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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: The Birds and the Bees


It's been a hot minute since I posted on my blog, even for my favorite weekly meme. February turned into a busy month and some things had to fall by the wayside (although I did manage to post my first review of the year last week). Besides regular life busy-ness, we did a fun family road trip to Las Vegas and California. We surprised our two youngest kids (the only ones living at home these days) with tickets to see U2 in Vegas. After two days there, they flew home (poor suckers had to work and go to school) and my husband and I continued on to California for a few days. I barely cracked open the book I took with me, but that's okay. It was a wonderful vacay. Highlights included:

  • Rocking out to U2 in Las Vegas at The Sphere—between the band's iconic music and the incredible special effects, it was amazing and different than any other concert I've ever been to. 
  • Watching the Postcard from Earth video at The Sphere the next day. It was interesting to compare/contrast our two Sphere experiences. Both were phenomenal, but my husband and I enjoyed the concert more and our kids (15 and 19) preferred the movie.
  • A surprising conversation with two Las Vegas showgirls on The Strip because of the BYU jacket I was wearing
  • Surviving (in spite of a little throwing up/peeing my pants situation) a nerve-wracking drive over a surprisingly snowy mountain pass 
  • Visiting live family members in Central California and Santa Barbara and dead ones at San Bernardino's Pioneer Memorial Cemetery
  • Touring Hearst Castle
  • Watching elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery beaches (more entertaining than you would think)
  • Exploring Solvang and eating delicious ebelskivers
  • Visiting two different California missions—Mission San Miguel and Old Mission Santa Inés. Despite their problematic histories, the missions are interesting places to learn about California's history, its Indigenous peoples/cultures, its early architecture and to see religious art. 
We actually did do some bookish things, come to think of it. On our way to Santa Barbara, we stopped in Solvang, a charming Danish-style tourist town. There's a bookshop there that houses a small, but informative Hans Christian Andersen museum. They also have a cute Little Mermaid statue in the center of town in homage to the beloved author. In Santa Barbara, we stayed with my husband's cousin and his family. They have five very energetic kids, who love to listen to books read aloud. It was sweet to have them draped all over us while we read them stories. I won't post the pictures to protect the children's privacy, but it was super cute.

I actually broke the book-buying ban I started in January in California as well (although I didn't even realize it until hours later). My great-great grandfather was an early settler of San Bernardino. I bought this postcard history of the city at their Historical and Railroad Museum:

My husband says that purchasing it doesn't really count against my ban because (1) It was more of a donation to the museum than a book purchase, (2) The book is for research purposes, not entertainment value, and (3) He's the one who handed over the cash, so technically, he bought it, not me! LOL. 

At any rate, we had a great time on our trip. Between that and being busy with other things, I just haven't had a lot of hours to devote to my blog. I do appreciate those of you who dropped in to check on me during my absence. It's nice to be missed.

After that TL;DR intro, let's (finally) dive into TTT (hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl). This week's prompt is: Top Ten Book Covers Featuring Things Found in Nature. I'm always up for a nice, easy topic, although I did change it up just a wee bit. While scrolling through my TBR list on Goodreads, I was surprised to see how many of the book titles on there feature animal names, specifically birds and insects. It was a cinch to find ten for this nature-y prompt.

Top Ten Books On My TBR List With Bird and Insect Names in the Titles
- in no particular order - 

1. Peking Duck and Cover by Vivien Chien—This is the tenth installment in one of my favorite cozy mystery series. As Chinese New Year approaches, Lana Lee and her fellow business owners at Cleveland's Asia Village are getting ready for a big holiday celebration to bring in customers and good luck for all. The festivities take a dark turn when a lion dancer is murdered. Lana once again calls on her inner Nancy Drew to solve a crime.

2. Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce—Set in 1950, this historical novel features a spinster schoolteacher who decides to shuck off the gloominess of post-World War II London and set out on a grand expedition. Determined to fulfill her childhood dream of finding the mythical Golden Beetle of New Caledonia, she and an unlikely companion discover the freedom and joy of travel, friendship, and adventure.

