Monday, February 26, 2024

The Unlikely Thru-Hiker by Derick Lugo

About the author:  "Derick Lugo had never hiked or camped a day in his life. This Brooklyn-born, New York city urbanite hopped a train to Georgia, grabbed a taxi at the station, and told the driver to drop him off at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. Then he did as he has always done--put one foot in front of the other and never looked back."

My thoughts:  You already know how much I love reading about other people's journeys hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, and Lugo's is one of the better ones. He's a gifted storyteller, and this memoir is full of humor, adventure, and some profound and uplifting advice...not just about hiking the AT, but about living life. I loved it.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Favorite quotes from the book:
"I'm not going to fall into a mindset of maybe I'll make it. I already have enough going against me, starting with how clueless I am about the trail. Positive thoughts are my biggest asset out here in the unknown."

"This journey will go better if I don't dread and curse the things I cannot control."

"Change can be frightening at times, but out here it's our way of life. When I stepped onto the AT, I sought change. I wanted to move away from a static existence. Suitably, the end of one thing opens the way for something wondrous. I see not the end but a new start."

"Hike your own Hike."

Happy Reading!




Friday, February 23, 2024

Haiku reviews...


Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman

She's his rock star crush--
when they meet it feels like love.
Can it be that easy?

Romance .... 339 pages .... 4.5/5 stars.
(I enjoyed Billy and Margot's second chance love story.)

That Others May Live by Sara Driscoll

Search-and-rescue teams
unite when a 12-story building
collapses in D.C. 

An FBI K-9 Novel .... 337 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(I love Meg and her dog, Hawk, and her firefighter fiance, too.)

The Paleontologist by Luke Dumas

A haunted museum,
dinosaurs, ghosts, and the mystery
of his long-lost sister.

Horror-lite .... 353 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(Must love dinosaurs to enjoy this book.)

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.


I came up with five: 

1. I wish I had the ability to remember all the pertinent plot points and characters from all the books I've read...or at least all the ones I really liked. 

2. I wish I was able to conjure up any book I wanted to read the moment I wanted to read it...without having to wait for my library hold to come in, or my Amazon order to be delivered. 

3. I'd love to be able to stop time and the rest of the world whenever I wanted so I could give myself an extra hour or two just for reading. 

4. I'd like to be able to enter the pages of any book and spend some time with my favorite characters, or go exploring a favorite setting...especially a magical world like Oz or Le Cirques des Reves.

5. And the last bookish superpower I'd love to have is the ability to change a book's ending when it's disappointing and make it better. Because I hate when an otherwise great story ends wrong. (Yes, Mockingjay, I'm talking about books like you!) 

What bookish superpowers would you love to have?
Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Her Radiant Curse by Elizabeth Lim

 "I was not born a monster."

Two sisters:  Channari and Vanna.

Channi, the oldest, was cursed by the demon witch, Angma, with the face of a snake when she was just a child. Her blood carries the killing poison of the Serpent King. Her younger sister, Vanna, on the other hand, is so beautiful foreign kings are vying for her hand. Her heart emits a magical radiance that Angma covets. 

Channi is determined to protect her sister from Angma, their greedy father, and all her suitors, especially the cruel King Meguh, not just because she loves her sister, but because she made a promise to their dying mother to keep Vanna safe. Even if it costs her her own life. 

"One sister must fall for the other to rise."

My thoughts:  This novel is a prequel to Elizabeth Lim's Six Crimson Cranes, but Channi's story stands on its own. And it's quite the adventure, with demons, talking snakes, and a nine-eyed witch. Channi is determined, impulsive, and strong-willed, a fighter who never gives up; she also longs to be loved. She's carried a lot of hurt and shame over the way others have treated her because of her monstrous face. I had a lot of sympathy for her. 

