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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 (1)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (1)
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (10)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (4)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

22 / 50 books. 44% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

26 / 40 books. 65% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

25 / 100 books. 25% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: You Can Quote Them on That

It's Top Ten Tuesday time again and today's topic is a fun one:  Top Ten Quotes for Book Lovers.  I love me a great bookish quote.  I even have a pretty journal where I record them so I won't forget them.  True, I'm not always good about jotting quotes down, so I'm going to be relying heavily on Google today.  Nevertheless, I'm excited to read everyone's favorite quotes and see whether ours overlap at all.

If you're not aware, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted every week by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl.  To join in, all you have to do is click on over to her blog, read a few instructions, craft your own list, then hop around the book blogosphere spreading the bookish love.  It's a good time, I promise!

Top Ten Quotes for Book Lovers 

George R.R. Martin:  "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one."

Emily Dickinson:  "There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away."

Anna Quindlen "I would be content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."

Helen Exley:  "Books can be dangerous.  The best ones should be labeled 'This could change your life.'"

W. Somerset Maugham:  "To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."

E.M. Forster:  "Some people pride themselves in the books they own ... but one never owns a book by buying it.  One buys merely paper and thread and printer's ink.  The only way to own a book is to read it and let it digest into the blood of one's heart and the marrow of one's bones or even the cells of one's brain."

Kate DiCamillo (from The Tale of Despereaux):  "'Once upon a time,' he said out loud to the darkness.  He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him."

Maureen Johnson (from Truly Devious):  "Where her books were, she was."

Gordon B. Hinckley:  "There is something wonderful about a book.  We can pick it up.  We can heft it.  We can read it.  We can set it down.  We can think of what we have read.  It does something for us.  We can share minds, great actions, and great undertakings in the pages of a book."

Alan Bennett (from The Uncommon Reader):  "'I would have thought,' said the prime minister, 'that Your Majesty was above literature.'

'Above literature?' said the Queen.  'Who is above literature?  You might as well say one is above humanity.'"

And a bonus:

Gabrielle Zevin (from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry):  "People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love.  You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?"

What do you think of my selections?  What are your favorite bookish quotes?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I will return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Hopeful Family Secrets Novel Thought-Provoking and Touching

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Reporter Elizabeth Balsam will do anything to break a huge story about a local politician's secret involvement in the 1967 Detroit race riots.  Her dodgy methods don't get her the scoop, however; they get her sacked.  Finding herself with a lot of extra time on her hands all of the sudden, Elizabeth decides to follow up on an odd request from a stranger who asks her to deliver an old camera and a stack of photos to a relative she's never met.  Her curiosity is piqued by her visit to Lapeer County, Michigan, where Elizabeth meets Nora Balsam, her great aunt, for the first time.  It's clear from the get-go that Nora is hiding a very intriguing story.  Her journalistic Spidey senses tingling, Elizabeth determines to uncover her family's secrets.  What she finds is a startling tale of love, strength, resilience, courage, tragedy, and a past that isn't nearly as distant as one would think ... 

I'm a sucker for books about family secrets, especially those that stretch back through the generations.  We Hope for Better Things, a debut novel by Erin Bartels, fits that bill perfectly.  It tells a surprising tale that's full of action, romance, mystery, history, and more.  The book is populated with likable, sympathetic characters.  They're all flawed, imperfect people who struggle through challenges, make mistakes, and yearn for redemption.  Plot-wise, this novel is engaging and compelling.  Although We Hope for Better Things is a Christian novel (it won a Christy Award last year), it's more inspirational than preachy.  Overall, it's an appealing story that is clean, uplifting, thought-provoking, and timely.  I enjoyed it very much.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of novels by Susan Meissner and Lisa Wingate)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and mild sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of We Hope For Better Things from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Appalachian Midwifery Novel Engaging and Uplifting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ashley Tolliver is a 29-year-old nurse-midwife who descends from a long line of women dedicated to caring for Appalachian mothers and babies.  Everyone in the small community of Brooksburg, Virginia, knows they can trust her to treat them with kindness, discretion, and skill.  Although Ashley longs to attend medical school, she's as loyal to her patients as they are to her.  They need her more than she needs an M.D.

