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My Progress:

9 / 30 books. 30% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona
- Arkansas
- California (3)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii
- Idaho (2)
- Illinois
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- Iowa
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- Kentucky
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan
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- Mississippi
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- New York (2)
- North Carolina (2)
- North Dakota
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- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania
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- 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 (6)
- France (1)
- Ireland (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

16 / 51 states. 31% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

13 / 50 books. 26% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

19 / 50 books. 38% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

37 / 50 books. 74% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

30 / 52 books. 58% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

22 / 40 books. 55% 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

22 / 26.2 miles. 84% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

19 / 100 books. 19% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

45 / 104 books. 43% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

36 / 52 books. 69% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

40 / 165 books. 24% done!
Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: The Haunting of My TBR

I'm a little late to the party today, but I didn't want to miss out on TTT. These weekly lists are pretty much all I've been managing to post lately, so...yeah. Today's official topic is Top Ten Typographic Book Covers. I'm not feeling that one; instead, I'm going to go with something more seasonal. Spooky books always appeal to me, but they're even more alluring the closer we get to Halloween. I can't handle anything too gory or horror-y these days as I'm becoming a right wimp in my old age. However, I still enjoy an atmospheric Gothic tale or a shivery ghost story, the kind that are spine-tingling without being nightmare-inducing. My favorite trope by far is the haunted house. Give me a broody old pile with a mysterious past, secrets swirling through the corridors, and plenty of ghosts in the closets (real and/or metaphorical) and I'm a happy reader. The authors I prefer in this genre are: Eve Chase, Carol Goodman, Simone St. James, Riley Sager, Jennifer McMahon, etc. If you've got any suggestions for readalike authors, let me know. In the meantime, I'll share my list of the Top Ten Haunted House Books On My TBR List.

First, though, be sure to click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl and give TTT's fearless hostess some love. Then, make your own list and enjoy a fun evening of blog hopping. It's a good time, I promise!

Top Ten Haunted House Books On My TBR List  
-in no particular order-

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson—For some reason, I still haven't read this classic haunted house novel. It's about four people who gather at a notoriously spook-infested old mansion. Strange happenings occur. 

2. Girls of Brackenhill by Kate Moretti—When human remains are discovered at Hannah Maloney's ancestral castle in the Catskills, she's convinced they're the bones of her sister, who disappeared seventeen years ago. Obsessed with figuring out what really happened all those years ago, Hannah uncovers disturbing secrets from the past.

3. The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell—Two years ago, a young woman left her baby with her mother and headed to a party at a house in the woods. She never returned. In the present, Sophie is strolling through the forest near the boarding school where her boyfriend has just accepted a position. She sees a note that says, "Dig here." Sounds like an intriguing premise...

4. What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie—This is a children's book—how creepy can it possibly be? Probably enough to scare me silly! The story is set in a decrepit old mansion deep in the Michigan woods called Woodmoor Manor. Rumors in the town say it was once the home of a mad scientist whose disturbing experiments roam through the trees, always watching. 

5. The Good House by Tananarive Due—Trying to put her life back together after her son's suicide, Angela Toussaint returns to her ancestral home, the place where her boy took his own life. What she finds is a sentient evil that's causing residents of her town to act out in violence. Is it the same entity her grandmother battled long ago? Just what is it that lurks in her home—and in her family history?

6. Death Overdue by Allison Brook—The first installment in a series, this cozy mystery features a haunted library in Connecticut. When a retired homicide detective who claims to know the murderer of a beloved library aide is killed, the library's new event planner vows to find his killer. 

7. Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas—Located deep in the forests of Pennsylvania, Catherine House is an elite, unconventional school that has educated some of the most brilliant minds in America. School policy demands that students leave their outside lives behind and devote three years of their lives to an intense education. Ines is finding herself inside the strange institution when tragedy strikes, making her question everything that's happening at Catherine House.

8. The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen—In an attempt to outrun her past and finish the cookbook she's writing, Ava Collette retreats to an old pile on the coast of Maine. Her peaceful reverie is broken when she starts hearing strange noises in the night. When an apparition appears to her, Ava begins looking into the disappearance of the house's previous renter. Something sinister is going on and Ava intends to get to the bottom of it.

