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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

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

My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

24 / 50 books. 48% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

65 / 104 books. 63% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

44 / 52 books. 85% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

71 / 165 books. 43% done!
Friday, September 24, 2021

Birds of a Feather: Bluebird the Best World War II Novel I've Read Since The Nightingale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As World War II comes to a close, a German teenager arrives in America, ostensibly to start a new life away from the chaos in her homeland.  In order to flee, Eva Gerst has made a deal with the devil.  She and her mute best friend have been allowed to leave the country only because Eva knows an important secret.  She holds the key to Project Bluebird, a horrifying concentration camp experiment, the results of which are so powerful that both the Americans and the Germans would do anything to control it.  Eva's determination to keep it away from them is just as strong, but it's not power she's seeking.  She desires only one thing—justice.  No matter what it takes, she will track down the escaped Nazi who designed the horrific experiment.  And then, she'll kill him.

In an alternating storyline, Inge von Emmerich is living in war-torn Germany a year earlier.  The daughter of a powerful Nazi couple, she's been thoroughly indoctrinated.  It's not until her eyes are opened to the atrocities being committed by the regime that she realizes just how wrong her family's view is—and how involved her father is in appalling acts against their Jewish countrymen.   

As the girls' stories collide, they will come together to take down a monster in a desperate race to settle a score, get justice, and not just clip Bluebird's wings, but destroy it forever. 

Bluebird (available October 5, 2021), the newest YA historical from Sharon Cameron, is, quite simply, a stunner.  I'm a big Cameron fan, so I'm not surprised, just really, really pleased.  Bluebird features everything I love in a historical novel—a vivid, atmospheric setting; a tense, engrossing plot; sympathetic, interesting characters; and smooth, solid writing.  That the story is based on a real experiment that I'd never heard about just makes it all the more fascinating.  Not to mention eye-opening and thought-provoking.  All of these elements combine to create a book that is so immersive and propulsive that it is unputdownable.  Almost literally.  I would have read it in one day, but my eyes gave out at about 80% after staring at my Kindle for hours on end!  Yes, I saw the big plot twist coming, but that didn't really matter.  I still found myself totally absorbed by this novel.  It's the best World War II story I've read (and I've read a lot of them) since The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. If you love historical fiction, do yourself a favor and pre-order this one now.  It just might be the best book I've read this year.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron as well as novels by Ruta Sepetys and Monica Hesse)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter (including a rape scene, although the act is not described)

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

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Psychological Thriller Oddly Compelling and Weirdly Memorable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher is one of those books where the less you know going into it, the better.  So, I'm going to give you the publisher's plot summary instead of my own because not only is it spoiler-free, but it's also brilliantly written.  Here you go:

From the author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Wives comes another twisted psychological thriller guaranteed to turn your world upside down.

Have you ever been wrong about someone?

Juno was wrong about Winnie Crouch.

Before moving in with the Crouch family, Juno thought Winnie and her husband, Nigel, had the perfect marriage, the perfect son—the perfect life. Only now that she’s living in their beautiful house, she sees the cracks in the crumbling facade are too deep to ignore.

Still, she isn’t one to judge. After her grim diagnosis, the retired therapist simply wants a place to live out the rest of her days in peace. But that peace is shattered the day Juno overhears a chilling conversation between Winnie and Nigel…

She shouldn’t get involved.

She really shouldn’t.

But this could be her chance to make a few things right.

Because if you thought Juno didn’t have a secret of her own, then you were wrong about her, too.

From the wickedly dark mind of bestselling author Tarryn Fisher, The Wrong Family is a taut new thriller that’s riddled with twists in all the right places.

Intriguing, yes?  

I picked this book up because the premise is just so unique and chilling.  The setup is definitely the best part of The Wrong Family because the characters are all messed-up and unlikable, the mystery isn't much of one, and the plot gets a bit...wild.  Still, the story kept me turning pages, even though I repeatedly asked myself, "WHY am I still reading this?" On the whole, the book is depressing and somewhat dissatisfying, although, honestly, the characters all get what they deserve.  Even though I really did not love this one, I still find myself thinking about The Wrong Family, although it's been months since I read it.  In fact, when my hairdresser asked me the other day if I'd read anything interesting lately, this is the book that immediately popped into my head.  It's not just oddly compelling, it's also weirdly memorable.  Is it crazy that a book I didn't even like all that much is so stuck in my head?  I give it points for that at least.  

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, references to illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR List, Part Two


Even though there's nary a nip in the arid desert air here in Arizona, I'm more than ready for some cozy Fall reading.  So ready, in fact, that I already posted part one of this list last week.  Naturally, I always have more books in the queue, so I'm going to share ten more today that I'm hoping to read before 2021 comes to an end.

If you want to share your Fall TBR list (please do—I'm always looking for recs!), click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl to find out how to join in the TTT fun.

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List, Part Two

1.  Willodeen by Katherine Applegate—I'm a big Applegate fan, so I've been excited about this one, her newest.  It's about a lonely girl who's more comfortable with animals than humans.  When a handmade gift brings unexpected magic into her life, it changes everything for her and the precarious world in which she lives.  I'm about halfway through this short novel and I'm very much enjoying it.  No surprise there.  

