives in a cult run by a megalomaniac and wants to escape with the Outsider boy she's fallen in love with) sounds fairly generic, but as a Type 1 diabetic, I'm intrigued by the book's subplot involving the heroine's diabetic brother.  In a community where medical intervention is outlawed, is it a sin for the MC to secretly break the rules in order to procure insulin for her sibling? 

10.  A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson—The murder of a teenage girl by her boyfriend still haunts the town in which it happened.  Pip knew the killer as a kind guy who would never do something so heinous.  For her senior project, she decides to investigate the murder.  In doing so, she finds new information that could exonerate the boyfriend.  Her digging has unearthed some dark secrets, however, secrets someone would kill to keep buried forever.  I can't resist an intriguing mystery and this one sounds like just that.

There you have it, ten MG and YA books I'm hoping to read this summer.  Which are you hoping to get to in the next few months?  Do we have any in common?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT! 
Friday, June 12, 2020

Tender and Empowering, The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season Makes Me Smile

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Fear of a vengeful abusive boyfriend sends Hope Wright scuttling to get to the only place she has left to go—The Orchard House.  Her mother never had anything good to say about her ancestral home, but Hope is praying she and her traumatized 10-year-old daughter, Tink, can find refuge there.  At least for a night or two until she can find them a better hiding place.  She only hopes her estranged aunt Peg, caretaker of the house and surrounding orchards, will be receptive to unexpected visitors.

Although Peg initially meets her surprise guests with the business end of a shotgun, she softens when she realizes just who is quivering on her doorstep.  It's obvious Hope doesn't remember being at The Orchard House, doesn't remember Peg or any of what happened there.  Vowing to leave the past where it belongs, Peg guards her secrets while doing her best to care for the skittish mother and daughter.

With cherry season in full swing, it's not long before the Wright women are laboring side-by-side, forming a tight bond.  Even as Hope and Tink find healing in the comfort of family, newly-formed friendships, and the satisfaction of working the land, the threat of Hope's murderous ex looms.  Tink's dug up some intriguing clues to the past in Peg's off-limits bedroom and Peg is wracked with guilt over the secrets she's keeping.  What will happen when things come to a head, exposing the truth about the past?  Can Peg keep Hope safe, not just from a physical threat but also from the emotional bomb that's about to go off?  Or will Hope and Peg both end up losing everything that's most important to them?

You all know by now what a sucker I am for homecoming stories.  If they feature juicy secrets, all the better!  Not surprisingly, then, I was drawn to the premise of The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season by Molly Fader.  It stars a sympathetic trio of females, who are all wounded but fierce in their own ways.  Rooting for them is a no-brainer.  Plotwise, the novel moves along at a steady pace.  It's obvious from the get-go what's going to happen in the story, all the way down to the role of the surprise item Tink finds in Peg's hidden box, but the tale is still compelling—even if there weren't any plot "twists" I didn't see coming.  On the whole, then, I very much enjoyed The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season.  It's a tender story about family, forgiveness, love, and the power of coming home.  Although it deals with some difficult themes, overall it's an uplifting, empowering novel that made me smile.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other homecoming novels, although no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, disturbing subject matter, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season from the generous folks at HarperCollins.  Thank you!
Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: It's Summertime and the Reading is Fine

I'm not sure if this is clear, but when I talk about my TBR pile mountain mountain chain, I'm not referencing a physical pile of books.  Although I do have books stacked in various places throughout my house, my TBR list exists only on Goodreads.  It's thousands of titles long, which is why it's a virtual mountain chain and not a real one.  Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt has to do with our TBR lists (in whatever form they may take).  It's all about the Top Ten Books I've Added to My TBR and Forgotten Why.  Since that describes the majority of the titles on my aforementioned mountain chain, I'm going to jump ahead to next week's topic, Top Ten Books on My Summer (or Winter, depending on where you live) 2020 TBR List.  There are lots of books I'm planning to read this summer, so I'm going to share my adult picks this week and my MG/YA list next week.  Sound good?

First, though, I have to give a shout out to our lovely TTT host, Jana, over at That Artsy Reader Girl.  Click on over to her blog for all the details on this fun weekly meme as well as book reviews, giveaways, and more.

Top Ten Books on My Summer 2020 TBR List, Part One (Adult Books) 

1.  Sisters by Daisy Johnson (available August 25, 2020)—Sisters July and September have always been inseparable.  After a case of bullying at school, the girls' single mother moves them to her remote, abandoned ancestral home, where the sisters' bond will be tested in ways no one could have foreseen.  Abandoned homes and sister relationships are two of my favorite literary tropes, so I'm definitely down for this one.

2.  The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett—This novel about Black twin sisters, one of whom is "passing" as White, unbeknownst to her White husband, sounds intriguing and timely.  I'm in.

