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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 (4)
- North Carolina (1)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (6)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee
- Texas (1)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (3)
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming (1)
- *Washington, D.C.

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

My Progress:


28 / 51 states. 55% 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:


7 / 25 books. 28% done!

2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge

My Progress:


33 / 50 books. 66% 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, April 29, 2021

Mormon Mentions: Libby Copeland

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture.

(Note:  In 2018, Russell M. Nelson—president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsmade an impassioned plea to members of the Church and to the media to always use the full and correct name of the Church instead of referring to it by its various nicknames.  This led to the renaming of many Church entities, including its famous choir, which is now The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.  Although I have been trying to think up a clever new name for this feature that is more in line with President Nelson's request, for the moment it remains "Mormon Mentions.")

----

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is well known for its long-held interest in genealogy/family history, so it's no surprise that the Church is mentioned several times in The Lost Family by Libby Copeland:

"It matters deeply to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who their ancestors are because this knowledge allows them to carry out a grave responsibility, to save souls and ensure the sanctity of the family unit in the afterlife" (29).

- One of the most comforting doctrines taught by the Church is that families are forever, bound together both in this life and the next.  Building temples, in which familial bonds are cemented through sacred covenants, is a priority because this eternal binding is of utmost importance to the leadership and membership of the Church.  I love this video, which explains this better than I can:



"FamilySearch, though, is not a business.  It is a massive project free to everyone, dedicated to the idea that we're all better off if we know our ancestors...[The Church] also runs the website FamilySearch.org, where you can search more than five billion records" (29).

- If you have any interest in family history, I strongly recommend visiting FamilySearch.  It's run by the Church, but anyone can use its abundant free resources.  If you need help navigating the site, let me know.  I'm happy to help.  

Approachable DNA/Genealogy Book An Engrossing, Thought-Provoking Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If you hang out here at BBB with any regularity, you know that I'm an adoptive mom as well as an avid genealogist.  I'm so into family history, in fact, that I'm currently working on becoming accredited as a professional genealogist in two regions: U.S. Southwest and U.S. Great Lakes.  COVID has slowed the process, but I'm hoping to finish my testing this year.  I'm not a big tv watcher (I'd rather read, thank you very much!); however, I have been known to binge-watch shows like Finding Your Roots, Genealogy Roadshow, Relative Race, and Who Do You Think You Are?.  I've been quietly researching my adopted daughter's birth family's genealogy since she was born.  Bottom line?  I go nuts over anything related to family history: research, DNA, adoption reunions, family heirlooms, passed-down stories, etc.  Given all that, I was immediately drawn to The Lost Family by Libby Copeland.  How could I resist a book that promised to tick off so many of my favorite reading boxes? 

The book tells the story of Alice Collins Plebuch, a woman who took a DNA test that returned results that were unexpected and perplexing.  To say the least.  The confusing information led her on a journey that required painstaking research, uncomfortable questions, and an almost complete overhaul of everything she knew about herself and her family.  Copeland uses Plebuch's incredible story as a framework for discussing the relatively new technology of DNA home-testing, which allows anyone to spit in a tube, upload very personal information to a very public forum, and share all the secrets hiding in their genes with the world.  While doing so has led to joyous reunions between biological family members, answers to heart-wrenching questions, and even the bringing to justice of the Golden State Killer, they've also been the catalyst for broken hearts, renewed feelings of abandonment, privacy breaches, and the revelation of long-buried secrets that maybe should have been kept that way.  Copeland poses some deep, thought-provoking questions on the subject like:
  • Should the public posting of DNA results be more regulated to protect those who are not actively seeking answers?
  • What makes a family?
  • How much does one's genetics really influence the person they become?
  • Should DNA results be automatically shared with law enforcement agencies in the pursuit of greater-good justice-seeking in spite of privacy issues?
  • Do the children of adoption and sperm donation have the right to seek their birth families, regardless of whether those people want to be contacted?
Copeland's exploration of these questions and more makes for fascinating food for thought.  If your book club is looking for a discussion-worthy read, you just found it!

Although The Lost Family digs into complex science and even more complicated philosophical questions, it's actually a very readable book.  Copeland's style is laidback and conversational, making her book a great pick for experienced genealogists as well as family history newbies.  The stories she includes—about Alice and many others—makes her subject intimate and personal.  It's not often that I race through a volume of non-fiction, but I cruised through this one eagerly lapping up every word.  Needless to say, I enjoyed the read immensely.  