In the six years Ashley has been working as a midwife, she's sure she's seen it all.  Then a young mother is abducted minutes after giving birth in Ashley's home office.  Bleeding profusely, the new mom needs to be in the hospital, as does her newborn.  Desperate to get the pair the emergency medical attention they need, Ashley vows to find them.

Ashley's in the middle of dealing with the crisis when Hunter McDermott shows up at her door.  A 32-year-old engineer from Arlington, he's searching for the Appalachian birth mother he never knew he had.  As she helps the handsome adoptee uncover the real story of his birth and ancestry, Ashley finds herself reconsidering both her professional goals and the possibilities of an unexpected romance.  Could everything she's ever wanted really be waiting for her just beyond the hills her family has always called home?  Does she have the courage to put her needs before her patients' for once?  Or will she forever be the woman who delivers children for others but never has a family of her own?

Ever since Call the Midwife aired, people have become fascinated with the profession—and by "people," I mean me.  I'm also drawn to stories about Appalachia, so The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes was kind of a no-brainer read for me.  Did I end up adoring the novel?  No.  Did I enjoy it overall?  I did.  Although I found Ashley's sometimes holier than thou attitude annoying, she's still a brave, dedicated, hardworking heroine for whom I had no trouble rooting.  The novel's setting intrigued me, of course, and I appreciated Eakes' sympathetic but balanced portrayal of Appalachia's hill people.  Plot-wise, The Mountain Midwife is engaging and compelling.  When I picked this book up, I didn't realize it was a Christian novel; thankfully, the book's religious elements are mostly subtle and not too preachy.  Just the way I prefer them.  On the whole, then, The Mountain Midwife worked for me as it's clean, uplifting, and entertaining.  I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from Eakes.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman as well as Call the Midwife, which is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, scenes of peril, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Friday, September 25, 2020

Family Drama Offers Compelling Story and Relatable Characters

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Meredith Parker's twins have been away at college for four years, but she's still getting used to the idea of having an empty nest.  Their upcoming graduation has her feeling especially unmoored.  It doesn't help that their graduation celebration will involve spending extended time with her ex-husband and his very young fiancée.  While Meredith and her husband, Roger, vow to be on their best behavior and make the most of their weekend away, no one can guarantee that sparks won't fly.  Especially when each member of the family is harboring their own secrets ... 

If the plot for Best Behavior by Wendy Francis seems a little thin, that's because it is.  The novel is more episodic than structured, something I usually dislike because it creates stories that are unfocused, meandering, and often boring.  Not so with Best Behavior.  There's enough drama going on that the tale never gets dull.  The characters are well-drawn, each with realistic flaws and insecurities.  I might not have liked all of them, but I could relate to each on some level.  Overall, I enjoyed the novel although I can't say I loved it.  

A funny:  I did get a good laugh out of the fact that the twins' graduation supposedly takes place in Spring 2020—and it proceeds as normal with an in-person ceremony, no face masks, no social distancing, and not one mention of COVID-19.  Since I read an e-ARC of the book, it's possible the year was changed in the final printing of the book. 

(Readalikes:  Hm, no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (one F-bomb, plus milder expletives), mild sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use and the abuse of prescription drugs

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Best Behavior from the generous folks at HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

My Least Favorite Ware Novel Still Engrossing and Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Erin and Danny are used to being "the help" at the private ski chalet they operate in the French Alps.  One pampered group of vacationers is pretty much like every other one with their flashy wealth, entitled attitudes, and ludicrous requests.  The duo notices tension among their newest guests—ten shareholders in a wildly successful social media start-up—almost immediately, but they brush it off as more petty squabbles between the rich and the privileged.  They've seen it all before.  Then a guest goes missing after an outing on the slopes.  The suspicious disappearance casts a disturbing pall over the group, making their inherent, unnerving distrust of each other seem suddenly more sinister than snippy. 

