New Focus For Get Cozy Book Nook Plus 7 Tasty First-In-Series Food-Based Cozies

Here at Get Cozy Book Nook, I’ve focused on providing book news readers can use. As time has progressed, I find myself increasingly focus on cozy mysteries (my faves!), and so the tone of the blog is going to change. The main focus of most posts will be cozy mysteries, with some book-related content. I’ll still do my Reading Roundup, which will include books from many genres that I’ve read over the past month. Also continuing will be the Weekend Reading feature, where I share links about bookish topics, though most of the links there will focus on cozy mysteries.

So what’s a cozy mystery? Cozies generally focus on an amateur sleuth (though not always-love you Louise Penny!) solving a mystery that doesn’t show graphic violence, sex, or salty language on the page. Cozy titles are often a pun on the heart of the mystery, which can focus on anything from food to crafting to books to travel. They’re my favorite type of books. Don’t know where to start? Everyone loves a good, tasty dish, so here’s a list of the first-in-series cozies that focus on food.

Goldy Bear, a Colorado caterer, serves a meal at a wake, when her ex-father-in-law dies. Now Goldy’s accused of adding poison to the menu and must clear her name and save her burgeoning catering business.

Theodosia Browning owns Indigo Tea Shop in South Carolina and is catering tea for 200 at the historic homes garden party when a distinguished guest is found dead with a tea cup clutched in his hand. Theodosia and her staff set out to find who poisoned one of the city’s elite while trying to protect the reputation of her shop.

Hannah Swensen bakes up a Minnesota mystery when her chocolate chip crunchies are found scattered in the back alley of her bakery around the body of a delivery man. Someone’s cooking up trouble in Eden Lake, and Hannah and her friends need to find out who, before her mother sets her up with the town’s dentist and without getting in the way of the town’s newest detective. Hannah soon finds herself torn between two great guys while trying to protect her bakery after a murder just outside her doors.

Lana Lee ends up back at her family’s restaurant in Cleveland’s Asian Village after a bad breakup, when the property manager winds up dead after a delivery from her family’s restaurant. Lana has to solve the mystery before she ends up the next victim.

When Haley Snow applies to by a food critic at a Key West lifestyle magazine, she doesn’t know that her boss would be Kristen Faulkner, the woman she caught with her boyfriend. Then Kristen turns up murdered, and Haley is the prime suspect in the key lime pie poisoning. She has to find the real killer before she becomes a victim herself.

When Bronwyn “Win” Crewse reopened her family’s renovated ice cream shop, she finds a body just down the hill only days after opening. Not just any body, the body of a man who tried to swindle her grandma out of her own shop. Then Win’s father becomes a prime suspect, and she reluctantly embarks on her own investigation with her friend Maisie. This one’s got a cast full of quirky characters, secrets, and a whole lot of ice cream. Will Win and Maisie figure out who the killer is before the killer melts them?

Winona Mae Montgomery and her Granny Smythe run the struggling Smythe Orchards. They cook up an old-fashioned Christmas festival at the orchard to bring in locals and tourists. Things are sweet until Granny’s nemesis Nadine Cooper is found lodged in the apple press. Granny’s the number one suspect, and she and Winona must find the rotten apple before someone else ends up cooked.

Felicia runs a food truck business and gets steamed when everyone dismisses her suspicions when unlikeable retiree Mrs. Dunn passes out while walking home from Felicia’s truck. She’s sure someone’s cooking up trouble and she’s determined to find out the French fried truth.

If you’re down for a tale where mystery’s brewing, one (or all!) of these books could be for you. Murder can happen anywhere in a cozy: a small town, a big city, or right outside your shop door. Join me as I steer this blog toward a new and mysterious adventure in book loving. Keep coming back for more cozies and book-related content.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Reading Roundup February 2021

This month was a slow reading month. After finishing nearly ten books last month, I only finished four books, three of them audio books. The short month seemed to fly by. I’m in the middle of three books, so March’s book total should go back up. Here’s my February book haul:

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand has done it again. Even though I read this in the wintertime, I was transported to Nantucket for 28 summers of a beautiful love affair. Mallory and Jake have a “Same time next year” relationship where they only get together on Labor Day each year and recreate their first weekend together. The affair carries on through all the ups and downs of their lives, with a stunning conclusion.

