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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!
Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Throw Books Against the Wall (Or Just Quietly DNF Them)

Even though I can be a harsh critic when it comes to books, I always try to keep things positive around here, especially for Top Ten Tuesday. I considered going rogue instead of doing today's prompt—Top Ten Petty Reasons You've DNF'd a Book (or Reduced Its Rating)—but I'm not feeling very creative, so I'm going to stick with the assigned topic after all. I'm a fairly picky reader, so it shouldn't be too hard to come up with ten reasons I get bugged enough to put down a book. 

As always, this fun weekly meme is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Click on over to her site and give her some love, wontcha?

Top Ten Petty Reasons I'll DNF a Book (or Reduce Its Rating)

It's BORING! If a book has no plot or it's bogged down by too many extraneous details, excessive words, superfluous characters, etc., then I'm out. It doesn't have to be a glued-to-my-seat page turner, but there has to be enough tension, conflict, and action to hold my attention.

It has graphic content that I just don't want to read. Let's set aside the fact that I'm currently reading a book where every other word seems to start with an "f" and end with "ck"... I'm a fairly big prude, so I tend to shy away from books with strong language, excessive blood/gore, disturbing content, and "sexy" scenes.

The characters are unlikable/irritating/dull. I mean, I don't necessarily have to love the main character in the book I'm reading, but I have to like them enough to want to spend multiple hours with them! It's also best when I feel a connection to them, which makes me worry about them, root for them, and care about what's going to happen to them. When I don't give a fig about any of them? Yeah, Imma DNF that one real fast.

It's too confusing. If a plot is unnecessarily complicated or an author's prose is so dense that I have to read a paragraph three times to understand what they're trying to say, then...I'm done.

The author hasn't done their homework. I read a novel once where a character (let's call her Jane) goes to visit her rich sister (Jill) and needs to borrow her Tesla. Jill tosses Jane her car keys and Jane starts up the Tesla, reveling in the sound of its expensive engine purring. Um...There are several problems here. Not only are Teslas not driven with keys (I use an app, with a key card as a backup), but they don't have engines. There is no purring; in fact, they're almost silent. (Seriously, I've had to honk at people to warn them I'm there because they can't hear my car coming.) Getting "small" details like this wrong yanks me out of a story and makes me distrust the author. If they didn't bother to check something as simple as how to drive a Tesla, what else did they get wrong? I don't necessarily DNF for this because hey, everybody makes mistakes, but I definitely lower my ratings when authors/editors get things wrong that they could have easily researched.

Mood, man. Sometimes, I'm just not feeling a book for no fault of its own. If this is the case, I often go back to it when I'm feeling more inclined.

The audiobook narrator's voice grates on me. When this happens, I DNF the audiobook and read a paper or electronic version instead.

Poor writing. I'm all about clarity over creativity, so I don't need flowery, poetic, achingly beautiful word art. I do, however, want to be engaged by vibrant prose that's sculpted into paragraphs that pop, sentences that sing, and dialogue that dances. Or, at least, words that flow so smoothly that I get so fully immersed in a story that I forget I'm reading at all.

 Lousy/lazy copy editing. If there are major typos, grammatical errors, logic problems, continuity issues, etc., I get jerked out of the story. Self-published titles have been the most problematic for me in this, but I have found plenty of mistakes in books put out by the big guys, too. Unless they're major, I don't usually DNF for this reason, but I do take marks off my grades/ratings because it's annoying and takes away from my pleasure in reading the book.

Too cheesy/sappy/sentimental. I don't mind an inspirational, feel-good read—unless it's so saccharine or preachy or obviously motivational that it drives me mad. Subtlety works much better for me as a reader.

There you are, the top ten reasons I DNF a book or reduce its grade/rating. Do you relate to any of them? What makes you set a read aside? I'd love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog. (Note: I really try to visit the blogs of everyone who participates in TTT and leave a thoughtful comment. Last week, I had to go out of town to check on my dad, who was recently diagnosed with dementia, so I didn't get to most of yours. I know you are all devastated. Ha ha. Seriously, though, I'll do better this week. Promise!)