While guests launch a search party for their missing associate, the weather worsens by alarming degrees.  An avalanche is building outside the chalet while, inside, guest after guest is turning up dead.  With dawning horror, Erin and Danny realize that they're trapped in an isolated dwelling, cut off from any hope of rescue, with a cunning killer who wants everyone dead ...

As the title suggests, Ruth Ware's newest locked-room mystery, One By One, pays homage to Agatha Christie's most famous novel.  It's not nearly as clever, though, and the guilty party(ies) in Ware's story is/are fairly obvious from the get-go.  Still, Ware is famous for her edge-of-your-seat thrillers and her latest is no exception.  The plot of One By One drags more than it should and it isn't nearly as twisty as those in the author's other stories, but all in all, it's still pretty darn riveting.  Even though I could see where the tale was going, I still found it impossible to look away.  As with every other Ware book (I've read them all), I ended up devouring this one fast and furious and far into the night, desperate to know what was going to happen next.  Because it's a bit clumsy, a lot depressing, and features characters who aren't exactly likable charmers, One By One is probably my least favorite of Ware's novels.  It did keep me engrossed and entertained, though, so I give it kudos for that.  My enthusiasm for Ware isn't diminished either.  I'm still looking forward to reading whatever she writes next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other Ruth Ware novels as well as those by Gilly Macmillan, Paula Hawkins, Lucy Foley, and Mindy Mejia)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, disturbing subject matter, mild innuendo/sexual content, scenes of peril, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of One By One from the generous folks at Gallery Books via those at Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Amish Cozy Mystery Series Just What I Need Right Now

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Lethal Licorice, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Assaulted Caramel.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

The Amish Confectionary Competition is a big deal ("It's like the NBA playoffs, but with way more sugar"), as is the fact that little Harvest, Ohio, is playing host.  Not only would winning the competition be the perfect way to honor Bailey King's late grandfather, but it would also mean great publicity for her Amish family's candy shop, Swissmen's Sweets.  Although Bailey herself is not Amish (a fact that at least one other competitor thinks should disqualify her) and the rules stipulate all sweets must be made in the Amish way (which is not at all how things were done at the exclusive Manhattan shop where she trained as a chocolatier), Bailey is determined to win the competition.  

When a town-wide search for a missing pot-bellied pig leads to the corpse of Bailey's biggest competition rival, Bailey is shocked.  She becomes even more distressed when she learns she's the primary suspect in the woman's death.  As if she's not stressed enough trying to bake her best sweets for the confectionary contest, now she has to convince the authorities she's not a killer.  But who is?  Once again Bailey must channel her inner Nancy Drew to solve a perplexing mystery.

Lots of cozy mystery series feature eateries of some sort—bakeries, cafes, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, etc.—but none are set in quaint Amish country.  The unique setting is what first drew my attention to the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series by Amanda Flower.  After reading the first installment, Assaulted Caramel, I definitely wanted more of Harvest with its fun characters, Amish/Englischer interactions, and upbeat vibe.  Lethal Licorice delivered all this as well as a new mystery to entertain me.  Once again, I enjoyed my visit to the small town.  This second book in the series is just as fun as the first, offering a light, diverting read that made me smile.  It even kept me guessing, which doesn't always happen in cozies.  Although the books have their flaws for sure, I still like this series a lot and will absolutely keep reading it.  A little light reading is pretty much exactly what I need right now, thank you very much!