Hilderbrand shows her characters’ full personalities, flaws and all, but there are no demons in this book. She always finds the balance in each character without making them flat and unmemorable.

The setting, the characters, and the plotting of the book all meld together into one unforgettable story. I listened to this on audio and recommend it, though it is a big time commitment.

Rating: Five stars!

Who I Am With You by Robin Lee Hatcher

I read this for our church book club and it didn’t disappoint. The story was sweet and jumped back and forth in time between contemporary times, featuring a young, pregnant widow and her neighbor, who’s gotten himself into political hot water, and the Depression, with the love story of the heroine’s great grandfather and grandmother.

I love the time switch aspect and how the stories mirrored each other. Things seemed to develop naturally in the plot and there weren’t many twists. You can sort of predict the ending, but it is so much fun getting there!

Rating: 4 stars

Killer Content by Olivia Black

This book is not a typical cozy. It follows Odessa Dean, a temporary Brooklyn transplant from small-town Louisiana. Odessa’s is a waitress at a book store and cafe when her fellow waitress Bethany leaves mid shift to meet some on in Domino Park and mysteriously falls from a medium high bridge to her death. Odessa is convinced it was murder and sets out to investigate.

Odessa is a great character, not your usual mystery heroine. She’s young and in the city for the first time, so the reader gets to follow not only the mystery, but her journey to find her place in New York. There are places in the middle of the book where the mystery seems to be forgotten for a bit and the pace slows, but towards the end the action ramps up to a fever pitch with an unpredictable ending. It kept me guessing.

What also kept me guessing was that there was no real love interest developed for Odessa. This is probably intentional, but I kept waiting for it to develop and it never did. Even the handsome detective ends up with someone else.

The book gets into the tech without getting too techy. I liked the relevance of that.

Overall, I really liked this book, even if it didn’t shout out as an all-time fav. I would definitely read the next one in the series.

Thank you to NetGalley for the complimentary electronic copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 stars

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

“Somewhere between life and death, there is a library.” After an extended depression, a job loss, and the death of her cat, Nora decides to overdose, only to find herself in a library with her childhood librarian. In the library, she looks through her Book of Regrets. She then has the opportunity to choose any of the books that will allow her to face one of her regrets and live an alternate version of her life based on a decision she made differently.

I found the premise fascinating. Most people have wondered what their lives would be like if they had made different choices at different times in their lives. After all, what would lead to the perfect life? The journey Nora goes on is interesting and unpredictable, as is the ending.

The whole concept doesn’t fit with my spiritual beliefs, but was an interesting exercise in looking at alternative beliefs. The characters are rich and vibrant and the events are believable, but unexpected. It can be difficult to read at times, but it is definitely compelling.

I listed to this on audio and finished it in two evenings. I think the audio version adds another layer of “personalness” to the book.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes the “sliding doors” concept in a book.

Rating: 4 stars

I may not have read a lot of books in February, but each of these books was impactful. And, as I said above, I have three books in progress, plus two audio books, so I’m off to a good start for March.

What did you read in February? Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them? Share in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Weekend Reading 2.26.21

It’s been one crazy week for me. There’s been a lot going on in the news, so my (night) job has been really busy. I don’t work Fridays and Saturdays, so I’m looking forward to getting in some good cozy reading time. I’ve also taken on a project for Lent where I get rid of (donate/toss) one (kitchen-sized) garbage bag full of clutter in my house each day. I’m a bit behind, but plan to catch up some this weekend. There’s a lot going on in the book world too, and I wanted to share some of that with you. Have a great weekend!

Goodreads has this convenient list that includes the first book in many popular cozy mystery series.

Looking for an inspirational image/quote related to reading? This Pinterest page includes over 200!

I love a bookish candle and am dying to try this Little Women inspired one from the Classic Literature collection from Rose and Adder.

I am behind the times, but finally bought the first three books (find the first one here) in the Bridgerton series. (Am I the only one who hasn’t binged the Netflix series?)

I got this, this and this cookbook for Christmas and I am obsessed (Ina’s chicken pot pie? Yes, please!) Up next: Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner and Cheese, Wine, and Bread by Katie Quinn, out in April.

