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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:

23 / 50 books. 46% 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:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Spooky Books Haunting My TBR List

Happy Halloween! I'm actually not a big fan of this holiday. Never really have been, even as a kid. However, I do enjoy a shivery tale (as long as it's not TOO scary because I'm also a wimp) this time of year. We'll get to that in a minute.

First, some exciting news:

My Little Free Library is finally open for business! Other than some clean up from the landscape company (hence the fences in the background) and a few plants that need to go in, our big front yard remodel is done. After almost a year of sitting in boxes in my hallway, my LFL is finally set up. Isn't it cute? We live right by a community mailbox, so I'm hoping it will get lots of traffic. 

Okay, on to our Top Ten Tuesday prompt for today. (As always, TTT is hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl.) I was going to compile a list of my favorite "spooky" book authors for today's Halloween freebie, but as I started doing it, it seemed awfully...familiar. Looking back at previous years confirmed that I had already created such a list for TTT a couple years ago. Since the lists were pretty much identical, I bagged that idea. (If you want to see my list of My Top Ten Favorite Go-To Authors for Haunting Halloween-ish Reads from 2021, click here.) Since I can't think of anything more creative, today I'm going to talk about ten spooky books on my TBR list. I'm a bit of a wuss, so "spooky" for me is probably not nearly as scary as it is for you!

Top Ten Spooky Books Haunting My TBR List

1. The Only One Left by Riley Sager—Sager is one of my favorite writers of creepy, atmospheric books. His newest features a reclusive elderly woman, notorious for allegedly murdering her family as a teenager, who decides to finally tell the real story behind the killings. Is the crone an innocent woman whose life was ruined by false accusations? Or is she a cold-blooded murderer who's not done with her dark work?

2. Murder Road by Simone St. James (available March 4, 2024)—I've got an e-ARC of St. James' latest, which tells the story of a young couple who take a wrong turn while looking for the resort where they're planning to spend their honeymoon. They pick up a hitchhiker, who they realize only belatedly is bleeding profusely. When the girl later dies, the newlyweds become suspects in her murder. A string of unsolved killings has been happening along that same deserted highway. As the couple investigates, desperate to clear their names, they find that something otherworldly is at work. 

3. The Last One by Will Dean—This chilling novel is about a new couple who decide to take a trip on a luxury cruise ship together. On the morning of their second day at sea, Caz wakes up to find her boyfriend gone. When she steps outside her room, she discovers that he's not the only one. All the passengers and crew members have disappeared, leaving Caz in the middle of the ocean by herself. What happened? How will she save herself from whatever menace made an entire cruise ship of people vanish?

4. My Darling Girl by Jennifer McMahon—McMahon's books never fail to thrill (and terrify) me! Her newest effort is about a woman who is persuaded to take in her dying mother for one last Christmas together. After living with her mom's verbal abuse and alcoholism for too long, the two have been estranged for years. One final bid for quality time together turns into a nightmare when strange things begin happening and the daughter starts to wonder if her parent has been possessed by a demon.

5. The Girl in White by Lindsay Currie—This MG novel is set in a small town that's proud as punch of its reputation as one of the region's most haunted places to visit. New to Eastport, Mallory definitely feels unsettled by the place. She's having nightmares, missing chunks of time, and feels like she's being watched. When Mallory encounters the same terrifying old woman she's been dreaming about, things start to get really weird...

6. Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney—Feeney's latest features an elderly woman living in a nursing home and the enigmatic woman who cares for her. Both of them have secrets concerning a kidnapped baby and the murder of an old lady. How do the cases connect? The two women will find out when they filter through each other's lies to discover the truth. 

7. The Dark by Emma Haughton—Emergency room doctor Kate North has been upended by a personal tragedy. Eager to start over somewhere else, she takes the opportunity to be the emergency replacement for a doctor at a UN research center in Antarctica. Her predecessor died in an accident on the ice. As the winter darkness descends, Kate begins to suspect there's more to his death than meets the eye. Completely cut off from civilization and fumbling around in almost total darkness, it's up to her to figure out what really happened. 

8. Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas—It seems like everyone's read this dark academia novel but me. It's set at an exclusive college, famous for nurturing the world's most promising minds. Students are required to spend three years at the isolated institution, leaving music, media, friends, family, even their clothes behind. First-year student Ines is ready to soak in the intoxicating environment, but when a tragedy occurs, she starts to realize just how trapped she really is in a place that is much darker and more dangerous than she ever could have imagined.

9. Flight 171 by Amy Christine Parker—This YA horror novel concerns a group of teenagers who board a plane flight, headed for a school ski trip. A terrifying supernatural creature takes over the flight, demanding that one of the passengers be sacrificed or all of them will die. As the kids scramble to save themselves, each person's deepest, darkest secrets are revealed, including the truth behind the death of one teen's sister.

