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2021 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (4)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut (1)
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho
- Illinois (4)
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine
- Maryland (1)
- Massachusetts (1)
- Michigan (1)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire (1)
- New Jersey (1)
- New Mexico
- New York (3)
- North Carolina (1)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (6)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee
- Texas
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (3)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming (1)
- *Washington, D.C.

Australia (2)
Canada (3)
England (6)
France (1)
Ireland (1)
Switzerland (1)
The Philippines (1)
Wales (1)

My Progress:

27 / 51 states. 53% done!

2021 Fall Into Reading Challenge

My Progress:

0 / 24 books. 0% done!

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
(Hosted by Yours Truly!)

My Progress:

6 / 25 books. 24% done!

2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge

My Progress:

32 / 50 books. 64% done!

Booklist Queen's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

35 / 52 books. 67% done!

2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

The 52 Club's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

39 / 52 books. 75% done!
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Gothic-y Mystery a Compelling Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I'm perpetually behind on reviews and this one is a good example.  I read The Daughters of Foxcote Manor (also called The Glass House) by Eve Chase way back in April.  While I enjoyed it, I really can't remember much about it.  So, I'm going to cheat and use the official blurb:

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They're grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house's dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour - and the law - don't seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.

Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

From the author of Black Rabbit Hall, The Glass House is a emotional, thrilling book about family secrets and belonging - and how we find ourselves when we are most lost. 

Thank goodness for GoodReads, where I faithfully record my impressions of a book right after I read it.  Here's what I said about this one:

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor ticks all my favorite reading boxes: Gothic vibes, family secrets, atmospheric setting, interesting characters, etc.  It's an engrossing novel with a strong sense of place, well-developed characters, and a plot that kept me turning pages.  I loved Rita, although I wasn't as enamored of Sylvie.  Still, they're both relatable, sympathetic characters whose voices kept me engaged in the story.  While I guessed some of the book's plot twists, there were others that surprised me. Overall, then, I found this novel to be a compelling, satisfying read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels by Eve Chase, including Black Rabbit Hall and The Wilding Sisters)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (1 F-bomb—I think—plus milder expletives), violence, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR List, Part One

Since I'm not feeling very inspired by today's TTT topic—Top Ten Books With Numbers in the Titles—I'm going to skip ahead to next week's, which is all about what's on my Fall TBR list.  I'm still hoping to read at least 55 books before the year ends, so I'll give you ten potential reads this week and ten next week.  I'll miss the next two weeks after that because I'll be in...drumroll, please...Europe!  We're heading out soon for our long-awaited sightseeing/family history trip to the U.K. and France.  My ancestors emigrated from England, Wales, and Scotland in the 1800s and I, personally, have never been back.  I'm excited to be able to finally see their homelands for myself.  

If you want to join in the TTT fun (and you do!), click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.

Top Ten Books on My Fall 2021 TBR List

1.  Survive the Night by Riley Sager—I've mentioned this one a few times already because I'm so excited to read Sager's newest thriller about a ride-share road trip gone wrong.  I'm finally at the top of the library's queue, so I should have this one in my hot little hands within the next week or so.

2.  Beyond the Mapped Stars by Rosalyn Eves—I bought a copy of this MG historical set in 1878, which is about a teen girl who's caught between the future she wants as an astronomer and the one she's expected to lead as a proper Mormon girl, soon to be married off despite her young age. 

3.  Where Echoes Lie by Shannon Schuren (available October 19, 2021)—This eerie YA thriller sounds like the perfect read for Halloween.  It's about a teenage girl who's obsessed by a local legend about a ghost bride who haunts her Kentucky town.

4.  Cackle by Rachel Harrison (available October 5, 2021)—Another fun Halloween yarn, this one concerns a woman looking for a fresh start who moves to a quaint town in upstate New York.  She's charmed by her new town, where everything is just too perfect to be real.  Her new bestie included.  It's not long before the newcomer begins to realize that something a little...otherworldly...may be going on.

5.  Bottomland by Michelle Hoover—I need a book set in Iowa for the Literary Escapes Challenge and this novel sounds intriguing.  It's about a German family in America who's been the center of anti-German sentiment following World War I.  When two of their daughters go missing one night, they fear the worst.  What happened to the girls?  Will they ever be found?

