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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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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 (1)
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan
- Minnesota
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska
- Nevada
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York (2)
- North Carolina (3)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (2)
- Utah
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (1)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (8)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (2)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

42 / 50 books. 84% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

33.2 / 26.2 miles. 127% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

56 / 104 books. 54% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

57 / 165 books. 35% done!
Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Happy Independent Bookstore Day to Me!

I felt a little bad about going on my last book shopping spree at a chain store instead of my local indie, so I decided to even out the score. Plus, it's Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 29th. Not that I ever need an excuse to visit a bookstore...Changing Hands really is a fabulous place to buy books. The Tempe location has a fun, quirky vibe. It's packed with new and used tomes as well as bookish extras and specialty items like fancy soaps, kitchen accessories, notebooks/journals, jewelry, etc. Other perks include a trade desk, where you can trade in books you no longer need for store credit. They also have a frequent buyer program that gives you one stamp for every $10 you spend; when you reach 10 stamps, you get a $10 off credit. During your birthday month, you also get $10 off your purchases. All of these things make it an enjoyable place to spend my book money! It's actually a good thing that's it a 20-minute drive away. If it were closer, I'd definitely be there more often.

Today, I traded in a stack of books and earned about $56 in credit. I also had a full punch card, which gave me $10. Five of the eight books in the stack above are new and three are hardcovers, so the actual retail price of all eight (at least at Changing Hands) was $133.10. I paid $76.60 (including tax). Not too shabby. My husband actually spent more and he only bought three used books and one (very expensive) chocolate candy bar. Both of our purchases earned me more stamps, so now I have another full card to use next time I'm in the store. Yay!

Here's what I got:

Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell—I've never heard of Bythell, but apparently, he's the owner of the second largest secondhand bookstore in Scotland. He's written several books about his experiences as a bookseller and they're supposed to be hilarious. I believe this one is his first book, which was published in 2017.

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine by Janice P. Nimura—This non-fiction book has been on my TBR list since it came out a few years ago. It's about Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, two American women who received M.D.s in the 1800s. Elizabeth was the first ever to do so. Sounds fascinating!

The Book Woman's Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson—I'm not even a little bit alone in my love for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. This is the sequel, which stars the daughter of the titular book woman.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom—Grissom was kind enough to send me a review copy of her new novel, Crow Mary, and I can't wait to read it. In the meantime, I want to re-read The Kitchen House, which I loved, and then read its sequel, Glory Over Everything. The Kitchen House is about a young white girl who is orphaned while sailing from Ireland to America. She becomes an indentured servant at a Southern plantation, where she becomes part of the servants' family, despite their differing skin colors. When she upsets the order of things, however, life as she knows it changes forever.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen—This memoir was on clearance and I've been wanting to read it, so I grabbed it. It's the story of Rhoda's journey back home to the insular Mennonite family and culture she left behind. The book's supposed to be both hilarious and touching. I'm in!

Lone Women by Victor LaVelle—I probably don't need to tell you what this one's about since it's been getting all kinds of buzz in the book blogosphere. It sounds unique and compelling. The novel concerns a Black woman who leaves California to homestead in Montana in 1915. Not only does she have to eke out a life on the brutal prairie, but she also has a dark secret. One that makes the people around her disappear. How will she fare in her attempt at a new life?

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris—When my husband saw this book, he added it to my to-buy stack, saying, "This sounds like your kind of book!" Ha ha. He knows me so well.

Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer—Ashton Hall is my favorite kind of novel, one in which a modern-day woman enters a mysterious old house and becomes obsessed with unearthing all its secrets. I'm always up for this kind of story.

What do you think of my haul? Have you read any of these? Which should I read first? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: The One With the Silky-Smooth Audiobook Narrators

It's been a couple weeks since I did a Top Ten Tuesday. Since these are about the only posts I've been making this year, it's really good to be back! Today's topic—Top Ten Favorite Audiobook Narrators—is one that won't appeal to everyone. I, myself, wouldn't have had much to say about it just a few years ago. Now, though, I've gotten into the habit of having an audiobook going always so that I can listen while I drive and do housework. Not only does it make tedious chores more entertaining, but it multiplies the amount of time I get to spend reading. A win-win for sure.

As always, TTT is hosted by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Click on over to her blog to read all about this fun weekly event. 