10. The Curse of Penryth Hall by Jess Armstrong—In post-World War I England, Ruby Vaughn runs a rare bookstore in Exeter. When a customer in Cornwall requests a box of books, she's forced to deliver them, even though she swore she would never return to the area. Imposing Penryth Hall is the home of a former friend and her husband. After an unnerving night spent in their presence, Ruby is anxious to leave. Then, the husband turns up dead, launching a murder investigation and frantic talk of an old curse returning to haunt the present. 

There you go, ten spooky books that are haunting my TBR list. Have you read any of them? What did you think? What did you do for today's Halloween freebie? 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 left here (although I am a week behind at the moment).

Happy TTT!

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Atmospheric Books

I missed my favorite weekly meme last week for the very best reason in the world: my first grandbaby was born last Tuesday! My daughter-in-law has a heart condition that put her in the ICU for post-partum observation until today, so this little cutie was discharged from the hospital before her mommy. Because of that, the two of us have gotten to spend lots of time together this week (especially late at night). She's a sweet, calm baby, and we're all smitten with her.

My son and daughter-in-law don't want pictures of their precious newborn's face on the Internet, so you're just going to have to trust me when I say that she is the most beautiful granddaughter ever born! (Although my red, squinty eyes make me look demonic in this picture, they're just the result of me crying lots of joyful tears.) 

Today's TTT topic is a fun one: Top Ten Atmospheric Books. I love a story that immerses me in a rich, evocative setting that makes me feel like I've stepped right into another world. If a book is described as "atmospheric," I will 100% take a closer look at it. It's maybe not so surprising then that the word I tend to most overuse in my reviews is "atmospheric." My memory isn't the greatest (I am old enough to be a grandma, after all) so I don't remember all the details that made these books stand out to me, but I described them all with my favorite review word. 

Top Ten Tuesday is, as always, hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. She has COVID, so give her some extra love today.

Top Ten Atmospheric Books

1. Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman—This YA novel is about a drought in California that makes people so desperate for water that they create a dystopian situation for themselves. The story is so vividly told that my throat felt parched the entire time I was reading it. I've never guzzled as much water while reading before!

2. Anything by Kate Morton—Morton is one of my all-time favorite authors because her books are always soaked in atmosphere. They feature old homes, buried secrets, and evocative settings.

3. Bluebird by Sharon Cameron—This YA historical is one of my favorite novels about World War II. It's stunning for a number of reasons, one of which is its immersive setting.

4. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James—Haunted house stories are often eerie and atmospheric. This one, set in an abandoned school for troubled girls, certainly is. Even though it creeped me out big time and ultimately gave me nightmares, I couldn't stop reading it. That's how gripping it is.

5. I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys—Almost everything about this historical teen novel feels heavy and oppressive. This is done on purpose so that the reader can feel deeply what it must have been like to live in Communist Romania under the rule of a cruel, power-hungry tyrant.

6. The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian—Set in the 1920s in a squalid Mississippi swamp community, the setting comes very much alive in this novel about two girls living bleak, hardscrabble lives who come together to cover up a murder.

7. Eventide by Sarah Goodman—I read this spooky teen novel while doing the overnight shift with my grandbaby. It's got a "don't go into the woods" plot that had me jumping a little every time I heard a noise that wasn't a sweet baby coo.

8. The Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny—These are my favorite mystery books, in part because the author makes the little town of Three Pines come alive in such a brilliant way. Yes, it's a quaint, cozy village, but its residents are complex individuals with abundant quirks, faults, and secrets. This causes the hamlet to come alive in a way that makes me want to move there immediately, warts and all.

9. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly—It's been years since I read this YA mystery set in Gilded Age New York City, but I remember loving it. A page-turner for lots of reasons, it boasts a vivid setting. 

10. The Dry by Jane Harper—Like #1, this contemporary Australian mystery novel is set in a parched, drought-stricken land. The author creates such a dynamic backdrop that I could taste the dust in the air.

There you go, ten atmospheric books I enjoyed reading. Have you read any of them? Which titles did you choose for 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, October 10, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Jobs I'd Do For Free If Time/Money/Actual Skill/Reality, Etc. Were No Object

How are you all this fine Tuesday morning? I'm worn out and my ears are still ringing a little bit from the fun Sting concert I went to last night. He's 72 and can still rock it. I'm 47 and I'm...really tired! Sting might not need a nap this afternoon, but I'm definitely going to. 

(Photo cred goes to my husband.)