3.  The Answer Is by Alex Trebek (available July 21, 2020)—I've always been a big Jeopardy! fan, so this autobiography of the game's host appeals to me.  I don't know much about Trebek, so this will certainly be an interesting read.

4.  Beach Read by Emily Henry—I've heard good things about this summery romance novel that centers on rival writers who are both dealing with severe writers' block.  In order to shake up their writing games, they agree to swap genres and compete to see who can publish their book first.  Sounds cute!

5.  Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (available June 30, 2020)—I've enjoyed several of Sager's psychological thrillers and his newest sounds especially compelling.  It's about Maggie, a woman who works as a restorer of old homes who inherits the haunted house her father popularized in a best-selling horror memoir.  She doesn't believe in ghosts.  But that's about to change ...

6.  The Guest List by Lucy Foley—I've heard good things about this Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery.  It involves a group of people celebrating a wedding on a remote island off the coast of Ireland.  Things start to go awry when someone turns up dead.  I love me an atmospheric thriller set in an isolated locale, so this one is right up my alley.

7.  The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O'Neal (available July 14, 2020)—Books about women returning home to confront secrets from their past always appeal to me, so I'm intrigued by this one that centers on a woman going back to her hometown after an old friend goes missing.  

8.  The Choice by Gillian McAllister—After visiting a bar where an annoying man wouldn't leave her alone, Joanna is walking home alone when she hears footsteps behind her.  On instinct, she turns and pushes the man following her.  He falls down a set of stairs and doesn't get up.  What has Joanna done?  The Choice explores the two paths the night could have taken in a novel that forces the reader to ask themselves, "What would I have done in Joanna's place?"  Sounds compelling.

9.  The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson—I've never heard a book described as "a comic novel that brings together a train wreck of a family, the Holocaust, and a brooch ..." (see review here) but that's a pretty irresistible description.  I'm definitely going to read this one.  

10.  Sea Wife by Amity Gaige—At some time or another, all of us have probably been tempted to sell everything and hie off on a get-away-from-it-all adventure.  That's what happens to Juliet when her husband decides to do just that.  A year sailing around the world with their two young children doesn't sound so bad and it isn't.  At first.  

So, that's a portion of the books I'm interested in reading this summer.  What do you think?  Have you read any of them?  Do you have suggestions for similar books I should pick up this summer?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!     
Monday, June 08, 2020

New Mystery/Thriller Engrossing and Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Growing up on the wrong side of the hill in a trashy trailer park with a mother who cared more about drugs than her starving children, Charlie never figured her life would amount to much.  Then Paul Keller walked into the gas station where she worked, started flirting with her, and changed everything.  At 26, she now lives in a huge modern house on the other side of the hill with glorious, million-dollar views of the lake.  Twelve years her senior, Paul is the loving, handsome, successful husband of her dreams.  Shucking off her impoverished childhood just as she has her old nickname, Charlotte has become one of the wealthiest women in town.  So what if her childhood friends call her a sell-out or if she sometimes feels like a visitor in her posh new life?  With a baby on the way, Charlotte is about to have everything she's ever dreamed of and more.  

Then, one icy morning, the dead body of a pretty blonde is found beneath the Kellers' dock.  Only four years ago, another corpse was discovered in the exact same spot—that of Paul's first wife, Katherine.  Although Katherine's cause of death was ruled an accidental drowning, town gossip labeled Paul a murderer.  Charlotte has never believed the rumors, but she really hasn't known her husband for long and he's never been very forthcoming about his past.  With the police eager to pin the stranger's murder on Paul, Charlotte must ask herself some tough questions.  Who is the woman in the lake?  Why was she killed?  Is her husband capable of murdering not one, but two women?  Why did Paul take off into the woods as soon as he saw the corpse?  What is he hiding?  As secrets from the past are dredged up for reexamination, Charlotte will learn some terrible truths about her husband, their friends, and a town with plenty to hide.  

You all know I love me a good small-town secrets novel.  Stranger in the Lake (available June 9, 2020), the newest mystery/thriller by Kimberly Belle, certainly qualifies.  Although there's nothing super original about the story, it nevertheless kept me glued to the page.  The premise is intriguing in its simplicity, the prose is propulsive, and the characters are complex and interesting.  Charlotte is a relatable heroine who's easy to root for.  Because there is only a small pool of suspects, it wasn't tough for me to identify the killer fairly early on.  However, I wasn't absolutely sure I was correct until the end of the book, and even then there was at least one plot twist that surprised me.  All in all, then, I found Stranger in the Lake to be an engrossing, entertaining thriller.  I'll definitely be looking for more from Belle.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The First Wife by Erica Spindler)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Stranger in the Lake from the generous folks at Harlequin.  Thank you!
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