Friday, July 19, 2024

July's bookish art...

Georges D'espagnat -- In the Garden

"If you don't like to read, you haven't found the right book."
--J.K. Rowling.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday...

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

This week's theme is supposed to be a list of ten things you love about a certain book. But that was too much like writing a review for me. So, I'm going rogue. 

Here are Ten Fvorite July Reads From the Last Ten Julys. Just because it's really fun to look back and see what I was reading through the last decade. 

I'd forgotten that I'd even read some of these, but I loved them all. 
If you're looking for a good book, check any of these out.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven

 Storm strands amusement
park employees who form tribes
and go Lord of the Flies.

The framework of this novel is a journalist investigating the events that occurred at the Fantasticland amusement park in the aftermath of Hurricane Sadie when over 100 college-age employees were killed at the hands of others. It's told through a series of first-person interviews with the various survivors, from the older Mole Men hiding in the tunnels, to the Shop Girls and their deadly archers, and even the leader of the violent tribe of Pirates. Each eye-witness account offers a different perspective on what happened, and why things went so wrong so fast. The stories are haunting and horrifying. I thought it was an interesting way to tell a story, and one I ended up liking a lot. And I always love that amusement park setting. If you're in the mood for some suspenseful psychological horror that unfolds like a documentary, give this book a try. I gave it 4 stars. 

Happy Reading! 

Similar amusement park read:  

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall


From the blurb:  

"Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes. They were liars. 

"Now, decades later, Olivia wants to tell the whole story. Then she goes missing, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods—no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be."

What this book has:   Suspense. Mystery. Atmosphere. Flawed yet likable characters. Lyrical prose. Taut plotting. 

My thoughts:  Can you tell I really liked this one? It's a very fun summer read! I appreciated Naomi's sass and attitude, and her grim determination to figure out the truth despite her inner fears and struggles. She's not a perfect character, but I was rooting for her. And I thought the twists and revelations along the way were so well-timed. Some of the secrets I guessed, others were unexpected. But they were all good. 

My rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 8, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday...

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

This week's theme is a Throwback Freebie where you choose a past Top Ten Tuesday topic to do. And I thought I would do my own take on Opening Lines.  
So, here are my Top Ten Fun First Lines From Some Recent Reads:

"I was not born a monster."
(Her Radiant Curse by Elizabeth Lim)

"Addie Macrae's internal compass was irreparably damaged."
(Kilt Trip by Alexandra Kiley)

"What baffled them was the skeleton."
(This Wretched Valley by Jenny Kiefer)

"Madi Morgan had never been good with decisions, especially when it came to life or death situations. And cake was definitely life or death."
(Love On Camera by Dana LeCheminant)

"Boo couldn't think of a worse way to die."
(One Last Shot by Susan May Warren)

"My face is melting."
(Wild About You by Kaitlyn Hill)

"Cousin Edna Fairchild had designed her life on the principle that far fields were greener."
(The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong)

"If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I love a happy ending. That butterlies-in-your-stomach, rush-of-serotonin, breathless, euphoric, wrapped-up-in-a-bow happy ending."
(Only and Forever by Chloe Liese)

"Blood leaves no stain on a Warden's grey cloak."
(Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher)

"The fairy tales in Jen's imagination leaned toward the dark, Grimm variety, but in the real world, the worst monsters looked like everyone else."
(On Her Watch by Melinda Leigh)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Two Quick Recommendations...

 Winter Lost by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is a coyote shifter; her mate, Adam Hauptman, is the Alpha of the Columbia Basin pack. Between werewolves, Fae, magical artifacts, and her half-brother, Gary, showing up unexpectedly, Mercy has her hands full in this latest urban fantasy novel by Patricia Briggs. I love this series! Mercy and Adam and all the rest are some of my all-time favorite characters. Every book in this series is a magical adventure with suspense, heart, and humor. And this fourteenth novel is no exception. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. And when I finished, I wanted to pick up the first book in this series and read them all again. They're that good.