I choose paper books over their e-versions on most occasions, but I purposely bought this one digitally so that I could mark it up and easily search for memorable passages.  Here are a few of my favorites:

"Secrets, we are all discovering, have a propulsive power all their own, and time and complicity only make them more powerful.  Once you decide to keep a secret, the secret maintains a circular logic, even when circumstances change.  Many seekers say the fact of the secret is the thing that nags at them, more than the nature of the secret itself" (3-4).

"The sheer girth of those numbers means that even if you don't choose to send away for a kit, it increasingly doesn't matter.  Especially in the United States, where DNA testing is more popular than anywhere else, all of us are already drawn in by the decisions of other people who share our genetic material—people who, in many cases, we've never met.  As bioethicist Thomas H. Murray told me, 'You don't get to opt out.'" (4) 

"We look for ourselves in our family histories and in our genes, but such things alone do not make identity.  We human beings are the meaning-makers, each of us a product of a particular time and place, with ideas about what we value and, indeed, what we hope to find when we look" (28).

"...when one person spits into a vial or swabs her cheek, her whole family is implicated" (50).

"For science to use someone's body to attempt to disprove something sacred to that person—is that the uncovering of truth or a violation?" (67).

I could go on, but I'll stop there and just encourage you to read the book for yourself.  Also, I'd love to know your experiences with and feelings on DNA testing.  I find the whole subject utterly fascinating.  My husband, adopted daughter, and I all did ours through Ancestry years ago.  Like Copeland, I was "at once disappointed and relieved not to find any big surprises in my results...boring results can be a blessing" (32).

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Inheritance by Dani Shapiro and It's All Relative by A.J. Jacobs)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and disturbing subject matter (rape, incest, murder, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Lost Family with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: I'm Not a Pet Person, But...


Are you an animal lover?  My kids accuse me of being an animal hater, which isn't true at all (witness: I've let them have pet goldfish, a hyperactive puppy, even a feral cat).  I like all kinds of creatures (at least of the four-legged variety); I just prefer that they belong to someone else.  Petting sweet, snuggly animals is fun.  Cleaning up poop, listening to endless barking/whining, paying vet bills, trying to tame aggressiveness, dealing with chewed-up everything?  Not fun.  

A couple weeks ago, my husband got randomly bitten in the stomach by a homeless woman's unleashed pit bull while walking through the parking lot of a suburban strip mall.  Back in the Fall, his aunt was attacked by a friend's canine.  Both of them have PTSD from the experience (although their physical wounds have, thankfully, healed just fine).  So, no animal companions for us.  We do enjoy the wild menagerie that parades about in our backyard—bunnies, quail, lizards, squirrels, and the occasional bobcat—but we're definitely not pet people (although it took us a few pets to figure that out).

Considering what I've just told you, it's probably not a surprise that books about animals are not something I seek out.  So, I had to think a bit before I could come up with a list of ten to fit today's TTT prompt:  Top Ten Favorite Animals in Books.  I do have some, even though anthropomorphic narrators are actually a big pet peeve of mine.  As a child, I loved reading about animal characters.  These days?  Not so much, although I can definitely appreciate a loyal, funny, inventive, smart, or just adorable animal character.  The list below proves it! 

Before we get to that, though, I want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  Hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.  If you can't think of books to fit the topic, no worries.  Spin it your own way or do a themed list that you make up yourself.  Any way you shake it, TTT is a good ole time.  

Top Ten Favorite Animals in Books 


1.  Wilbur and Charlotte from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White—This is the first title that came to mind when I saw the prompt.  Who doesn't love cheerful Wilbur and his wise spider friend, Charlotte?  I adored this book as a kid.


2.  Black Beauty from Black Beauty by Anna Sewell—I was obsessed with horses (reading about them, at least) as a child.  This classic, narrated by the titular colt, totally captivated young me.


3.  Manchee from The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness—In this YA series, all living things can read each other's thoughts, so Manchee the dog can "speak" to his master, Todd Hewitt.  Although his thoughts are simpler than those of the human characters, his personality and unfailing loyalty come through loud and clear.


4.  Marley from Marley & Me by John Grogan—I was surprised by how much I loved this animal book when I read it.  I laughed, I cried...I adored it.  The film is just as heartwarming and touching.


