Reading Roundup – What I’ve Read Lately

Reading Roundup

Fall 2021

My husband and I live just north of Louisville it’s been devastating to follow the news of all the tornadoes that struck various areas of Western Kentucky December 10th. CLICK HERE to give toward relief efforts if you are so moved at the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief site.

I wanted to post a Reading Roundup before the year got away from me. We are mere days from January 1st, and so much has happened this fall. Our family was able to get together for Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Christmas plans became much more complicated as our adult children begin to make their own way in the world. Flight cancellations and the pandemic didn’t help matters. Through everything, one thing that has been a constant in my life is reading.

As we approach a new year, I’ve been spending time on my backyard reading patio on warm days while our beagle runs around and tucked under a blanket on the chilly days. I’ve focused a lot on my favorite cozies, but have also branched into romance, contemporary fiction, and non-fiction.

Everything below is available through my Bookshop.org store (this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through some of these links, I will receive a small compensation at no cost to you. Bookshop.org links also allow you to support your favorite indie bookstores.):

What has your fall reading experience looked like? Comment below to share your favorite fall read.

Broken by Jenny Lawson

Now I have to go out and read everything by Jenny Lawson! She is absolutely hilarious in this memoir dealing with her perspective on her mental health issues. She writes at a frenetic pace, which takes some getting used to, but that pace also pulls you along and, as you hang on to the tide, you can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Lawson is wry and sardonic in her humor and is compelling in each of her chapters, but also touching. Her stories create an understanding with the reader, reaching out to say “I see you” to those struggling with their own issues.

I was new to Lawson’s work, but I am now a fan.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic advanced copy of the book.

Rating: 4 stars

Murder By Page One by Olivia Matthews

I am a cozy mystery lover, and this one delivers. The author nails a leisurely southern drawl to her story about a New York librarian who has moved to Georgia and gets caught up in a murder investigation. I liked the set up of the murder, almost a locked room mystery, with the victim killed in the back room of a bookstore where only the suspect (who the main character is trying to help) had been through before the murder.

The southern atmosphere permeates the book and, at times, sets back the pacing. But the plot is compelling enough to move the reader through. 

It wasn’t my favorite book, but I did like the characters and the setting. I just felt the slow pace, which fits the setting, hurts the book. That’s really the reason for my lower rating. There’s a lot to like about it, it’s just hard to access with the slow movement of the plot. I would read another book in the series to see if the pace picked up.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic advanced copy of the book.

Rating: 3 stars 

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I highly recommend listening to the audio version of this. McConaughey is expressive in his telling of his stories, journal entries and and poetry (yup, poetry!). The memoir focuses on the actor’s career with some personal anecdotes included. He really wants to get across what he’s learned from his history, choices, and opportunities.

It’s not particularly deep, but is a good exploration of one man’s journey from Texas to Hollywood and how his background affected his opportunities.

The “green lights” are touchpoints McConaughey encountered in his life that he found to be life changing, whether big or small.

The book was enjoyable and, again, I think it is best consumed in the audio version.

Rating: Four Stars

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

This is tightly written and compelling. The action centers around a former MFA Low Residency writing instructor that had one breakout novel, but has a faltering writing career. While an instructor, he encounters a student who reveals only to him the plot of what he believes is a “can’t miss” novel. Fast forward a few years later, and he finds out that the student has died before he ever wrote his mega-novel, and decides to steal the plot. “His” novel becomes a sensation and all is well, until the mysterious messages start coming in.

The author winds a wicked tale of intrigue, toying with what “authorship” truly means. There are all kinds of interesting twists, some of which I guessed but were still satisfying.

If you’re a writer, or even an avid reader, I’d call this required reading.

