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My Progress:

10 / 30 books. 33% 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:

42 / 50 books. 84% 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

33.2 / 26.2 miles. 127% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

56 / 104 books. 54% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

57 / 165 books. 35% done!
Monday, August 31, 2020

Despite Vivid Backdrop, Magical YA Debut Turns Into a Long Slog to a Disappointing Finale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Abandoned as a baby in the deep forest that surrounds it, the only home Kallia has ever known is the isolated Hellfire House.  Under the tutelage of a master magician and now his son, she has become a powerful show magician, the masked star of the House's nightly show.  Despite the celebrity that comes from providing jaw-dropping performances for awestruck audiences, Kallia longs for more.  She dreams of breaking free of her gilded cage, traveling beyond the impenetrable woods that keep her trapped, and harnessing all of the magic she feels burning through her veins.  Jack, the master of the House, refuses to even entertain the idea of Kallia leaving.  But, when she learns of a magic competition in the mysterious ice-laden city of Glorian, she ignores his warnings and flees in the night.

Female show magicians are looked down upon, but Kallia soon becomes a crowd favorite.  Although the other contestants and most of the judges are clearly rooting against her, Daron Demarco can't look away from the competition's stunning star.  He's in town for his own secret reasons and can't afford to be distracted.  Nevertheless, he can't stand idly by while Kallia—obviously the most talented magician in the contest—is shunned.  As the competition heats up, though, magicians start disappearing, Glorian's only exit mysteriously vanishes, and Kallia is acting strangely.  Is she systematically eliminating her competitors?  Or is someone cheating in order to cripple her chances of winning?  It's up to Demarco to figure out what is going on before the competition becomes not just dangerous, but also deadly ...

It's tough to ignore a book billed as Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge and Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles is certainly earning a lot of attention.  The YA debut deserves it for its vivid imagery, which does give the story a sumptuous "glamdark" backdrop.  Beyond that, though, there's nothing super original about the novel, the first in a planned duology.  Kallia's world is a confusing one that doesn't get much clearer as the story moves along.  Our heroine is a kick-butt MC, whose confidence and determination make her admirable, even while her vanity and coldness diminish her likability.  Her comrades, including Demarco, aren't fleshed-out well enough to make them stand out.  Even the colorful members of the Conquering Circus, by far the most interesting characters in the novel, don't get enough page time to show off their uniqueness.  Likewise, Glorian—whose mysterious secrets were the only thing that really kept me reading this book—is relegated to a side act while the lukewarm romance between Kallia and Demarco steals the spotlight.  Added to these irritants is the fact that Where Dreams Descends drags on for 464 pages, a good 200 of which could have been cut.  Although there is a fair amount of action in the novel, there was no point at which I couldn't have put it down for good.  I stuck with it, though, expecting a dazzling finale that would provide enough answers to bring a satisfactory end to the story's first volume while leaving me eager to read the second.  Didn't happen.  The cliffhanger ending just felt disappointing, trailing more questions than answers in its wake.  After wading through 464 pages, it didn't feel like much of a reward.  Needless to say, I won't be bothering with the sequel.  I just don't care that much.  Despite its intriguing premise, in the end Where Dreams Descend felt like a long, dissatisfying slog for me.  Bummer.  I really wanted to like it more.

(Readalikes:  I rarely read YA fantasy, so nothing's coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Where Dreams Descend from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press and Wednesday Books.  Thank you!
Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Historical Based-On-A-True-Story Mystery a Delightful Romp

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In 1914, a period when women are most valued for their femininity and domestic skills, 35-year-old Constance Kopp sticks out like a proverbial sore thumb.  Towering over most men, she's a substantial lady who isn't afraid to declare her desire never to marry or have children.  She's (mostly) content to live out her life on her family's remote New Jersey farm with her two sisters, Norma and Fleurette.  Mostly, people let the eccentric Kopps be, which is how Constance prefers things.

While in the city one day, the sisters' buggy is almost run down by a reckless driver.  When Constance confronts their assailant, she comes face-to-face with an indignant and powerful factory owner who's none too happy about being contradicted by a woman.  The conflict begins a dangerous battle between the Kopps and the owner's goons.  When Constance is recruited to help the police department take down the gang, things get even uglier for the Kopps.  Constance soon finds herself having to defend herself, her sisters, and their property all while confronting the secrets of her past and facing an unknown future.