A Deceptive Composition by Anna Lee Huber

It's October, 1832, and Keira and Sebastian along with Sebastian's father, Lord Gage, are off to Cornwall to investigate a murder among the Roscarrock family--the part of Lord Gage's family that he hasn't seen or talked to in decades. What they find is an intricate web of secrets, smuggling, and lies. And unexpected danger, too. Huber's historical mysteries are always interesting and entertaining. I love this series because of the two main characters, Keira and Sebastian, and their relationship. If you're new to this series, I recommend starting with the first book, The Anatomist's Wife, where Keira and Sebastian first meet. You won't regret it.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Loyally, Luke by Pepper Basham


Luke Edgemont doesn't believe in meet-cutes, romance tropes or Hallmark movie moments. So when he finds himself on the island nation of Skymar in the middle of all three...with a princess, no less! ...he's not sure what to do. Because he's just in Skymar temporarily to help renovate an orphanage and then he's going home to America. And there's no way he could ever be with a princess; he's a flannel-wearing carpenter who's a bit of a grumpy introvert, not the suave Prince Charming type. But the more time he spends with Ellie the more danger he's in of falling hopelessly in love with her. And that's just asking for a broken heart.

My thoughts:  I loved Basham's previous novel, Authentically, Izzy, about Luke's cousin, but I love this book even more. Luke's such a great character. I loved the banter between him and Ellie, and his sweet interactions with the orphans. His texts with his sisters are pretty funny, too. And all their movie references from Rambo to The Princess Bride totally made me laugh. This is a delightfully charming romance with humor, heart, a little faith, some fishing, a Cinderella-like ball, and a very cute happy ending. My kind of romance. 

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 1, 2024


Recent book that I read and enjoyed but didn't review:  The Air Raid Book Club by Annie Lyons.

Latest library haul (these are the books I hope to read this month):

Winter Lost by Patricia Briggs
Whalefall by Daniel Kraus
Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven
What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall
Always Remember by Mary Balogh
Mrs. Nash's Ashes by Sarah Adler
The Unquiet Bones by Loreth Anne White
Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton
Love in Disguise by Dana LeCheminant
The Siamese Twin Mystery by Ellery Queen
And After by Sarah Lyons Fleming

Some of my glad moments from June ... little things in life that brought me joy:
  • Made six jars of strawberry jam using strawberries from my own garden! (Which taste SO much better than those big flavorless strawberries you find at the grocery store.)
  • Saw a Kestrel on my walk one day AND a Double-crested Cormorant sitting near the river sunning itself. (It was a good birding moment.)
  • Got my driver's license renewed and it didn't take all day to do it. 
  • Learned how to play a fun new game:  Kingdom Builder.  
  • Some members of the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square came and sang at my church a few Sundays ago and their voices were so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Daughter of Mine by Megan Miranda

How it begins: "They raised the car from the lake on the same day as my father's memorial, two unrelated but equally newsworthy events: Something lost. Something found."

Where it takes place:  The isolated community of Mirror Lake nestled in the mountains of North Carolina.

The main players:  Hazel Sharp and her two brothers, Gage and Caden Holt.

The mystery:  The truth of what really happened when Hazel's mother ran off and left them all those years ago.

My thoughts:  Finally! A thriller that doesn't disappoint. (It's the third one I've read so far this summer and the only one I actually liked.) It's full of family secrets, quiet threats, mounting suspicions, and taut suspense. I enjoyed how Hazel unravels the truth of things bit by bit. It's so good; and it reads fast. This is the kind of thriller I was hoping for this summer. And it definitely makes me think I need to check out some of Miranda's other books. 

My rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

A movie worth watching...

Young Woman and the Sea 

It's the story of Trudy Ederle who was the first woman to swim the English Channel at a time when the idea of women participating in any kind of sport was not only frowned upon but thought improper and unsafe. Good thing Trudy Ederle didn't listen to any of the naysayers. Talk about an excellent movie! I highly recommend it. It's based on the book by Glenn Stout...which I now want to read. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday...

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


Here's my list:

The Burning by Linda Castillo (Jul. 9th)

Haunted Ever After by Jen DeLuca (Aug. 13th)
(While I don't love this cover, I am excited for this book.)

Where They Last Saw Her by Marcie Rendon (Aug. 27th)

The Life Impossible by Matt Haig (Sep. 3rd)

The Third Gilmore Girl by Kelly Bishop (Sep. 17th)

All I Want is You by Falon Ballard (Sep. 24th)

Murder at King's Crossing by Andrea Penrose (Sep. 24th)

Gathering Mist by Margaret Mizushima (Oct. 8th)

An Instruction in Shadow by Benedict Jacka (Oct. 15th)

Summit's Edge by Sara Driscoll (Nov. 26th)

A Witch's Guide to Magical Innkeeping by Sangu Mandanna (Dec. 24th)

I look forward to seeing everyone else's TTT list this week, because I'm sure there are many more books coming out later this year that I've missed and should've put on this list.

Happy Reading!


Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Wintringham Mystery by Anthony Berkeley

The story:  Having run through his small inheritance, demobbed army officer Stephen Munro is forced to take a job as a footman at Wintringham Hall, the country estate of Lady Susan Carey. It's a bit of a lark, though Stephen quickly discovers he's not really footman material. When Lady Susan decides to throw a party things get even more awkward for Stephen when his old schoolmate, Freddie Venables, shows up as one of the guests along with Stephen's old flame, Pauline Manwaring and her new fiancè, a man Stephen immediately dislikes. Then one of the female guests disappears during a silly parlor game one night and Stephen adds amateur detective to his list of duties. 

My thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed this British Library Crime Classic. Stephen has a take-life-with-a-grin attitude that I found endearing. His encounters as a footman, especially with the uptight and strict butler, Martin, and with Freddie and Pauline were very funny. And the mystery of Cecily's disappearance kept everyone in the house guessing. Was it a prank? Or something more nefarious? I liked Pauline's spunk and her back-and-forth banter with Stephen as they investigated things together. There are some fun twists and turns along the way and the obligatory red herrings, too. There's even a bit of romance. All in all, this is a delightfully charming mystery. 5 stars.

Happy Reading!

The other Anthony Berkeley mystery I've read:  The Poisoned Chocolates Case.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Haiku Reviews...


Are We There Yet? by Savannah Scott

Four friends. One road trip. 
Adventure, laughter, and love
on Route 66.

Romantic comedy .... 388 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Gotta love a fun summer road trip book, especially one with such a cute romance.)

The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas

Three girls gone. Digging 
for the truth, Jenna uncovers
past secrets and lies.

Thriller .... 367 pages .... 2/5 stars.
(Didn't find this one very thrilling; and I was completely underwhelmed by the "big reveal" at the end.)

Romancing the Grump by Jenny Proctor

They're only pretending
to date; then she starts to fall
in love for real.

Romantic comedy .... 343 pages .... 5/5 stars.
(A sweet hockey romance that completely charmed me.)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

An Unforgiving Place by Claire Kells

Felicity Harland and Ferdinand "Hux" Huxley are agents for the Investigative Services Bureau; they investigate crimes that occur in National Parks. This time they've been summoned to the Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska where a young couple has been found dead near the Alatna River. Was it a tragic accident? Or murder? 

Harland and Hux soon discover that the couple came to Alaska to meet up with the reclusive Zane Reynolds, a man who purportedly can solve any couple's infertility issues. To Harland, his group sounds like a cult. So, she and Hux head out into the remote landscape in search of Reynolds to find out if he had anything to do with the couples' deaths. 

My thoughts:  This is another intriguing mystery from Claire Kells. I really loved the setting! The Gates of the Arctic is the second largest national park in the United States; it's also one of the least visited because of how remote it is. There are no roads or trails leading into the park; you have to be flown there in one of those small Alaskan bush planes and dropped off. That extreme isolation really added some nice tension to this book. Not only do Harland and Hux have to deal with the harsh landscape, but they also have to deal with a secretive survivalist, fleeing fugitives and a "demon bear". It's a fun summer read.

Happy Reading!

Kells' previous novel:  Vanishing Edge

Thursday, June 13, 2024

June's Bookish Art...

Frederick Carl Frieseke -- Summer Reading, 1902

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
--Bertrand Russell

Monday, June 10, 2024

I Know Who You Are by Barbara Rae-Venter

 "All my life, mysteries have called out to me to be solved."

From the blurb:  In I Know Who You Are, Barbara Rae-Venter reveals how she went from researching her family history as a retiree to hunting for a notorious serial killer--and how she became the nation's leading authority on investigative genetic genealogy, the most dazzling new crime-fighting weapon to appear in decades. 

My thoughts:  Talk about a fascinating look at how far investigations have come in the use of DNA, especially in solving cold cases. I loved Rae-Venter's story and how she went from researching her own family history, to helping adopted children search for their biological parents using commercial DNA sites, to volunteering her time to help police hunt down the Golden State Killer using one DNA sample and the latest methods of genetic genealogy. 

There's A LOT of science in this book, but Rae-Venter explains it well. I learned the difference between autosomal and mitochondrial DNA; that a centimorgan is the unit of measurement for how much DNA two people share; and about DNA segment triangulation and how they can build family trees down from the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) found between two people to figure out the identity of a third person. It's time-consuming work requiring diligence and attention to detail, and Rae-Venter does it well. 

All the cases Rae-Venter chronicles in this book are so interesting! I loved her investigative process, and how she uses pieces of DNA to solve the most baffling of puzzles. It's true crime writing at its best.

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 7, 2024

My Life in Book Titles...

