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My Progress:

10 / 30 books. 33% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (7)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (1)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

18 / 51 states. 35% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

13 / 50 books. 26% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

20 / 50 books. 40% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 50 books. 76% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

33 / 52 books. 63% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 40 books. 57% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

13 / 40 books. 33% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

5 / 25 books. 20% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

25 / 26.2 miles. 95% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

19 / 100 books. 19% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

50 / 104 books. 48% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

39 / 52 books. 75% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

45 / 165 books. 27% done!
Saturday, July 31, 2021

BBB Is Under Construction

You've probably noticed by now that my blog is in the middle of a re-design.  The last time I did this was in 2013!  With my 15th blogoversary coming up fast, I figured it was time to spruce things up a bit.  I wanted to keep the warm, friendly vibe that Bloggin' 'bout Books has always had while giving it a more fun, modern feel.  Amanda over at Simply Stella Design Studio is doing a wonderful job.  I'm thrilled with how the blog looks so far.  We're still working on both the design and the content, so please hang in there while we get it all figured out.  Thanks for your patience and your loyalty!  


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Island Fever

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic asks the old cliché question:  If you were stranded on a deserted island, which books would you want to have with you?  Really, the only one I'd need would be How to Get Yourself Rescued From a Deserted Island for Dummies.  That would get me off the island and back to my large home library pronto.  Voilà!  Problem solved.  Since this prompt (obviously) didn't really speak to me, I decided to spin it a little to make it more fun.  How about Top Ten Most Memorable Books With An Island Setting instead?  I've read lots of books set on islands big and small.  For this list, I'm going to focus on the latter.

If you want to hop on the TTT train, click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.

Top Ten Most Memorable Books With An Island Setting
(in no particular order)

1.  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery—This novel, the first in a beloved series, is set on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

2.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie—Eight strangers are invited to Soldier Island, a fictional speck of land on the English coast, in this classic murder mystery. 

3.  Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton—On another made-up island, this one near Costa Rica, dinosaurs are alive, well, and available for viewing if you've got the dough.  Sounds awesome.  Until things start to go horrifically awry...

4.  Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko—This historical middle-grade novel, the first in a series, is about a boy who lives with his family on California's Alcatraz Island.  Before reading this series, it had never occurred to me that children might have lived in the vicinity of the infamous prison, but they absolutely did!  Crazy.

5.  The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See—Jeju, a small Korean island, is the setting for this fascinating historical.  It's about the island's female free divers, traditionally the breadwinners for their families, and how their trade changes over time.

6.  Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert—The first in a compelling mystery/thriller series, this one is set on a private island in the Thousand Islands region of New York state.  When a murder occurs during a family get together, Detective Shana Merchant and her partner are called out to investigate.  Atmospheric and engrossing, it's a tense page-turner.

7.  Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton—Bolton's written a bunch of intense thrillers, but this one is my favorite.  It takes place in the U.K.-owned Falkland Islands.  The mystery concerns a missing child whose disappearance in such an isolated and dangerous locale is at first assumed to be a tragic accident, but is soon determined to be something much more sinister...

8.  Moloka'i by Alan Brennert—Set on Hawaii's famous island leper colony, this is an intriguing and eye-opening historical novel.

9.  The Lewis Trilogy (The Blackhouse; The Lewis Man; The Chessmen) by Peter May—Scotland's Hebrides Islands are the setting for this atmospheric trio of mysteries.

10.  The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter—In this tense family drama, a woman visits fictional Bonny Island, Georgia, the setting for a horror novel turned cult classic written by her mother.  Determined to write a biting tell-all, she uncovers some astonishing secrets about her own family and past.