This buyer’s guide popular blue light reading glasses from one of my favorite blogs Hooked to Books provides a good sampling of what’s out on the market.

Great ways to style your bookshelves. I’m going to restyle the one in my living room this weekend using this guide.

Try these tea and book pairings for an elevated experience.

Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny are working together on a new thriller.

I’m really looking forward to reading Who is Maud Dixon?, one of The New York TimesNew Books to Watch for March.

It’s supposed to be sunny but cold up here in the mountains of Colorado this weekend. Perfect for a nice walk, followed by snuggling by the fire with a A Deadly Inside Scoop and an e-galley of Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner. Share below in the comments if you’ve got something fun to read this weekend.

Happy reading!

–Amy

**Want to support indie bookstores (and me)? Use one of my book affiliate links to purchase to benefit your favorite indie. Anytime you use these book links, I get a small amount at no extra cost to you. I only feature what I love. Thanks for your support!**

New Feature: What’s Up Wednesday: Audiobooks

How’s your week going? I’ve been trying to get things done around my house, but haven’t made much progress so far (see clothing-covered chair). But I have been making progress in my reading life. I just finished this Killer Content (watch for a review at the beginning of March) and am in the middle of listening to The Midnight Library (find the hardback here and the audio version here to support indie bookstores). I have five more audiobooks on hold through the Libby app at my local library. So I thought I’d kick off this new feature on the blog with..

What’s up with…audiobooks?

For a long time, I didn’t have the patience to listen to audiobooks. Some can be ten hours long or even longer (President Obama’s new book is 29 hours and 10 minutes long!). Then I started working nights. And I had eight hours at night where I had nothing to listen to while I worked besides TV (I work from home, so that would wake my husband up), music (distracting), podcasts (a good choice, but requires keeping up with a list of episodes) and audiobooks (also distracting sometimes, but…). Audiobooks tend to be my favorite choice.

Double your productivity with an audiobook

A lot of (uncited, but real) research is showing that audiobooks have become more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are at home more and have found themselves listening to audiobooks while they declutter, do laundry, bake sourdough bread, or engage in hobbies. An audiobook also makes for good background sound while working. And, many of us audiobook listeners are finding that we can squeeze in more “reading” time while getting other things done. And there’s nothing I like more than increased productivity.

Consume more books

Audiobooks give you a chance to consume more books when you don’t have a lot of time to sit and dedicate to reading. Just as it adds to your productivity in getting other things done, it can help you check more titles off your list. So many books come out each week (even with the erratic publishing schedules during the COVID era), way more than anyone can fit on a TBR. Anything that helps you consume more books in less time helps readers to meet those lofty reading goals we all seem to be setting.

More audiobook choices

It used to be, if you wanted to access an audiobook, you could either get the CDs (or further back, tapes) from a bookstore (at an exorbitant price) or the library and lug them home. The they became available digitally through Audible.com on Amazon. But that was your only choice. Now, audiobooks are available through loads of sources, such as Apple Books, Libro.fm (a personal fave because you can support indie bookstores), and even using the Libby app through your local library (nothing beats free, which often makes it worth the waitlist). More competition means better prices that are closer to the price of a hardcover.

It’s all about that narrator

The quality of a narrator can make or break your audiobook experience. I am starting to have favorite narrators for fiction choices, and some books have a full cast of narrators that can really add to the experience (especially if the book has multiple points of view). Many, if not most, memoirs (a favorite audio choice of mine) are read by the author, so you get that person’s story read in their own voice, which creates a more intimate experience.

Some of recent my favorite audiobooks: The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark; Why Not Me? by Mindy Kahling; American Royals and Majesty by Katharine McGee; 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand; The If I Run series by Terri Blackstock; Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

Have you tried any good audiobooks lately? What have been your favorites? Share your recommendations in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy

**This post includes some affiliate links, so using them may earn me a small commission at no cost to you. I only feature what I really love and all opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!**

Keep the Romance Alive: Seven Books For Your Valentine’s (or Galentine’s) Day Hangover

Love is still in the air, even though Valentine’s Day was two days ago (and Galentine’s was three days ago). Whether you celebrate the Hallmark holiday of romantic love (based on a story with Christian roots), or are through with relationships, there’s a romance for you. Some are steamy, others tame, and still others take the hate-to-love trope VERY seriously, but all of them have happy endings. If you’ve found your happy ending with someone else, or are happy all by yourself, thank you very much, here are seven books that will make you say “what if…”

Steam level ratings:

1-No love scenes; 2-Closed door love scenes; 3. Semi open door but not overtly specific love scenes; 4. Open door love scenes; 5. Steamy, specific open door love scenes.