Happy TTT!

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: And Still They Sit...

Note: I'm late to the TTT party this week. I got sidetracked from finishing my post by a bookish event. My husband was supposed to go see Rainn Wilson talk about his new book, Soul Boom, with a buddy. His friend wasn't able to make it, so I went instead. Wilson was funny and charming as he discussed how a mental health crisis in his 20s led him on a spiritual journey that eventually brought him back to the Baha'i faith in which he had been raised. After the chat, we stood in line for an hour to meet the actor/author and get our books signed. It was a fun evening out.

This photo is a tad blurry and it's definitely not a very flattering angle for me, but alas, it's proof that I met Dwight Schrute (I mean, Rainn Wilson) :)


You know the drill: you're SO excited to buy or receive a new book that you can't wait to read, you stick it on your shelf "just for now," and then, ten years later, there it still sits. The poor baby is dusty, forgotten, neglected, alone, and still unread. Why do bad things happen to good books? It's a downright travesty, one that plays out constantly (in my home at least). Once I acquire a volume, it seems to lose its immediate allure, dooming it to out-of-sight-out-of-mind territory. Does this happen to you or is it just me? I suspect my bookshelves are not the only ones where lonely tomes sit year after year, just waiting to be remembered...

Good news for those sad, abandoned books! Today's TTT (hosted, as always, by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is all about these sad, forgotten titles. We're being asked for the Top Ten Unread Books On My Shelves I Want to Read Soon. I'm going to tweak the prompt just a tad to feature some of the physical review books that have been lingering on my shelves for—wait for it—10+ years! Yikes. When I downsized homes back in 2022, I culled my massive book collection by donating over 1000 books. The titles in my list today made the cut and yet, I still haven't managed to read them. I want to, make no mistake; I just haven't gotten around to it. One of these days weeks years decades I'll actually do it.

Top Ten Oldest Physical Review Books On My Shelves That I Want to Read Soon Eventually

1. Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife by Francine Prose (acquired September 2009 from HarperCollins)—This volume of literary criticism examines the history and significance of the famous diary as an important, enduring piece of art.

2. The Lies We Told by Diane Chamberlain (acquired May 2010 from Meryl Moss Media)—Maya and Rebecca Ward are sisters who witnessed the brutal murder of their parents when they were teenagers. Always the more dynamic of the siblings, Rebecca persuades her timid sister and her husband, Adam, to join her in providing medical relief to victims of a North Carolina hurricane. When Maya is involved in a helicopter crash, she is presumed dead. In their grief, Rebecca and Adam find comfort in each other's arms, not realizing that Maya is alive, but struggling to survive in a remote wilderness...Will Maya make it home? What will happen then?

3. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of 50 Years of To Kill a Mockingbird by Mary McDonagh Murphy (acquired June 2010 from HarperCollins)—In this commemorative book, Murphy, a filmmaker, interviews a number of prominent people, including Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, and Anna Quindlen, about the impact To Kill a Mockingbird has had on their lives. 

4. Hidden Things (later changed to A Hidden Affair) by Pam Jenoff (acquired July 2010 from Atria)—The second book in a duology, this novel features Jordan Weiss, an intelligence officer with the U.S. State Department. A decade ago, she was a coxswain at Cambridge when her crewmate and boyfriend, Jared Short, drowned the night before the team was to compete in their final race of the year. When a former classmate asserts that Jared's death was no accident, Jordan launches her own investigation into the incident. In this second book, she is still looking for answers. This time, she reluctantly pairs up with a handsome stranger whom she's not entirely sure she can trust...

5. Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani (acquired December 2010 from HarperCollins)—I've enjoyed a number of Trigiani's novels as well as her family cookbook, so I'm not sure why I haven't read this one yet. In it, the writer pays tribute to both of her grandmothers, who lived their remarkable lives with humor, wisdom, and grace.