She meets an unexpected ally in Hokzuh, half-dragon, half-demon, who has his own reasons for going up against Angma. He's sarcastic and harsh, but he can also be kind, and he sees something of himself in Channi. I liked him. The other thing I really liked about this book is Lim's vivid descriptions and all the magic in it. It's an entertaining fantasy, but also sad. Though having read Six Crimson Cranes, I knew going in that Channi's story wasn't necessarily a happy one. 

Still I'm glad Melody and I chose this as our first buddy read of 2024. Be sure to check out her review of this one.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Death in the Dark Woods by Annelise Ryan

 "When it comes to the creature known as Bigfoot there are three camps of thought: the skeptics, the believers, and the folks who simply see it all as a way to make a buck."


MORGAN CARTER -- bookstore owner and cryptid hunter. "I don't search for cryptids to make money; I do it because I love it and to continue the work my parents did in the field...I'm a cynic at heart, and I approach my cryptid searches from a position of science and reality, not speculation and rumor."

CHARLIE ABERDEEN -- a conservation warden in Bayfield, Wisconsin. She's a believer. Because when she was thirteen, she saw something in the woods that looked remarkably like Bigfoot. She just can't prove it. 

JON FLANDERS -- Chief of police for Washington Island, located off the tip of Wisconsin's Door County Peninsula, and Morgan's...friend? Boyfriend? They're still figuring that one out. 

NEWT -- Morgan's large, half blind, lovably sweet rescue dog. 

"There's something strange going on in the Chequamegon National Forest. We've had some Bigfoot sightings in the area, a couple of which have been rather...disturbing. One of them may have torn a man apart."

 MY THOUGHTS:  This is another entertaining and well-written mystery from Annelise Ryan. Morgan and Jon are both very likable characters, each with their own tragedy in their pasts. I liked seeing their relationship grow a little more in this one. Morgan is smart and resourceful. And I love her dog, Newt. The Bigfoot angle made the mystery a lot of fun. (But then I'm always a sucker for Bigfoot sightings in any book.) And did they finally find evidence of this mysterious cryptid? You'll have to read it for yourself to find out. This is the second book Ryan has written about these characters, and I enjoyed it as much as the first one. 

Happy Reading!

Ryan's previous book:  A Death in Door County

Other "Bigfoot" novels:

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's them is a Love Freebie in honor of Valentine's Day. But instead of doing a list of favorite romances, which I've done in the past, I decided to center my top ten list this week around a game I love to play instead:  CHESS.   So here's my list of 10 books with a chess theme on the cover or in the title. 

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte

The Eight by Katherine Neville

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis 

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris

Bishop's Knight by Katie Reus

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Curiosity by Gary Blackwood

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

Hunter's Green by Phyllis A. Whitney

Horrorscape by Nenia Campbell

Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The Only One Left by Riley Sager


At seventeen, Lenora Hope
Hung her sister with a rope,
Stabbed her father with a knife,
Took her mother's happy life.
"It wasn't me," Lenora said.
But she's the only one not dead.

The plot:  Maine, 1983. Kit McDeere is a home-health aide who made a serious mistake with her last patient. So when her employer offers her the chance to become the caregiver to Lenora Hope, the woman accused of killing her entire family decades ago, Kit has no choice but to head to Hope's End. Even though the thought of caring for a murderer disturbs her. The stately mansion sits on the cliffs overlooking the ocean; it's dilapidated now, and slanting towards the sea as the ground beneath it slowly erodes.  Besides Kit, there are three other employees at Hope's End: the housekeeper, the maid, and the groundskeeper. As for Lenora, she's partially paralyzed from a series of strokes, can't walk, can't speak, and can only move her left hand. To communicate, she taps once for no, twice for yes. But she can also tap out sentences on her typewriter. Kit finds Lenora secretive and hard to read. She's also very curious to know the truth about what really happened. So when Lenora types out the message: i want to tell you everything, Kit gets quickly drawn into Lenora's past and all the hidden secrets surrounding the murders of her family. And she starts to wonder if Lenora didn't kill her family, who did? 