5.  Nyah from The Elephant's Girl by Celesta Rimington—Elephants are always depicted as wise, gentle creatures.  Nyah is such a pachyderm in this middle-grade novel about a girl who lives in a zoo.


6.  Ivan from The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate—As with Marley & Me, I really didn't expect to love this middle-grade novel as much as I did.  Ivan, a caring gorilla, won me over.  Big time.


7.  Mrs. Frisby from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien—I remember this story more from the movie than the book, but still...I felt for the titular mouse, a brave widow trying to save her young children.  Mice are not animals I like.  Mrs. Frisby, though?  She's the exception.


8.  Jethro from the Amish Candy Shop mystery series by Amanda Flower—Jethro's a mischievous pot-bellied pig whose besotted owner believes he's going to be the next big Hollywood star.  He's a pretty fun character, I have to say.


9.  Too many to chose a favorite from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling—Fawkes, Scabbers, Hedwig, Fang, Buckbeak, Fluffy...the list goes on and on.  There are tons of great animal characters in this series.


10.  Toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell—Okay, this is kind of a cheat since I haven't actually read these books and I hear they're different from the movies.  Still, I love Toothless.

There you go, ten favorite fictional animals.  Which are your faves?  Are you an animal person?  Do you have pets?  Or are you like me, someone who enjoys critters more in books than in real life?  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, April 26, 2021

The Mountains Wild An Atmospheric, Engrossing Opener to a Promising New Mystery Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Maggie D'Arcy never planned on becoming a cop.  Not until her 23-year-old cousin, Erin Flaherty, went missing two decades ago in Ireland, never to be seen again.  Her amateur investigation then fueled her passion for solving mysteries, leading to her career as a homicide detective in New York.  Now 45, Maggie is a divorced single mom, who's passionate about her daughter and her work.  Still haunted by Erin's disappearance, she can't stop thinking about her still-missing cousin.

When Maggie receives a phone call from Dublin, informing her that Erin's scarf has been found and that it might be a clue to a current missing persons case, Maggie flies to Ireland to help local police with their investigation.  The disappearance of a Galway schoolteacher is just as confounding as Erin's case.  Are the two connected?  As she retraces her cousin's steps, interviewing those who were close to Erin, and searching for clues, Maggie becomes increasingly frustrated.  She's especially confused by her growing attraction to Conor Kearney, a former co-worker of Erin's who's now an associate professor at Trinity College.  The man seems to know more than he's saying.  Did he have something to do with Erin's disappearance?  If he didn't, who did?  Maggie is determined to find out what happened to the missing teacher and to solve Erin's case, once and for all.  Even if it means putting herself in a killer's crosshairs.  

I always dig an atmospheric mystery and The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor is certainly that.  The first in a series starring capable, determined Maggie D'Arcy, it's an engaging, compelling novel that moves slowly but surely toward a resolution I didn't see coming.  The characters are sympathetic and likable, the Irish backdrop is vivid and immersive, and the plot is engrossing and twisty.  Even though its pace is more measured than other thrillers, The Mountains Wild kept me eagerly turning pages.  I enjoyed it enough that I immediately downloaded the next book in the series (A Distant Grave, available June 21, 2021) from NetGalley.  Needless to say, I'm excited to see where the series goes.  It's always exciting to find a new one to love!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Tana French, Dervla McTiernan, Tessa Wegert, and Jane Casey)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Colorful, On Trend Historical Fiction Covers


Carrying on with the Crayola theme from last week, today's Top Ten Tuesday is all about colorful book covers.  Funny thing about that—when you read a lot of dark mysteries, chilling thrillers, and sobering historical novels, you don't end up with a lot of bright, fanciful cover art!  Since those genres are my jam, I struggled to come up with any colorful covers at all, let alone ten.  As I was scrolling through my TBR lists on Goodreads, however, I did see some interesting trends and patterns in the cover art of some of the books I'm looking forward to reading.  Even if you're not a big hist-fic fan, you've probably noticed that dozens of recent additions to the genre feature covers with women looking away from the camera.  If you look further, you'll also see that many of these are done in mostly dark colors—black, grey, navy, emerald, etc.—with just pops of brighter hues, usually red.  While cover trends can get annoying, making books look too much alike, I can't deny that the kind of cover I just described really appeals to me.  It signals that this is the kind of novel I like, the sort I really want to read.  Like, now.  Just yesterday while browsing the book section at Costco, I answered the seductive siren call of a historical novel cover with—guess what?—a woman in a red (I guess it might be more purplish) coat looking away from the camera!  Well played, book marketers.  Well played.  I want to show you what I mean, so my list today will be comprised of historical novels on my TBR list that follow this trend.