Today's TTT topic—Top Ten Bookish Jobs I Would Do For Free—is an excellent one, if I do say so myself. I thought it up and submitted it to Jana (our lovely TTT host) because I thought it would be an enjoyable one to explore. It only occurred to me later that it may feel a tad offensive to people who actually work in bookish fields. Let me be clear: This topic is not meant to imply that those who work with books in a professional capacity do not deserve to be paid for what they do. No matter how much a person loves their job, few people can afford to work for nothing. Nor should they, especially considering how valuable their time, education, experience, and expertise are. My hope with this topic was just that we could all have fun with it, get creative, let our imaginations go wild, etc. Maybe I should have worded the prompt more like this: Top Ten Bookish Jobs I Would Do For Free (if money, education, experience, actual skills, reality, etc. were no object)

That being said, here is my list. The first five are "jobs" I currently do for free(ish) and the last five are those I would do for free (theoretically, anyway) given the opportunity.

Top Ten Bookish Jobs I Would Do For Free (if money/education/experience/actual skills/reality, etc. were no object)

1. Book Blogging—It's not a job for me and I do get "paid" in books, but blogging is something I would do no matter what. I love it it so much that it doesn't (usually) feel like work. 

2. Book Reviewing—Over the years, I've written reviews for several different magazines. One of them does pay their reviewers, but the other reviews were published in exchange for free books and blog publicity. 

3. Book Hoarding Collecting—I work at this like it's a full-time job, so I'm counting it!

4. Beta Reading/Editing—It's been a hot minute since I actually did any beta reading/editing for friends and other authors, but I've enjoyed doing it in the past simply because reading and giving feedback on a developing manuscript is a good ole time for me. Plus, I generally get "paid" in chocolate for these types of gigs. What's not to love?

5. Nurturing Young Readers—I don't have a teaching certificate or any kind of actual training in this field, but I always (okay, most of the time) enjoyed reading to my own children and making frequent trips to the library so they could pick out new reading material. Volunteering in classrooms and in the library at my children's elementary school was something I also really enjoyed.

6. Book Picker-Outer—Once upon a time, my mother-in-law was hired to be the librarian at a brand-new elementary school. She had a great time hand-picking and buying all the books that would fill its library shelves (on their dime, natch). That part at least sounds like a dream job (not so much handling all the volumes later desecrated by sticky, booger-y, kid germs). I'd volunteer to do deck out a school library!

7. Personal Librarian—On a similar note, I'd dig being a personal librarian at someone's big, beautiful home library. Think Belle and her prince are hiring?

8. Bookstore Owner—Remember how money is no object for this prompt? In this particular dream, I run a cozy bookshop in some quaint little town. I have stimulating book chats with cheerful, always satisfied customers. When the shop is quiet, I relax in a comfy armchair with an engaging book and a mug of cocoa, surrounded on all sides by shelves bursting with potentially amazing reads. Sigh...

I think all book lovers have dreamed this particular dream. Not to burst your bubble, but before getting too carried away with this fantasy, you might want to read The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch. It's eye-opening. Welch—who opened a used bookstore with her husband on a whim without having any idea how to actually operate such a business—says the job is less about reading and more about dusting, dealing with customers, and constantly restocking shelves. Hmm. That doesn't sound nearly as charming as my version. Good thing reality is nothing we need to worry about today. 

9. Hogwarts Librarian—Sure, there are some dangerous books and sneaky students to contend with, but c'mon, this job sounds like pure awesomeness! I'd do it just for a chance to live in the castle and hang with Hagrid, Dumbledore, Hermione, and Co. 

10. Book Organizer—My favorite part about moving last year was organizing my books. Even though it took forever, I loved sifting through them, sorting them by genre, deciding which volumes to keep and which to donate, unpacking them, organizing and reorganizing them on my shelves, etc. Bookish tasks like these make me happy. I'd be willing to do something similar for other people or organizations. Although, to be fair, there's a local non-profit that could probably use my help doing just that and I haven't hit them up yet...

My list isn't very imaginative, but there you go. Do you do an actual bookish job? What do you love/hate about it? What bookish jobs would you do if you money, imagination, etc. were no object? 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, October 03, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: A Challenging Last Quarter of the Year

Somehow, it's October already and we're in the last quarter of the year. Say what? At this point, I always focus on finishing reading challenges. This week's TTT prompt: Top Ten Reading Goals I Still Want to Accomplish Before the End of the Year dovetails perfectly with that aim. I took on 13 reading challenges this year. I've completed my goal for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, abandoned the Pioneer Book Reading Challenge since I won't be traveling to Utah before the year ends, and am super confused about the Book Bingo Reading Challenge, which seems to have disappeared. Odd. I'm giving myself encouraging pats on the back because I am super close to finishing all the rest of them. Good job, me!

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Click on over to her blog and give her some love. If you want to join in the TTT fun, you can find all the deets on her blog.

