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.





book round-ups

Kindle Unlimited Review of the Year

I promise we’re nearly at the end of the retrospective posts, but before I was finally done with 2021, I wanted to have a look at my Kindle Unlimited Membership last year and how it went. When I first tried KU, I wrote a whole post about it just before the end of my initial free trial period, and promised to check in every now and again and let you all know how it is going, and it’s been 18 months since that initial post and I haven’t. So consider this a check in.

Now obviously the first thing to say, is that I’m still a member and I’m still paying for it. I added the KU column to the monthly stats post last year, and if I’ve been tracking it right with my tags on Goodreads, I read 86 books via KU last year – which sounds like a lot. Now a reasonable number of those were short stories or novellas, mostly ones that are part of the various Amazon originals series. But where it’s been invaluable is supplying me with classic murder mysteries.

A selection of covers from BLCC books that were BotW picks

The British Library Crime Classics series rotates its titles in and out of KU as do the some of the publishers of George Bellairs and other of the other more forgotten of the Golden Age authors. This is how I’ve managed to work my way through so many Inspector Littlejohn books, but also sample new authors. And that has lead to BotW posts like The Christmas Card Crime, Murder in the Basement, The Secret of High Eldersham and Smallbone, Deceased as well as to entries in the Mini Review posts.

Then there’s the obvious help it gave me to complete my Read the USA challenge. When it came to panic stations to get it finished from November onwards, I was able to source a lot of the missing states using KU titles. Now that’s not to say that they were all good – in fact some of them I actively disliked – but the point was that I wasn’t paying money for them, aside from my KU subscription and otherwise, I would have been!

Some of the KU books that have made it into Mini Review posts

On the same front, it’s helped me sample a lot of new series – again, without spending any (extra) cash. I quite often get if you like x then try y recommendations that turn out to have books in KU. I run an Amazon wish list that’s just books that are in KU (or have previously been in KU that I’m hoping will come back around again) to help reduce decision fatigue – and also reduce the risk of impulse buying when my defenses are low!

So while I don’t think the membership is helping me reduce the physical to-read pile, I do think that I’m getting the value for the subscription. For me that is mostly coming from the ability to get the really good classic crime novels whenever I want them – so I don’t mind quite as much if some of the other stuff isn’t as good. Now I know the KU pot doesn’t work like that when it’s being distributed to authors, but there’s not a lot I can do about that, so it is what it is! But as it stands, I’m happy with the value I’m getting out of it, so it stays for a while longer at least.

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…