(Readalikes:  Other books in the series, including Assaulted Caramel, Criminally Cocoa [novella], Botched Butterscotch [novella], Premeditated Peppermint, Toxic Toffee, Marshmallow Malice, Candy Cane Crime, and Lemon Drop Dead, as well as cozy mysteries by Vivien Chien, Ellie Alexander, and Kylie Logan)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 Book Releases Still to Come, Part Two

Before we get to my favorite weekly meme, I want to share some great news!  For the second year in a row, I have been selected to be a judge for round one of the Cybils Awards.  This go round, I'll be on the panel for middle grade fiction, which is absolutely thrilling for me.  Haven't heard of the Cybils?  It's an annual literary awards program created by bloggers that recognizes children's literature based on both literary merit and popular appeal.  Public nominations will run from October 1-15, so if you've read an awesome book for young readers this year that was published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2019 and October 15, 2020, you can nominate it for a Cybils Award!  Authors, illustrators, publishers, etc. can even nominate their own books, although they have their own nomination period.  Check out the Cybils Awards website for more info.

I don't know about you, but my favorite Top Ten Tuesday prompts are those to do with seasonal reading lists.  It's always fun to see what other bloggers are planning to read, which titles they're excited about, and what's up-and-coming in their review queues.  I'm going to twist the topic a little bit today (shocker!) to continue chatting about 2020 book releases that are still to come.  If you missed Part One, shame on you!  Just kidding—you can check out last week's list here.  Part Two is another mix of forthcoming novels from various genres that I'm looking forward to reading soon-ish.

As always, if you want to join in the TTT fun (and you do), click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, where our host, Jana, can give you all the deets on this weekly meme.  Lots of bloggers join in, so it's a great way to spread the love across the book blogosphere by finding new blogs, visiting old faves, and, of course, grabbing some great reading recommendations for your TBR pile mountain mountain chain.

Top Ten Novels Coming Out in Fall 2020, Part Two  

1.  Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell (available October 13, 2020)—I generally enjoy Jewell's books and her newest domestic thriller, about a neighborhood in crisis after the mysterious disappearance of a young woman, sounds intriguing.

2.  You Know I'm No Good by Jessie Ann Foley (available October 13, 2020)—Foley's Sorry For Your Loss was one of my favorite reads of 2019.  Her newest sounds equally as compelling.  It concerns a 17-year-old girl who starts acting out in response to a scarring trauma.  When she's whisked away in the middle of the night to a boarding school that's supposed to straighten her out, she'll have to confront her demons in order to change her life for the better.  Although the plot sounds a little generic, I'm excited to see what Foley makes of it.

3.  Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron (available October 13, 2020)—I'm not always a fan of books about magic and special powers, but this one, set in the Jim Crow South, appeals.  It's about a Black teen with a boatload of real-life troubles who's also grappling with the maturation of her magic abilities, which have been passed down through generations of Black women since the days of slavery.  Sounds compelling.

4.  The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn (available December 8, 2020)—I first heard about the deep sea divers of Jeju, South Korea, from Lisa See's sweeping novel, The Island of Sea Women.  I'm definitely up for reading more and this debut sounds like one I'll like.  

5.  The Key to Fear by Kristin Cast (available October 13, 2020)—The Key Corporation protects everyone from a rampant virus that spreads through touch.  When an infected patient escapes during the watch of a young nurse, she breaks the corporation's strict rules to go after him.  The patient, of course, knows secrets about the Key Corporation that could shatter its control over the population; naturally, he—and now his nurse—find themselves in the crosshairs of the most powerful organization in the world.  Can they save themselves from a ruthless enemy?  How about the world?  Yeah, yeah, I know this is the plot of like every YA dystopian novel ever, but still ... 

6.  The Green Lace Corset by Jill G. Hall (available October 13, 2020)—This dual-timeline novel concerns two women living in San Francisco 135 years apart, connected by the titular garment.

7.  Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan (available October 6, 2020)—When it comes to historical novels, I usually don't read anything set before the American Revolution, so this one, set in "a time long forgotten" may be a little outside my reading comfort zone.  Still, the story, which concerns a tight-knit community and the way it changes irrevocably after it's invaded by outsiders, sounds interesting.  I'm not sure why this one appeals to me, but it does.