Top Ten Reading Goals I Still Want to Accomplish Before the End of the Year

1. Read 200 books—I've read 155 books so far this year, so I should have no trouble meeting this goal by December 31. 

2. Set up my Little Free Library—Last year, I bought myself a Little Free Library for Christmas. I had big plans of getting it set up right away's still in boxes in my hallway. After remodeling our whole house in 2022, we took a little break, but we've been planning to redo our front yard/landscaping as part of the whole home makeover process. We're still doing the HOA tango over a few details, but they did approve my LFL. Yay! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we can get it all sorted and get the whole front yard project finished by the end of 2023. We'll see.

3. Finish the Literary Escapes Reading Challenge—I'm close on this one!

Books Required: 51 (one for each U.S. state, plus Washington, D.C.)
Books Read: 45
Books to Go: 6

4. Finish the Bookish Books Reading Challenge—2023 was the inaugural year for this laidback reading challenge that I'm hosting. It's been a fun ride, but I need to ramp up my reading if I'm going to complete my goal. It would be embarrassing if I didn't finish my own challenge!

Books Required: 30 (personal goal)
Books Read: 24
Books to Go: 6

5. Finish the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge—I've never actually completed this challenge before, so I'm thrilled to be THIS close to completion. 

Books Required: 50 (includes the 10 "Advanced" prompts)
Books Read: 48
Books to Go: 2

6. Finish the Booklist Queen Reading Challenge—SO close to finishing!

Books Required: 52
Books Read: 51
Books to Go: 1

7. Finish the 52 Club's Reading Challenge—Only a handful more to go!

Books Required: 52
Books Read: 46
Books to Go: 6

8. Finish the Build Your Library Reading Challenge—This annual challenge has a different focus every year. This go around, it's nature, which has been a toughie for me. I don't read many science/nature type books typically, so this challenge has really been a...challenge! It's opened up new genres and authors to me, though, and that's one of the reasons I enjoy taking on reading challenges.

Books Required: 40
Books Read: 35
Books to Go: 5

9. Finish the Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge—I've been dragging my feet a little bit on this one; I need to pick up the pace in order to finish on time.

Books Required: 25 (personal goal)
Books Read: 15
Books to Go: 10

10. Finish the Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge—I'm an overachiever, so I'm aiming for blackout on this challenge. With 109 total prompts, it's not easy to do!

Books Required: 109 (for blackout)
Books Read: 92
Books to Go: 17

If my math tracks, I have 53 books left to read in order to finish all of my challenges. Since some of the titles I'm planning to read will work for more than one prompt, it's not *quite* as daunting as it seems. Even though no one cares if I finish but me, I enjoy conquering these reading challenges. Wish me luck!

What 2023 reading goals are you planning to crush in the next three months? 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 left here (although I'm a week behind at the moment).

Happy TTT!

Monday, October 02, 2023

The Bookish Books Reading Challenge: October Book Ideas and Link-Up


It's October already? When did that happen? It's still warm here in Arizona, although our high today is only supposed to be 84. My husband and I have transitioned from doing our daily walk at a nearby mall to strolling in our neighborhood since it's been fairly cool in the mornings. We don't really get that lovely Fall briskness or the stunning changing leaf colors where I live, unfortunately, but I'll take the cooler weather. It's a welcome change after the unrelenting heat we've had this summer. 

I read a few bookish books in September. My Goodreads ratings are in parentheses and the title links to my review on that site:

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer (3 1/2 stars)—a rom-com about a Jewish writer who has a secret career as a bestselling author of Christmas romances

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (4 stars)—stars a young Black woman who dreams of being Miss America and loves to read, especially books by iconic Black authors like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne (4 stars)—memoir by a Salt Lake City librarian who loves books and uses weight lifting as a way to control his Tourette's 

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin by Michael D. Beil (4 stars)—the second installment in a middle-grade series that features a group of classmates solving mysteries that always involve literary clues

I enjoyed all of these for the most part, but my favorites were Like Vanessa and The World's Strongest Librarian. Did you read any bookish books last month? Which did you like best?

With only three months left in 2023, I'm focusing on books I need to read to complete my reading challenges. None of them are particularly bookish, but I did come across two intriguing bookish books that I'll probably read for next year's challenge:

The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass—This middle-grade novel concerns the sudden appearance of a mysterious little free library in a small town. When a boy chooses two books from its depths, he doesn't realize how doing so will change his life. One of the books has to do with a past event in his town that no one wants to talk about. He starts asking questions, not realizing that he's opened a puzzling Pandora's box...

The Underground Library by Jennifer Ryan (available March 12, 2024)—Three women from different backgrounds unite to save their London neighborhood's library after it's destroyed in the Blitz in the newest World War II novel by one of my favorite historical fiction writers. 

Do you have any bookish books on the docket for October? 

For those of you who are participating in the Bookish Books Reading Challenge, here's the Mr. Linky to use for linking up July 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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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson


The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

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