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart is the first in a mystery series starring Constance Kopp, a real woman who became one of the first female police officers in the U.S.  Not surprisingly, she's an interesting heroine, who's likable and easy to root for.  A supporting cast of quirky characters adds humor to this based-on-a-true-story tale.  As for the plot, it might move a little slowly for some readers.  The pacing worked just fine for me—in fact, I found the story both exciting and entertaining.  In addition to being an enjoyable read, Girl Waits With Gun is also a clean one.  It touches on some sensitive subjects, but it does so in a tasteful way that's not graphic or lurid.  I appreciated this PG-rated mystery for that as well as for all the reasons I listed above.  I'll definitely be reading more in this fun series.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and references to disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out, 2020!

This week's TTT topic is another great one: Top Ten Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors.  Once again, though, my mind is drawing a complete blank.  I think it's been melted completely away by the hellish heat we've been having over the last couple weeks.  The Phoenix area is having its hottest summer on record right now because, you know, 2020.   All I can say is thank goodness for air conditioning.  So, since we're all ready to say goodbye to this crazy year, I decided to use this week's TTT list to look ahead at some of the great reads that are coming in 2021.  Get excited, readers!

If you're not familiar with TTT by now, you can get all the details from Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Ten 2021 Releases I Want to Read NOW:

1.  The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon (coming April 6, 2021)—I love McMahon's creepy novels and her newest sounds like another compelling read.  It concerns a woman whose bi-polar sister drowns in the pool at their grandmother's estate.  As she looks deeper into the incident, she finds that her sister was researching their family history, which is much darker than anyone ever realized ... I have an e-ARC of The Drowning Kind, so I'm definitely going to read it soon.  Can't wait.

2.  What's Worth Keeping by Kaya McLaren (coming January 19, 2021)—This contemporary deals with three people in need of hope and healing.  Can they find it in an ancient Washington State forest?  I was born and raised in Washington, so I'm excited to "visit" my beautiful Motherland, even if it's just in fiction.

3.  Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay (coming March 2, 2021)—Several members of a family die while vacationing in Mexico, an event that re-opens the wounds caused by another shocking incident involving the same family.  One of its last remaining members embarks on a journey to uncover the truth about both events.  I'm always up for an intriguing psychological thriller, so I'm definitely all in for this one!

4.  The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (coming February 9, 2021)—Hannah's newest sounds like another blockbuster.  I can't wait to delve in!  The Depression-era novel is about a woman who must make the agonizing choice between trying to keep her Texas homestead alive or risking everything to remake her life in California.

5.  The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner (coming February 2, 2021)—Another historical, this one focuses on the epic earthquake that devastated San Francisco in 1906.  It features a mail-order bride whose dreams of a brighter future in California are being threatened by secrets and lies.  Then, the ground starts to tremble ...

6.  The Survivors by Jane Harper (coming February 2, 2021)—Shocking family secrets come floating to the surface after a body is discovered on the beach in a struggling oceanside town.  I'm a big Harper fan, so I'm excited for her newest.

7.  The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner (coming March 2, 2021)—This dual-timeline novel is about a modern-day woman who discovers the secrets behind a unique 18th Century London apothecary shop that specializes in potions that heal wounds by killing those that inflict them.  Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

8.  A Splendid Ruin by Megan Chance (coming January 1, 2021)—If you haven't noticed, I love stories about family secrets hidden in mysterious old houses.  This one, which also takes place in 1906 San Francisco, sounds like just the ticket.

9.  Alone by Megan E. Freeman (coming March 16, 2021)—This middle-grade debut concerns a 12-year-old girl who wakes up one day to find herself completely alone in her Colorado town.  With only books and a Rottweiler for companionship, she has to learn to survive in a strange, lonely new world.

10.  The Girl From Shadow Springs by Ellie Cypher (coming February 9, 2021)—Billed as The Revenant meets True Grit, this YA novel is about two teens who have to cross a frozen wasteland to save the ones they love.  Survival stories are my jam, so this one definitely appeals.

