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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

14 / 30 books. 47% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

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

My Progress:

38 / 51 states. 75% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

32 / 50 books. 64% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

50 / 52 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

30 / 40 books. 75% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

16 / 40 books. 40% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

11 / 25 books. 44% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

19 / 26.2 miles (2nd lap). 73% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

30 / 100 books. 30% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

74 / 104 books. 71% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

50 / 52 books. 96% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

87 / 165 books. 53% done!
Friday, July 12, 2024

ONE Great Summer Read 2024

Every summer, the lovely Carol over at Reading Ladies Book Club hosts a fun collab that asks book bloggers from around the world to name their ONE must-read book of the summer. I love participating in this event every year. It's a great way to find a variety of exciting new recs to liven up my TBR list. Check out the titles twenty bloggers (including me) are raving about by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Sanderson Satisfies With Rollicking *Secret* Pirate Adventure

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If you know anything about my taste in books, you know how unusual it is for me to read anything even close to high fantasy. (To be honest, I'm not sure I even understand what that term means!) Even though I'm really not into the genre, I have enjoyed my dips into Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere series (empire? realm? universe?). The original Mistborn novels were my first foray into the author's sphere and Tress of the Emerald Sea is my latest. I enjoyed the former, but I adored the latter. Let's just say that while fantasy still isn't my jam, if it's written by Sanderson, I've learned to at least give it a chance.

Not gonna lie, I'm not quite sure how Tress of the Emerald Sea fits into the Cosmere series (Goodreads says it's installment #28 and #1 of the Secret Projects). I just know that it works fine as a standalone. It isn't necessary to read the previous books to get what's going on in this one, although I think I read somewhere that there are some characters in this book that have appeared in other Cosmere novels.

Our titular heroine is a young woman who lives on a barren island called the Rock. Her life is a simple, but not unhappy one. She spends her days washing windows at the duke's mansion, hanging out with her best friend Charlie (who's maybe more than just a pal, despite their very different social stations), and collecting cups sailors bring from faraway lands. As much as she might dream of something more, she doesn't really expect her routine life to change in any way. Until it does. When Charlie is sent away from their island, a devastated Tress risks everything to follow him. Stowing away on a ship, she soon finds herself on a vessel with a bloodthirsty captain at its helm. To avoid walking the plank, she needs to prove her worth. Luckily for her, the most dangerous job on the boat—a Sprouter—has just become available thanks to the untimely death of the sucker who previously held the position. With little other choice, she does the best she can to perform her duties well enough to keep her head above water. 

Although she has managed to escape certain death at the hands of the cruel captain—at least for now— there are plenty of other ways for her to meet her maker on the open spore sea. With danger without and just as much (if not more) within, she must navigate her way through her very precarious situation in order to find and rescue Charlie. In the meantime, there's a deadly date with an evil Sorceress to look forward to...

As you would expect from a magical pirate adventure, Tress of the Emerald Sea is a rollicking tale full of excitement, suspense, humor, and even a little heartbreak. It's 365 pages long, but I never got bored with it. In fact, I was sad to learn that it's not the first in a series of related books featuring these characters that I've come to love (the "secret projects" books do not contain related stories, apparently).  I would absolutely read more novels featuring Tress and her friends.

Gah! I'm failing to describe exactly how enchanting and entrancing this delightful YA novel is. All I can say is: believe the hype and read it already. It's a wonderful read, very deserving of all the attention it's getting.

(Readalikes: Um, I can't really think of anything. Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, scenes of peril, and mild innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Tress of the Emerald Sea with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

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

Happy Independence Day/Fourth of July to all my U.S. readers! Do you have any fun plans for the day? We usually head to Utah for the holiday, but we decided to stay home this year and chillax. My husband and I already spent a couple hours in our pool. It's been ridiculously hot here in the Phoenix area, so the only time our pool really feels cool is in the early morning. Our high today is supposed to be 113. Needless to say, we're going to be hibernating inside until it's time to watch fireworks on our balcony tonight. It will be a nice, quiet day for us just relaxing at home. That's how I like my holidays. Whatever you have planned for the Fourth, I hope you have a lot of fun and, most importantly, stay safe.

In June, I read a grand total of ONE bookish book. Yikes! (I'm rocking all of my other reading challenges this year, but I'm way behind on this one. What kind of challenge host am I? LOL)

I'm a big fan of Jennifer Ryan's World War II novels. I've read all of them and enjoyed them all, with The Spies of Shilling Lane and The Kitchen Front being my favorites. Because of its subject matter, I thought The Underground Library might beat out the others, but it didn't. I liked it. I didn't love it. 