If You Believe In Long Lost Love

Out of the Storm by B.J. Daniels

Kate Jackson never believed her husband died in the Texas refinery explosion 20-some years ago. But she’s moved on with fiancé Collin, and takes a trip with him to Montana to see the snow for the first time. Their rental breaks down in the small town of Buckhorn, where she meets a man she swears is her long lost husband Danny. Except his “real” name is Justin and he’s got a secret of his own. Collin is thrown by this turn of events and the trip goes south. As Collin and Kate head into danger, can “Justin” save the woman he’s falling in love with, without getting himself killed in the process? First in.a series.

Steam level: One level three scene

If You Have A Steamy Secret Crush…

Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

When Mama Strong dies, leaving behind her failing knitting shop, serial heartbreaker Jesse tries to convince the other Strong foster brothers to save the business. The cozy knitting shop has a strong sense of community, and Jesse doesn’t want to see that lost.

Part-time employee Kerry has grown up with the boys and has always harbored a secret crush on Jesse. As they spend time together, their chemistry is undeniable. But can it last?

Steam level: Definitely a four.

If You’re a Single Mom With Faith and Dreams…

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Single mom Tandi Jo Reese finds herself going through the belongings of a late, long-time resident of Hatteras Island while trying to raise a rebellious daughter and a withdrawn son. As she begins to clean out the house, she learns more about the life and love story of the woman who lived there. Tandi Jo is currently in a relationship with a wealthy but demanding man, but begins to put roots down on the island and starts a growing friendship with her son’s science teacher as she regains her independence. The house is threatened with a forced sale and her neglected children’s lives begin to go off the rails, she must save her son and daughter, save the house she’s grown to love, and decide whether or not to open her heart.

Steam level: One, this is a Christian fiction story (not strictly romance, but has romantic themes)

For Fans Of Jane Austen And The Bachelor

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

A modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in modern day Cincinnati. Liz and her older sister Jane return to their family home after her father has a health scare. Studious Mary and their younger sisters Kitty and Lydia (who are way into CrossFit) also live there.

Enter new doctor-in-town Chip Bingley, fresh off a stint on the reality dating show Eligible and his reserved and cranky friend Fitzwilliam Darcy. Chip and Jane hit it off immediately, Liz and Darcy, not so much. But in this combination story of true love and hate-to-love, first impressions can be deceiving.

Steam level: Definitely a four, leaning toward five. Not your mother’s Pride and Prejudice.

If You Believe True Love Can Conquer All…

The Return by Nicholas Sparks

It doesn’t get more traditionally mushy, and dramatically romantic than Nicholas Sparks. Trevor Benson is a veteran and surgeon with PTSD moving back to New Bern, North Carolina. He was injured and can’t perform surgery anymore and struggles with demons from his time in Afghanistan. When his grandfather dies and leaves Trevor his home, he must decide what to do with the place.

Then he falls in love at first sight with town sheriff Natalie Masterson. But she has a secret that’s keeping them apart. Can their love overcome it? I think we all know the answer.

Steam level: One, maybe two if I remember right, but could just be one.

If You’re Staunchly Single, But Love A Meet Cute…

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The first in a series of interconnected romances, The Wedding Date begins when happily single Alexa Monroe meets Drew Nichols when the two are stuck in an elevator. Drew asks Alexa to be his date to his ex’s wedding and she accepts. They have more fun than they can imagine, but have to return to their high-powered careers, Alexa as the mayor’s chief of staff in Berkeley, and Drew as a doctor in Los Angeles. Can this long-distance romance work, or are they headed for a disaster? What happens when what you think you need doesn’t always match up with what you truly want?