8.  The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (available September 29, 2020)—Between life and death, there lies a great library filled with numberless books, all containing a story you can potentially live.  Given the opportunity to jump into another life (or two or three), would you?  This premise fascinates me!

9.  Elsewhere by Dean Koontz (available October 6, 2020)—A father and daughter are unexpectedly handed a strange object by an eccentric acquaintance.  Shockingly, it allows them to access parallel universes.  A powerful stranger wants the object for nefarious purposes—our dynamic duo just wants to find their dead wife and mother.

10.  Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins (available October 6, 2020)—Hopkins' first MG novel is a contemporary story in verse about a girl whose life is upended when her strange cousin moves in with her family.  Hopkins' YA novels are raw and hard-hitting; I'm interested to see how this one compares.

There you go, ten more novels to look forward to in this latter part of 2020.  Which 2020 releases are you looking forward to?  Which have you already enjoyed?  What titles are on your Fall TBR list?  I'd truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I'll return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!     

Monday, September 21, 2020

I Will Follow Maeve, Follow Maeve Wherever She May Go ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The Chiron Club is not the kind of place where just anyone can waltz in.  Especially not a woman.  It's a palace of luxury, indulgence, and secrets to which only its male members are privy.  So, when Paige Hargreaves—a freelance journalist who was investigating the exclusive gentlemen's club—turns up dead, the police naturally turn their focus on the club.  Did one of its members kill Paige to keep her quiet?  That's what DS Maeve Kerrigan and her partner, DI Josh Derwent, are determined to find out.

As the duo digs into the secrets of both Paige and the Chiron Club, they make some dangerous discoveries.  Unearthing these truths is getting Maeve and Josh closer to a killer, but Maeve is keeping her own secret and it's this that could really put her life in danger.  Can she solve the mystery of how Paige died?  Can she save herself from suffering a similar fate?

I'm trying to wean myself off dark, disturbing thrillers, but when it comes to Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series, I just can't resist.  I love this brave, tenacious, self-deprecating heroine!  Maeve is a likable blend of vulnerable and tough and that's perhaps never more apparent than in The Cutting Place, the ninth installment in the series.  Although these novels feature taut, compelling mysteries, it's Maeve's evolving relationship with the mercurial Derwent that has become my favorite aspect of the series.  That features prominently in The Cutting Place, which makes me happy.  As always, Casey isn't afraid of taking on disturbing subject matter, so be forewarned that this isn't an easy read.  Still, it's one that kept me totally riveted.  Weaning be darned, I'll follow Maeve Kerrigan anywhere!

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left for Dead [novella], The Burning, The Reckoning, The Last Girl, The Stranger You Know, The Kill, After the Fire, Let the Dead Speak, One In Custody [novella], Love Lies Bleeding [novella], and Cruel Acts)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Cutting Place from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at Edelweiss Plus in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Gothic-y Psychological Thriller a Riveting Page Turner

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After a terrible mistake which left her traumatized and with a young, equally scarred son to care for, 33-year-old Tess Henshaw is back in little Rock Harbor, Maine.  Now teaching English at the same prep school she attended as a young woman, Tess is married to a respected man who's also an instructor at the school.  Always a moody, complicated kid, Tess's son Rudy, now 17, is living on-campus and seems to be happier than he has been in a very long time.  With her comfortable, stable life, Tess' tumultuous past feels like ancient history—just the way she likes it.