I saw this meme on BookerTalk back in December 2023, and I thought it looked like fun. And the beginning of June seemed like a good time to do it. I've answered each category with the title of a book I've read this year. And so far, 2024 has been full of some very good books. 

In high school I was:  The Other Side of Lost  (Jessi Kirby)

People might be surprised by:  A Robot in the Garden (Deborah Install)

My fantasy job is:  Keeper of Enchanted Rooms  (Charlie N. Holmberg)

At the end of the day I need:  Home at Night (Paula Munier)

I hate being:  Fish Out of Water (Katie Ruggle)

I wish I had: A Groom of One's Own (Emma St. Clair)

At a party you'd find me with (an): Exit Strategy (Martha Wells)

I've never been to: Where the Road Bends (Rachel Fordham)

A happy day includes: Wishes (Muon Thi Van) & Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)

Motto I live by:  What You Are Looking For is in the Library (Michiko Aoyama) & Everything is OK (Debbie Tung)

On my bucket list:  The Unlikely Thru-Hiker (Derick Lugo)

In my next life I want to have:  An Inheritance of Magic (Benedict Jacka)

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

The Women by Kristin Hannah

 "Women can be heroes."

The first part:
"Frankie had never thought about nurses in Vietnam; the newspapers never mentioned any women. Certainly no one talked about any women at war. ... But could she? Really? ... How did you know if you had the strength and courage for a thing like that? ... She could earn her place on the heroes' wall, and not for marrying well. For saving lives in wartime."
 The second part: 
"She'd joined the Army to find her brother and found herself instead; in war, she'd found out who she really was and who she wanted to be, and as tired as she was of all the death and destruction, she was also more than a little afraid to go home. What would life look like stateside?" 

My thoughts:  Frances Grace McGrath's journey from her quiet, well-bred life on Coronado Island, California, to hot, steamy and war-torn Vietnam is both powerful and poignant. Dealing with the wounded and other horrific aspects of war is hard enough, but coming home is even harder for Frankie where she faces hostility, indifference and her own PTSD. Her strength and courage is tested at every turn. As is her heart. I found her to be a remarkable and memorable heroine. And Hannah's writing is very compelling. I liked getting to see the Vietnam War and its aftermath from the viewpoint of a combat nurse. (Certain parts really reminded me of that TV show China Beach, which I loved.) This novel is a moving tribute to all the brave women who served in Vietnam, and to the unspoken struggles they faced when they came home. 

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

Happy Reading!


Saturday, June 1, 2024


I just finished reading a delightful romance:
Love on Camera by Dana LeCheminant. It was cute and clean and made me smile. I look forward to reading her other two romances in this series.

My latest library haul:
        Romancing the Grump by Jenny Proctor
        Daughter of Mine by Megan Miranda
        Are We There Yet? by Savannah Scott
        The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas
        Holmes Coming by Kenneth Johnson
        I Know Who You Are by Barbara Rae-Venter
        The Wintringham Mystery by Anthony Berkeley
        Love in Writing by Dana LeCheminant
        The Diamond and the Duke by Chrisi Caldwell
        An Unforgiving Place by Claire Kells
        Better Living Through Birding by Christian Cooper 

Some recent things that made me glad:
  • My lettuce and chard seeds have come up and are growing well. Delicious fresh produce from my own garden is on the horizon!
  • Had a fun game night with my extended family Memorial weekend. We ate dinner together then played Ticket to Ride, a train route-building game that I enjoyed even though I totally lost. (My youngest nephew won.)
  • Heard Chickadees on my morning walk and saw some colorful Bullock's Orioles as well.
  • Best of all, school is out and my summer vacation has officially begun! 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Vanishing Edge by Claire Kells

 "Bad things happen in the wilderness--and sometimes they're not accidents."

An abandoned glamping campsite near Precipice Lake in Sequoia National Park. Two missing campers. Who were they? And what happened to them? Park ranger Ferdinand "Hux" Huxley suspects foul play. But it's up to Special Agent Felicity Harland to investigate. But with no witnesses and sparse clues, it's not going to be easy to track down the truth. 

What I liked best about this mystery:
  • Getting to know Felicity and Hux. These two characters have interesting back stories, and they work well together. Hux is a former Navy Seal with a talent for finding people; Felicity is recovering from a devastating accident and travels with a cute dog named Ollie. I look forward to reading their next investigation.
  • That beautiful National Park setting with its isolated wilderness, icy blue lakes, mountain peaks, and forested trails. It's always a favorite of mine.
My rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Happy Reading!

Another favorite read by Claire Kells:  Girl Underwater