3. The Call of the Wrens by Jenni L. Walsh—With timelines in both World War I and II, this historical novel pays tribute to the brave British women who served as motorcycle dispatch riders on the Western Front during both conflicts. Our fictional heroines learn about courage, sacrifice, love, and resilience through their life-changing war experiences. 

4. He Should Have Told the Bees by Amanda Cox—Beekeeper Beckett Walsh loves working with her father in their family's apiary. When he dies unexpectedly, naming a woman Beckett doesn't know as a new part owner in the business, she's shocked and angry. Callie Peterson is just as flummoxed, but she needs the money selling the apiary could bring in. As the two women clash over the odd situation they suddenly find themselves in, they will untangle a knot of family secrets that will change everything for both of them.

5. The Night Raven by Sarah Painter—Urban fantasy really isn't my thing, but the Crow Investigations series sounds promising, so I'm going to give it a whirl. In this first installment, private investigator Lydia Crow is called in to head up an investigation into her cousin's disappearance. The incident is causing tension between four magical families who have been abiding by a tentative truce for almost 100 years. Can Lydia find her cousin before all hell breaks loose?

6. The Phoenix Crown by Kate Quinn and Janie Chang—This historical novel features two women—a soprano in need of a career boost and a Chinatown seamstress who's desperate to flee an arranged marriage—whose lives intersect when they are brought together by a railroad baron who owns a valuable collection of Chinese antiques. The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 rocks all of their worlds, leaving an intriguing mystery behind for the women to solve.

7. A Hundred Crickets Singing by Cathy Gohlke—The title of this book is enough to give me nightmares (I hate crickets!), but the story sounds like one I'd like. It's a dual-timeline novel that features two women living in the same home 83 years apart. When a vicious storm rips through her Appalachian estate, revealing a hidden room and an old trunk, Celia Percy opens a Pandora's box of secrets and lies that stretch back to the Civil War and the people—both free and enslaved—who lived at the home at that time. 

8. Olive Bright, Pigeoneer by Stephanie Graves—This series debut introduces 22-year-old Olive Bright, who raises pigeons in a quiet English village. World War II is raging and she's desperate to do her bit to help. When a covert intelligence operation comes calling, asking for her pigeons, Olive gets her wish. As she does her secret work, a woman in her town is murdered near Olive's pigeon loft. Does the killing have something to do with Olive's clandestine job? Is she in danger? Olive must find the answers before she becomes the next victim.

9. Dragonfly by Leila Meacham—World War II novels are hard for me to resist. Obviously. In this one, a group of very different Americans are brought together to form an elite spy ring. Secret identities intact, they are dropped into Nazi-occupied Paris, where they are not to be in contact with one another. When one of them ends up in front of a firing squad, the others are left to question what is real and what is simply another subterfuge.

10. Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon—Emerson, Massachusetts, is a wealthy suburb full of influential families. When a teenage girl dies after a night of partying with three other local kids, a police investigation is launched. The authorities pry into their families' lives, revealing secrets, suspicions, and, finally, the shocking truth. 

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are your favorite books that fit this theme? 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!


  1. Sounds like you had a great trip and time! How fun. Hope you found some time to relax, too. :) Cathy's looks perfect on this list (and that cover/title intrigues me!) and Amanda's too looks so fitting. :) Thanks so much for visiting my website today.

  2. Your vacation looks amazing and I love your cover choices!

  3. Yay for vacations!!! Great pictures. I've seen U2 in concert twice. They're great. 🙂

  4. I considered looking for books bird bird titles or covers. Really fun choices. Miss Benson's Beetle has been on my interest list.

  5. I did read locust lane actually as a beta type with publisher questionnaire! Super cool and not a bad read at all! Thanks for dropping by my post!

  6. Like you, I find WWII novels irresistible which means I now have more books on my tbr!! And also love the Kate Quinn San Francisco based book...

  7. Love your twist on this week's topic! Your trip sounds great, thanks for sharing the photos. I saw U2 back in 1987 on their Joshua Tree tour and it was amazing! I bet they were fantastic in The Sphere!