6.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë—This classic fits a few reading challenge prompts I need to fill, so it's a good time for a re-read.

7.  The Gold in These Hills by Joanne Bischof—This dual-timeline novel concerns Juniper Cohen, a mail-order bride who finds love with a kind man in a rough California mining town.  When he disappears, she's confused and distraught.  One hundred years later, a struggling single dad finds the letters Juniper wrote to her lost husband and becomes embroiled in their long-ago mystery.

8.  The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn BarnesThe Inheritance Games is a fun YA novel about an ordinary girl who learns she's in the running to inherit an immense fortune.  I've been looking forward to the sequel, which continues the story of the madcap competition that will win someone a very large amount of money.

9.  The Cure for What Ales You by Ellie Alexander (available October 5, 2021)—The Sloan Krause series is one of my favorite cozies, so I'm eagerly awaiting this fifth installment.  In this one, Sloan is still on the hunt for her birthmother.  When the woman she believes is her mother becomes a suspect in a murder, things start to get super complicated...

10.  What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson—Idaho is another of the few states I have left in the Literary Escapes Challenge, so I'm going to give this YA book a go.  It's about two desperate teenagers on the hunt for a cache of money that will enable both to survive their bleak existences.  They're not the only ones, however, who will stop at nothing to find the stash.

There you go, a variety of novels I'm hoping to read this Fall.  Have you read any of them?  What did you think?  What are you planning to read in the next few months?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!  

Monday, September 13, 2021

Wholesome Historical Romance a Warm, Uplifting Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With her father away from home to find work, 20-year-old Tansy Calhoun must pitch in even more than usual to help her family.  Not only does she help her mother take care of the home and care for her younger siblings, but Tansy also works as a packhorse librarian.  Delivering books to the folks nestled high in the Appalachian Mountains is the highlight of her long days.  She loves the freedom, the land, and the people.  While there's satisfaction in the simplicity of her life, Tansy can't help but long for the kinds of magical romances she reads about in books.  Is it too much to hope for a Prince Charming of her own?

After working out of state with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), 26-year-old Caleb Barton has returned to Kentucky to help his mother after the death of his brother.  He's surprised to learn that Tansy—the girl he's been in love with since childhood—remains unmarried.  When a smooth-talking writer comes into town looking for stories for the Federal Writers' Project, his sights land on the pretty librarian as well.  Can Caleb wrestle up the courage to finally confess his feelings for Tansy before it's too late?

Crochety spinster Perdita Sweet may still be embittered over her own lost love, but she's not about to let Tansy make a poor choice.  Can her meddling persuade her starry-eyed cousin to stop looking for love inside the pages of a novel and see that the perfect man is right in front of her?  Or will Tansy break all their hearts by falling for the fancy city slicker?

I love historical fiction, but I usually prefer a tale that is about more than just romance.  A love story is fine; I just like it as a subplot rather than the main one.  So, I hesitated a little to pick up Along a Storied Trail, the newest historical romance by Ann H. Gabhart, since it seemed to be all romance.  I worried I'd get bored with it.  Was I right?  Yes and no.  The novel definitely lacks in action and conflict, which makes it drag at times.  Tansy also lacks a tangible story goal, something that gives her a reason to take risks and give her all to a cause she's passionate about in spite of whatever might get in her way.  She has her book deliveries, sure, but they're not something she really has to fight for, you know?  Likewise, she doesn't have to battle to win Caleb's love.  She's already got it.  All of this means that while I liked Tansy, I didn't become super invested in her story.  I wanted good things for her, yes, but I also never doubted she would get them.  What I would have liked to see is a little more conflict, struggle, and growth from Tansy.  This would have made her story more gripping and unputdownable for me.

