reading challenges

Read Across the USA 2022: Half year update

Here we are, halfway through the year and it’s time for an update on my progress with my 50 states (and DC) challenge for the year. And I’m running slightly behind schedule, only slightly, but that’s not really a surprise to anyone if you’ve seen how the last few attempts at doing this have gone.


Alabama –
Alaska – The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E Smith
Arizona – Pumpkin Spice Peril by Jenn McKinlay
Arkansas – Paint the Town Dead Nancy Haddock
California – Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Colorado – The Wedding Set Up by Charlotte Greene
Connecticut – Acting Up by Adele Buck
Delaware –
Florida –
Georgia –
Hawaii –
Idaho –
Illinois –
Indiana –
Iowa – Book of the Week: The Unforgettable Guinevere St Clair
Kansas –
Kentucky –
Louisiana – Complete Sookie Stackhouse Short Stories by Charlaine Harris
Maine – Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier
Maryland – Well Matched by Jen De Luca
Massachusetts – The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett
Michigan – Paper Lion by George Plimpton
Minnesota – Lemon Meringue Pie Murder by Joanna Fluke
Mississippi –
Missouri –
Montana –
Nebraska –
Nevada – Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claibourn Johnson
New Hampshire – 
New Jersey –
New Mexico –
New York – The Editor by Stephen Rowley
North Carolina – Book Lovers by Emily Henry
North Dakota –
Ohio – Beware False Profits by Emilie Richards
Oklahoma –
Oregon –
Pennsylvania –
Rhode Island – Vanderbilt by Anderson Cooper
South Carolina – A Lowcountry Bride by Preslaysa Williams
South Dakota – 
Tennessee –
Texas – Without a Hitch by Mary Hollis Huddleston and Asher Fogle Paul
Utah –
Vermont –
Virginia – Twelve Jays of Christmas by Donna Andrew
Washington – Death by Intermission by Alexis Morgan
West Virginia –
Wisconsin –
Wyoming –
Washington DC – 

There are a few states where I have several options already, so as my stretch goal is not to repeat authors, I can’t promise that this are my final picks for each state for the year, but who knows if I’ll get as far as ticking everything off this year! There are a few more states where I have a book set there waiting to be read that I haven’t got to yet. And as with last year, if the book title and author are a hyperlink, that means I have written about that book particularly, if it’s just the author then I have written a post featuring that author or author’s series.





reading challenges

Lesser Spotted States request

I’m making reasonable progress on the 50 states challenge this year, but there are some states that are always harder to tick off than others – so if you’ve read a good book set somewhere out of the ordinary in the USA – particularly if it’s mid western ones, then I want to know! There must be some more cozy crime series and romances that aren’t set on the coasts or in Texas surely…

reading challenges

Read Across the USA 2021

If you’ve been paying any attention to this blog over the last month and a half, you’ll know that this turned into a mad rush at the end to get all the states ticked off. And as a result you’ll see a couple of authors are on here twice, and that there’s some repetition of series that were on the list last year. But I am completely unrepentant about it. This year has been another tough one, and I’m being kind to myself – the important thing here is that I finished it. And I did a lot of the final 15 states using Kindle Unlimited so it didn’t cost me a fortune. Will I do it again next year? Well, I do like having a map to colour in and a challenge to do. And I already have books for some of the states on my shelf. But will I manage to pace myself any better and are there actually any books set in Wisconsin, Delaware or South Dakota that I will actually enjoy? Who knows. Watch this space. Links which cover the book title and author mean that I’ve written about that specific book. Links to just the author mean that I’ve written about one of the authors books at some point during the lifetime of the blog.