6. No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 by Graham Bowley (acquired August 2010 from HarperCollins)—On August 1, 2008, eleven climbers died on K2, the second highest mountain on Earth. It was the deadliest day on the mountain to date. Bowley, an investigative journalist, recounts the disaster in this detailed account.

7. South of Superior by Ellen Airgood (acquired May 2011 from TLC Book Tours)—This heartwarming debut novel revolves around a woman who leaves the bustle of Chicago behind for a quiet life in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She is charged with caring for two elderly sisters, one of whom is sweet, the other sour. As she navigates her new job and life in a small town, she finds healing, friendship, and love.

8. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (acquired June 2011 from HarperCollins)—Prophecy says that each century, a great one is chosen. Elisa is supposed to be the chosen one, but she feels more like the princess of failure, with nothing special about her. With everyone counting on her to save them, she has to find the greatness within herself in order to save not just her people, but also her heart.

9. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott (acquired March 2012 from Penguin Random House)—An aspiring seamstress, Tess is ecstatic when she secures a job as a personal maid for the wealthy, well-known Lady Duff Gordon. Not only is she working for an influential woman, but she will be traveling with her on the elegant H.M.S. Titanic. When the ship goes down, Tess witnesses some questionable actions taken by her employer. As Lady Duff Gordon becomes subject to suspicious questioning, Tess is caught in the media whirlwind as she comes to terms with her own feelings about what she experienced on the ship. 

10. The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri (acquired April 2012 from HarperCollins)—When Nora Cunningham's well-known husband is caught in a scandalous affair, she runs from the spotlight with her two young children in tow. They retreat to a remote seaside town on the coast of Maine, a place the locals say is touched with Irish magic. After Nora spends a lonely evening on the shore sobbing bitter tears into the ocean, she discovers a handsome, mysterious fisherman shipwrecked nearby. Is he really a selkie, summoned by her sadness, like her superstitious friends believe? Or is he simply a heartbroken soul like Nora, someone who could help her heal?

There you are, ten review books that have been sitting on my review shelf for a very long time that I still haven't read. Have you read any of them? Which forgotten titles on your shelf do you still want to read? 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 (on a Wednesday)!

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Vacation Thrillers On My TBR List

I just got back from a fabulous 2-week vacation to the U.K. in which everything went pretty much as smoothly as it could. Even the few things that didn't go quite as planned turned into happy accidents and funny memories. This hasn't been the case with every holiday I've gone on, naturally. I've been on trips marred by nasty weather, illness, car trouble, family drama, forgotten medication, kids having meltdowns, and one memorable (but very minor, thank goodness) trip to a Canadian emergency room. Although I pray for uneventful vacations in real life, I want the opposite in my fiction. Bring on all the holiday murder and mayhem! I mean, c'mon, who wants to read about a smooth-as-silk holiday? Not I! Today's TTT prompt is actually Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Go On Vacation With, but I'm going to put my own spin on it and list some vacation thrillers on my TBR list. I actually did this same topic back in 2020 with ten different books, so take a look at that if you're into this genre as well.

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Pop on over there and give her some love, won't you?

Top Ten Vacation Thrillers On My TBR List

1. The River Wild by Denis O'Neill—I loved the film version of this survival story starring Kevin Bacon and Meryl Streep, but I've never read the book. The story is about a couple whose marriage struggles lead them to go on a white water rafting trip with their young son, hoping they can heal what's broken with some concentrated bonding time. When they rescue two stranded rafters, they unknowingly pick up a pair of criminals on the run. The family's peaceful outing soon turns into a desperate run against two armed killers and a powerful river, both of which seem to be conspiring to kill them.

2. One Perfect Couple by Ruth Ware (available May 21, 2024)—In spite of relationship issues with her wannabe actor boyfriend, Lyla auditions with him for a new reality show that pits couples against each other for a large cash prize. Along with their fellow competitors, Lyla and Nico are left on the shores of a beautiful, exotic, and very remote island. After the game's first challenge leaves the contestants boiling with anger, a violent storm sweeps in, cutting the players off from all communication with the outside world. With no way to call for help and supplies running low, the couples must band together to survive. Or not.

3. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam—I'm probably the last person on earth to read this buzzy thriller. It's about a family from New York City who rent a luxurious Long Island home for a much-needed rest from their busy lives. Everything is going swimmingly until a knock on the door in the middle of the night changes everything. An older couple has arrived, claiming to be the owners of the home. They bring terrible news—a mysterious power outage has shut down the city, causing widespread chaos and panic. Something about the situation doesn't seem right to the vacationers, but with phone and Internet service down, there's no way for them to know what's really happening. Can they trust these newcomers? Or is something way more sinister than a power outage going on?

4. Never Coming Home by Kate Williams—In this YA thriller, ten of the world's most famous teen influencers are invited to Unknown Island. This paradise of the privileged has just opened and the whole world is talking about its beauty, luxury, and exclusivity. When the "First Ten" receive their coveted invites, they think they're being rewarded because of their massive followings. Wrong. They're being trapped because of the secrets each one of them is hiding. Someone wants those bombshells released. Someone wants to punish their keepers. Someone doesn't want the powerful influencers to leave the island. Ever. 

5. The Chateau by Jaclyn Goldis—Twenty years ago, four teenagers embarked on a study abroad adventure in Provence, France, and became the best of friends. The girls spent their weekends visiting elegant Séraphine Demargelasse, one of the students' grandmother, at her fancy chateau. Two decades later, Séraphine invites them back. None of the women understand the sudden invitation, but each has their own secret reason for accepting. When their host is found murdered after a night of celebration, those secrets begin to emerge as everyone scrambles to figure out what is happening and why. 

6. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok—When the titular character disappears while on vacation in the Netherlands, the Lee family is devastated and confused. What happened to their smart, successful oldest daughter? Amy, the youngest of the Lee siblings, has always been shy and easily intimidated. She idolizes her sister, her polar opposite. Determined to find answers for her distraught parents, Amy calls on every ounce of courage she possesses and embarks on a journey to figure out what happened to Sylvie. Along the way, she'll expose shocking secrets and discover deep truths about her sister, their parents, and herself. 

7. The Last Guest House by Caroline Mitchell (available April 16, 2024—today!)In need of some R&R after working a taxing case, Detective Constable Nicola McKenna agrees to go on a relaxing vacation to Scotland's remote Isle of Skye. When they discover that their hotel has been overbooked, they scramble to find alternate accommodations. The Loch House has some odd rules, which Nicola finds more than a little unsettling. An incoming snow storm unnerves her even more and shows her just how very wrong things are at the sketchy guest house...

8. The Search Party by Hannah Richell—Max and Annie Kingsley have left their stressful life in London behind to run a glamping site. To ensure everything goes well for its grand opening, they decide to give their new venture a test run. They invite a group of family friends to join them for a fun, relaxing weekend. It doesn't take long for things to go sideways. With tension already on the rise, a sudden storm crashes in and one of the group disappears. As they try to find their missing member, secrets will come to light, families will be pitted against each other, and friendships will crumble. Will any of them ever recover from their dream weekend turned hellish nightmare?

9. Descent by Tim Johnston—The Courtlands are hanging out in the Rocky Mountains enjoying one last family vacation before their 18-year-old daughter, Caitlin, heads off to college. When she and her brother go for a run one morning and only Sean comes back, the family is thrown into a wild panic. What happened to Caitlin? Have they lost her forever? 

10. The River At Night by Erica Ferencik—If there's one thing everyone can agree on it's that Winifred Allen needs a vacation. Even still, she's a tad reluctant to join her best friends on a rafting and hiking adventure in the Maine wilderness. Her misgivings come to fruition when a freak accident turns their harmless excursion into a desperate struggle for survival against nature, each other, and the most dangerous type of wildlife: other humans.