There you have it, ten memorable novels I've read that are set on small islands.  Have you read any of them?  What are your favorite books with small island settings?  Which titles would you like to have with you on a deserted island?  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, July 26, 2021

Sixth Noodle Shop Cozy A Bit Lackluster, But Still Fun

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chien, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier installments in the Noodle Shop Mystery series.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)  

As manager of Ho Lee Noodle House, her family's popular Chinese restaurant, Lana Lee is always at the center of the action in Cleveland's Asia Village shopping center.  Dealing with her overbearing mother and annoyingly perfect sister causes enough drama for the 28-year-old, but there's always tension and intrigue boiling among Asia Village's many strong personalities.  Add in the center's weirdly high murder rate and she's got a lot on her plate...

When Lana witnesses an altercation in the parking lot between two aging village divas—competitive mahjong player Millie Mao and heartless tea shop owner June Yi—she has no idea that one of them will soon end up dead  When Millie is electrocuted during a pedicure, it becomes apparent that it was no accident.  Did the argument in the parking lot lead June to kill Millie?  Is there someone else who had it in for the mahjong matron?  Although her detective boyfriend warns Lana to stay out of it, she's once again on the case.  Can she solve Asia Village's latest murder?  

I'm a big fan of Vivien Chien's Noodle Shop mysteries.  The series is fun, light-hearted, and entertaining.  Like most cozies, the books are a little silly and a lot far-fetched, but who cares?  They're easy, enjoyable, clean reads.  That being said, Killer Kung Pao—the sixth installment—might be my least favorite of them.  Why?  Although Chien's characters are always fun, the mystery in this one is a bit...lackluster.  The book is still a fast, engaging read; it's just not as compelling as some of its predecessors.  A bummer, yes, but not one that will keep me from continuing with this series.  Even the less satisfying books are more enjoyable for me than other cozies.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Noodle Shop Mystery series, as well as culinary cozies by Ellie Alexander, Amanda Flower, Eve Calder, etc.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find 

Friday, July 23, 2021

MG Murder Mystery A Delightful, Entertaining Romp

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Young Ladies of Quality do not snoop.  Nor do they spy on their neighbors.  Or study masculine subjects like science, law, and forensics.  And they certainly do not express a morbid interest in something as vulgar as murder.  In fact—in the opinion of 12-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle—Young Ladies of Quality do not do anything of interest.  Why would she want to be one of them?  Although "Morbid Myrtle" is shunned by the other girls, she's not about to give up reading her father's law books and peering through her late mother's microscope.  Everyone else might despair of her antics, but Myrtle knows she will be far happier pursuing her unique studies than sipping tea in a frilly dress in someone's stifling parlor.

When Myrtle's 79-year-old neighbor, a cross old woman who grew prize-winning flowers, is found dead in her sprawling home, no one thinks much about it.  Only Myrtle thinks there's something fishy about Minerva Wodehouse's death.  Then, relatives the dead woman never once mentioned start coming out of the woodwork with greed glinting in their eyes.  All of them are acting shifty, which just confirms Myrtle's suspicions—Mrs. Wodehouse was murdered!  Since no one takes her accusations and observations seriously, the young sleuth knows it's up to her to bring Minerva's killer to justice.  Can Myrtle solve the mystery?  Is there even a case to investigate, or is Myrtle letting her imagination run amok once again?

I listened to Premeditated Myrtle, the first book in Elizabeth C. Bunce's Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series, on audio and was totally charmed by the experience!  Myrtle is a delightful heroine.  Not only is she whip smart, but she's also perpetually curious and dangerously impulsive, two traits that get her into scrape after scrape.  Her warm relationship with her faithful governess, Ada Judson, is one of the loveliest parts of the novel.  The plot is also exciting, with plenty of twists to keep the reader/listener engaged.  Bethan Rose Young does an excellent job with the audiobook narration, which makes the story come alive even more.  Needless to say, I very much enjoyed this funny, entertaining, classic-feeling mystery novel.  I will absolutely be reading (or listening to) the sequels.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scary scenes

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Got It In One

Have you ever gotten so caught up in a book that you end up racing through it in one sitting, hardly daring to breathe, let alone get up and go to the bathroom?  What kinds of reads are most likely to have that effect on you?  I've zipped through plenty of books in one go, even taking my book with me to the bathroom, the kitchen table (I always read when I eat alone anyway), and to a college football game that I'm told was pretty exciting.  Usually, the books I literally can't put down are in the mystery/thriller genre.  Not always, as you'll see from the list below, but most of the time.  The way they're written—usually with short chapters, lots of action, snappy dialogue, and cliffhangers all over the dang place—makes them ideal for whipping through in one sitting.  Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is all about these kinds of reads.  I looked through my recent reading notes to find the last ten books that I sped through in one go (more or less).  Since I love me a good page-turner, I'm excited to see everyone's answers.