That being said, Along a Storied Trail really is a warm, uplifting story.  The characters aren't overly original or memorable, but they're good, kind-hearted people.  It's impossible not to like them.  The Appalachian setting is vivid and colorful, a backdrop that feels authentic.  As I mentioned, the novel doesn't have a lot of plot, so it does get a little dull here and there.  There was enough going on in the tale to keep me reading, but it did take me a few days to get through this one (whereas I can speed through an engrossing thriller in a matter of hours).  I don't always love Christian novels because they can get preachy and heavy-handed, but Gabhart handles the religious elements in Along a Storied Trail well.  She makes faith feel natural, as if it's just a normal, daily thing for the story's hill people.  I love that!  All these things considered, then, I ended up enjoying this novel.  It's the first I've read by Gabhart, but it won't be the last.  When I'm looking for another clean, uplifting historical novel, I'll definitely look for other titles by her.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scenes of peril and scary situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Along a Storied Trail from the generous folks at Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Thursday, September 09, 2021

Novel Shows Beauty of Found Family in All Its Complicated Glory

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After suffering her own trauma, Dahlia Moscatelli has become a prisoner in her own home.  That doesn't mean she can't offer it as a refuge to others, though.  She and her husband, Louie, are already sheltering three long-term foster children.  When a social worker begs Dahlia to take in one more—a six-year-old who's been horribly abused and needs emergency placement—she hesitates.  Not only is Agnes Juniper a traumatized little girl with developmental delays, but she's also half Native American.  It's 1959 in small-town Massachusetts and the Moscatellis already have enough trouble with the neighbors over taking in so many kids.  When Dahlia meets Agnes, however, she caves.  The damaged youngster is in such obvious need that none of the Moscatellis can bear to turn her away.

It's clear from the get-go that Agnes' presence is about to change the lives of everyone in the Moscatelli household.  Over the next decade and a half, as they embrace the little girl and work together to love away her pain, the Moscatellis experience all the sorrows, challenges, and triumphs that define family life.  With one special girl at their center, all of them will find healing like they've never known before.

Describing All the Children Are Home by Patry Francis is difficult because the novel really doesn't have a plot.  The story meanders here and there as it details everything that happens when Agnes disrupts the Moscatellis' lives for the better.  Because the tale is so unfocused, it definitely sags in places.  Still, all in all, I found All the Children Are Home to be quite compelling.  The characters are sympathetic and likable, even if some of them (Dahlia and Louie in particular) are not exactly warm, fuzzy types.  Their story feels authentic.  It's sad, with a realistically untidy end, and yet, it's also a hopeful tale about the beauty of found family in all its complicated glory.  I liked the novel overall.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, disturbing subject matter, and depictions of illegal drug use (marijuana)

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of All the Children Are Home with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

TTT: The Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books I've Read So Far This Year

I need more happy reads in my life because prompts like today's—Top Ten Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face—always leave me scratching my head.  Although I do like a fun cozy mystery as well as humorous characters, I just don't read very many smiley kinds of books.  I did manage to come up with ten for February's list of Top Ten Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud and that was tough enough.  So, I'm going rogue once again.  As promised last week when I listed the Top Ten Best Novels I've Read So Far This Year, this week I'm going to give you the non-fiction version.  Today's list was a much easier one to put together because I've only read, ahem, nine non-fiction books in 2021.  Luckily, all of them were excellent.  I am going to include the one I DNF'd as well because I only ditched the audio—I want to read the book instead of listen to it because I was missing too much by just listening.  

Want to join in the TTT fun?  Hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.

Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books I've Read So Far This Year

- in no particular order -

1.  The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Story of a Donner Party Bride by Daniel James Brown—I know, I know, it's weird to want to read about the Donner Party, but I've long been a fan of pioneer stories and survival tales.  This one is both.  It's also about a lot more than cannibalism.  Brown does an excellent job telling the epic story in all its tragic horror, without sensationalizing the truly horrific bits.  It's a fascinating account of a terrible journey.

2.  Atomic Habits by James Clear—I loved this self-help book about how to make goals attainable.  Clear gives some great advice on not only how to set reachable goals, but also how to break bad habits.

3.  The Cold Vanish by Jon Billman—I just reviewed this absorbing book about the jaw-dropping number of people who go missing every year in North America's federal lands.  Why do they vanish?  And what is being done to find them?    

4.  A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary—Did your childhood reading life revolve around Beverly Clearly?  Mine did.  This first volume of the author's autobiography provides an interesting look at Cleary's growing-up years and how they informed both her character and her writing.

5.  American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser—I've always been fascinated by adoption stories, even before becoming an adoptive mother myself.  This book uses the story of an unwed mother who placed her child for adoption in the 1960s as a vehicle to explore how poorly such women were treated, not just by the system but by society and their own families.  It's a heartbreaking, eye-opening, thought-provoking read.