Alabama – The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Alaska – Enjoy the View by Sarah Morgenthaler
Arizona – Dying for Devil’s Food by Jenn McKinlay
Arkansas – Basket Case by Nancy Haddock
California – Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Colorado – All Night Long with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews
Connecticut – On Borrowed Time by Jenn McKinlay
Delaware – Joe Biden by Evan Osnos
Florida – The House on Cocoa Beach
Georgia – The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
Hawaii – Ukulele Murder by Leslie Langtry
Idaho – Educated by Tara Westover
Illinois – Love at First by Kate Claybourn
Indiana – The Body in the Attic by Judi Lynn
Iowa – Movie Night Murder by Leslie Langtry
Kansas – In the Dead of Winter by Nancy Mehl
Kentucky – Still Knife Painting by Cheryl Hollon
Louisiana – This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges
Maine – Heroes are my Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Philips
Maryland – Bag Man by Rachal Maddow
Massachusetts – Tommy Cabot Was Here by Cat Sebastian
Michigan – Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny
Minnesota – Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanna Fluke
Mississippi – Double Whammy by Gretchen Archer
Missouri – The Laughing Corpse by Laurel K Hamilton
Montana – Home for a Cowboy Christmas by Donna Grant
Nebraska – Fan Girl Vol 1: the Manga by Rainbow Rowell
Nevada – Christmas in Paradise by Kathi Daley
New Hampshire – Ghostly Paws by Leighann Dobbs
New Jersey – Fortune and Glory by Janet Evanovich
New Mexico – Die Noon by Elise Sax
New York – The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
North Carolina – Happy Singles Day by Anne Marie Walker
North Dakota – Dakota Home by Debbie Macomber
Ohio – Let There Be Suspects by Emilie Richards
Oklahoma – The Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
Oregon – Snowbound Squeeze by Tawna Fenske
Pennsylvania – Deadly Decor by Karen Rose Smith
Rhode Island – Maid for Love by Marie Force
South Carolina – Board Stiff by Kendall Lynn
South Dakota – Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles
Tennessee – Isn’t it Bromantic by Lyssa Kay Adams
Texas – This is not a F*cking Romance by Evie Snow
Utah – Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Vermont – Moonlighting in Vermont by Kate George
Virginia – Teach Me by Olivia Dade
Washington – Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur
West Virginia – Whiskey Chaser by Lucy Score with Claire Kingsley
Wisconsin – Buzz Off by Deb Baker and Hannah Reed
Wyoming – Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins
Washington DC – Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam




reading challenges

Read Across the USA 2020

As you all know, I started this somewhat later in the year than I should have done, but I made it in the end – with 20 minutest to spare! Slightly tighter than I expected, but hey, 2020 just kept throwing curveballs right until the end. NB I also read books for DC and Puerto Rico, but DC wasn’t marked on the map I found, and neither was Puerto Rico. And as adjusting the shape of Michigan taxed all my ingenuity as it was, I didn’t want to mess it all up by having a go at drawing either of them on!

Map of the US with all the states coloured in

And as well as a picture of my pretty coloured in map, I thought you might like the full list of what I read for which states, complete with links to the ones I’ve written about, so here you go:

Alabama – Murder on a Girls Night Out by Anne George
Alaska – Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler
Arizona – Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay
Arkansas – Strangled Prose by Joan Hess
California – One to Watch by Kate Stayman London
Colorado – Blitzed by Alexa Martin
Connecticut – Memory of You by Jamie Beck
Delaware – Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
Florida – 40-Love by Olivia Dade
Georgia – Peach Pie and Dead by Guy A Gardner
Hawaii – Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams
Idaho – Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis
Illinois – Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Indiana – You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Iowa – Merit Badge Murder by Leslie Langtry
Kansas – On the Corner of Hope and Main by Beverly Jenkins
Kentucky – Man Hunting by Jennifer Crusie
Louisiana – Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Maine – First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan
Maryland – Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Massachusetts – Harbor by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Michigan – Man Hands by Sarina Bowen
Minnesota – Strawberry Shortcake Mystery by Joanna Fluke
Mississippi – ***Murder on a Mississippi Steam Boat by Leighann Dobbs
Missouri – Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K Hamilton
Montana – Sweet Home Montana by Shann McPherson
Nebraska – Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Nevada – Not Your Sidekick by C B Lee
New Hampshire – Fall into Death by Emily Toll
New Jersey – Twisted Twenty Six by Janet Evanovich
New Mexico – Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones
New York – Love Lettering by Kate Claybourn
North Carolina – On the Rocks by Sawyer Bennett
North Dakota – Dakota Born by Debbie Macomber
Ohio – Gone with the Ghost by Erin McCarthy
Oklahoma – Hope Flames by Jaci Burton
Oregon – Doing It Over by Catherine Bybee
Pennsylvania – Staging is Murder by Grace Topping
Rhode Island – Murder Stalked a Mansion by A M Sutton
South Carolina – Geekerella by Ashley Poston
South Dakota – Black Hills by Nora Roberts
Tennessee – Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams
Texas – The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Utah – To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton
Vermont – Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter
Virginia – Sweet Talkin’ Lover by Tracey Livesay
Washington – Welcome to Moonlight Harbor by Sheila Roberts
West Virginia – Not A Creature was Stirring by Christina Freeburn
Wisconsin – You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Wyoming – The Honey-don’t List by Christina Lauren
Washington DC – The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Puerto Rico – The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferré

Will I do it again, well I’m thinking about it, but I’m going to decide in the next few days so that I can get started and it doesn’t end in a mad rush again if I do! And I’ll try and find a map that gets Michigan right…






Book of the Week, fiction, literary fiction, reading challenges

Book of the Week: The Mothers

Tricky choice for BotW this week, but I eventually plumped for Britt Bennett’s The Mothers because it was a bit out of my normal reading comfort zone, but wore it very lightly and made me think. 

In aftermath of her mother’s death and in the twilight of her time at high school, Nadia Turner gets involved with the minister’s son. Luke is a couple of years older than she is, but is still adrift after the injury that ended his football career and cost him his college scholarship. It’s nothing serious, just a bit of fun, until Nadia gets pregnant. And what comes next changes the course of both their lives and sends ripples out through their church community that will last for years to come. 

Firstly, I loved the setting of this book. Bennett really brings to life her fictional contemporary black church community in Southern California. Part of the story is told by the elder women in the church as a kind of Greek chorus. It adds an extra perspective in between flipping between the stories of those mostly closely involved. 

It’s also full of interesting characters, even if you don’t always like them that much. Luke and Nadia and her best friend Audrey make a fascinating triangle, who have different views on life and experience the fallout in different ways. 

Now, I can’t say too much more about this or I’ll give too much away, but reading through the reviews of this on goodreads, there are some very definite opinions about the author’s stance with regard to Nadia’s decision. As far as I was concerned, I thought it was handled in a very balanced, matter of fact way and in the main the fall out was portrayed as more down to the cover up and the other issues going on rather than because of the actual decision. Is that cryptic enough?!  Anyway, nearly a week later I’m still thinking about the characters, which has to be a good thing.

This is Bennett’s first novel and was nominated for a whole bunch of prizes, which really didn’t surprise me because it’s clever, well-written and very readable.  This is also a book that fills a couple of this year’s #ReadHarder categories: Debut Novel, book where all the POV characters are people of colour and for me, book set more than 5,000 miles away. 

The hardback is out now, the paperback is coming in October. When that arrives, I think you should be able to find it in most bookshops, but possibly not in the supermarket. As always, if you can’t make it to a bookshop you could order it from a Big Green Bookshop or pick it up on Kindle or Kobo. 

Happy reading. 

reading challenges

#ReadHarder Challenge 2017

This year is the third year that Book Riot is running their #ReadHarder challenge aiming to get people to widen their reading horizons.  I first found out about it late in 2015, thought it was a great idea but didn’t have time to get anywhere near getting it done, so had a look at the list at the start of 2016,  read through the categories and went off about my business.  Halfway through the year I remembered about it again because of mentions on the Get Booked Podcast (they did an episode of recommendations for some of the tougher categories) printed a copy off and noted down what I’d done, congratulated myself on being more than halfway done and then promptly forgot about it until 12 days before the end of the year.

At which point I discovered that unless I stretched the boundaries of the criteria I was missing a few categories and it was going to be a mad scramble to finish it off.  And of course life got in the way again, and I didn’t finish.  I ended up missing four categories out of the 24 categories, but a couple of the others are a bit of a stretch/slightly tenuous.

My #ReadHarder 2016 list
I know I’ve read a book allowed to The Nieces, I just can’t remember the title…

So I’m going to make a big effort in 2017 and try and do it this time.  It’s a really clever way of making you think about what you’re reading and expanding your reading boundaries – which is something we all should try and do.  I may average 5 books a week – but if I’m not careful they end up being two romances, two cozy crime books and some historical fiction.  And I want to make sure I’m doing more than that and this is a handy, easy way of doing this.

You can read BookRiot’s article about the challenge here and if you want to join in they also have a handy editable pdf that you can download and use.  I’ll keep you posted on how I’m getting on – for a start I’m going to add a line to the monthly stats about how many of the categories I’ve ticked off until it’s done and hope that the accountability will force me to remember and do it properly this time!

Fingers crossed…