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

Top Ten Most Recent Books I Read in One Sitting   

1.  The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm—Middle-grade books are easy to read in one sitting since they're generally short and written with kid-sized attention spans in mind.  This one, the first I had read by Holm, charmed me with its warmth and feel-good story.  I loved it so much that I proceeded to zoom through three more of the author's books.  I'm currently listening to another of hers.

2.  The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson—I'm a big fan of Jackson's warm-hearted Southern family dramas/sagas.  I somehow missed reading this one, which came out in 2016.  It tells a compelling story about a woman seeking answers about her estranged mother—and the surprise she left behind when she died. 

3.  The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton—Although this mystery/thriller—about a mother and daughter traveling through the Alaskan wilderness in search of their missing husband and father—is a pretty tense read, I'm not sure I would have buzzed through it in one sitting if it weren't for the fact that I needed something to entertain me while my daughter got her hair done.  Getting a silk press, then having your very thick, curly hair straightened is not a quick process.  Needless to say, I got a lot of reading done during that appointment!

4.  The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman—I've read all of Steadman's thrillers, so I knew this one—her newest—would have me flying through the pages.  It did.  The story is about a British actress who comes to Hollywood during the chaotic pilot season.  She meets an enigmatic American actress, who later disappears.  At least it seems like she did.  Did she really vanish?  Or is the Brit going crazy?

5.  The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian—This debut Southern mystery kept me totally riveted.  It's about an impoverished, abused young woman whose life changes irrevocably when her father is killed in a very unexpected way.  Suddenly, she finds herself in an unlikely partnership with a stranger, who has her own stake in covering up the man's death.

6.  The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny—The Inspector Gamache books are more about the characters than the mysteries at their centers, so I don't generally buzz through them in one sitting.  However, since I took this one on a trip with me, I spent a lot of time with it in airports and on airplanes.  It's another compelling installment in a series that I love.

7.  Shiver by Allie Reynolds—Despite the fact that this thriller is filled with unlikable characters, it's still a gripping read that had me burning through the pages with bated breath.  It's a locked-room mystery set in an isolated ski lodge with a storm bearing down on a group of acquaintances who are already feeling uneasy in each other's presence.

8.  Atomic Habits by James Clear—I don't read a lot of self-help books, but I found this one so engaging and inspiring that I read it in a matter of hours.  It gives some excellent advice on how to break damaging habits and create healthy new ones.

9.  The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher—This one has such a crazy, can't-look-away premise that I just...didn't.  I don't want to say too much about the story because the less you know going into it, the better, I think.

10.  We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin—Gritty and atmospheric, this thriller was so absorbing that I read it pretty much in one go.  It's about a haunted detective who's desperate to solve two different, but seemingly connected, cases in her small Texas town.

There you have it, ten books that I read in one sitting.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  Which books kept you glued to your seat?  Which are your go-to authors for riveting, one-sitting reads?  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, July 19, 2021

Second Good Girl Novel Another Engaging Mystery/Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Good Girl, Bad Blood, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, A Good Girl's Guide to Murder.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.  

After all the chaos created by her last foray into amateur detecting, 18-year-old Pippa Fitz-Amobi is done with both sleuthing and podcasting.  She doesn't need the drama or the danger.  Instead, she's concentrating on hanging out with her sweet boyfriend, Ravi Singh, and getting ready to move on to college at Columbia.  Then, a man goes missing after a community memorial honoring the sixth anniversary of the deaths of Sal Singh and Andie Bell.  Although Jamie Reynolds is 24 and known for taking off unexpectedly, his little brother, Pip's good friend, is worried about him.  When Connor asks Pip for help finding him, she really can't say no.  Especially since the police aren't taking the disappearance seriously.  Once more, Pip is on the hunt and on the air.