6.  The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest by Mark Synnott—This book tells the story of Synnott's Mount Everest expedition, which focused not on summitting the mountain but on finding a lost piece of Everest history.  This is a more academic study of Everest than most and yet, I found it just as interesting (although much slower) than Jon Krakauer's popular Into Thin Air.

7.  The Answer Is... by Alex Trebek—I was surprised to discover that this book is actually quite light and funny.  It's less of an autobiography and more of a rumination on a life well lived.

8.  Dead Wake by Erik Larson—Disaster books are another of my weird reading likes.  This one, about the sinking of the Lusitania during World War I, made for a really interesting read (listen, actually, as I enjoyed it on audio).

9.  The Lost Family by Libby Copeland—Genealogy is another of my big interests, so I couldn't resist this book about how DNA testing is changing our ideas of family, nature vs. nurture, privacy, and so on.  It's riveting!

10.  Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing—Like I said, I started listening to this book on audio, but I kept having to rewind it to catch parts I missed.  Since I didn't want to miss a word, I decided to pick it up in book form instead.  

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What are the best non-fiction books you've read this year?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!       

Friday, September 03, 2021

Overhyped Dog Novel Just Doesn't Resonate With Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

At ten years old, Enzo knows his life is coming to an end.  He doesn't mind.  As a dog whose soul is "very human," he's pretty sure he's going to be reincarnated as a man, a prospect he's very much looking forward to.  After all, Enzo has been studying humans his whole life.  Not only has he watched a considerable amount of educational television, but he's also been observing his owner, Denny Swift, ever since the race car driver brought him home as a puppy.  With all the wisdom he's gathered, Enzo knows he'll make a stellar human.

As Enzo ruminates over what he's learned from a canine life well lived, he tells the story of Denny's life—from his career as a pro race car driver, to his marriage to Eve, to the birth of their daughter, Zoë, to how everything changed when Denny began to lose all of them.  Like all faithful companions, Enzo is there through it all to mourn with his best friend, cheer him on, and lick his wounds (sometimes literally).  Along the way, he learns some great lessons about what it means to be human.  

I'm not a big fan of stories narrated by animals, so I have given The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein a wide berth for a long time, in spite of the many rave reviews it's gotten.  I only decided to take it on because I needed a new audiobook to listen to and my library seemed to have nothing else that was immediately available.  Although it started as a reluctant listen, I ended up finding the novel compelling enough to finish.  Did I love it?  Can't say that I did.  Do I understand why it's so overhyped?  I do not.  The story moves at a glacial pace for much of the book, although it does pick up after the Big Event happens.  Problem is, I hated the direction the tale took at that point.  It wasn't what I expected or wanted.  Thus, the read just felt sad, depressing, and...ugh.  I did finish the book, like I said, but I found The Art of Racing in the Rain to be an average read at best.  Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that I don't love animal books and I have no interest in car racing; a lot of my issues, though, stemmed from a story that just didn't resonate with me.  Bummer.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), sexual content, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Fall Into Reading Challenge 2021

I'm not a BookTuber or a Bookstagrammer (I do have an Instagram account for Bloggin' 'bout Books, but I don't post there very often).  To be honest, I sort of forget these mediums exist even though they revolve around my favorite subject: books.  Thank goodness for the lovely Nicole over at Bookwyrm Knits who posted about a fun Fall reading challenge that was announced a couple weeks ago on BookTube (just FYI: her links go to the 2020 challenge).  The Fall Into Reading Challenge is a prompt-based challenge that is hosted by four YouTubers:  Tia at Tia and All the Books, Kelly at Cozy Reader Kelly, Angie at Literary Labors, and Rainey at Rainey Day Reads.  Because the prompts are very general, I'm going to do the harder 24-square level:

I'm not going to pre-plan any reading for the challenge since the books I'm already tentatively "planning" to read in the next few months fit these categories pretty well.  We'll see what I end up doing.  You can track my progress with this challenge—and all the others I'm participating in—by checking out the left sidebar of my blog.  For more details, like which books I'm using for which challenges, click on the "Reading Challenges" tab in my blog header.