Rating: 5 stars 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

What a fun book! Eve and Jacob’s story is one of redemption, but also a show of enduring strength while dealing with neurodiversity. They meet after Eve’s parents cut off her trust and require her to get a job, hopefully a lasting one. She’s dabbled in many things but can never find the right fit. She goes off on a drive to clear her head and ends up at a small bed and breakfast advertising for a chef. She crashes the interviews and meets Jacob, who really needs a chef before the Gingerbread festival. Things go badly, but then he runs after her to offer her the job and she kind of, sort of…runs him over! Now he’s hurt ANd desperately needs a chef, so she stays on for a trial. 

Eve and Jacob have their own ways of coping with the world and it’s intricacies, and her light-as-you-go attitude definitely clashes with his firm structured life. But somehow…well you’ll have to read the book to find out. 

This is the third in a trio of books about three sisters: Chloe, Dani, and Eve. Warning that this and the other two books include very open door scenes and lots of sweating, so if that bothers you, this probably isn’t for you. 

I like the author’s unique voice and plan to read the other two books.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an electronic copy for review. All opinions are my own. 

Rating: 4 stars (but only because you kind of know how things are going to go from the beginning, but isn’t every romance kind of that way? I still love them)

Atomic Habits by James Clear

This book provides a great guide on how to approach forming habits that make your life more effective. I listened to the audio version, and it was a great experience. The author reads the text and it really ends up sounding like a motivational workshop. The strategies went beyond the basics and showed how to make small steps in a specific way to accomplish longterm routines.

Not having a hard copy makes some of the resources inside inaccessible for review, but some of the resources are available at the atomic habits website. I intend to use these to integrate some new habits into my life.

Rating: 4 stars

It’s Better This Way by Debbie Macomber

I love Debbie Macomber’s writing style and books, and this is no exception. She tells the story of divorced Julia Jones, who was left by her husband for another woman. After a blowup between the mistress’s children and her children, harsh words are spoken and relationships are broken. 

Julia moves on but isn’t looking for love when she meets Heath in the fitness center at her condo building. Sparks begin to fly, but relationships are complicated and obstacles come up.

There are some twists in this book that stretch the imagination, but stay just this side of believable. Nevertheless it is a satisfying story with fully realized characters. I will continue reading Macomber’s books. (I took this one in on audio and found the narration delightful).

Rating: 4 stars

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

It’s been too long since I read Louise Penny’s first book in the Gamache series Still Life. I was slightly resistant because, while I enjoyed the first book I found it to have a slow pace. I kept hearing praise for the series and gave it another chance, this time with an audio book. This book was much faster paced and included some interesting subplots.

Penny expands on the characters in the first book, giving them more depth as Gamache investigates the murder of new Twin Pines resident CeCe de Poitier (not sure of spelling). CeCe is high strung and verbally abusive to most people around her, especially her husband and daughter. She’s electrocuted at a curling match just after Christmas and Gamache sets off on a wide-ranging look into the people of Twin Pines while also looking into a separate murder in Montreal. Everyone has some kind of motive, but twists and turns in the story make it difficult to figure out whodunit.

Loved the story, revisiting the characters, and the intricate plotting by Penny. Already have the next audio book on my library holds.

Rating: Five stars 

The Ten Thousand Doors Of January by Alix Harrow

This unique book is a fantasy adventure that follows a young girl and she travels through “doors” that she conjures up to find her father. A group is working against her, trying to control her power.

This book came to my attention through another book club, and it was definitely a page turner. The young protagonist was strong and innovative, working to reach her objective with tenacity. It wasn’t easy for her, but the journey was amazing.

Rating: Four stars

Peachy Scream by Anna Gerard

This book combines some of my favorite things: bed and breakfast mysteries and Shakespeare. The book is the second in a series that follows the owner of a Georgia B&B. She has previously had a conflict over the rightful ownership of the property with the former owner’s nephew. The nephew is a famous actor and has returned to the B&B with his amateur Shakespeare troupe to perform Hamlet at the town’s Shakespeare festival. But when the (unliked) actor playing Hamlet ends up dead, our B&B owner has to team with the nephew to investigate.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an electronic copy for review. All opinions are my own. 

