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2022 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska (1)
- Arizona
- Arkansas
- California (2)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho
- Illinois (1)
- Indiana (1)
- Iowa (1)
- Kansas
- Kentucky
- Louisiana
- Maine (1)
- Maryland (2)
- Massachusetts (4)
- Michigan (2)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi (1)
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska
- Nevada
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York (5)
- North Carolina (2)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (2)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (2)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (1)
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (1)
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

International:

Antarctica (1)
Australia (2)
Egypt (2)
England (11)
Italy (1)
Nepal (1)
Romania (1)
Scotland (3)
Sweden (1)

My Progress:


27 / 51 states. 53% done!

2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:


18 / 50 books. 36% done!

2022 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:


19 / 25 books. 76% done!

2022 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge

My Progress:


40 / 53 books. 75% done!

Booklist Queen's 2022 Reading Challenge

My Progress:


38 / 52 books. 73% done!

Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2022


1 / 24 books. 4% done!

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge


3 / 20 books. 15% done!

2022 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

My Progress:


29 / 50 books. 58% done!

The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

My Progress:


37 / 52 books. 71% done!

2022 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:


32 / 50 books. 64% done!

2022 Support Book Bloggers Challenge

2022 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes I Love About Books and Reading

 


I'm worn out from all that's going on in my life right now (see last week's TTT post for the details), so this is going to be a quick post. I love quotes from books and quotes about books, but I'm rubbish at remembering them and writing them down. I do, in fact, have a book quote journal that I have kept—irregularly—for years, but I'm pretty sure I've used all the entries in past TTT lists. So...here are some I found around the Web today. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you want to join in the TTT fun, do it! Check out That Artsy Reader Girl for all the deets.

Top Ten Quotes About Books and Reading













There you have it, ten quotes I love about the magic of books and reading. Which is your favorite? 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!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Much-Hyped The London House Severely Underwhelming

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Caroline Payne is surprised—and thrilled—when a handsome friend from college whom she hasn't seen in years shows up unexpectedly at her workplace. She is shocked—and dismayed—when she discovers why. Mat Hammond, an adjunct history professor who researches genealogical mysteries on the side, has honed in on Caroline's family. He's investigating Caroline's great-aunt, a British woman who he says ran off with a Nazi officer during the war, disgracing her family and betraying her country. A well-known magazine is already showing interest in what could be a shocking, sensational story. Caroline's convinced he has the wrong person. Her great-aunt, her namesake, died of polio as a child. When Mat shows her compelling proof, Caroline doesn't know what to think. If there's any truth to the matter, she knows such a public airing of dirty family laundry would finish off her already cancer-ridden father. She can't let that happen.

Begging Mat for time to launch her own investigation, Caroline flies to her father's ancestral home in London. There, she finds a collection of letters and diaries that are sure to hold the truth, whatever it may be. With Mat by her side, Caroline delves into the past, getting to know her Aunt Caro and her grandmother—Caro's twin, Margaret—in ways she never has before. The more intimately acquainted Caroline becomes with her great-aunt, the more she fears what she'll find out about her. She doesn't want her namesake to be who Mat claims she is, no matter how damning the evidence she's examining with her own eyes. What happened to Caro? Who was she, really? Caroline has to know. Whatever the truth, she must protect her family, even if it costs her a promising future with the irresistible historian/journalist who wields the power to destroy it. 

I've seen nothing but rave reviews for The London House, Katherine Reay's newest novel. Considering all the glowing praise, I couldn't wait to dig into this book that was surely going to blow my socks off. It was quite a disappointment, then, when my socks stayed firmly on my feet throughout! The London House isn't a horrible read. In fact, it's got some elements I always appreciate: an intriguing people-in-the-present-digging-into-the-past premise; charactors who are mostly sympathetic and likable; a clean story, with no graphic language, violence, or sex; and a straightfoward narration that makes the book a fast, easy read. Unfortunately, it also has some issues that drove me batty. For one thing, the story is just...not too exciting. The characters are nice and all, but they're also not very complex or interesting. Even Caro, the center of the tale, doesn't manage to come alive on the page. Part of the problem is that the letters and diary entries through which we get to know her are not just dull but also distancing. Further, although there are two couples falling in love in the novel, there are no sparks between any of them. Where's the love? To complicate matters even further, there's not much action in the book, so it's not exactly a page-turner. It's also fairly obvious from the start how Caro's story is going to end. I kept waiting for some surprise twists to up the suspense and tension; it never happened. As a result of these annoyances, I found The London House severely underwhelming. I definitely wanted something more gripping, more intimate, more exciting, and more interesting. As is? Meh.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of other ho-hum World War II novels, but no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: And, Yet, There They Sit...