The story concerns three young women from different circumstances who are brought together because of a library that is set up in a London Tube station during the Blitz. Amidst the fear and destruction of war, books bring comfort, entertainment, and escape to those who find shelter there. The library also creates a friendship between the trio of women that brings them the camaraderie, support, and belonging they all need. 

All of Ryan's books are set during World War II. In spite of that, they're warm, uplifting, hopeful, and even funny. I highly recommend them. Of the five novels Ryan has written, this one would be #4 on my list of favorites. Just sayin'.

You'll be happy to know that I've already read one bookish book in July. Homecoming by Kate Morton isn't overtly bookish, but there are a lot of bookish elements in it that I'll talk about next month. I'm also considering these for July reads:

The Secret Library by Kekla Magoon—I've already talked about this middle-grade novel about a girl who discovers a library full of books that are literally portals to different dimensions. Candlewick Press just sent me a copy of this book to review, so hopefully, I can get to it soon.

The Library Thief by Kuchenga Shenjé—The reviews on this historical novel are mixed, but I think it sounds interesting. It's about a mixed-race Jamaican woman who was brought to London by her white father when she was a baby. Light enough to pass as white, Florence is schooled in her father's bookbinding trade. When she disgraces him, he throws her out, but she manages to secure a position restoring a lord's collection of rare books. His household is full of puzzles and mysteries, one of which may lead to answers about herself that Florence is desperate to find.

The Words We Lost by Nicole Deese—This Christian novel revolves around Ingrid Erikson, a senior acquisitions editor for a San Francisco publisher. When her BFF, bestselling author Cecelia Campbell, dies, it throws Ingrid into a tailspin. Having lost the ability to escape into fiction, she's desperate to find another way to get closure. So, when Cecelia's cousin—who also happens to be the man who once broke Ingrid's heart completely—comes to Ingrid with a request from beyond the grave, she can't say no. 

We'll see what I actually end up reading this month, but I'm hoping one or two of these will be on the list. I'm going on my first cruise in a few weeks. so I'll likely take a couple of these with me to Alaska.

What bookish books are you planning to read this month?

If you are participating in the 2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge, please use the widget below to link-up your July reviews. If you're not signed up for the challenge yet, what are you waiting for? Click here to join the party.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

Today's TTT prompt is a nice, easy one: Top Ten Books With My Favorite Color on the Cover. As much as I love green, though, I'm just not feeling this topic today. Since today is the mid-point of the year (2024 is flying by!), I thought I'd hop on the Mid-Year Freak Out tag bandwagon and take a look at how my reading year is shaping up. I'm not entirely sure where this tag originated—someone said it started with Ely over at Earl Grey Books some years ago—but it's been all over the blogosphere lately. I saw it most recently over at Girl Plus Books, so that's where I grabbed the questions from. There are other versions floating around as well. 

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Before we get to the tag questions, let me just summarize where my reading is at for the year.

Every year, I set my Goodreads reading goal at 200 books. Last year, I read 223. I'd love to beat that number, but I at least want to get to 200. I'm on track so far (well, 9 books behind according to Goodreads, that great naysayer) with 91. I'm in the middle of reading/listening to two chunksters at the moment. They're slowing me down a tad, but I'm really enjoying both of them, so who cares??

I'm notorious for my annual taking on of too many reading challenges. This year is no exception. I've got 15 of them going on at the moment. I like to reach the halfway point with all of them by July 2 so that I'm on target to finish them by the end of the year. (Although I do enjoy reading challenges, I never take them too seriously. If I finish them, fabulous! If I don't, no biggie.) I'm rocking them this year, as you can see from my left sidebar. The only one I'm really slacking on is the Mount TBR Reading Challenge and my own Bookish Books Reading Challenge. I'm making progress on both, just not super fast progress. The Pioneer Book Reading Challenge is still on my sidebar, but I've kind of given up on it. It's a local reading challenge based in a city I don't live in, but that I usually visit 1-2 times a year. You have to pick up your prize (a generous gift certificate) in-store and use it that way too and that's unlikely to happen for me this year. Oh well.

Back to the tag...

I've read a handful of books this year that I've really enjoyed, but I have to go with Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson for this one. It's a YA fantasy—not my usual thing at all—but I enjoyed it immensely.