Also, you may not know or may not remember that I started Ready for a Reading Challenge? at the end of 2019 to act as a database for all the reading challenges going on around the Internet.  While there's not a lot going on over there at this time of year, pretty soon it will be hopping with lots of announcements about new challenges for 2022.  If you are hosting a challenge in the new year or if you see one announced, please let me know so I can add it to the database.  Free advertising!  

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Mormon Mentions: Jon Billman

If you haven't got a clue what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain: When I see a reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nickname: Mormons) in a book which was not written by a member of the Church, I post it here. With commentary from Yours Truly.  I'm no theologian, but I try to explain doctrinal issues as well as debunk myths and clear up misconceptions.  Speaking of, I should probably make this crystal clear: My dad only has one wife. As does my husband.  And, yes, people really have asked me those questions.  (I've also been asked if I have horns.  Of course I do!  I just keep them hidden under my hair.  Duh.)  Just FYI: mainstream Mormons haven't practiced polygamy for more than 120 years.

Everybody got that? Great. Let's move on...

In The Cold Vanish, Jon Billman talks about the search for a man named Troy James Knapp, a survivalist who lived off the spoils he acquired from breaking into cabins in Southern Utah for seven years before he was caught and jailed in 2013.  

  • Of Southern Utah's arid landscape, Billman says:  "It was drier than a Mormon wedding." (205)
Ha ha.  This reference made me laugh out loud!  If you know anything about my church it's that its members abide by a health code known as The Word of Wisdom.  It stipulates that we abstain from drinking alcohol, hot beverages (coffee and tea), using tobacco, and ingesting other substances that are harmful to the body.  Thus, alcoholic beverages are not consumed by Latter-day Saints and not served at Mormon wedding receptions.  In fact, I was shocked when, at a recent reception, I was handed an empty glass for a later toast to the bride and groom.  Toasts are not traditionally part of Mormon receptions.  This one—of course—was done with Martinelli's sparkling apple cider!

  • About Knapp:  "At times he appeared angry at Latter[sic]D[sic]ay Saints—he shot holes in a portrait of Joseph Smith and ripped up the Book of Mormon." (200)
I don't know anything about Knapp's religious background.  Perhaps he is a disgruntled former member of the Church.  Or he just likes to be destructive.  Morality is obviously not the man's strong suit.  Desecrating religious paintings and sacred books, especially while in the act of ransacking a stranger's cabin, are simply not the actions of a good man (although the owners probably forgave him since both Joseph Smith's [the Church's first prophet and president] teachings and the Book of Mormon preach forgiveness for all). 

Haunting and Memorable, The Cold Vanish Explores Alarming Number of Missing Persons Lost in North America's National Lands

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Did you know that each year in the United States about 600,000 people go missing?  Most vanish in populated places.  The majority of them are found alive and in a short amount of time.  While these statistics are comforting in a way, the one Jon Billman is concerned about is this—around 1600 people are currently missing from North America's public lands (including national parks, national forests, and BLM land).  And this, Billman says, is likely a vast understatement.  For various reasons, hundreds go missing on federal land every year; many are never found.  

In The Cold Vanish, the writer uses the story of Jacob Gray (link contains spoilers)—a 22-year-old from California who disappeared in Washington's Olympic Peninsula while on a solo bicycling trip—as a springboard to explore these disappearing acts.  Who is most likely to vanish on public land?  Why?  And what is being done to locate the missing?  Billman discusses obstacles to finding people in the wild (vast acreage, inclement weather, difficult terrain, bureaucratic red tape, etc.) as well as the lengths that volunteers (including a group of dedicated Bigfoot hunters) have gone to to find missing hikers, bicyclers, and explorers.  Since so many of the circumstances surrounding these disappearances are strange, even inexplicable, Billman also talks about the more out-there explanations embraced by some: aliens, Sasquatch, and other otherworldly explanations.  The levity of this discussion is over-balanced, however, by those about how a missing persons investigation affects the family and friends who are left behind with no answers and no closure.  It's heartbreaking. 

Although there has apparently been a bit of a hubbub over Billman's portrayal of Jacob Gray, including some "facts" of the case that Billman may have gotten wrong, I found his coverage of Jacob's case to be both sensitive and absorbing.  On the whole, The Cold Vanish is very informative, compulsively readable, and highly compelling.  Also, sad and disturbing.  Although I read the book quickly, what I learned has stayed with me.  Haunted me.  My biggest takeaway: always maintain a healthy respect for Mother Nature, which will kill you just as soon as cradle you.  When exploring, stay on established paths, don't venture out alone, take a cell phone, and always—always—be prepared with emergency supplies.  Not doing any one of these, as Billman so clearly points out, can be deadly.