I've been a little MIA here on the blog. I'm still reading (I never stop), but other things have been taking up my reviewing/posting/commenting time. A month ago, my husband surprised me by listing our house for sale about four weeks earlier than planned. Even though it had me stressing out *just* a tad, the timing worked perfectly. The second family to walk through our house fell madly in love and made us an offer almost immediately. They're super nice people and they gave us what we asked for (a smokin' deal, it must be said), with no fuss over some minor repairs that need to be done. Yay! We close on June 1 and have to be out by July 15. Shouldn't be a problem, although my old/new house currently looks like this throughout (actually worse since these photos are from a couple weeks ago—the kitchen tile is gone and there are more holes in the walls):



Our contractor's actually making lots of progress and I'm confident the place will be livable come mid-July, even if everything's not quite done. We're remodeling every room in the house to some degree, so, yeah...it's a lot. The process of choosing cabinets, flooring, lighting, paint, etc. is fun, but it's also becoming tedious and time-consuming. I'm excited, though, for how spiffy it will look when it all comes together. Our "old" house—it was built in 1994, we bought it in 2004 and lived in it from then until 2008—will feel like a new house, for sure.

In addition to packing up our current house and remodeling the new one, I'm also frantically studying for my upcoming genealogy accreditation test. It's only a few weeks away, so I'm freaking out a *wee* bit! The best way for me to study is by tackling real-life family history research questions, so if you have one that's based in the American Southwest (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, California, and Colorado, as defined by the accreditation board), I'd love to look into it for you. The question can be something simple like: My grandparents emigrated to California in the 1880s, but I don't know where they emigrated from or who their parents were. Can you find them for me? Or, my great-grandmother lived in Arizona all her life. I only know her married name. Can you find her maiden name? Who were her parents and siblings? That kind of thing. If you get it to me in the next couple weeks, I'll research it for free as practice. If you wait until I'm accredited, it will cost you :)

Real life, ugh. Let's get back to the books, shall we?

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is all about those volumes we were so, so, so excited to have in our hot little hands and yet...there they sit, unread, unloved, gathering dust on our shelves. I seem to have an out of sight, out of mind mentality in this regard. As soon as I buy a book, ensuring that I can read it any ole time I want, I promptly forget I want to read it! Thus, it was easy to come up with this list. All I had to do was cast an eye on my bookshelves to find a plethora of choices (not as many as it would have been last month, though, as I've sorted through the majority of my books and donated several thousand to charitable causes). Since I'm better about getting to library books and ARCs, I'm going to focus my list on titles I actually purchased. These are just the first ten books/boxed series my eyes fell upon when I looked at the shelves closest to my desk.

If you want to ruminate on your shelves of shame, why not join in the TTT fun? You'll be in good company, I swear. Just pop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl to get all the details on this always enjoyable weekly event.

Top Ten Books I Was SO EXCITED To Get, But Still Haven't Read


1. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes—The hype made me by this one and yet, there it sits...


2. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker—Except for a short while when I was but an ignorant wee one, I've always loved to sleep. I've also long been fascinated by dreams, so this book is definitely up my alley. I did start reading it when I first bought it, but then I got distracted.  


3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens—Another the-hype-made-me-do-it buy. 


4. Tomorrow, When the War Began series by John Marsden (boxed set)—I really wanted to read this series five years ago or so, but I was having trouble finding all the books in my local libraries. I ordered the whole set from BookDepository, waited weeks for it to arrive, then devoured the first couple books. I took a break after that and...haven't returned to the story. I'm not sure I remember who's who or what's what now, so I may have to re-read the initial books before I continue on with the series.


5. Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert—I loved Moloka'i, so I was stoked for this sequel. I still am, even though I've yet to crack it open.


6. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune—Everyone loves this book, so of course, I had to buy it! Have I read it yet? Nope.


7. Stars Above by Marissa Meyer—The Lunar Chronicles is a great series. I really enjoyed it. For some reason, though, I still haven't read this collection of TLC short stories.


8. Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (boxed set)—I've mentioned before that I was a raving Little House fan as a kid. The books, the t.v. show, everything. Since my copies of the books somehow didn't survive my childhood, I bought a new set some years ago. I was SO excited to read the first book and...it just wasn't the same! The disappointment was a real downer, so I haven't moved on with my re-read of the series.


9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith—Another nostalgia buy, I've been meaning to re-read this one for ages and just...haven't yet. No excuses, except that I know I don't have to hurry because the book's in my personal library and it's not going anywhere.


10. Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie—This is another book that has gotten rave reviews from my bookish friends, online and off. I'm going to read it one of these days, I swear!

There you go, ten books/series I was super excited to get, but still haven't read. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Which do I need to pick up first? What's on your shelf of shame? I'd truly love to know (really, it will make me feel better about my own neglected reads). Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Friday, May 06, 2022

Looking for Your Next Debate-Provoking Book Club Read? You Found It!

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Twenty years ago, 42-year-old Leigh Mackenzie wanted nothing more than to play hockey in the Olympics. She trained with relentless focus, pushed herself to the brink of collapse, and visualized herself standing proud on the podium. As an added guarantee, she accepted the advances of her coach, who promised her a spot on the team in exchange for sexual favors. When Jeff Carlson failed to deliver, Leigh's dreams were crushed. Shamed and shattered, she buried their secret affair and left the sport behind, using her athletic drive to become a successful investment banker in Florida. 

When a job opportunity leads Leigh back to her hockey-obsessed hometown, she returns to Minnesota with great reluctance. As much as she doesn't want to face her past, she can't deny that Liston Heights is the best place for her son—a 9-year-old hockey prodigy—to excel. Getting Gus on the right team with the right coach is essential, but it will mean plunging their little family into the cutthroat world of competitive sports on a level her husband and child have never experienced before. Not only is Jeff Carlson in the center of that universe, but so is Susy Walker, Leigh's former teammate and the only person who knows what really happened between her and Jeff two decades ago. 

Leigh is dismayed to discover that despite Gus' natural skill, he's far behind the other kids in his training. When Jeff offers to help, Leigh finds herself in a delicate position once again. How far is she willing to go to get Gus where he needs to be? With rumors of a new sexual harrasment suit against Jeff in the air, she has to decide whether to keep quiet for her son's sake or reveal the explosive secret even her husband, Charlie, doesn't know in order to take an influential predator out of the game for good. 

Before I start dishing about Home Or Away, Kathleen West's newest novel, I should say right up front that I don't have a competitive bone in my body. I've never been into sports and even with games I do enjoy (like, say, Scrabble), I care not at all whether I win or lose. In my (not so) humble opinion, youth sports should be a safe, supportive environment where children can learn and have fun, not a place for hyper parents to relive their own glory days or pad their egos by pressuring their kids to win, then losing their minds when the players don't triumph or perform as well as expected. Because of these pre-existing feelings, I admit I went into Home Or Away with some heavy biases that affected my reaction to and enjoyment of the story. Incidentally, I have to say that the novel did nothing to change these biases. In fact, it just reinforced them...

At any rate, you won't be suprised to learn that I had a hard time relating to the characters in this book. I simply don't understand people whose lives revolve completely around their children's sporting events. It's even tougher for me to conceive of parents who do the kinds of things Leigh, Charlie, and their friends do in the name of hockey. To me, it just seems silly to care as much as they do about the athletic career of a NINE YEAR OLD. So, while Charlie is much more likable than Leigh, I still really didn't care for either of them (if you want a more spirited and spoiler-y explanation of why, you can read my lengthy Goodreads review here). The only person in the story who mattered to me was young Gus. 