There you go, ten novels about vacations going terribly wrong that I want to read. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Are there any other books you've loved about holidays gone awry? I'd love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Everyone's Dying to Get In

Today's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) prompt is a freebie, something I both love and loathe. I'm still tired from my 2-week vacay and my creative juices are just not flowing right now! However, this morning I started listening to a new audiobook, in which a teenager moves to Italy for the summer following her mother's death in order to live with her father, a man she's never met. When she arrives at his home, she's horrified to discover that he lives next to a cemetery, of which he is the caretaker. Unlike the main character in this book, I adore cemeteries. Not only do I find them endlessly fascinating, but they don't scare me in the least; in fact, they fill me with a sense of peace and calm. This got me thinking about other books I've read and those I would like to read that feature graveyards in one way or another. It's probably a topic better suited for Halloween time than Easter, but oh well. I'm going with it:

Top Ten Books On My TBR List That Feature Cemeteries in One Way or Another (Or At Least Sound Like They Might)

1. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch—This is my current listen. As I said above, it's about a teen girl who goes to Italy to fulfill her mother's dying wish that she get to know her father. The situation is all kinds of awkward, and all Lina wants to do is hightail it back to Seattle. Everything changes when she's given a journal her mother kept while living in Italy; reading it leads Lina to hidden wonders and a well-kept secret that changes everything she knows about her mother and herself.

2. The Cemetery of Untold Stories by Julia Alvarez—After watching a friend and fellow novelist drive herself mad trying to finish a book, Alma Cruz vows not to let her own unfinished manuscripts chase her down the same path. When she inherits a piece of land in her native Dominican Republic, she turns it into a cemetery for her untold stories, burying incomplete drafts and abandoned revisions. Despite her determination to let them die, the tales take on lives of their own, the characters insisting on telling their own stories, refusing to be forgotten...

3. Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper—In this YA historical novel, a young woman in Victorian England who has just given birth to an illegitimate child who is born dead travels to a posh cemetery to bury her infant in the coffin of a wealthy woman. It's the only gift she can give her poor baby. In the graveyard, she meets two people who will impact her impoverished life greatly as she ekes out her meager existence. Sounds bleak, but interesting. 

4. 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoads—This travel guide, complete with stunning photography, showcases interesting cemeteries around the world that draw hordes of visitors eager to enjoy their beautiful scenery, hear about their unique histories, and visit their famous residents.

5. Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest—Leda is a Seattle travel agent and a sometimes psychic. When she reroutes a police detective from a doomed flight, the detective realizes her special gift could make her very useful to the police. Leda agrees to help him solve a cold case while at the same time investigating one of her own: her fiancé's murder.

6. Cemetery Road by Greg Iles—When Marshall McEwan returns to his small Mississippi hometown to care for his dying father, he realizes just how rundown Bienville has become. Its only hope for revitalization is an expensive new Chinese paper mill. When two murders happen in town, threatening the town's future even more, Marshall—an experienced journalist—decides to investigate. Will the secrets he uncovers be the nail in the coffin of the dying town? 

7. The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox—Like #1, this YA novel features a young woman whose father works as a caretaker for a cemetery. When a series of grave robberies hits Boston, she uses her special gift—her ability to communicate with the dead—to take on a gang known as the "Resurrection Men." Her involvement will either save the city's cemeteries or land her in one of them. Permanently.

8. Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America's Cemeteries by Greg Melville—This non-fiction title examines the history of how Americans memorialize our dead and what it has meant in terms of history, politics, the environment, and more. Sounds fascinating!

9. The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell—Widowed and pregnant, Hadley Dixon returns to the east Texas town where she grew up. Members of her family are still whispered about there and those who remain refuse to talk about the disturbing rumors that float about. Hadley only wants a safe place for her children to grow up. If she starts digging into the past, what might she unleash on herself, her family, and her hometown?

10. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen—Paranormal romance really isn't my thing, but this one sounds cute. Hart works as a marshal, keeping the magical land in which he lives under control. His job is not a popular one and he's got the crippling loneliness to show for it. Mercy is doing everything she can to keep her family's undertaking business afloat, including dealing with jerks like Hart. When the two enemies begin exchanging letters, pouring out their hearts to one another without knowing the other's identity, they get to know each other in ways they never could have before. What will happen when the new friends discover they are actually bitter enemies?

There you go, my somewhat macabre list. Do you love cemeteries like I do or do you avoid them like the plague? Are books set in or around graveyards as appealing to you as they are to me? Have you read any of the ones on my list? What did you think? What did you do for your freebie today? I'd truly love to know. Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog. Please note that I am a week behind on commenting, but I will catch up!

Happy TTT!

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Rain or Shine, We Have a Good Time

Happy Tuesday! I just got back from a two-week family history research trip to the U.K. and today's TTT topic—April Showers (however you chose to interpret it)—goes perfectly with this promised recap of my vacation. Although the U.K. was damp and cold, we actually got pretty lucky with the weather, which stayed mostly dry. There was only one day that poured almost without ceasing and even that one gave us a bright, beautiful double rainbow (before it started raining again). Despite the cold, rain, mud, and even a surprise snow flurry in Wales, we had a fantastic trip. Jet lag is still kicking my trash as is the immersion back into reality, but I'm really glad we went. It truly was a spectacular experience.

The first time my husband and I visited the U.K. was in 2021. We took our two youngest kids with us that time. This go around, they were a little miffed about not being invited. When I explained that this trip would mostly include visits to churches, cemeteries, and museums, my 19-year-old son said, "Oh. Never mind, then." Ha ha. I wasn't lying either. Here's some numbers to prove it:

Miles traveled by airplane (from Phoenix, Arizona; to London, England; to Edinburgh, Scotland; and back again): about 5000
Miles traveled by car: 1616 (We rented a Tesla, so at least we didn't have to pay for expensive petrol!)
Miles traveled by ferry (from Heysham, England, to the Isle of Man, then from the Isle of Man to Liverpool): about 150
Miles traveled on foot: 78.73 (My FitBit wasn't sure what in the world was going on!)
Countries visited: Scotland, Wales, and England
Old churches visited: about 20 (probably more)
Cemeteries visited: about 22 (probably more)
Museums/Archives visited: 5 (We had to cross a picket line of protesting workers [very polite English ones] to enter the Museum of Liverpool, but our personal tour of the very well laid out museum was worth it. Also, I love that so many of the U.K.'s museums are free to visit! That's not at all true in the U.S.)
Castles visited: 7
Old friends visited: 2
New friends made: dozens (Other than a crochety cashier in a corner store in Liverpool, everyone we met was super nice and helpful.) 
Car accidents: 1 (Thank goodness there was only one and it was just a fender bender. We were hit by a cheery English woman on an impossibly narrow road in England's Lake District. The scenery there is unbelievable and so are the roads. They're terrifying.)