From the looks of it, 2021 is going to be a great year for reading!  I've only scratched the surface of the books that will be on offer and I'm already stoked.  Which books are you looking forward to reading in 2021?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!
Saturday, August 22, 2020

I Like Cupcakes As Much As The Next Girl, But ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's long been Melanie Cooper's dream to open her own cupcake bakery.  Now that Fairy Tale Cupcakes is finally in operation, she and Angie DeLaura—her BFF/business partner—are over the moon, even if their first big order is coming from a snobby, control freak of a bridezilla.  Unfortunately, the woman is marrying their other best friend, so they have to make nice.  Even if it kills them.  Or her.

When 32-year-old Christie Stevens drops dead after a cupcake tasting, Melanie is stunned.  She's even more shocked when she's named the prime suspect in the bride-to-be's poisoning.  It's no secret Melanie didn't like Christie, but she certainly didn't kill her.  Who did?  Almost everyone who knew the dead fashion designer hated her, so suspects abound.  To clear her own name and save the reputation of her new business, Melanie is going to have to channel her inner Nancy Drew.  Can she find the killer before he/she cooks up another murder? 

I don't expect cozy mysteries to be realistic, so I'm rarely put off by their far-fetched plots.  Good thing because Sprinkle with Murder, the first book in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay, is not exactly believable.  Still, it tells a light, fun story that makes for a quick, diverting read.  The cupcakes in this novel are more developed than the characters, however, which is annoying.  Other than some colorful folks on the side, the cast of this mystery is almost wholly lacking in personality.  Although Melanie and Angie come off as nice, they both manage to act immature and petty, which makes them less likable.  As heroines, they need something to make them unique or original.  In fact, that's a problem with this book in general.  It doesn't have anything that helps it stand out among its peers.  All these things considered, I probably won't continue with the series.  I like cupcakes as much as the next girl, but this opener doesn't offer enough goodies to entice me to walk back inside Fairy Tale Cupcakes.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other culinary cozies like the All-Day Breakfast Cafe series by Lena Gregory, the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke, the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander, etc.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Friday, August 21, 2020

Enemies-to-Lovers Rom-Com a Fun, Upbeat Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Olive and Ami Torres might be identical twins, but they're nothing alike.  Especially when it comes to luck.  Ami wins every contest she enters.  Olive has her clumsiest, most embarrassing moments broadcast on YouTube and national television.  She's not bitter.  It's just a fact of life that Ami's life moves seamlessly forward while Ollie gets struck by lightning (literally).  She shouldn't be too surprised, then, by her present circumstances.  As the maid-of-honor at Ami's posh but almost cost-free wedding, Olive is stuffed into an atrocious, too small gown, which is not making it any easier to make nice with her archnemesis, Ethan Thomas, who is—naturally—the best man.  

Shockingly, Olive's luck starts to change when all the guests at the wedding dinner get food poisoning from the discount seafood buffet except for her.  From her sickbed, Ami insists Olive take the fabulous, free honeymoon vacation Ami won for herself and her new husband.  All Olive has to do to take advantage of a relaxing week in Hawaii is pretend to be newly married to the only other person who isn't sick—Ethan.  She'll keep up the pretense when necessary, then dump him on a beach somewhere and enjoy her vacation solo.  Easy peasy.  There's only one problem—the more time Olive spends in paradise with Ethan, the more she doesn't want to leave.  Him.  Will the unluckiest girl in the world find a way to screw up what's starting to feel like the best thing that's ever happened to her?  Or has fate finally done her a solid?  

From its bright, colorful cover to its engaging, zany plot to its likable characters and humorous story situations, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren is a fun read.  It's upbeat, funny, swoony, and just all kinds of enjoyable.  I definitely would have preferred a PG-13 version, but still, this is a witty, heartfelt novel that kept me royally entertained.  It's almost universally loved by readers/reviewers and it's easy to see why.  Next time I'm looking for a diverting rom-com, I'll keep this writing duo in mind.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: The Next Few in the Queue

Back in the good ole days before COVID-19 struck (otherwise known as February), I wasn't much of a t.v. watcher.  I tuned in to Call the Midwife while I folded laundry, but that's about it.  Then came lockdown, which saw me picking up an old hobby—cross-stitching—which I like to do while watching the tube.  Other than the occasional movie on Netflix, though, the few shows I watch are on PBS and CBS All Access (Genealogy Roadshow, anyone?).  I realize no one really cares about my viewing habits, but I'm telling you all this to explain why, once again, I went rogue with today's Top Ten Tuesday topic of Top Ten Book Series That Should Be Adapted Into Netflix Shows.  My mind is drawing a complete blank on this one! 