What kind of list do you want to make today?  You can use the prompt, twist it up a little, or create your own list.  It doesn't matter what you do, just join in the TTT fun.  Hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl to get started.

Top Ten Historical Novels on My TBR List With Trending Cover Art



1.  The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin—This is the novel that hopped into my cart at Costco.  Don't you hate it when that happens?  It's about a woman who moves to London just as World War II is heating up.  She finds a job in a bookshop, where she learns about the transformative power of books and stories, especially in perilous times.


2.  The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (available June 29, 2021)—Based on a true story, this novel stars Belle de Costa Greene, who was hired by J.P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, art, and books for his Pierpont Morgan library.  A society darling known for her impeccable taste, Belle was keeping an explosive secret that could have ruined everything for her—her father is Black.


3.  Those Who Are Saved by Alexis Landau—Vera is a Russian Jew living in France.  When the Nazis take over the country, all Jews are ordered to report to an internment camp.  Desperate to save her young daughter, Vera leaves young Lucie with her governess, who vows to protect the little girl.  A chance to escape to America complicates the already impossible situation, leading to a heartbreaking separation that will tear Vera apart.  Will she ever see Lucie again?


4.  The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar (available June 1, 2021)—As France is torn apart by war, a librarian tries to offer her neighbors comfort through books.  When the Nazis threaten to destroy volumes they deem dangerous, she risks everything to save her beloved tomes.


5.  The Clockmaker's Wife by Daisy Wood—Featuring a dual-timeline, this novel concerns a woman in modern-day New York who finds a beautiful watch that belonged to her grandmother, whom she never knew.  Intrigued, she begins looking into her grandmother's past and is shocked by the harrowing World War II tale she uncovers...


6.  Off the Wild Coast of Brittany by Juliet Blackwell—Another WWII story set in France, this one revolves around a woman who's left high and dry after her husband leaves her.  With a half-finished guesthouse to deal with, she and her sister set about making the place inhabitable for visitors.  As they do so, they uncover the home's incredible war-time secrets.


7.  The Girl From the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat—Having fled Austria, a young Jewish woman is hiding in plain sight on the Nazi-occupied island of Jersey.  


8.  The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly—Okay, so this one has more than one pop of color, but I still think it fits the theme.  The story juggles three different timelines, all revolving around people who lived and worked around the lush garden at Highbury House.


9.  The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman—This one also bucks the trend a little since the person in red is a young girl and she's not facing away from the "camera," just shielding her face.  Still.  Set during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, the story concerns a 13-year-old German girl living in Philadelphia who must face prejudice against immigrants, crippling poverty, and forced separation from the younger brothers she has vowed to protect at all costs.


10.  The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent—When she gets a chance to escape the Texas brothel where she's basically being held hostage, Lucinda Carter takes it and doesn't look back.  With the promise of a pirate's treasure to be had, she embarks on an adventure that she hopes will lead to wealth, love, and freedom.

There you have it, ten books that follow the dark-covers-of-historical-novels-with-pops-of-red-and-women-facing-away trend.  Which others have you noticed?  Have you read any of these?  Which colorful covers did you choose for your list today?  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, April 19, 2021

Charming British Murder Mystery a Delightful Romp

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A luxury retirement home in Kent, Coopers Chase offers endless amenities to its residents.  Besides enjoying the lush, pastoral grounds, you can swim in the pool, read in the library, Zumba in the gym, and solve murders in the Jigsaw Room.  While the Thursday Murder Club isn't exactly the kind of thing Coopers Chase advertises in its glossy brochures, it's an entertaining diversion that helps four septuagenarians wile away empty hours while keeping their minds sharp.  

The club's focus has always been cold cases, but when a local land developer is killed, they jump at the chance to involve themselves in a real, live murder investigation.  After some top secret finagling, the club members manage to snag themselves a police liaison in the form of a young constable named Donna De Freitas.  Before she knows what's happening, the bewildered policewoman is a full-fledged member of the club, swapping clues and theories with her new Thursday Murder Club BFF's.  Together, they have to ask some tough questions—Why was Tony Curran murdered?  What was meant by the photo left next to the corpse, which features the son of one of the club members?  Will the killer strike again?—and together, they just might solve a puzzling murder.