2.  The Haunting Season by various authors—I just got a copy of this collection of spooky short stories by a variety of popular YA writers from the good folks at Pegasus Books.  This ghostly volume is going to make for great Halloween reading!  

3.  God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney—This coming-of-age novel is about two sisters raised in a strict religious community headed up by their father.  When they discover that he's been lying to them, it breaks their world apart.  The sisters flee, but they will soon have to make a choice between family loyalty and forging their own paths.

4.  Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling (available October 12, 2021)—Bowling is a local author whose MG books I've been enjoying lately.  I just got approved for an e-ARC of this one, a survival story in which one girl sets out across the treacherous desert to rescue another, whose ultralight airplane has crashed.

5.  A View Most Glorious by Regina Scott (available October 5, 2021)—I discovered Scott's American Wonders series this year and am really loving it.  This third installment concerns a young woman who longs to do something more with her life than just marry well.  When her suffragette group suggests she climb Mt. Rainier to bring attention to their cause, she agrees to the difficult task despite having no mountaineering experience.  Will she succeed?  What will she gain in the process?  With a handsome mountain guide by her side, it's pretty much a given that she'll lose her heart...

6.  The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain (available January 11, 2022)—I've got an e-ARC of this novel, the newest from an author I've liked in the past.  It's a dual-timeline story about a white woman in 1965 who defies her family's wishes by volunteering to help register Black voters and another woman, in 2010, who learns surprising secrets about the history her new neighborhood, which rumor says is haunted.

7.  The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani—Delaware is one of the last two states I need to complete the 2021 Literary Escapes Challenge.  This novel takes place in the state in 1953.  It's about the triumphs and sorrows of a vibrant Italian-American community.

8.  The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí Clark—I chose this Alex Award-winning novel to fulfill the "Afrofuturist Book" prompt for the 2021 PopSugar Reading Challenge.  It takes place in an alternate New Orleans and stars a young woman who earns a coveted place on an airship by giving the captain sensitive information.  She soon finds herself on a dangerous mission, where her secret magic might just help her save the world as she knows it.

9.  Unmissing by Minka Kent (available February 15, 2022)— This thriller revolves around a couple who is creating a lovely life together.  When a late-night knock on their door reveals the husband's first wife, who has been missing and presumed dead for ten years, they're both shocked.  The couple takes in the woman, but something about her story just doesn't add up.  What really happened to her?

10.  The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer—I haven't read a lot of World War II stories this year, but this is one I do want to get to soon.  It tells the inspired-by-a-true-story tale of a Polish woman who risks everything to help smuggle Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto.

There you go, ten more books I'm hoping to read before the year is out.  What do you think of my selections?  Have you read any of them?  What are your most anticipated reads for Fall?  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 20, 2021

Gritty, Atmospheric Thriller a Gripping Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ten years ago, a beautiful 19-year-old cheerleader went missing from a small Texas town.  Her disappearance still haunts the place and the people who vowed to find Trumanell "True" Branson, but couldn't.  Although he has been cleared by the authorities, many believe True's younger brother, Wyatt, killed her.  Especially after a new documentary focuses the spotlight on him once more.  His standing in the town becomes even more precarious when a young girl is seen at his home.  The recluse claims he found the mute, abused child on the side of the road.  Is Wyatt, a presumed murderer, really being a Good Samaritan?  Or does he have more sinister plans for the mysterious girl he calls Angel?  Who is she, anyway?  Where did she come from?  And, most importantly, who hurt her?

Odette Tucker—daughter of the town's beloved police chief, now a cop in her own right—feels an immediate kinship with Angel.  She doesn't want to believe that Wyatt, her high school boyfriend, could hurt anyone, but it's her duty to protect her town.  As she investigates one lost girl in the present, her thoughts turn constantly to True.  What really happened to Odette's old friend?  Can the two cases possibly be connected?  The more Odette digs, the more dangerous her investigation becomes.  Will she be the next woman to disappear from a town steeped in secrets?

Tense, atmospheric mysteries are my jam, so I was all in for this gritty thriller.  We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin stars a brave police officer with a tough exterior, a titanium leg, and a soft, loyal heart.  Odette has her flaws, but all in all, she's a likable, root-worthy heroine.  The supporting cast members (with a few exceptions, most notably Maggie and crew) are less affable, but still intriguing in their contrasting complexity.  An atmospheric Texas setting provides a vivid backdrop to the story, with some small-town politics thrown in for added tension and drama.  Plot-wise, the tale is gripping, with plenty of conflict to keep it interesting.  I saw the killer coming, yes, but not their motive.  There were a few other twists along the way, including a unique story shift that really caught me by surprise.  While I'm still not sure I liked the jarring swerve, it definitely added an intriguing layer to the story.  While We Are All the Same in the Dark is a raw, depressing tale, it's a mostly satisfying one that kept me burning through its pages, eager to know what was going to happen next.  This is the first book I've read by Heaberlin, but believe you me, I'll be checking out her others.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other small-town-big-secrets thrillers, but no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, depictions of illegal drug use (marijuana), mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of We Are All the Same in the Dark from the generous folks at Penguin Random House via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

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!       

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