I hate to skip TTT, so today I'm striking out on my own topic-wise.  Upon realizing yesterday that I'm just about to finish my 100th read of the year, I've been contemplating which 100 I should read next in order to complete my goal of reading 200 books in 2020.  I realize that I'm unlikely to actually hit 200, although I've come close over the years.  Still, it's fun to think about which books I want to read before the end of the year.  A list of 100 might be a *tad* excessive, so I'm just going to give you the next ten in my queue.

First, though, a quick reminder to click on over to That Artsy Reader and give Jana, our lovely host, some love.  I encourage you, as always, to join in the TTT fun.  It really is a good time that you don't want to miss.

Top Ten Books I Plan to Read Next  

1.  Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah—This is cheating a little because I'm actually just about done with this novel.  Someone (was it you?) mentioned last week how much they liked this one and while reorganizing some books in my office area, I came across my copy.  When I started the book, I thought I knew exactly where the plot was going.  Now, I'm not so sure ... I'm a Hannah fan and The Winter Garden shows why.  It's engaging, interesting, surprising, and enjoyable.

2.  Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley—I enjoy Ashley's upstairs/downstairs mysteries starring Kat Holloway, the most sought-after cook in Victorian London.  I'm going to be reading #4, Murder in the East End, soon for a blog tour, but I need to read this one—the third installment in the series—first.

3.  Murder in the East End by Jennifer Ashley—When Kat hears that children are going missing from a local foundling hospital and that their nurse has been murdered, she can't stay away from the intriguing case.  Can the cook find the killer before she becomes his/her next victim?

4.  The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin (available January 12, 2021)—I read David Laskin's fascinating non-fiction book about this horrifying tragedy not long ago.  I'm interested to see how the story is told in a novel.  I've got an e-ARC of this one, which sounds intriguing but sad (of course).

5.  Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards (available October 6, 2020)—This YA thriller is about Mira, who is desperate to get home for the holidays.  When her flight is canceled at the last minute, she's forced to rely on the generosity of another passenger, who offers Mira a seat in the car she and a few others are renting.  As the weather worsens, she finds herself trapped in an increasingly terrifying position with a group of people she doesn't know at all.  Sounds like a heartwarming holiday yarn!

6.  What You Wish For by Katherine Center—I've enjoyed both of the Center novels I've read so far, so I'm definitely up for her newest.  It centers around Samantha and Duncan, educators who were once lovers.  When Duncan is hired to be the principal at Sam's new school, she's not sure how to handle the awkward situation.  As the school faces challenges on every side, the two must navigate their own hurdles.  Center's novels are always engrossing and upbeat, so I'm excited to see what she does with this one.

7.  The Big Easy and Other Lies by Melanie Jacobson—I met this charming author of contemporary romances back in 2012 when she was my mentor for a writing workshop at the Storymakers Conference.  Back then, she talked about a book she was planning to write about a teen who's determined to win a fashion designing contest, even if the only materials she has at her disposal are whatever she can find in her guardian's hoarding piles.  It sounded good then and it sounds good now that the e-book has been published.  You can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited or buy it, like I did, for the bargain price of $4.99.  It will come out in paperback soon-ish, but I couldn't wait!

8.  You Belong Here Now by Dianna Rostad (available April 21, 2021)—This one doesn't come out for quite a while still, but I have an e-ARC of it that I'm excited to read. The story concerns a trio of children who are put on an orphan train headed west.  They jump off before the last stop, winding up at a ranch in Montana where they must prove their worth to a taciturn spinster.  You know I love me a good historical novel and this one sounds like just the ticket.

9.  These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart—I heard about this historical novel from someone's TTT list sometime in the last month or so.  Was it yours?  It concerns a young woman who's crushed after receiving a "Dear John" letter from her WWII soldier boyfriend.  In search of a new start, she heads to Appalachia to train as a nurse/midwife in the unforgiving hills.  Adventure, heartache, and romance ensue.