A debut novel and the first in a planned series, The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is just as charming as it sounds.  It's a fun read, with plenty of humor to keep it entertaining, although it also has some poignant moments.  The characters are colorful, creating an appealing cast.  Although The Thursday Murder Club isn't exactly a serious murder mystery, it's still twistier than I expected it to be.  I really thought I had the killer pegged, only to find out I was wrong.  A surprise ending (as long as it's also a logical one) is my favorite kind when it comes to mystery/thrillers.  While the novel does get chatty, making it a bit slow in places, I still very much enjoyed this engaging romp.  Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the next installment in this delightful new series.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths)

Grade:


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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Harper's Newest Another Twisty, Atmospheric Page Turner

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Returning to his Tasmanian hometown is never easy for 30-year-old Kieran Elliott.  He still gets the stink eye from Evelyn Bay locals, who blame him for the drowning deaths of two men—one of whom was his older brother, Finn—twelve years ago.  It's only fair since Kieran also blames himself for the accident that stole his idol, rocked his small town, and created a barrier of sorrow and guilt between him and his parents that has never gone away.  Kieran's reluctant to go back, but his father's dementia is worsening, necessitating a move to a nursing home, which means his mother needs help packing.  She also wants to spend time with her only grandchild, Kieran's infant daughter, Audrey. 

Kieran hasn't been in town long when a body washes up on shore.  The dead woman is Bronte Laidler, an art student from Canberra in town for the summer.  Although she drowned, there are some distressing signs that show Bronte's death might not have been an accident.  What really happened to Bronte?  Are the police correct in their suspicions that Kieran's father might have had something to do with her death?  Is this newest drowning connected to the events 12 years ago that turned Kieran into the town pariah?  The more questions he asks, the more Kieran is sure that the secrets of the past are the key to figuring out what—or who—caused Bronte's death.

I love Jane Harper, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed this book, her newest. The author is skilled at creating atmospheric settings and The Survivors' moody, broody Tasmanian backdrop is no exception. Evelyn Bay is a well-drawn small town with plenty of secrets and drama simmering under its surface. Kieran, Mia, and the other characters are sympathetic and likable, without being super memorable or unique. Still, their story is compelling. It moves a bit slowly, but it's still suspenseful and engrossing. I realized who the killer was about halfway through the book and yet I wasn't totally sure of their guilt until the very end. Overall, then, I found this an engrossing, satisfying read that kept my attention throughout.  While I tend to enjoy Harper's series books more than her standalone fiction, I'll read anything she writes.  I'm a fan.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Harper's other novels)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, depictions of underage drinking, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Highly Anticipated 2021 Release a Disappointing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When her documentary becomes instrumental in freeing a man she feels was wrongfully convicted of murder, filmmaker Tessa Shepherd is thrilled.  She spent countless hours interviewing Oliver Barlow, even coming to think of him as a friend.  Tessa believes—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that he's innocent, a victim of bungled policework.  After fourteen years in prison, Oliver Barlow can finally return to his wife and kids.  And he has Tessa to thank.

Eighteen months later, Tessa is shocked when Oliver posts a video online.  In it, he confesses that he has kidnapped a young woman and plans to kill her.  It's not long before a stunned Tessa is being vilified by the outraged public, all of them wondering how she could have been hoodwinked by a monster like Oliver.  When he mentions her name in a subsequent video, Tessa feels not just trapped but also hunted.  After the will of her recently deceased mother reveals that Tessa and her sister have inherited an old family home they didn't know existed, she decides to hide at Fallbrook.  The crumbling mansion is the site of an old, mysterious tragedy.  Now, it's inhabited only by ghosts.  Its elderly caretakers know what really happened there, but they're not talking.  Tessa is determined to unearth Fallbrook's secrets, no matter what it takes.  What went on in the isolated home?  What are the caretakers hiding?  Tessa has always been adept at reading people, but she was oh so very wrong about Oliver ...