Pip's investigation soon takes a dark turn, putting her in harm's way once again.  What happened to Jamie Reynolds?  Can Pip solve the mystery?

I enjoyed A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, so I was all in for a second book.  Like its predecessor, Good Girl, Bad Blood uses transcripts of Pip's podcasts and interviews as well as her case notes to flesh out the story of her search for Jamie Reynolds.  What emerges is a tense, engrossing thriller that kept me glued to the page.  In addition to a compelling mystery, the novel offers a cast of warm, likable characters; an engaging, upbeat vibe (despite its grim subject matter); and a heroine who's fun and root-worthy in her earnest adorkable-ness.  Sure, the idea of everyone being willing to spill their deepest, darkest secrets to a teenage sleuth is a bit far-fetched, but still...I enjoyed this absorbing yarn that kept me reading and guessing throughout.  Not surprisingly, I'm very much looking forward to As Good As Dead (available August 5, 2021).  I definitely want to know what's going to happen next to the always-appealing, ever-intrepid Pippa Fitz-Amobi!

(Readalikes:  A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson as well as other YA mysteries, including those by Karen M. McManus and Ashley Elston)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, disturbing subject matter, and depictions of underage drinking and illegal drug use (marijuana)

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Livin' It Up at the Library

Thanks so much to everyone who has filled out the survey I included in my last post.  Your responses have been so kind and helpful!  You've given me some great ideas for future posts as well as ways to improve the blog as a whole.  I appreciate your responses so much.  If you haven't had a chance to fill out the survey, please take a minute to do so.  I'll keep it up for now, with a link in my sidebar.  

One of the things several people said they'd like to
see more of at BBB is non-review posts.  Great!  I just went to the library yesterday and I haven't posted about my library hauls in forever and ever.

I don't know about you, but I hit up the library every 2-3 weeks.  I'm lucky to live near two different libraries—one is a branch of my city's library system, the other is a branch of my county's.  The former is only a couple miles from my house, but it's housed in an older building that just feels dark and dingy.  Its organization isn't my favorite either.  The county library, on the other hand, sits on a serene nature preserve.  With big windows that let in lots of natural light, it's bright and cheery with a lovely view of the sparkling lake that's right outside.  The books are well organized, the employees are helpful, and the place always vibrates with a happy hum, so yeah, I make the 30-minute round trip to that library because I like it so much better.  Not everyone gets why I go so far out of my way when there's a perfectly serviceable library just down the street, but I think fellow booklovers will understand!

Like most (all?) libraries, mine were shut down for some time due to COVID-19.  As soon as the county library could, it started offering curbside pick-up.  It then opened for "pop-in pick-up," which allowed patrons to come inside, collect their own holds, and quickly browse a small selection of books.  A couple months ago, it opened up fully.  Although it hadn't been as busy since the pandemic started, yesterday the place was hopping!  There were moms helping kids select books, toddlers running in the hallways, and people typing away on the public computers.  It wasn't very quiet, but that's okay.  The noise made me happy because it means that people are coming back to the library and loving every minute of it.  While masks are still recommended for the un-vaxxed, I only saw them on a few library employees.  That's kind of the norm around here—either people are vaxxed and mask-less or they "identify" as vaxxed and do whatever the heck they want.  I'm in the former category, thank heavens!  The only places I've been lately here in Arizona that still require masks for everyone are the airports and the county courthouse.  You should have seen the lady in the passport office recoil when I lifted my mask to lick my finger in order to flip through some papers.  Oops!