Highlights (although, really, everything we did was a highlight): 
  • Touring more Kennedy castles in Scotland—Kennedy is my maiden name and my ancestors hail from Ayrshire. Culzean Castle will always be my favorite Kennedy castle, but we saw a bunch more on this trip, all of which were very photogenic ruins. We even got a personal tour from a Scottish historian/Kennedy expert whom we met at Culzean in 2021.
  • Stopping in at the parish church in Whitchurch, England, where my ancestors worshipped for generations. The people at St. Dubricius were so warm and welcoming. They made us feel right at home. I left the church crying happy tears. 
  • Exploring Whitby, England—Whitby is a family name, so we had to visit this gorgeous seaside city. We loved climbing the 199 steps (They're not as tough as they look!) and walking all around the abbey at the top of the hill. There's a lovely church up there as well, which is surrounded by an atmospheric old cemetery.  
  • Visiting the Isle of Man, England—What a beautiful island! Its scenery is breathtaking and the people we met there were the absolute best. I'm so glad my husband has Manx ancestors, so we had an excuse to visit.
  • Seeing the altar in the Chester Cathedral where my fourth great-grandparents were married in 1799. It was a bit of a wild goose chase to find their "church" since it had been absorbed into the cathedral, but we happened to run into two very helpful men who led us to the right place.
  • Feeling all the feels at the Forth Bridge—My husband's second great-grandfather died while helping to build the bridge, leaving behind a wife and several small children. His presence was palpable as we walked across the Forth Road Bridge, rode a train across the Forth Bridge, searched the cemetery where he's likely buried, explored the city where he lived, and lit a beacon in the lighthouse in his memory for Easter.
  • Getting snowed on in the Welsh countryside—It was memorable, anyway! And we did find the headstone we were looking for, even though it was in a very out-of-the-way churchyard.
  • Seeing so many gorgeous scenes, from the Dales (England), to the Lake District (England), to the Scottish coast, to the Welsh countryside, to lovely Whitby (England), to the Isle of Man, and so much more...Wow, just wow!
  • Breakfasting and catching up with my old college roommate and her husband—always a good time! 
  • Seeing Cavendish House, the department store where my second great-grandparents worked together in the 1840s—After being in business for 150 years, the store is closing permanently this month. We were fortunate in our timing as we were able to walk through the building and even see the historical photographs on the wall since they hadn't yet been removed from the walls. It might seem silly to visit a shop, but it was meaningful to me.
  • Everything, really. Throughout our two weeks in the British Isles, we felt a strong connection to our ancestral lands and to our people who emigrated from them to Canada and the U.S. 

You're already bored, I'm sure, so here's my actual TTT list:

Top Ten Seven Bookish Things I Did On My Trip to the U.K.

  1. Whitby, England—It's been a few decades since I read Bram Stoker's Dracula, but the novel is set in Whitby. We had a good laugh at this sign, which hangs in St. Mary the Virgin, a parish church next to Whitby Abbey that is surrounded by an expansive graveyard.

2. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (Alloway, Ayr, Scotland)—I knew very little about Scotland's favorite poet before this trip. This excellent museum has lots of information about him. You can tour the cottage he was born in, which gives a fascinating glimpse into what homes of the moderately poor were like in Scotland in the late 1700s.
3. Wigtown, Scotland—Scotland's National Book Town felt rather dreary when we visited, so we didn't stay long. We did pop into The Bookshop, the second-hand store featured in several books authored by its owner, Shaun Bythell. Our tour guide at Castle Kennedy Gardens told us Shaun was a character whom we should definitely try to meet. Unfortunately, he wasn't in that morning.
4. Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum (Dunfermline, Scotland)—The famous American business tycoon was actually born in Dunfermline. He became the richest man in the world, then gave away 90% of his wealth through his various philanthropic efforts, including libraries. He gave generously to causes in his hometown. In fact, the first one he funded is in Dunfermline, just down the street from where Carnegie was born. 
5. Stratford-Upon-Avon, England—This little town where Shakespeare was born was absolutely mobbed with tourists when we drove through, so we didn't stop. At least I can say I've been there!
6. Museum of Liverpool (Liverpool, England)—Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, an archaeologist and curator at the museum, wrote a book on the history of housing in Liverpool that has been really helpful in my family history research. I was excited to meet her and have her sign my copy of the book.
7. Diddly Squat Farm Shop (Chipping Norton, England)—My husband is a big Top Gear fan, so we had to stop at Jeremy Clarkson's farm shop in the Cotswolds. The television star has written several books about his agricultural adventures, which were selling in the shop at 3 for 50 pounds. We didn't want to pay that much, so we had ourselves a good laugh when we found an almost-new copy of one of them at St. Mary's Church in Whitby for 1 pound. What a deal!

It was a lovely, lovely trip all-around. My husband and I had so much fun gawking at beautiful scenery, researching our ancestors, meeting new people, connecting with our roots, and just feeling the guiding influence of those who came before us. 

Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? What was your spin on the April Showers theme?

Happy TTT! 

* Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Click on over there and give her some love.
*All photo credits go to my husband. 

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