  8. Oh fun! I've always wanted to visit CA myself! Haven't gotten out that way yet. I tried looking up a flight the other day for fun as there was an event I wanted to attend, alas, it's wayyyy outside my price budget for a month in advance!

    Nice cover picks too! These are all new to me ones! Been seeing a wide variety of genres for this topic which has made it all the more fun!

    Thanks for visiting my TTT!

  9. So glad to hear you guys have had such fun times! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Sometimes vaca is too busy to read and that's okay!! The Sphere looks like it's an AMAZING atmosphere! I hope to experience it one day!

  11. What a great trip you had! Funny that the kids liked the movie more than the U2 concert. Ha!

  12. Your vacation sounds fantastic! I live in California but it's been years since I visited Solvang or Hearst Castle:-)

  13. Your vacation looks and sounds amazing! I'm so glad you had such a nice and fun break from real life. :D

  14. Great list! Love seeing all these covers. Sounds like an amazing trip! My husband and I are going to be in Las Vegas in the fall, and I hope to get to the Sphere and Hoover Dam! :)

  15. Good for you for taking that trip! It looks super fun.

    Thanks for stopping by earlier.

    Lydia Schoch

  16. Your trip sounds amazing! I already had The Phoenix Crown on my list. Olive Bright, Pigeoneer sounds right up my alley so I'm adding that to my TBR, too -- thanks!

  17. That title wins today! It made me smile. I also loved your choices.
    Your trip sounds amazing!

  18. Sounds like a fantastic trip--I visited Hearst Castle roughly 35 years ago (pre-kid days) and remember really enjoying it. Solvang is on my bucket list to visit--such a unique place. Call of the Wrens and Phoenix Crown are both in my wheelhouse, so I will have to get them on the list. Thanks for stopping by my blog for TTT. Happy reading.

  19. I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip! Definitely worth a blog hiatus and small break from reading. I love your twist on this week's prompt - great idea! I really need to read Miss Benson's Beetle as well - I have heard it's fantastic! Happy reading!

  20. I'm totally partially to bees on covers. Nice list!

  21. A great looking list.

    It sounds like you had an amazing holiday and I love the photos! I feel that it will be many years before we go on holiday again 😂

    Have a great week!

  22. What a cool vacations :D looks so fun :)

  23. I love that your husband is an enabler for (not) your book buying tendencies. Lol! My husband is the same, and he gives me lots of good reasons to buy books too. They are all very valid reasons and completely rational!

  24. Sounds like a fun vacation. I'm glad you had a good time.

  25. A Hundred Crickets Singing really caught my eye. And your vacation looks so fun!

  26. Sounds like an amazing trip! Loved the pictures. Nice take on the topic. I want to read more books by Joyce after LOVING The Music Shop.

  27. My husband says that purchasing it doesn't really count against my ban because (1) It was more of a donation to the museum than a book purchase, (2) The book is for research purposes, not entertainment value, and (3) He's the one who handed over the cash, so technically, he bought it, not me! LOL.

    Hahaha, so fun when our loved ones join in our rationalisations!

  28. Wow! Sounds like you had a fabulous time. Love the photos. Great list. Thanks for visiting my blog last week.

  29. It looks like you had an awesome road trip! Thanks for sharing the highlights, even if I had to look up what ebelskivers were, and now I definitely want some. I also enjoyed seeing how your husband enables your book buying and even comes up with justifications, although in this case, I'd have to agree with him - this wasn't a book that you bought as a fun beach read. This was the kind of book that benefits not just you, but a museum.

    As far as books, I love that you included the Vivien Chien series, because I've read a few of the books in that series and really loved them. Also, it's nice to see some diversity in cozy mysteries, isn't it? I read Locust Lane, and it was okay, but nothing that really stands out in my mind.

  30. I agree with your husband - definitely doesn't count against the book buying ban. I read the first Vivien Chein book last year and absolutely loved it. It's a series I'm really looking forward to continuing this year. Love your list! I see several others I want to read.

  31. We loved visiting Solvang! I have a picture of Ethan picking Hans Christian Anderson’s nose…ok his statue anyway.


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