9. The Winter Guest by W.C. Ryan—Once a grand Irish mansion, Kilcolgan House is now a crumbling pile filled with broken people and whispering ghosts. When Lord Kilcolgan's oldest daughter is killed, an IRA intelligence officer comes to the home to investigate. As he digs into the secrets of Kilcolgan House, he uncovers secrets galore. Can he use them to find the murderer?

10. The Haunting of Ashburn House by Darcy Coates—Coates has several books that fit this genre, but this one sounds especially good to me. Plus, I like the symmetry of ending my list with a title similar to the one I began it with. The plot concerns a woman who inherits a creepy old house after the owner, a mysterious recluse, dies. With ominous messages scrawled on the wallpaper, a hidden grave in the backyard, and portraits that seem to watch her every move, the new occupant is understandably unnerved. As she digs into the house's sinister past, she begins to believe every terrifying rumor she's ever heard about the place...

There you go, ten haunted house novels that should make for excellent, eerie Halloween reading. Have you read any of them? What did you think? Can you think of any similar books I might like? I love recs! What books did you feature on your TTT list today? I'd truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: FALLing for a New Crop of TBR Books

Although we are having a little streak of days in the 90s, it's only going to last until Thursday, when we'll be back over 100 degrees again. This is par for the course in the Arizona desert, unfortunately. True Fall weather (at least our version of it) won't start arriving for a couple months still. I desperately miss real Autumn weather and dream of the days when I experienced it this way:

Even if it's not Fall yet on the outside where I live, it's Fall in my heart, so it seems appropriate that today's prompt is Top Ten Books On My Fall 2022 TBR List. These seasonal lists are my favorite! I can't wait to see what everyone's planning to read during this cozy time of year.

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

Top Ten Books On My Fall 2022 TBR List
- in no particular order - 

1. The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty—I've read most of Moriarty's novels, but this one slipped through the cracks somehow. I'm currently enjoying it on audio. The story is about a woman who very unexpectedly inherits the house of someone she barely knows. Along with the property comes an unconventional family full of untold secrets.

2. Come Down Somewhere by Jennifer L. Wright—The other day, I was working on improving my NetGalley downloaded-to-reviewed ratio (I went from 2% to 4%—woohoo!) when I came across Wright's first book, If It Rains. Remembering how much I enjoyed her debut, I went looking for more from her. Turns out, her sophomore effort came out a couple weeks ago. 

The novel concerns 16-year-old Olive, whose family's New Mexico ranch is seized by the government in 1945 in order to make way for a hush-hush new Army post. Already angry at being uprooted, Olive's even more disconcerted when she hears rumors about what's really happening on her family's land. Seven years after a devastating explosion rocks the whole area, Olive returns to the ranch determined to figure out what really happened there. Sounds intriguing!

3. The House on the Lake by Holly Hill Mangin—It wouldn't be spooky season without a shivery read or two. This one is about two women who arrive at a mysterious lake house with no memory of getting there. The house is full of chilling surprises. What will the women find? Will they ever be able to leave?

4. The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox (available April 4, 2023)—Fox's newest doesn't come out until Spring, but I've got an e-ARC thanks to Edelweiss. The story stars a young woman who's shocked when she learns that not only is she part of an ancient English bloodline, but she's also the new owner of a sprawling Yorkshire manor. Although rumors of ghosts, curses, and sinister doings swirl around Blackwood Abbey, it has one major draw: an exquisite library. How could any book lover possibly resist? As strange things start happening, Blackwood's new owner is determined to get to the bottom of its many secrets. 

5. The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green (available November 15, 2022)—Returning to World War II, Green's newest concerns an unlikely librarian tasked with keeping her small-town Maine library open despite wartime struggles. The book club she forms as a last-ditch effort brings together a group of very different women who find support, belonging, and commonality as they bond through books.