Top Ten Favorite Audiobook Narrators 
- in no particular order - 

1. Katherine Kellgren—Kellgren narrated one of my favorite YA series, an ongoing tale of swashbuckling sensation "Bloody" Jack Faber. Her animated readings are the best! Unfortunately, she passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2018. The author of the Bloody Jack books is also deceased, which is incredibly sad as Kellgren and Meyer made a wonderful team. Hopefully, they're still making books together in heaven.

Kellgren books I've enjoyed: The Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer

2. Jim Dale—Everybody loves this versatile narrator who's so entertaining with his immense skill at creating unique voices. Listening to him read the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is an absolute delight.

Dale books I've enjoyed: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

3. Guy LockardJason Reynolds is one of my favorite middle grade authors. Lockard is a long-time friend of the author and comes from the same inner-city background as Reynolds. His voice rings with authenticity when he narrates his buddy's work. Plus, he does some super fun voices (Coach Brody from the Track series is my favorite).

Lockard books I've enjoyed: Track series by Jason Reynolds 

4. Julia Whelan—I've listened to several books read by Whelan, whose smooth voice makes characters seem so alive that you almost forget they're not real.

Whelan books I've enjoyed: Book Lovers by Emily Henry, The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation by Rosemary Sullivan

5. Karissa Vacker—Some of the first books I listened to on audio were read by Vacker. She does an excellent job.

Vacker books I've enjoyed: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, Momentuous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

6. Bethan Rose Young—Young brings Myrtle Hardcastle, one of my favorite MG sleuths, to life so well. I love listening to the series on audio.

Young books I've enjoyed: Myrtle Hardcastle series by Elizabeth C. Bunce

7. Sophie Roberts—Roberts has another voice that's so smooth it melts into the background and lets the story she's narrating really come alive.

Robert books I've enjoyed: The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

8. Celebrities reading their own books—I'm not much into celebs, so I don't read many of these, but I've enjoyed the few that I've listened to.

Celebrity-read books I've enjoyed: The Answer Is... by Alex Trebek (co-narrated with Ken Jennings), Surrender by Bono (The husband and I are in the middle of this one right now. It's 20 hours long!)

9. Saskia Maarleveld—I've listened to one book read by Maarlevald and she narrates several more that I'd like to read. 

Maarleveld books I've enjoyed: The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong

10. Keylor Leigh—I've only listened to one book read by Leigh, but I would definitely listen to more!

Leigh books I've enjoyed: The Renegade Reporters by Elissa Brent Weissman

I'm still a bit of a newbie to the world of audiobooks. Which narrators should I be searching out? Who are your favorites? I'd truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog. I also reply to comments here, so check back.

Happy TTT!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Thursday This & That

I've been a bit M.I.A. this month. Although I've still been reading, everything else has kind of taken a back burner to the big exam I just completed. I became an accredited genealogist earlier this year, with a specialty in the U.S. Southwest region (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and California, as defned by ICAPGen), but, because I'm a little crazy, I decided to accredit in an additional region. This one has actually been a long time coming thanks to COVID delays, but I finally took the 8-hour exam to accredit in the U.S. Great Lakes region (Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois). It was stressful, but I'm done. Keep your fingers crossed that I pass it!

As a reward for completing my testing (not that I ever really need an excuse), I treated myself to a Barnes & Noble trip. I considered driving to Tempe to hit up my local(ish) indie, Changing Hands Bookstore, but after a long morning of testing, I was basically on the verge of collapse and I just didn't want to drive that far. So, I stayed really local and bought this lovely trio at B&N:

(My son was shocked that I posed my treasures by the pool. Don't worry, no books were harmed in the making of this post!)

I've been dying to read all of these:

Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson—This is the fifth book in Johnson's fabulous Truly Devious series. The books are YA mysteries starring a teen true crime aficianado who uses her skills to solve cold and hot cases.

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden—There's nothing I like better than a Gothic mystery set in a mysterious old house. This one fits the bill nicely.

Homecoming by Kate Morton—I may have mentioned a few (hundred) times that Morton has a new book out. She's one of my all-time favorite authors, so this was an auto-buy. I should have put Homecoming on top of the stack because it has a gorgeous cover. The novel is about a murder that takes place in Australia in 1959 and the modern woman who's determined to solve it once and for all. 

I don't know what the weather's looking like in your neck of the woods, but here in the Arizona desert it's been in the low 80s. It's cool enough (in the shade at least) to read poolside. I'm super wimpy so I don't actually get in the water until the temperature's over 100. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your opinion of Arizona's ridiculously hot weather), it won't be long now. Summer is my least favorite season, but at least I can always step outside and take a refreshing dip in my pool. Could be worse!