I don't know if other people have a library routine, but here's my usual plan of attack:

  • Return books at the kiosk in the foyer of the library.
  • Donate books I've read to the Friends of the Library store (also in the foyer).
  • Inside the library, I check out the tables that feature new books, both fiction and non.  I also grab the newest edition of BookPage magazine from these tables (it's free!).
  • Pick up my holds, of which I generally have at least several.
  • Browse the stacks, usually hitting the adult section for my favorite genres—mystery/thriller, historical, and general—and then the children's and YA sections for the same.
  • Check out at the kiosks.   

Anyone else have an established library routine or it just me? 

At any rate, here's what I picked up this time around:


The Boston Jane series by Jennifer L. Holm—I loved The Lion of Mars, so I wanted to read more from Holm.  This MG/YA trilogy seemed right up my alley.  It's about a proper young woman who travels from Philadelphia to Oregon Territory to marry a man she barely knows.  Naturally, she finds the experience of living on the frontier a bit...challenging.  I'm almost finished with the first installment, which I've very much enjoyed.  I'm glad I checked out the whole series at once!

My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary—I finished A Girl From Yamhill, Cleary's 1988 memoir about her childhood in Oregon, a few days ago.  It's interesting and charming, so I wanted to continue reading about her life in this second volume.

The War Outside by Monica Hesse—Hesse's Girl in the Blue Coat is a gripping read, so I decided to try out more of her books.  I checked out They Went Left on audio, but I didn't love the melodramatic narration or the wholly depressing nature of the book, so I DNF'd it about 1/3 of the way through.  I'm hoping I'll have better luck with The War Outside, which is about the imprisonment of Japanese- and German-born Americans at displacement camps during World War II.

From the Stacks: 

Lies in White Dresses by Sofia Grant—I didn't realize this until I Googled Grant just now, but this is actually a pen name for Sophia Littlefield, whose books I've enjoyed in the past.  I've never read anything she's written as Grant, but Lies in White Dresses sounds interesting.  It's about a group of women traveling to a Nevada ranch in the 40's or 50's (not sure which) to wait out the six weeks required before they can be granted divorces from their disappointing husbands.  When something shocking occurs, all of their lives change forever.

The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant—This one also sounds intriguing.  A woman in need of a new beginning is shocked to discover she's inherited a home from a grandmother she barely knew.  As she combs through the woman's possessions, she has to confront secrets from her family's past that explain SO much about its present.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb—McCrumb is an author I've heard of but never read.  I like stories about Appalachia, so I'm down for this one, which is based on the well-known song about Tom Dooley, who was a real person.  I realized later that this book is actually part of a 12-part series that explores the stories behind Appalachian folk songs.  The novels seem to be only loosely connected, so I'm going to break one of my cardinal reading rules and go ahead and read this one, Book 10, first.  Watch out, world!  I'm really living on the edge now.

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan—I've read nothing but praise for this new release.  It's about four women who are competing on a BBC cooking show during World War II.  Sounds unique and interesting.

Speaking of borrowed books, I also just signed up for Kindle Unlimited.  I recently read and enjoyed The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne.  It's the first in the series, but neither of my libraries has the second volume, Black Coral.  Buying the Kindle book would cost me $7.99.  However, it's part of the "free" selections for Kindle Unlimited.  Since Amazon was having a promotion—Kindle Unlimited for $4.99 for two months—I decided to give it a go.  In addition to Black Coral, I've put these on my KU to-read list:

The House by the Sea by Louise Douglas—Lucy from Bookish Yarn recommended this one to me and it sounds right up my alley.  It's another one about an inherited house full of secrets, which just happens to be one of my very favorite literary tropes!

Where the Story Starts by Imogen Clark—More mysterious houses hiding intriguing secrets?  I'm in for sure.

Whew, this post turned out to be a lot longer than planned.  Thanks for hanging in there for it!  Since I love me a bulleted list, here's one for you:

  • Do you use your library often?  What's your library routine?
  • Have you read any of the books I listed?  What did you think of them?
  • Are you a Kindle Unlimited user?  Do you find it to be worth the money or not? 
  • If you are a KU user, do you ever listen to the books on audio?  Are all the narrators terrible or just the ones on the audiobooks I've tried?  Ha ha.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: The One Where I Ask YOU Questions

Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt has to do with questions, specifically book titles that are also inquiries.  Since only one book came readily to mind—Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, which I want to read but haven't yet—and I wasn't really feeling the topic anyway, I decided to turn the prompt around and ask YOU some questions.  They're easy ones, don't worry!