10.  Born a Crime by Trevor Noah—On a visit to The Strand a couple years ago, I picked up this gem.  I rediscovered it during the reorganization of books I mentioned above.  I'm hoping to get to it soon.

There you have it, the next ten books I'm hoping to read.  What do you think of my list?  Have you read any of these?  Do any of them pique your interest?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!

Monday, August 17, 2020

YA Revolutionary War Espionage Story An Exciting, Appealing Departure

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When her mother dies, 15-year-old Francesca "Frannie" Tasker is left in the hands of her greedy, lascivious stepfather.  The older man insists she take her mother's place as his bride; Frannie would rather die.  She gets her wish when a shipwreck in the Bahaman waters where she dives for treasure delivers up the corpse of an obviously well-bred young woman.  Frannie can't save the dead girl, but maybe by letting herself "die" and assuming the girl's identity, Frannie can save herself.  The ruse only has to last long enough to get her far away from her evil stepfather in the Bahamas.  Trading her rags for the dead girl's sodden but sumptuous clothing, Frannie steps boldly into her new life. 

Frannie's ploy works far better than she ever expected it to.  Becoming Emmeline Coates, a wealthy New York City heiress, gives her exposure to the kind of luxury she's never known.  It also teaches her about the trouble brewing in America's fledgling colonies.  Even though her looming marriage to a handsome British lieutenant feels like being caged all over again, Frannie recognizes that her closeness to him could prove very advantageous.  Determined to do what she can to help her new country, she becomes an unlikely spy for George Washington.  Her borrowed identity already puts Frannie's gilded life at risk, but now she's playing an even more dangerous game, one that could end with her as dead as the real Emmeline Coates.  

Rebel Spy—a YA historical novel based on a real female spy known only as "Agent 355"—is a departure for Veronica Rossi, who's known for writing supernatural and dystopian books.  I, for one, enjoyed Rossi's foray into hist-fic.  As much as I adore the genre, I haven't read a lot of stories about the Revolutionary War, so I found Rebel Spy's setting fascinating.  Colorful period detail fleshes out the backdrop, which adds authenticity to Frannie's tale, which—let's face it—is a tad bit far-fetched.  Still, it features an empathetic heroine, an exciting plot, and a smoldering romance.  Combined with the book's intriguing setting, these appealing elements create an engrossing, entertaining book that kept me turning pages.  True, I would have preferred a story with more derring-do and less romance, but overall, I can't complain too much.  Overall, I quite enjoyed Rebel Spy.  I'm definitely up for more historical fiction from Rossi—here's hoping there's more in the works!

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've Loved But Not Reviewed. Yet.

According to my mom, I taught myself to read before starting kindergarten and just never stopped.  I've read thousands of books throughout my life; since I didn't create my blog until 2006, that means there are tons of titles that would work for today's Top Ten Tuesday topic:  Top Ten Books I Loved But Never Reviewed.  Could my aging memory come up with enough to make a decent list?  Yeah, right!  I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday (actually, I can't remember at all—did I even eat breakfast yesterday?).  Thankfully, I am, as always, months behind on writing reviews for this year's reads, so I'm just going to chat about ten books I've read in 2020 that I loved but haven't reviewed.  Yet.

You've probably got lots of books you loved but haven't reviewed, too, so why don't you join in the TTT fun?  All you have to do is click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, scan a few quick instructions, make your own list, then spend some happy hours spreading the love across the book blogosphere.  It's a great way to check in on favorite blogs, discover new ones, and of course, find awesome reading recs to add to the ole TBR mountain chain.  It's a good time, I promise!

Top Ten Books I've Loved This Year But Haven't Reviewed Yet 

1.  The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren—This enemies-to-lovers romance about a wedding reception that goes awry, leaving the best man and the maid of honor to take the newlyweds' honeymoon vacation, is just plain fun. 

2.  Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart—Based on the real-life experiences of a "lady cop" and her crime-fighting sisters in early 20th Century America, this mystery is the first in a series featuring the indomitable Constance Kopp.  It's interesting and compelling.