I'm always going on about the Rip Through Time series by Kelley Armstrong, so this one is no surprise. Disturbing the Dead is the third installment in the series. It's just as enjoyable as its predecessors.

Middle of the Night by Riley Sager is probably the new release I've been most looking forward to and haven't read yet, but guess what? I made it to the top of the library's waitlist. Yay! I'm going to pick up the book tomorrow. 

My last two Top Ten Tuesday lists were on this very subject (check out Part One and Part Two). Of the 20 books on those lists, I'm most excited about Return to Wyldcliffe Heights by Carol Goodman. She's an auto-read author for me, so I'm always up for a new one from her.

I hate to label a book a "disappointment," but Trouble Island by Sharon Short is a historical mystery that I was really, really looking forward to reading. I enjoyed the atmospheric setting as well as the And Then There Were None plot. The characters were not very likable, though, and in the end, the novel just wasn't nearly as satisfying as I wanted it to be. 

Not gonna lie, the cover of The Lion of Lark-Hayes Manor by Aubrey Hartman does not appeal to me. I'm just not much of a fantasy reader. I was pleasantly surprised, though, by how much I enjoyed this engaging middle-grade novel.

Of the 91 books I've read so far this year, almost half of them were written by new-to-me authors. I don't know if an author can become a favorite with just one book, but here are some writers I'm definitely planning to read more from: Kat Ailes, Benjamin Stevenson, Jamie Sumner, Gabrielle Meyer, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Jenny Adams, Annelise Ryan, Kayvion Lewis, Katie Tietjen, Elizabeth Lowham, Kristen Perrin, Aubrey Hartman, and more.

I'm not a book boyfriend kind of person, so how about favorite literary couple/duo that I've encountered this year? No surprise here: Mallory Atkinson and Duncan Gray from the Rip Through Time series by Kelley Armstrong. As of yet, they are not officially a romantic couple, but they share a professional partnership and a personal friendship that are mutually supportive, kind, and fun.

I love Michael Rosario from The First State of Being by Erin Entrada Kelly. He's a sweet, quiet kid who is wholly devoted to his hardworking single mother. He's also gentle, loyal, thoughtful, and always concerned about becoming a better person. 

I'm a sap, it's true, but I still don't cry very often over books. I can't think of any tearjerkers I've read so far this year...

Most of the books I read are of the moody, broody variety. The Jane/Mary series by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows is the opposite. Although they do deal with serious subjects sometimes, the books are upbeat, hilarious, and all kinds of entertaining. They make me happy for sure. I've read four of them this year and, while I enjoyed them all, My Plain Jane is probably my favorite. 

I'm not usually a big fan of book-to-movie adaptations. However, I really enjoyed A Haunting in Venice, which is based on Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie. I'm normally a staunch book-before-movie person, but my husband was too impatient to see the film, so I watched it first. Gasp!

(This isn't book related, but right after watching this movie, we viewed Belfast, another Kenneth Branagh production. It's excellent. We thought it was going to be heavy and depressing, but it's actually very funny and heartwarming [although there is some heartbreak as well]. I highly recommend it.)

Let's see...which of the two reviews I've written this year should I choose? LOL. Back in the day, I reviewed every book I read on my blog. These days, I'm a huge slacker and I mostly just make Top Ten Tuesday lists. I have managed to write two reviews in 2024: one for Artifice by Sharon Cameron and one for Dust by Dusti Bowling

Have you seen a paper copy of Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson? They're GORGEOUS.

Since I still need to read 109 books to meet my Goodreads goal, I have quite a few I still want to read. I won't list them all. You're welcome.

I'm super chintzy with my star ratings. So far this year, I've only awarded two books with the coveted 5-star rating:

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

I'm not a big re-reader, but I do read or listen to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every December. Last year, I listened to the audio version narrated by Tim Curry. It's fantastic, so I'll probably enjoy that one again this year.

In a few months, my book club will be reading The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose. I can't remember a whole lot about who's who and what's what from the first book in the series, so I'll likely re-read The Maid as well before moving on to its sequel.

I expect The Women by Kristin Hannah will be a 5-star read for me. 

Phew! That was a long tag/Top Ten Tuesday post. Thanks for hanging in there! What do you think of my answers to all these questions? How would you answer them? I'd truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your post. I also reply to the comments you leave here on my TTT posts, although I'm a little behind from last week.