You see, I realized the other day that on August 7, Bloggin' 'bout Books will turn 15 years old.  Can you believe that?  I really can't.  My blog is older than my youngest child!  I have loved being a part of the book blogosphere for the past decade and a half.  I'm still having fun with it, so I plan to stick around for at least a few more years.  A reflection post (and a giveaway) will be posted on August 7, but in the meantime, I'm hoping to gather some data from my readers.  Since I'm always striving to make my blog better, I'm also asking for suggestions on how to improve.  So, would you please, please, PLEASE fill out this little survey I've put together?  It would greatly help me.  Also, it will earn you an entry into the giveaway I'll announce in August.  Thank you for taking the time to help me.  I really would love your honest feedback. 

Oh, and don't forget to click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl to get all the details on Top Ten Tuesday.

P.S. I've never done a survey like this before, so let me know if you have any problems with it.

P.S.S.  If you hate surveys and/or are feeling unhelpful today, that's okay!  Here are a couple alternative questions for you:

What is the best book you've read in the last year or so?

If you're familiar with my taste in books (mystery/thriller, historical fiction, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, contemporary or historical middle grade, historical YA, etc.) or even if you're not, which author or book would you like to see me try and then review here on BBB?

Happy TTT!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Miranda's Newest My Least Favorite of Her Twisty Thrillers

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Hollow's Edge used to be the kind of quiet, idyllic neighborhood that everyone wants to live in.  Kids ran in and out of each other's houses, friends chatted amiably on the streets, and neighbors gathered around the community pool for summer cookouts.  Then, Brandon and Fiona Truett were killed in their home and a fellow Hollow's Edge resident was convicted of the crime.  Now, the neighborhood is a tainted place, a haunted subdivision where suspicion, paranoia, and secrets swirl in the air like the barbecue-scented smoke that once drifted lazily over its tree-lined streets.

When 25-year-old Ruby Fletcher is freed from prison, her conviction overturned after she served a year and a half for murdering the Truetts, her former neighbors are shocked.  They're even more stunned when she waltzes back into Hollow's Edge as if she never left.  Harper Nash, with whom Ruby lived before her arrest, is so astounded by the woman's sudden presence that she doesn't know how to react.  She can't let Ruby take up where she left off as if nothing happened, but she also can't kick her out when she has nowhere else to go.  Ruby swears she didn't kill the Truetts.  If she's telling the truth, then who's lying?  What really happened the night Brandon and Fiona died?  As Harper takes a closer look at her neighbors, she begins to realize that none of them are quite what they seem.  Did one of them kill the Truetts and frame Ruby?  If Harper asks too many questions, will she be next?

I've enjoyed all of Megan Miranda's twisty thrillers, so I was stoked when I got approved on NetGalley for an e-ARC of her newest, Such a Quiet Place (available July 13, 2021).  With its Desperate Housewives-ish premise, it sounded like the perfect summer beach read.  As always with Miranda's books, I was sucked into the story, which is engrossing and compelling.  I whipped through the pages because I wanted to know what was going to happen.  Unfortunately, though, the characters in this one are just not appealing.  For a community made up of smart professionals, they're petty, immature, whiny, two-faced, and dishonest, almost to a one.  Even the kids in Hollow's Edge are unlikable!  The cast members are all so repugnant that it's hard to care much about any of them.  The plot has some odd bits as well, especially when it comes to shoddy police work and illogical motives for some of the characters' actions.  I can't say I really loved the Big Reveal either.  In the end, then, Such a Quiet Place ended up being just an okay read for me.  While the story kept me turning pages, it also irritated me in a lot of ways.  Of all Miranda's books, I have to say this one is my least favorite.  Bummer.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Such a Quiet Place from the generous folks at Simon & Schuster via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Goodman's Newest a Shivery Spine-Tingler