6. Exiles by Jane Harper (available January 31, 2023)—I love Harper's novels, especially those in the Aaron Falk series, so I'm excited for her newest. I've got an e-ARC of this one, which has the federal investigator traveling to Southern Australia for a baby christening. Naturally, he gets embroiled in the case of Kim Gillespie, a young mother who tucked her slumbering newborn into her stroller then vanished without a trace during a town festival one year ago. What would make a loving parent abandon her baby? Did Kim go willingly or was she taken? Where is she now? 

7. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm—This middle-grade read is an older book and one of the few of Holm's standalone novels I haven't yet read. It's about a young girl who moves with her mother to Key West, Florida. Jobs are scarce in 1935 and her mom needs this one, even if the wealthy lady for whom she's working hates kids. Florida is a big adjustment for young Turtle, but it might be just what she needs to finally come out of her shell.

8. The Dark by Sharon Bolton—It's been eight years since Bolton published an installment of her Lacey Flint mystery series, so I'm super stoked about this one. In it, Lacey is investigating a disturbing new terrorist threat from an extremist group that hates women—killing their babies. Can Lacey stop them before another infant dies?

9. The Bequest by Joanna Margaret (available October 18, 2022)—Isabel Henley moves from the U.S. to Scotland in the wake of a devastating love affair. Immediately, one after another, things in her new life start to go awry. When Isabel receives a coded message from an old friend who's been abducted, she finds herself in a desperate race to finish the research her kidnapped pal started. If she can't do it, both women will be killed by the dangerous captors.

10. The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf—This thriller looks like a perfect Fall read! Wylie Lark, a true crime writer, has retreated to an isolated farmhouse to pound out her new book. Once the site of a grisly murder, it's an atmospheric place to write; an oncoming snowstorm just makes it more so. When Wylie discovers a child stranded in the blizzard, she realizes she's not as alone as she thinks she is. Someone is out there, dying to come in...

There you have it, ten books on my Fall 2022 TBR list. What do you think? Have you read any of them? What are you planning to read this 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! 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Warm-Hearted Adoption Novel Intimate, Insightful, and Discussion Worthy

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A planner by nature (and profession), Tabitha Basnight is determined to turn her unconventional clan into a real family. She wants her 7-year-old twins to maintain a close bond with their biological siblings, even though the children are spread out between three different households. The families' frequent (but hurried) gatherings aren't enough for Tabitha, who longs for a close sisterhood with her fellow adoptive mothers. To that end, she has organized an activity-filled, two-week stay for the entire crew at a vacation home in Aspen, Colorado. Tabitha just knows the time together will finally cement the bonds between them in the rock solid way she's been dreaming of. 

Elizabeth Evans isn't quite as thrilled about her upcoming vacation. After five years of miscarriages and IVF treatments, she and her husband couldn't wait to adopt infant Violet. John is absolutely enthralled with fatherhood, but Elizabeth? Well, she kind of hates it. Weighed down by guilt, exhaustion, and heavy debt from her infertility treatments, Elizabeth is already on edge. How is she supposed to keep it together while in such close proximity to Tabitha, the perfect mother? 

Although Ginger Kowalski, an introverted technical writer, never intended to have children, she's delighted with her adoptive daughter. She's less enamored with Tabitha's determination to create one big, happy family. By living in a different city than the other parents, shy, private Ginger is able to keep a little bit of distance. She knows Tabitha doesn't agree with her choice and she's not looking forward to spending two weeks feeling suffocated and pressured by the bossy planner.  

When Brianna, the kids' flighty birthmother, calls to let the families know she's pregnant again, it lights a match to a fire already stoked with a dangerous mix of anxiety, resentment, guilt, jealousy, doubt, and feelings of inadequacy. Will the family be able to rise from the ashes of the ensuing inferno? Or will the vacation that was supposed to bond them forever tear them apart for good?