Then, an early morning text from Rudy shatters Tess' perfect life.  Without waking her husband, she races to the rescue of her trembling son, who's soaking wet, practically mute, and has a stain on his hoodie that looks an awful lot like blood.  A few hours later, she gets an even more shocking message—the body of Rudy's girlfriend, Lila Zeller, has just been found near the place where Tess had gone to pick up Rudy.  As the police investigate the suspicious death, Rudy becomes a suspect as does Tess' husband, Harmon.  Frantic to clear both of their names without implicating either, Tess finds herself lying to authorities and spilling secrets from her own past in a desperate effort to keep her entire world from falling completely apart.  Although Tess can't believe her son capable of such a heinous crime, she's plagued by the question everyone is asking:  What really happened the night Lila died?

I'm always up for a compelling psychological thriller, especially a moody, broody one with deliciously Gothic undertones.  These are Carol Goodman's bread and butter and I, for one, am always eager to sup at her table!  While her newest, The Sea of Lost Girls, isn't my favorite Goodman novel (that would be The Widow's House), it's still a tense, twisty tale that kept me glued to the page.  True, I saw the killer coming, but that didn't keep me from reading this one fast and furious.  Even though it's depressing, the characters aren't super likable, and their actions don't always make sense, I still enjoyed The Sea of Lost Girls overall.   

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels by Carol Goodman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, disturbing subject matter, and references to underage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Wingate's Newest Engaging and Moving

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As a first-year English teacher, 27-year-old Benedetta "Bennie" Silva knows she pretty much has to take what she can get in terms of job placement.  Still, she doesn't quite know how she's going to manage her first assignment at an all-black junior/senior high school in little Augustine, Louisiana.  The kids, most of whom are impoverished and jaded, are just as skeptical of her as she is of them.  In a desperate effort to engage them, she begins researching the history of a nearby plantation called Goswood Grove.  When she discovers an incredible story about three young women who set out on a remarkable journey, Benny becomes obsessed with the tale, especially when she finds a connection between it and one of her students.   

Over one hundred years earlier, in the days of Reconstruction, a trio of teens from Augustine hie off for Texas.  Hannah is a freed slave searching for her mother and siblings, all of whom were sold off when she was only six.  Lavinia is the spoiled daughter of Goswood Grove's master, who disappeared without a trace, leaving his plantation and family destitute.  A mulatto, Juneau is Lavinia's Creole half-sister, who goes along reluctantly to keep Lavinia from getting into too much trouble.  Along the way, the unlikely road trip companions will deal with perils of every kind.  Can they learn to rely on each other?  Will each of them find what they're looking for?  Will any of them?

The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate's newest, has been criticized for being slow and lacking depth.  While I can understand these complaints, I actually really liked the novel.  It introduced me to a piece of Reconstruction era history that I'd never heard of—"Lost Friends" advertisements that helped families torn apart by slavery find each other again.  Not only did I find this aspect of the novel fascinating, but I also enjoyed getting to know Hannah, Lavinia, and Juneau.  Their journey to Texas and into their own pasts had enough drama and intrigue to keep me reading.  All in all, I found The Book of Lost Friends to be engaging, interesting, moving, and thought-provoking.  I loved it.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Book of Lost Friends from the generous folks at Ballantine Books (a division of Penguin Random House) via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 Book Releases Still to Come

In a very 2020 move, my blood sugar went a little nutso last night.  Dealing with it kept me up late, then I had to get up at 6 a.m. for the first time since February to make sure my sixth grader got off to in-person school (she'll go two days a week), and now I'm tired and cranky!  Top Ten Tuesday always puts me in a good mood, although I'm not feeling today's topic—Cover Freebie—since I just did a list featuring book covers.  My Monday-ish mood (even though it's Tuesday) makes me want to go rogue and do my own topic, so that's what I'm gonna do, darn it.   

If you want to get in on the TTT action (and you do!), head on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.

Since next week's topic concerns our Fall 2020 TBR lists, I decided to make this list a two-parter and take a look at some of the great-looking novels that are coming out in the last few weeks of 2020.  Although we're all probably ready to kick this year to the curb, at least there is something to look forward to (other than cooler temps and the holidays) as we head into Fall.