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For three years, investigative reporter Joan Lurie has been working on an explosive story about the sexual misconduct of a powerful New York City publisher.  She knows there will be consequences for breaking the shocking news and she thinks she's prepared to deal with them.  What she couldn't have foreseen was a brutal attack on her person that leaves her traumatized, both physically and emotionally.  Utterly shaken, she retreats to the Refuge, an exclusive Manhattan apartment building that was once a Magdalen laundry.  The place boasts top-notch security that should have Joan feeling completely at ease.  So, why does she still feel unsafe?  Is she imagining that things in her apartment have been moved around on her?  Or is it just paranoia and frayed nerves, after effects of her attack?

Joan's not the only woman hiding inside the Refuge.  Lillian Day hasn't left the building in over seventy years, not since the day she witnessed a shocking event that left her just as traumatized as Joan.  

Then there's Melissa Osgood, who's reeling from her husband's betrayal and from a devastating reversal of fortune.  She blames Joan Lurie and will stop at nothing to take revenge on the woman who ruined her life.

As the lives of Joan, Lillian, and Melissa intersect, they will learn some startling truths about themselves, each other, and the dark history of the building in which they all live.  With danger still on Joan's tail, she has to find true refuge before it's too late...   

I'm a long-time fan of Carol Goodman's twisty Gothic thrillers, so I always get excited when she publishes a new book.  With its modern New York City setting (as opposed to the usual upstate locales) and its #MeToo movement premise, The Stranger Behind You—Goodman's newest—is a bit of a departure from her previous novels, but it's still a shivery, engrossing page-turner.  While I saw some of the plot surprises coming, others caught me off-guard, keeping the story interesting throughout.  Although there are definitely some elements of the tale that are illogical and far-fetched, overall I found it both compelling and satisfying.  Not all of the book's characters are likable, but Joan is appealing enough that I cared about her plight.  As with many of Goodman's books, my favorite aspect of The Stranger Behind You is the Gothic-y setting.  The creepy building at its center as well as the story's constant, unsettling vibe make the book an entertaining spine-tingler.  While this isn't my favorite of Goodman's thrillers, I enjoyed it overall.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Lock Every Door by Riley Sager, Someone's Listening by Seraphina Nova Glass, and The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

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

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Middle-Grade Whale Tale Warm and Empowering

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Grief-stricken over the recent death of her marine biologist mother with whom she lived in Japan, 12-year-old Willa Twitchell is trying to adjust to her new normal.  Now residing on an island in Washington State, she shares a loud, chaotic home with her dad, stepmom, three younger step-siblings, and a baby half-sister.  The best thing about being back on Tupkuk Island is her renewed friendship with her long-time best friend Marc Mendoza, but even he is acting strangely.  With her life all upside-down, Willa finds solace in the same place her mother always did: the sea.  

While on a whale-watching trip with her dad, Willa is stunned when a humpback speaks to her.  Somehow, she can hear the creature's thoughts and hold lively conversations with the social animal who is named Meg.  The whale assures Willa that she can call on her new friend anytime for any reason—and Willa does.  She unloads all of her worries and fears
on the sympathetic humpback.  When a blue whale washes up on Tupkuk's shore, she becomes especially scared.  Willa's only a small girl.  How can she save the dying creature?  The townspeople are talking about all kinds of inhumane solutions to get rid of its body, including blowing it up or letting it rot.  Willa knows her mother would do everything in her power to save the whale; Willa intends to do the same.  With Meg's help, she puts a plan into action.  Will it work?  And what will happen when it's time for Meg to move on with her pod?  How will Willa, already wracked with sorrow, say goodbye to her friend?  