I hadn't heard of Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown before seeing it advertised at a local bookship with a note saying, "Everyone connected with adoption should read this book." I'm an adoptive mom who's always looking for a compelling read, so I picked the book up (from the library, because I'm also cheap). The story immediately sucked me in, not because it's action-packed, edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff, but because the characters are so relatable. I saw different elements of myself in each of the three moms at the center of the book. All three are complex, sympathetic, well-actualized characters. I cared about them, their children, and what was going to happen to their unique family. This is very much a character-based novel, but there's enough tension in the plot to keep things moving along. In fact, I zipped through Any Other Family in a day. It's a warm-hearted read that made me smile, sympathize, and think about adoption as a whole and about my experience with it in particular. The author is an adoptive mom herself, so the novel feels authentic, intimate, and very personal. Whatever your experience with adoption, Any Other Family is an engrossing, insightful book. I enjoyed it.

If you're looking for a book club read that asks discussion-worthy questions, look no further. Any Other Family explores lots of intriguing questions like: What makes a family? What (if anything) do adoptive parents owe to their child's birth family? What kind of adoption is healthiest for a child? How does being adopted affect a child's psyche and well-being? What questions are appropriate/inappropriate to ask an adoptive family? How does the experience of motherhood differ for each mother? No matter your own experience (or inexperience) with adoption, these are probing questions sure to inspire an interesting book club discussion.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of Far From the Tree by Robin Benway and How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: The Geography of Me and My TBR List

Hill, dale, mountain, valley, ocean, swamp, gorge, narrow...there are hundreds of words to describe the geographical wonders of our world. Not surprisingly, many of them show up in the titles of books. Using this list as my guide, it didn't take me long to gather a bunch of them for today's TTT prompt: Top Ten Books With Geographical Terms in the Title (suggested by Lisa at Hopewell's Public Library of Life). I tweaked it just a tad by focusing on books on my TBR list. 

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 TBR With Geographical Terms in the Title

1. These Silent Woods by Kami Cunningham Grant—It just so happens that my current read fits this week's topic. I'm enjoying this quietly compelling novel about a man and his 8-year-old daughter whose peaceful life in an isolated cabin is threatened by a string of events that could expose a dangerous secret from the past and destroy their idyllic existence forever. 

2. The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart—In the middle of the Depression, a desperate widow disguises herself as a man in order to get a job at a turpentine camp in Georgia. Despite the grimness of her situation, she begins to envision a new life for herself, if only she can come to terms with the sins of her past.

3. The Quarry Girls by Jess Lourey—Thrillers about small towns with big secrets always appeal to me. This one concerns a Minnesota town where teenage girls are disappearing. Heather and Brenda are keeping a secret about something disturbing they saw one night. Are the incidents connected? Too scared to go to the authorities, Heather decides to investigate on her own...

4. Smile Beach Murder by Alicia Bessette—The first installment in a cozy mystery series, this one stars Callie, a woman who returns to her hometown in the Outer Banks after being laid off from her job as a reporter. Still haunted by the death of her mother, who fell from the top of the local lighthouse, Callie is shocked when another woman dies in the same manner. She doesn't believe either woman committed suicide, as the rumors suggest, so what did happen? Callie is determined to find out.

5. The Half-Life of Ruby Fielding by Lydia Kang—It's 1942 and the Fielding siblings are doing what they can for the war effort on the home front. When they discover a mysterious stranger hiding under their back stairs, they're drawn into her web, but who is she? And what does she want from them? Can they trust the enigmatic stranger or should they turn her in to the authorities?

6. On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family by Lisa See—In this non-fiction book, See tells her family's story, starting with the emigration of her great-great grandfather from China to California.

7. Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine—I've mentioned this dark comedy/murder mystery set in Scotland before. It sounds clever and funny.

8. The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman—Based on a true story, this historical novel is about Sage Winters, a girl who discovers her dead sister is actually alive. Sage knew her sister was different than other people, but does she really deserve to be institutionalized at the Willowbrook State School? Sage vows to find out the truth about her sister and the infamous school for herself, no matter what it takes.

9. The Marsh House by Zoë Somerville—This dual-timeline novel tells the story of two women in different eras and the mysterious, secret-filled house that ties them together.

10. Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager—This rollicking middle-grade adventure tells the tale of Fidelia Quail, an 11-year-old who's wracked by guilt after her parents are killed in an accident involving a submarine Fidelia invented. When she's kidnapped by a treasure-obssessed pirate, she must use her vast knowledge of the sea to help him find what he seeks in order to avoid walking the plank. The discovery that her pirate captor is more than he seems throws her for a loop and plunges her head-first into a puzzling mystery.

There you are, ten books with geographical terms in the titles that I want to read. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Which titles and terms are on your list today? I'd truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!      

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: A Non-Fiction Education

Since my life is still fairly chaotic thanks to our continued home remodeling as well as just, you know, stuff, weekly Top Ten Tuesday posts seem to be about all I can handle here at BBB. I'm hoping the remodel will be done by the end of this month and life will get back to normal. In the meantime, here's a little peek to show you how good things are looking:

My kitchen in April, when we started remodeling.

My kitchen, now-ish. This pic was actually taken a couple weeks ago. The contractor has been working on projects in other areas of the house, so we're still waiting for the backsplash, vent hood, and some open shelves to be put in. 

I'm really happy with how the remodel is going, although I'm impatient for it all to be done, of course. 

Anyway, back to TTT. I missed last week because my husband and I were in the mountains celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a nice little getaway, but I was bummed to miss a fun TTT topic so I'm going to do that one instead of this week's, which is: Top Ten Books I Received for Review That I Loved So Much I Bought a Copy for My Personal Library. That's a mouthful! Instead, I'm going with the School Freebie from last week. I really wanted to make a list of books set in haunted schools, but I couldn't come up with five titles let alone ten, so I'm going for a less fun but still interesting (to me at least) theme—Top Ten Non-Fiction Titles I Want to Read. Since I'm such a fiction addict, non-fiction books feel educational to me, and educational = school, so yeah, here we go:

Top Ten Non-Fiction Titles I Want to Read
- in no particular order - 

1. Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe—My friend is in the middle of this one and she was telling me last night how intriguing she's finding it. It's about the Sacklers, the family "famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin." Definitely sounds like a compelling read!

2. The Woman They Could Not Silence: The Shocking Story of a Woman Who Dared to Fight Back by Kate Moore—The same friend who recommended #1 suggested this one for our next book club discussion. It tells the story of Elizabeth Packard, a wife and mother whose husband had her committed to an insane asylum when he started feeling too threatened by her opinions and intellect. Her unwillingness to back down led to advances in women's rights and the freedom of other women who were institutionalized against their will.

3. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair—As the subtitle indicates, this memoir is about a Black woman who discovers her grandfather was Amon Goeth, a ruthless Nazi commandant who was executed for his brutal war crimes. The discovery throws her into a deep depression and causes her to question many things about her family and heritage.

4. The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede—I've heard excellent things about this book, which tells the story of how a small town welcomed thousands of stranded jetliner passengers with open arms when their planes were forced to land in Gander on September 11, 2001.

5. The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman—Just looking at the cover of this book makes me nostalgic for my teenage years! Sounds like a super fun read starring a unique decade in history.

6. In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado—Even though I have no interest in mountain climbing myself, I still find memoirs about scaling Mt. Everest and other giants absolutely fascinating. This one is about a woman struggling with the challenges of her own life and her experience leading a group of novice climbers on a harrowing trip up Everest. 

7. Unmasked: My Life Solving America's Cold Cases by Paul Holes—Although I used to be a big true crime fan, I've read little of it in recent years. Still, this memoir by the detective who found the Golden State Killer sounds interesting. 

8. Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them by Neil Bradbury—Speaking of true crime, this is another title that sounds really intriguing to me.

9. Overdue: Reckoning With the Public Library by Amanda Oliver—I've always loved libraries, so this book sounds right up my alley. The author recounts her experiences working as a librarian in impoverished areas of Washington, D.C., and what she learned about the evolving role public libraries serve.

10. Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James—James' job as an admissions officer who specialized in bringing diversity to elite prep schools caused her to reflect on her own tumultuous experience as the first Black legacy student at The Taft School. 

There you go, ten non-fiction books I want to read. Have you read any of them? What did you think? Which NF titles are on your TBR list? 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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