What are you all up to? Read anything good lately? I just started an e-ARC of Warrior Girl Unearthed, Angeline Boulley's second novel, which comes out on May 2. It has to do with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). I'm only a few chapters in and it's already eye-opening and intriguing. On audio, I'm listening to The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan. I've read and loved most of Ryan's books. This one feels slower than her others, but it's still an enjoyable listen.

Breaking news: I'm hoping to actually get a review posted before the week's out! Right? It's been a hot minute since that's happened around here. Stay tuned...
Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Indie/Self-Published Books I Want to Read

How do you feel about self-published books? What about those that come through smaller, independent presses? That's what today's TTT prompt is all about: Top Ten Indie/Self-Published Books. I'll be honest, I'm not hot on the self-pubbed. I've read so many stinkers in the past that, nowadays, I avoid them, except when they come from an author I already know and love (Here's looking at you, Melanie Jacobson!). I'm fine with indie books, although I still don't seem to read many of them. All of this means that today's topic is a toughie for me. And yet, I'm pressing on, not going rogue this time. Impressed? You should be! I managed to find ten indie and self-published books that are now on my TBR list (if they weren't already).

As always, TTT is hosted by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Click on over to her blog for all the details.

Top Ten Indie/Self-Published Books I Want to Read
 - in no particular order - 

1. Here For It by Melanie Jacobson (Four Petal Press)—Jacobson published a bunch of books with Covenant Communications before turning to self-/indie publishing. There are many of her fun, flirty novels I still haven't gotten to, but I enjoyed So Not My Thing—the first installment in the Love in New Orleans trilogy—and I want to finish the series.

This second book stars Anneke, a supermodel who's in NOLA to help her BFF open his new jazz club. When she realizes that her online crush owns a record shop in town, she can't help but be intrigued. Jonah feels the same, although Anneke's not at all the kind of woman the music store owner has in mind for himself. So, why can't he stop thinking about her? 

I always look forward to Jacobson's books because they're humorous, sassy, lighthearted, closed-door romances that are fun and entertaining.

2. Maybe I Will by Melanie Jacobson (Four Petal Press)—This third installment in the Love in New Orleans trilogy is an enemies-to-lovers romance between a feared food critic and a chef who's trying to make a name for himself. Chloe Morel and Dylan Jones have hated each other for years. When they suddenly become neighbors, the heat between them intensifies, but not in the way they expect. What will happen when their professional goals come between their growing attraction to each other?

Known as "America's Independent Publisher," Kensington has published a number of books that appeal to me, including:

3. The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abé (Kensington)—Everyone knows I'm a bit of  a Titanic junkie, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I want to read this one. The romance between 17-year-old Madeleine Talmage Force and wealthy businessman John Jacob Astor, a man almost three times her age, creates a huge scandal. Their honeymoon to Egypt provides a respite from the relentless attention of the press and other tongue-waggers, but their return trip on the Titanic proves to be anything but peaceful. In the aftermath of the tragedy, what will become of the young widow?

4. Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge (Kensington)—This is the first book in a historical mystery series starring Julia Child's (fictional) BFF, Tabitha Knight. Also an American, Tabitha has fallen head over heels for the City of Lights. Her enchanted French experience turns sour, however, when a dead body is found in Julia's cellar. The murder weapon? A knife from Julia's kitchen. As the police begin their inquiries, Tabitha launches her own investigation. Who killed the dead woman and why? She aims to find out.

5. The Runaway by Lisa Childs (Kensington)—Once an insane asylum, Halcyon Hall is now an exclusive spa for the wealthy. Located on a secluded estate on an island off the coast of Maine, it's not an easy place to gain access to, which is a problem for Rosemary Tulle. Her younger sister's frantic phone call from Halcyon Hall, begging Rosemary to come get her, has left Rosemary worried and afraid. She grows even more desperate—and suspicious—when the spa's staff insist Genevieve ran away. Rosemary refuses to believe that. She will find her sister, no matter what it takes.

6. The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew (Kensington)—It's 1954 and 13-year-old Jubie Watts is on a road trip with her family and their Black maid, Mary Luther. As the group travels from their home in North Carolina to their destination in Florida, Jubie notices the racial tension that increases the deeper the longer they're on the road. When the unthinkable happens, Jubie will be left to reconcile with hard truths about the South, her parents—and herself.

7. Red Flags by Lisa Black (Kensington)—This series opener stars Dr. Ellie Carr, a crime scene analyst working in Washington, D.C. When she's assigned to a missing baby case, Ellie is stunned to discover the child's mother is her cousin. What happened to the baby? Ellie must find out.