Top Ten Novels Coming Out in Fall 2020, Part One 

1.  Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (available October 6, 2020)—A family heads to a remote vacation home on Long Island only to have their time together interrupted by a frantic knock on the door in the middle of the night.  The owners have come home in a panic, raving about a sinister blackout in New York City.  With no t.v. or Internet, the two families are on their own—together—as the world falls apart.  The premise of this one is so fun (in a fictional sense, anyway)!  I can't wait to see how the author spins this tale.

2.  A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins  (available November 10, 2020)—Reporting on London's grisly crime scene may not be the most proper profession, but Lady Katherine Bascomb doesn't care.  Especially when one of her articles leads to the arrest of a killer.  To escape some of her newfound notoriety, she hies off to the country, only to witness a murder upon arrival.  The DI assigned to the case doesn't want a woman interfering with his investigation, but he's going to get one whether he likes it or not ... Sounds like a light, entertaining read.

3.  The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher (available December 29, 2020)—Juno, a retired therapist faced with a grim diagnosis, desires to live out what's left of her life in peace.  Moving in with the Crouches, who seem to be the perfect family, seems like the best solution.  Until she overhears a very disturbing conversation.  Juno should keep her mouth shut since she has her own secrets to keep, but the thing about skeletons in the closet is they always tend to creep out ...

4.  When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten (available October 20, 2020)—This MG novel concerns a 12-year-old living on an exotic island whose memory hasn't been the same since a devastating hurricane hit.  As she tries to recover her shattered memory, she also attempts to save a friendship that hasn't been the same since.  The plot sounds a little thin on this one, but I'm always up for a compelling MG read, so we'll see if this one hits the mark or not.

5.  Millicent Glenn's Last Wish by Tori Whitaker (available October 1, 2020)—On the eve of Millicent's 91st birthday, her estranged daughter moves back in.  Then, Millicent's granddaughter surprises them both by announcing she's pregnant, which brings up sorrows from the past Millicent's never spoken about before.  As three generations of Glenn women come together under the same roof, can they find the strength and healing which they all so desperately need? 

6.  Wishes and Wellingtons by Julie Berry (available October 13, 2020)—Berry's newest MG offering sounds quirky and engaging.  It revolves around an orphan girl who discovers a magical djinni while sorting garbage as a punishment for brawling in the schoolyard.  She's desperate to be granted three wishes, but having a djinni in her possession might turn out to be a whole lot more trouble than it's 

7.  Above All Else by Dana Alison Levy (available October 13, 2020)—I find stories about Mount Everest fascinating, so this YA offering about teen climbers appeals.

8.  The War Widow by Tara Moss (available December 29, 2020)—Now that World War II is over, war correspondent Billie Walker finds herself out of a job.  The plucky Australian reporter opens a detective agency, which soon has her looking into the disappearance of a young man.  Her investigation will ruffle the feathers of a handsome detective and take Billie deep into Sydney's dark underbelly where it soon becomes apparent that, for some, the war has not ended at all.

9.  The Lakehouse by Joe Clifford (available September 29, 2020)—Todd Norman has been cleared of killing his wife and just wants to move on with his life.  He returns to her small, Connecticut hometown to complete the building of their dream house on the lake.  Todd hasn't been there long when the body of a young woman is found nearby.  Under investigation once again, he will do anything to clear his name.  Who is the woman?  And how did she end up in the lake?

10.  The Truth Project by Dante Medema (available October 13, 2020)—I'm obsessed with genealogy, so I love books about people investigating their roots, even when (maybe especially when) they get unexpected results.  This debut YA novel is about an Alaskan teen who takes a DNA test that reveals her father is not the same man she calls Dad.  If he's not who she thought he was, is she who she thought she was?  Sounds intriguing.

There you go, ten upcoming novels I'm interested in reading.  What do you think?  Do any of them catch your interest?  Are there any books still coming out in 2020 that you're dying to read?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.  

Happy TTT!    

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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson


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