As you can tell from the plot summary, there's a lot going on in The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell.  I went into the book thinking it would be an intriguing family drama with a little mystery thrown in along with a lot of creepy Gothic atmosphere.  So, I was a bit confused when the story seemed to center more on Tessa's investigation of Oliver Barlow.  Frankly, I cared little about anything happening in her present; my interest was in Fallbrook.  Unfortunately, Maxwell just couldn't seem to decide whether she was writing a cat-and-mouse mystery/thriller or a spooky drama/ghost story.  The mash-up didn't work for me.  The Caretakers ended up feeling unfocused, melodramatic, and weirdly paced.  I still whipped through the novel in a day because I wanted to see what would happen next, but overall, the tale felt dissatisfying to me.  This was one of my most highly anticipated novels of 2021, so I'm bummed.

(Readalikes:  The Gothic-y bits remind me of novels by Carol Goodman and Emily Carpenter)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (two F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Caretakers from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Colorful Reads


I'm rubbish when it comes to the really creative Top Ten Tuesday prompts, so today's is just impossible for me: Top Ten Book Titles That Sound Like Crayola Crayon Colors.  Seriously, I got nothin'.  The idea of color did get the cogs in my brain turning, though.  Since I did a list of specific colors found in book titles not too long ago, I decided to look at titles with the word "color" in them.  I found quite a few, which I'll talk about in a sec.

Before we do that, though, take a minute to click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl.  Jana has all the deets on how to participate in TTT.  It's a fun weekly event (even when the topic du jour is a toughie)—don't miss out!

Top Ten Books With "Color" in Their Titles  


1.  The Color Purple by Alice Walker—Not surprisingly, this is the first book that came to my mind.  It's been ages since I read this one, so I don't remember much about it except that it deals with two Black sisters in Georgia who stay connected through letters.  I recall it being a tough read with heavy subject matter (domestic and sexual abuse).


2.  Color Me Beautiful: Discover Your Natural Beauty Through the Colors That Make You Look Great and Feel Fabulous by Carole Jackson—I remember devouring this book as a kid, convinced that I'd look like a supermodel if I just found the right colors to make my drab brown hair and eyes come alive through the magic of colorful clothes!  If you've ever had your colors done to determine which "season" you are, you'll know what I'm talking about.  Oh, the '80s!

I haven't read any of these, but they all sound interesting to me:


3.  The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles—This historical novel takes place during the American Civil War and features a former slave who heads out West hoping to find freedom and safety for his family.  When a violent raid steals away everything he loves, he vows to get it back no matter the cost.


4.  True Colors by Kristin Hannah—I'm a big Hannah fan, so I'm down for this novel which revolves around three sisters and the shocking crime that rocks their world, revealing all their secrets along the way.


5.  The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride—When he was a child, McBride found his "light-skinned" mother embarrassing with her fiery, demanding ways and confusing in her evasiveness about her past.  It was only as an adult that he began to look into her background, which yielded shocking revelations about an enigmatic woman with a fascinating story.


6.  Color Me Dark by Patricia C. McKissack—I've talked about my love for the Dear America series before, I'm sure.  They're middle-grade books that bring historical events to life through the fictionalized diaries of young girls.  I've read a number of them as well as a few hist-fic titles by McKissack, but I'd never heard of this one until today.  Set in 1919, it's about the migration of Black people out of the American South to escape racism. 


7.  The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris—Intriguing title, no?  This one concerns a 13-year-old boy with synesthesia who's desperate to find out who killed his beloved neighbor.


8.  The Colors of the Rain by R.L. Toalson—I love historical middle-grade novels, so I'm surprised this one has never come across my radar before.  Written in verse, the book is about the tension and violence surrounding desegregation that took place in Houston, Texas, in 1972.


9.  Color Me Murder by Krista Davis—This series opener introduces Florrie Fox, a bookstore manager and adult coloring book creator, who becomes an amateur sleuth when she finds a dead body hidden in her shop.


10.  The Color of Water in July by Nora Carroll—Books about people inheriting family homes full of secrets always appeal to me.  This one is about a woman who returns to her ancestral cottage in Michigan, where she discovers letters and photos that reveal hidden secrets.

There you have it, ten "colorful" books that I've either read or want to read.  Have you read any of them?  Can you think of any others that fit the prompt?  Were you creative enough to come up with any Crayola color titles?  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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Reading

<i>Reading</i>
The Gold in These Hills by Joanne Bischof

Listening

<i>Listening</i>
Glass Houses by Louise Penny



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