8. Owl in the Oak Tree by Penny Walker Veraar (GG Publishing)—After her husband's death from cancer, Reagan Ramsey is doing everything she can to hold it together, especially for her special needs daughter. When a drive-by shooting happens right before Reagan's eyes, she becomes an unwitting witness to a shocking crime. As much as she wants the perpetrator brought to justice, she is terrifed of risking her family's safety. What will she do? How will her decision impact her already grief-stricken life?

9. Silver River Shadow by Jane Thomas (Books and Bicycles Press)—The plot summary of this middle-grade novel is unique and I don't want to screw it up by writing it in my own words, so here's the publisher's version:

In 1946, Barney and Marion Lamm climbed into their two-seater plane and flew deep into the heart of the Canadian wilderness. Then one day the wonderful life they created was ripped apart.

Over seventy years later, their great-granddaughter Lizzie follows in their footsteps. Nobody ever tells Lizzie anything. Her mother's dead and her father's hiding in his work. Determined to know her family history, the truths she uncovers are laced with dangerous secrets.

Based on a true story and a real, raw quest for truth, Silver River Shadow shines a light on a country's darkest secrets and unveils the mercury tragedy that still affects the Ojibway community in Canada's northwestern Ontario today. With gorgeous illustrations, this beautifully written book is perfect for 8+ fans of Katherine Rundell, Tom Palmer and Onjali Rauf.

My Name is Ona Judge by Suzette D. Harrison (Bookoutre)—This historical novel tells the stories of two women: Ona Judge, a slave who escaped the household of George and Martha Washington in 1796, and the modern one of the woman who finds Ona's carefully-hidden journal, which tells a harrowing and shocking tale...

There you go, ten indie/self-published novels I want to read. Have you read any of them? What did you think? Which indie/self-published books have you enjoyed in the past? Which would you recommend to me based on the titles I've listed above? 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, April 01, 2023

The Bookish Books Reading Challenge: April Book Ideas and Link Up for Reviews

Although I had every intention of reading more than one bookish book in March, it just did not happen. I very much enjoyed the one I did get to, though:

Murder Off the Books is the third installment in Tamara Berry's By the Book cozy mystery series. I'm loving the series because it's just so much fun. Easy, entertaining reads are exactly what I need sometimes.

April is already shaping up to be a good month for bookish books because I'm already reading these two:

Smile Beach Murder is the first installment in Alicia Bessette's cozy mystery series set in North Carolina's Outer Banks area. It stars Callie Padget, a city reporter who's just been laid off. With nowhere else to go, she returns to her hometown temporarily to regroup. Soon after she gets hired at a local bookstore, she runs into an old friend, who soon ends up dead. The police think she jumped from the lighthouse because she wanted to kill herself; Callie refuses to believe it. Someone killed Eva Meeks, just like someone killed Callie's mother—in the exact same place—26 years ago. It's up to Callie to figure out what really happened to the dead women. 

Emily Henry's name is all over the book blogosphere. Everyone seems to adore her books, so I knew I had to give them a go. I was excited when I saw that Book Lovers was available on audio from my library. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far it's super fun. I've already laughed out loud several times, which bodes very well.

I just found out about this book, which is a potential bookish read for April:

Dear Reader: The Comfor and Joy of Books is a memoir of the reading life of Cathy Rentzenbrink, a bookseller who became a professional writer. 

I might also get a jump on this one since it's my book club's May pick:

Everyone's probably already read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, so I won't give you a plot summary. I adore this book, but it's been a minute since I read it so I'm going to re-read it so it's fresh in my mind for book club and so I can finally pick up the sequel:

As the title indicates, The Book Woman's Daughter is the story of the daughter of the beloved Troublesome Creek book woman. When Honey Lovett's parents are imprisoned, she has to fight to keep her own freedom. She starts running her mother's packhorse library route, delivering books to eager patrons in the remote hollers of Appalachia. Just as it did for her mother, the job changes Honey's life forever.

We'll see how many of these I actually get read, but this is a good tentative plan for April. We'll see how it goes. How about you? What bookish books did you read in March? Which are you planning on for April?

For those of you who are participating in the Bookish Books Reading Challenge, here's the Mr. Linky to use for linking up March reviews. If you've not yet signed up for the challenge, what are you waiting for? Join us in this low-key challenge that celebrates a genre we all love: books about books. It will be fun, I promise! 

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