*Thanks to Lark for recommending this book to me.  You can see her excellent review of The Cold Vanish here.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Jon Krakauer, especially Into the Wild, as well as Carried by Michelle Schmidt and Angie Taylor)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best Novels I've Read So Far This Year

I'm not much for book boyfriends—I've been married to my real-life sweetheart for 24 years as of yesterday and that's better than any fictional romance!—so I was going to skip this week's Top Ten Tuesday.  Then I realized that as tomorrow is September 1, we're official 2/3 of the way through 2021.  With only four months left in the year, I started thinking about what I've read so far and what I still want to get to before 2022.  Of the 135 books I've read, only a handful have been really stand-out reads.  So, I decided to share with you the ten (well, eleven) best novels I've read so far.  Since I'm not feeling very inspired by next week's topic either, I'll post my ten non-fiction picks then.  

Before we get to that, be sure to click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl and give Jana, our lovely TTT hostess, some love!

Top Ten (Okay, Eleven) Best Novels I've Read in 2021 (So Far)

- not including re-reads and in no particular order - 

1.  The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian—This historical novel set in 1920s Mississippi features two young women living hardscrabble lives who must team up to cover up the unintentional murder that brings them together.  Absorbing and atmospheric, this is a beautifully-written debut.

2.  The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny—No surprise here.  I adore the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series and this installment, the 11th, is particularly intriguing.

3.  Bluebird by Sharon Cameron (available October 5, 2021)—I've enjoyed all of Cameron's books, but this YA World War II novel is my favorite.  It has everything I love in a good hist-fic read: an atmospheric setting, a compelling plot, lovable characters, and excellent writing.

4.  Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty (available September 14, 2021)—I was thrilled to get a paper ARC of this up-and-comer from an author whose books I've enjoyed.  Not gonna lie, her last few have not been up to snuff.  This one, though?  It's a gem.  A family saga + a mystery + a funny, upbeat plot.  What's not to love?  

5.  The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs—Another no-brainer.  The long-running Tempe Brennan series is one of my favorites.  This installment, the 20th, has our intrepid heroine digging into the mystery of a storage container with two corpses stuffed inside that washes up during a South Carolina storm at the same time a horrifying flesh-eating bacteria is rearing its ugly head around the U.S..  It's another riveting page-turner from Reichs.

6.  If It Rains by Jennifer L. Wright—I just finished this debut, which tells a rich, powerful story about the Dust Bowl.  It's technically a Christian novel, but the religious elements are well-woven into the tale and never get preachy or cheesy, at least in my opinion.  It's moving, hopeful (in the end, at least), and faith-promoting.

7.  The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman—This middle-grade novel was one of my first reads of the year.  I loved the story about an adopted, mixed-race girl who has to learn to come to terms with her different ethnicities, cultures, and families.  

8.  Dark August by Katie Tallo—Also read early in the year, this gritty mystery/thriller set in a mysterious ghost town, kept me turning pages late into the night.  I just saw that a sequel is being released in 2022.  Can't wait!

9.  The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner—This historical, about an Irish immigrant who travels to San Francisco to become the wife of a man she's never met and finds herself in the middle of the famous 1906 earthquake, is another atmospheric, absorbing read.  I've enjoyed lots of Meissner's books, but this one is my favorite (I think).

10.  The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm—I tend to read mostly darker, more serious fiction, so it's always nice when I come across a book that's just a fun, feel-good read.  That's exactly what this middle-grade gem is! 

11.  A Distance Too Grand by Regina Scott—This historical is also on the lighter side.  It deals with a female photographer who is determined to take her dead father's place on an 1871 expedition to the Grand Canyon.  Along with proving herself as a photographer, she also has to survive the treacherous trip and guard her heart against an old flame.  Also a Christian novel, this one is clean, uplifting, and compelling.  It's a fun start to a series I'm very much enjoying.  Thanks to Lark for the recommendation!

There you go, eleven of the best novels I've read this year.  Have you read any of them?  What did you think?  What are the best books you've come across in 2021?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

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