All that being said, West does do a good job of bringing the whole crazy competitive hockey culture thing to life. I could really FEEL the characters' emotions, from the highs of winning to the lows of defeat. The tension in the novel, from both the high-strung parents and the too-pressured kids, is palpable. That constant conflict kept me burning through the pages. I definitely wanted to know how the story was going to play out. So, while I can't say I loved this novel (Did I even like it? I'm not sure.), it did keep me reading. In addition, the book's plot and themes provide plenty of food for thought and discussion. If you're on the hunt for a read that will provoke a lively debate at your next book club meeting, you just found it...

(Readalikes: Reminds me of You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, sexual content/sexual innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

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

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: In a Word


Back in February, I twisted a Top Ten Tuesday topic to create a list of one-word reviews. Several of you suggested I submit the idea to Jana, which explains today's prompt: One-Word Reviews For The Last Ten Books I Read. I'm a very wordy reviewer, so this will be a good exercise in brevity! I also tend to use the same book-describing adjectives over and over, so I'm going to do what I did with my last list and outlaw the words I tend to use most in my reviews: engrossing, fascinating, compelling, heart-warming, enjoyable, tense, fun, depressing, entertaining, and taut (my husband always laughs at me when I use the phrase "taut psychological thriller"). I might need to break out my thesaurus. We'll see.

I'd love to read your one-word reviews, so don't forget to make your own TTT list today. You can find all the info on this fun meme over at That Artsy Reader Girl.

One-Word Reviews For The Last Ten Books I Read


10. The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon:

Twisty


9. The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters:

Delightful


8. Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell:

Diverting


7. The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon:

Slllooowwww


6. The Dead Cat Bounce by Sarah Graves:

Appealing


5. Two Girls Down by Louise Luna:

Nauseating


4. The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller:

Underwhelming


3. The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill (available June 7, 2022):

Clever


2. Strong Like the Sea by Wendy S. Swore:

Empowering


1. These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall (available August 9, 2022):

Disappointing

How did I do? Not too bad, eh? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Which words would you use to describe your last ten reads? I would truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Newest "Beervaria" Cozy Not Quite As Charming As the Others

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Cure for What Ales You, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from earlier Sloan Krause mysteries. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Beer enthusiasts flock to charming Leavenworth, Washington, every year to enjoy the town's lively Maifest celebration. Craft brewers Sloan Krause and Garrett Strong are excited to debut their new line of drinks at the festival. They're looking forward to a fun, profitable weekend. 

Sloan's plans are derailed when she spots a familiar face amongst all the tourists. Marianne is the woman who could hold all the answers to Sloan's many questions about her mysterious past. Sloan needs to talk to her, but Marianne seems to be avoiding her. Why? When a local housekeeper is murdered and Marianne becomes the police's prime suspect, the brewer is even more confused. Why is Marianne in town? Does she hold the answers Sloan has been seeking for so long? 

When Marianne warns Sloan that her family is in danger, Sloan goes on high alert. To protect those she loves and figure out the mystery of her past, she must use her detective skills once more to find a killer. Marianne can't be the murderer—or can she?

It's always fun to drop in on Sloan and the gang in lovely Leavenworth. The characters in this series are warm and likable, the setting is vibrant and atmospheric, and the plots are engaging and enjoyable. While the newest installment (#5), The Cure For What Ales You, isn't my favorite, it's still an entertaining read. Unlike its predecessors, this novel focuses a lot on Sloan's mysterious past, which adds a little something new to the story. The plot gets a bit melodramatic and far-fetched (not an uncommon occurrence in a cozy), true, but there was enough substance in the novel to keep me turning pages. I enjoy Alexander's light, fun cozies, so I'll keep reading this series even if this particular installment didn't enchant me quite as much as the others.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of other books in the Sloan Krause series [Death On Tap; The Pint of No Return; Beyond a Reasonable Stout; and Without a Brew] as well as cozy series by Amanda Flower, Vivien Chien, Kylie Logan, etc.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs); violence; and mild sexual content (in the form of sexual harrassment)

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Despite Explosive Subject Matter, The Atomic City Girls is a Slow, Lackluster Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After her fiancé is killed in the war, 18-year-old June Walker is at loose ends. Wanting to do her bit to help her country, she joins her older sister in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where a crowd of young women are descending to work at mysterious jobs they're not allowed to talk about. The bustling town—which has suddenly sprung up out of nowhere—is dominated by secrecy and security. Inside its borders, though, Oak Ridge is lively with people bustling in and out of factories, canteens, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and dance halls. June's job as an operator of a big, boring machine is mind-numbingly dull, but her life is more meaningful now than it's ever been. Even though she's not allowed to ask questions about what she's actually doing, she's convinced her role in Oak Ridge—not just as a worker but also as a morale booster for all the young men stationed there—is important.  