Rating: Four stars

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

I always love Katherine Center books. She weaves in drama with every day issues and frustrations of life and a little romance thrown in. The one follows a school librarian in a Texas private school that she loves. The school’s beloved principal dies and an aggressive board member forces the hiring of a security focused, anti-fun replacement. Except, our librarian worked with him in California and he was a totally different guy– a fun loving, silly, engaged teacher that made learning fun. She has to figure out how to navigate the major shift at the school and reconciling the man she knew with the man she’s faced with now.

Center draws characters that you can deeply invest with, even the “villain.” No one is flat or a caricature. You grow to love the characters and really feel their feelings. The mixture of drama, a little bit of silliness, hope, and romance is deftly written. There’s nothing that feels forced or fake, but there’s enough real conflict to move the story forward. The ending had a bit of a twist, but you know what you’re rooting for as you read. It’s not my favorite book of hers, but it’s engaging.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic copy for review. My opinions are my own.

Rating: Four stars

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer

Wow! This book was awesome! I love spy thrillers and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s a dense book and there is. a lot to keep track of as CIA “Tourist” Milo Weaver unravels a far-reaching and complicated conspiracy. The spy stuff was really cool, in the vein of John Le Carre books, and immerses the reader into Milo’s world; the good, the bad, the ugly. It is twisty and suspenseful and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, some other twist happens.

This book is dense and long, but compelling. It’s not for people who don’t have an interest in spy novels and political intrigue. It’s far from a cozy and there is violence. But if you’re a fan of the Jason Bourne series (book better than movie!), this book is for you. It’s also a three book series, so I’m anxious to move on to the next book.

Thank you to NetGalley for an electronic review copy of the book. My opinions are my own.

Rating: Five stars

Seven Sundays by Alec Penix

This book is a Christian twist on the fitness/diet book. It combines Bible verses and spiritual motivation with a laid out fitness and nutrition plan that lasts the titular seven weeks. Each day starts on Sunday and includes “walks with God”, diet challenges and an increasingly difficult strength training regimen.

I think this book can be helpful to many people, but it didn’t appeal to me. I found the spiritual notions and Bible verses to be watered down and made to fit the author’s approach to fitness. I think it just didn’t match up with my Lutheran Christian beliefs. And I think it shrank down the magnificent messages in the Bible to fit a fitness routine.

People who have a different approach to Christianity may find this approach to fitness and nutrition helpful and may like the spiritual connections made. It’s not a bad book and it seems to be a workable program. It just didn’t jibe with my approach to fitness and nutrition.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. 
Rating:: Three stars

Halloween Party Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross

These three stories are the perfect way to get in the mood for Halloween.. Meier does it again with her Lucy Stone story. Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross offer fresh voices even with their vast experience. A good book for fans of any of the authors. 

Rating: 4 stars

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

I didn’t realize, for some reason, how gut wrenching this would be to read. I should have known by the topic. And yet, there are touching moment in this journey. It is raw and real with the ups and downs of a serious cancer diagnosis, treatment, and the aftermath.

What surprised me most was the aftermath she went through and continues to fight through. Those of us who are well can’t understand how being “well” isn’t a switch that can be thrown. She tries to reconcile the blessing of being well again and the challenges of what well really looks like, the difference between cancer-free and truly well. And what it’s like to go back into the world after being so immersed in the world of cancer.

The honest nature of the book gives a new perspective on the “brave survivor” myth and gets down to the nitty-gritty of survival that doesn’t fit into a convenient narrative.

I can’t say its an enjoyable read, but it’s an honest and eye-opening look at living with a disease that is so frightening.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic copy for review. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 stars (just because of the difficulty of the subject matter)

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

I really liked the premise of this book. It was fun and spooky for Halloween. I did have a hard time liking the male lead. Of course we’re not supposed to like him at first, but it was hard to root for him to get together with her. 

This was the only part of the book I had trouble with. Otherwise it was an enjoyable romp.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy. All opinions are my own.

Rating: Three stars

Up Next: Christmas Cozies You May Have Missed

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