Willa and the Whale, the newest middle-grade novel by husband-and-wife writing team Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, is a gentle, hopeful novel about grief, friendship, and healing.  Filled with whale trivia, it teaches the reader about whales while also imparting greater life lessons.  Willa is a sympathetic character, although she sometimes comes off as self-centered and victim-y.  She does show growth during the course of the novel, but I still found her a little irritating.  Likewise, I found the magical realism element of this book a tad annoying.  It just wasn't convincing to me, which made the whole story fall a bit flat for me.  Add to that the fact that there's no real plot to keep the tale focused and you can see why Willa and the Whale was a like-it-didn't-love-it read for me.  I always appreciate a warm, empowering middle-grade novel; this is certainly that, even if it wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Elephant's Girl by Celesta Rimington and Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Willa and the Whale from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: How Do I Love Thee, Reading? Let Me Count the Ways...

Surprise!  I thought I would be spending today driving home from Utah, but we decided to end our vacation a day early so I'm already home, safe and sound.  We had a lovely time celebrating the Fourth of July in Provo, a town that does the holiday to the max.  Houses are decorated; people deck themselves out in red, white, and blue; there's a big parade for which spectators camp out overnight to get good seats; and much more.  We decided at the last minute to skip the parade (been there, done that—a million times) and we actually missed the fireworks that we always watch from the lawn of the Provo temple because after hanging out there for a couple hours my daughter and I really had to go to the bathroom and there are no facilities on site), but we did end up seeing fireworks going off all over the valley as we drove home over the bench that night.  The kids stood up in my van's moon roof as we drove and oohed and ahhed all the way back to where we were staying.  In addition to those festivities, we enjoyed the beautiful Utah scenery, spending time with extended family, and road-tripping with three of our four kids (our married son came with us, although his wife couldn't make it, but our college daughter had to stay home and study for her summer classes—boo hoo).  At any rate, it was a lovely vacation all around.  Even though I will  miss Utah's cool nights, it is good to be home.

Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is an easy one (thank goodness!)—reasons why we love reading.  I'm excited to see everyone's answers.  If you want to participate, click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl to get all the details.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Reading 

1.  It's just what I do!—Ever since I learned to read, I've inhaled books.  I've always loved them and I always will.  

2.  Learning about different times, people, and places—Reading is my favorite way to learn about experiences that differ from my own.  I love sinking into a book that allows me to explore new places, soak up history, meet interesting people, and do things I can never do in real life.

3.  Gaining new perspectives—Slipping into someone else's shoes for a time allows me to see the world through their perspective.  It always helps me look at my own world in a new way.

4.  Pure entertainment—I'm not a tv watcher and I don't have many hobbies, so reading is my primary source of entertainment.  I'd rather pick up a book than do most other things.  There's nothing like a good read to kick-start my imagination and deliver some safe thrills.

5.  I'm never bored!—Whenever my kids complain about not having anything to do, I tell them to read a book.  They generally roll their eyes (since reading is my answer to everything, apparently), but what they should really do is follow my advice because I'm never bored.  Books keep me engaged whether I'm waiting for a doctor's appointment, in a long pick-up line, on a plane flight, or just hanging out at home.

6.  I love words and language—I've always been a word nerd who appreciates a beautiful, evocative, funny, creative, or clever turn of phrase.  I'm the kind of reader who literally sighs over lovely prose!

7.  Reading deepens my empathy—Like I said above, reading is my favorite way to learn about experiences other than my own.  Slipping on someone else's persona, even for a short time, helps me to see things anew.  It deepens my appreciation and respect for the fact that we're all different.  A greater understanding of someone else's life (whether fictional or non-) allows me to have more empathy for those I interact with in real life.

8.  Book people=my people—It's important to find your tribe and this is mine.  I love talking books with other bibliophiles.  We understand each other in a way that non-bookish people just...don't.

9.  Books are my comfort objects—As a child, I sucked my thumb and carried around a ragged baby blanket to help me self-soothe.  Once I discovered books, they started to serve the same purpose—and still do.  Reading comforts me, no matter how I'm feeling.  If I'm happy, I reach for a book.  If I'm sad, I grab my nearest read (and some chocolate).  If I'm anxious, I lose myself in words.  If I'm get the idea.

10.  Books just make me happy!—Enough said.    

Why do you love to read?  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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