Happy TTT!
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Bright, New Up-and-Comers (Part Two)

It's no secret that I have a ton (literally 1000+) of unread books sitting on my bookshelves. (We're not even going to talk about the line-up on my Kindle.) The first question on everyone's lips when they enter my home is, "Have you read all these?" Sadly, that answer is a big, ole NO. In spite of my already impossible TBR "pile," my head still gets turned by the shiny and new. What's that about? Evidence: this list is Part Two of the one I started last week for this week's topic—Top Ten Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the Second Half of 2024. What can I say? When it comes to books, I'm hopeless! You can check out Part One here. Part Two has less variety, focusing mostly on contemporary mysteries/thrillers.

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. On the Surface by Rachel McGuire (available July 9)—Sawyer and Dani are a couple who cruise all over the world in their sailboat, documenting their adventures on their popular YouTube channel. They're having a great time living it up in the Bahamas when Dani goes missing. As the search for her is launched, dark secrets start to come to light about Sawyer. He's not as perfect as he seems; is he a murderer too?

2. The Briar Club by Kate Quinn (available July 9)—I still haven't managed to read anything by Quinn. Maybe I'll start with this one. It's about a group of women who live together in an all-female boarding house in 1950s Washington, D.C. They're drawn together by a mysterious widow who has just moved in. As they bond, they find friendship, healing, and...secrets. When a violent act tears the house apart, they will have to decide which housemates can be trusted and which can't.

3. Peking Duck and Cover by Vivien Chien (available July 23)—In this tenth installment of the Noodle Shop cozy mystery series, the shop owners in Asia Village are throwing a blowout party to celebrate Chinese New Year. The party, designed to bring in business as well as positivity and prosperity, is marred when a lion dancer is found dead. Lana Lee is, once again, looking for a killer.

4. The Blue Hour by Paula Hawkins (available October 10)—The plot summary for Hawkins' newest is kind of skimpy, but it revolves around a remote Scottish island that is only occasionally accessible to the mainland, a reclusive artist, and the murder of her notoriously unfaithful husband. 

5. Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger (available October 29)—This novel features three generations of women in one family. Their different lives and ambitions cause heartache, tension, and conflict between them. When the youngest realizes how little she really knows about the women who came before her, she goes on an eye-opening quest to uncover the secrets they've kept over the decades.

6. The Lake of Lost Girls by Katherine Greene (available November 5)—Twenty-four years ago, female students started going missing from a North Carolina University, including a struggling freshman. Jessica was never found. Almost three decades later, Jessica's sister is hunting for answers when bodies start turning up in a local lake. Will Jessica's fate finally be known? Who is responsible for the bodies in the lake?

7. In Want of a Suspect by Tirzah Price (available November 12)—I'm always up for a new historical mystery series and this one sounds fun. In this opener, the irrepressible Lizzie Bennett has become London's first female solicitor. With the help of the enigmatic Fitzwilliam Darcy, she investigates all manner of crimes. Hired to look into a mysterious warehouse fire, Lizzie soon finds herself trying to solve a murder when the prime suspect in the arson is killed. 

8. If You Can Hear This by Faith Gardner (available November 19)—This YA mystery/thriller seems to be getting mixed reviews, but it sounds intriguing to me. It's about a group of misfit high schoolers who come together to solve the mystery of their beloved teacher, Mrs. Moses. 

9. Trouble Island by Sharon Short (available December 3)—Trouble Island is a remote piece of land in the middle of Lake Erie, halfway between America and Canada. Its placement makes it a convenient rallying point for gangsters. In fact, it's inhabited only by two women: Rosita, a gangster's wife, and her maid, Aurelia, who is actually a gangster's wife who is in hiding after committing a murder five years ago. When Rosita is murdered shortly after the arrival of her husband and a group of his confederates on Trouble Island, Rosita finds herself hopelessly trapped in very dangerous company. An oncoming storm makes the possibility of escape impossible. What is she going to do? 

10. Pretty Dead Things by Lilian West (available December 10)—In this dual-timeline mystery, a bride-to-be is exploring her new town when she comes across an alluring estate sale. She buys a jar of pretty baubles, at the bottom of which she discovers two rings. As she tries to find the owners, she unwittingly stumbles upon an old mystery involving a missing woman and dark town secrets.

There you are, ten more up-and-coming titles I'm excited to read. Which are your most anticipated reads releasing in the second half of the year? 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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