Dr. Sam Cantor, a 30-year-old engineer from New York, is charmed by June's country girl naiveté. Sam is one of the few people in Oak Ridge who knows what The Manhattan Project is. As his frowned-upon relationship with the younger woman blooms, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the secrets he's promised to protect from leakng out. 

Cici Roberts, June's bombshell roommate, is disgusted by the growing closeness between June and Sam, even though she spends her every waking hour trying to snag a rich husband for herself. Desperate to pass as a sophisticated socialite instead of what she truly is, Cici will do anything to keep her own secrets hidden.

Joe Brewer knows that he and his fellow Negro workers are not treated the same as their white counterparts in Oak Ridge. Still, he needs his wages to send back to his wife and children in Alabama. That requires working hard and keeping his head down, keeping far away from the trouble that's brewing in the colored quarters.  

When Hiroshima is bombed and the shocking truth about the true purpose of Oak Ridge is revealed, everyone in the secret city will be left to grapple with their own morality in the wake of the horrifying destruction they've helped to bring about. The lives of June, Sam, Cici, and Joe will be forever changed because of it. 

I've never read anything about The Manhattan Project, so I thought The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard would be an interesting read. And it is, at least in the sense that it gives readers an idea of what Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was and what living there must have been like. Enhanced with historical photographs from the the city's heyday, the book's setting definitely comes alive. Beyond that, though, it is...not exciting. The novel has no plot, which makes it an episodic slog that meanders here and there without really going anywhere. Although I like that the author uses different focus characters to show different aspects of life in Oak Ridge, the four Beard has created are either bland or downright unpalatable. June and Joe fall into the first category, with Sam and Cici in the other. June and Joe are both sympathetic and kind, but they're cardboard cutouts with no real personality or depth. Sam is a broody jerk who takes advantage of a vulnerable young woman for his own lustful desires. Cici is a self-centered snob who only cares about tricking a wealthy man into taking care of her. Ugh. I was rooting for June and Joe (even though neither felt at all real to me), but I despised both Sam and Cici. Beard's simplistic, lackluster prose does not help matters, combining with the novel's other problems to make it even less appealing. Considering all this, you may be asking, "So, why on earth did you keep reading The Atomic City Girls?" Honestly, I'm not sure. It fulfilled a few reading challenge prompts and it's a fast, mindless read. In the end, though, I found it almost wholly unsatisfying. It's boring, depressing, and just meh all around. 

(Readalikes: I've heard that The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan is a much better book on the same subject.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


 or possibly R
for language (no F-bombs), violence, and sexual content

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Book-Covered Books, Part 2


Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is easy and fun. Perfect! It's all about book covers with X on them—"X" can be a person, a place, a color, an animal, a particular font, a scene, whatever. I'm sure I won't be the only one who chooses books for my X. What can I say? It's one of my favorite things to see on a cover! I love this theme so much that I actually used it for a list back in January 2020. Luckily, there are lots of bookish covers out there, so I used ten different ones this time around. 

Don't forget to click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl and give our hostess, Jana, some love. If you're in a list-making mood today, be sure to join in the TTT fun.

Top Ten Books With Books On the Cover

I haven't read most of these, I just enjoy their cover art. My reviews are linked to the titles of the two I have read.


1. The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill—I'm reading this mystery right now. It has a fun story-within-a-story format that I'm really digging.




3. Aria's Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin


4. The Library by Sarah Stewart


5. Prose and Cons by Amanda Flower


6. The Librarian by Christy Sloat 




8. Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliot


9. The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray


10. The Librarian of Crooked Lane by C.J. Archer

There you have it, ten bookish covers that I love. What do you think? Have you read any of these? Which cover is your favorite? 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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<i>Reading</i>
Farm to Trouble by Amanda Flower

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<i>Listening</i>
The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs



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