3.  The Split by Sharon Bolton—I love suspenseful stories set in remote places and Bolton's newest definitely fits the bill.  It's a novel with a deceptively simple premise—a woman who has fled to remote South Georgia for an extended research trip is being pursued by an ex-con.  Why?  Will he find her?  Like all of Bolton's mysteries, this one is taut, tense, and twisty.  The Split might be my favorite of all her books. 

4.  The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate—This dual-timeline novel combines adventure, mystery, and history to create an intriguing tale that I very much enjoyed.

5.  Beyond the Horizon by Lois Lowry—It might be a thin volume, but this memoir-in-verse that recounts the author's experiences as a young girl in Hawaii during World War II, packs a big punch.  I found it profoundly moving, but in a way that snuck up on me, if that makes any sense.

6.  Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain—This impactful novel is about a new social worker from a privileged background who begins her career in rural North Carolina during the turbulent 1960's.  Her life and outlook are both changed when she meets a young girl who's carrying all the burdens of keeping her desperately impoverished family afloat.

7.  The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson—It's hard to describe this Knives Out-ish novel, but it's an on-point exploration of what can happen when an estranged family unexpectedly inherits an exorbitant amount of wealth—and secrets.

8.  Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams—True, there's nothing super original about this YA novel in which the members of a sheltered religious cult have to face the alarming effects of a terrifying pandemic, but it tells a thoughtful story that kept me engrossed.  It asks some important questions about faith, blind obedience, family, etc.  I also like that it features a character with Type 1 diabetes (in a cult that eschews medicine, no less).  You don't see my disease featured in a lot of books, so I was glad for this important representation.

9.  From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks—I enjoyed this middle-grade novel about a girl who intercepts a letter from the father she's never met, who's in prison for murder.  She starts a secret correspondence with him that leads her to make some important discoveries about herself and her family.  Despite its heavy-ish content, this is an upbeat, enjoyable book.

10.  The Line Between by Tosca Lee—This YA novel is similar to Agnes at the End of the World and I liked it for a lot of the same reasons.  It tells an exciting story, but it also offers up a lot of lots of food for thought on faith, works, and religion.  For a doomsday novel, it's surprisingly clean and upbeat.

There you have it, ten books I enjoyed but haven't gotten around to reviewing yet.  What do you think?  Have you read any of them?  Do any of them sound like reads you would enjoy?  What books have you loved but not reviewed yet?  I'd love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!
Monday, August 10, 2020

Debut Friendship Novel Upbeat, Even If Not Super Exciting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With her only child away at college in faraway California, single mom Renee Rhodes feels unmoored.  Without her daughter to dote on, she hardly knows who she is anymore.  She enjoys her receptionist job at a pediatrician's office (although her crush on her boss is downright embarrassing), her gardening, and her baking, but is it enough to sustain and fulfill her?

Chasing an active toddler around all day and trying to keep her home in order without the aid of her workaholic husband has left Sadie Landry feeling bone-tired.  When she discovers she's pregnant again, she realizes she's reached her breaking point.  Between the baby she's growing, the tension in her marriage, and the constant criticism from her outspoken mother-in-law, Sadie has had it.  

Although they're neighbors in quaint Cranberry Cove, Maine, Renee and Sadie don't really know each other.  Until a culinary disaster brings them together.  The resulting friendship that develops between them gives both women the outlet and support they've been looking for.  But will it be enough to sustain them as Renee and Sadie both take big leaps in their lives?

Forever Friends, a debut novel by Sarah Mackenzie, is a little fluffier than my usual reading fare.  Still, the story touches on deeper subjects than its easy, breezy cover would suggest. It tells an upbeat tale set against a cozy backdrop and featuring likable characters.  Its central theme of women supporting women definitely resonated with me.  While the plot doesn't exactly offer tense, nail-biting action, there was enough going on to keep me turning pages.  There was never a point, though, that I couldn't have put Forever Friends down for good.  Overall, then, I liked but didn't love this one.  Will I read the next book in the series?  Eh.  Maybe, maybe not.  

(Readalikes:  Um, nothing's coming readily to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:  

for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives) and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Forever Friends from the generous folks at Forever (a division of Hachette Book Group) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
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