My thoughts:  I love a thriller with an unexpected twist in it, but sometimes a book can have too many of them. And then they just muddle the story line and ruin the suspense. Like in this book. There's not just one plot twist at the end, there's three. And the first one completely flips the narrative. I felt that it made the big reveal about the truth of the Hope murders that followed it convoluted and confusing. The second big twist involved Kit and felt way too coincidental and unbelievable; and the very last twist not only felt tacked on and unnecessary, but completely implausible. Which was too bad, because I was enjoying the book up until then. It's compelling, and the setting is atmospheric. And even though I didn't really love any of the characters, I was still liking the book. But all those twists at the end, one right after the other, left me feeling nonplussed and dissatisfied. I just couldn't buy into them all. So while I normally love Riley Sager's novels, I found this one disappointing and less than stellar. 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

February's bookish art...

Maurice Louis Tete -- Woman reading in an interior

"I believe that 'finding the book you're looking for' is an overrated notion. Far better to explore, and let the book you need be the one which finds you."
--Craig Shaefer

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Two quick recommendations...


All Systems Red by Martha Wells

There's so much to like about this science fiction novella:  good writing, humor, a bit of mystery, and lots of action. But the best part is the SecUnit construct known as Murderbot. His snarky thoughts and his sometimes awkward interactions with his human clients totally made me smile. He's another new favorite character. Now I just need to read the rest of the series. (And that kind of bookish math is so typical of my entire TBR list--finish reading one book, add five more to the list.)

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo

How do I describe this one? This short, well-written novel is a story of grief and growing up, of three sisters and their father after the death of their mother, and the way they use the game of squash to cope and connect. It's an introspective novel, told from the youngest daughter's POV, lyrical in places, but melancholic, too. And I'm still trying to decide if I liked it, or not. But I did really like Sam's Review over at Book Chase, which is what made me want to read this one in the first place. 

Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 3, 2024

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer


First line: 
The first time I watched someone die, I was five.
Setting:  New York City, present day

Main Character:  Clover Brooks, a death doula who has dedicated her life to helping people as they reach the end of theirs. She keeps a record of all their regrets, but ignores her own. Because while Clover is very good at dealing with death, she's not so good at dealing with her own life.  "I didn't expect to get to my mid-thirties and still have only one friend. That's the thing about loneliness:  no one ever chooses it."

 My thoughts:  Clover's journey is one of uncertainty, love, fear, hope and second chances. She's a bookish introvert who struggles to make friends. And she's never been in love. I liked her a lot. And the people she meets along the way are so great. They each help her expand her small world in some unique way. I got caught up in this story right from the first page and didn't want to stop reading. This book made me feel all the feels: it's moving, humorous, charming, sad, satisfying, and heartwarming. 

Favorite Quote:  "The secret to a beautiful death is to live a beautiful life. Putting your heart out there. Letting it get broken. Taking chances. Making mistakes." 

Here's to living a life with fewer regrets.
Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 1, 2024


Where did January go? I feel like it went by fast. But I have to admit I'm always glad when February arrives because it means the end of winter is at last in sight. Here in Utah, we still get snowstorms throughout February, but we also get more days with sunshine, blue skies, and warmer temps. And that makes me happy. 

I finally got around to reading Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.

And it's as good as everyone has said. Mostly because of Marcellus--who's a Giant Pacific Octopus. He just might be my most favorite character this year. I'll never look at an octopus in an aquarium the same way again.  

Other things that have made me glad recently:
  • Downy woodpeckers at my feeder.
  • Hearing a favorite song on the radio on my way to work.
  • Playing Skip-bo, Bananagrams, and 10 Days in Asia with some friends last weekend.
  • Not having to shovel any snow the past few weeks. (While we've been getting a lot of snow up at the ski resorts, down where I live it's been mostly rain.)
  • Finding lots of good books at my library to check out. (Of course, I once again checked out way too many, but at least I'm not in danger of running out of things to read any time soon.)

I hope you find many things to be glad about this month!