Steam level: Definitely four, leaning strongly toward five.

If You Love A Good Wedding Story…

Vision In White by Nora Roberts (First in Bride Quartet series)

Nora Roberts is one of the queens of romance fiction and can’t be forgotten in this list. The first installment of the series focuses on Mackenzie “Mac” Elliot, who is an experienced photographer who owns a successful wedding planning business with three close friends. She has a rocky relationship with her parents and is skeptical about romance. Then she runs into Carter, an old high school classmate, and a relationship is sparked. Their journey is endearing, with some steamy love scenes and a satisfying ending.

Steam factor: Four or five depending on the scene.

As the Valentine’s candy in stores is replaced with Easter candy, its easy to feel some whiplash after weeks of buildup to a romantic day-of-all-days. But romance remains strong long after the boxes of chocolate are empty and the conversation hearts go stale(r). I’m a big believer in the escape that romantic fiction can provide. My first love will always be the cozy mystery, but a close second is a good, mushy or sassy, and smart romance novel.

Do you have a favorite romance? Or do you hate all romantic fiction? Somewhere in between? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Reading Roundup January 2021

I got off to a great reading start this year. January is a pretty quiet month for me, and I got to celebrate my birthday, which meant more self-care stuff and more BOOKS! I almost like it better than Christmas. Lots of cold, snowy days here in Colorado left time for cozy reading afternoons. And, my (night) job writing news summaries for a radio media company allows me to listen to audiobooks while I’m working. I’ll admit, sometimes I have to turn them off because they get distracting (still trying to finish 28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand). But most of the time, they are a nice background to my work.

I read (and listened to) seven books in January, so let’s get to it:

Fierce by Aly Raisman

My family has a membership to the Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, and that’s where I picked this up. (Awesome museum, you should totally go!) I wish I’d had this book when I was 8…or 10… or 13. All through those years when I was so insecure about how I looked and so unconfident. While I was never going to be an Olympic athlete, or any kind of athlete, I would have really taken inspiration from this book. I was one of those girls who watched gymnastics (especially Olympic gymnastics) and admired all the gymnasts and felt like I knew what the sport was all about. I still watch, loving how the gymnasts get to see the results of their hard work (or feeling for them when they have deductions that kick them out of the medals). Aly has a body positive and inspiring tone to her book. More than just a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Olympic gymnastics (though there’s plenty of that), its a look into the mind of an ambitious young woman where ambition isn’t always rewarded as it should be.

I loved how open she was about her life while still maintaining her privacy (especially about the sexual abuse she suffered, something I wrote about for my job as a news writer when the Larry Nassar scandal broke). She maintains her dignity while still speaking out for survivors and for young girls who could find themselves in a difficult situation. She’s a great role model for young women, especially, but also for boys on how to relate well to girls and women.

I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not huge into sports, but especially if you are into the Olympics and/or gymnastics.

Rating: 5 stars

Killer Kung Pao by Vivian Chien

I’ve got several of the books in this series, but this was the first one I read. I loved it. It’s a unique approach to the cozy mystery that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Asian characters are rarely represented in cozy mysteries, so that was great to see. The mystery was twisty and I really liked amateur detective and manager of her family’s restaurant Lana Lee. She was likable without be perfect and she was appropriately nosy. All of her interactions flowed naturally and it was easy to keep up with the characters without having read the other books.

I wasn’t excited about the ending. It was interesting and unexpected, but I’m not sure it felt natural.

I recommend this series. It’s a fresh take on the cozy mystery. It’s probably not the best one in this popular series, though.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ebook preview copy. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3+

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kahling

I listened to the audiobook version of this and I highly recommend it. Hearing the essays in Kahling’s voice added another layer to the book. Her stories are entertaining and touch on culture, dating, Hollywood, and a writer’s life. I’m going to listen to her other book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? next.

Rating: Four stars

The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark

This is an amazing inter-generational story that provides an interesting look at the role of race in the South dating back to the days of slavery. It tells the story of bi-racial Millie, whose Black mother sends her from Charleston as a young woman to Alabama to pass as white. She meets Franklin on the train, setting off a chain of events that provides a rich family history.

The story is told in alternating time periods that explain Millie’s family story and the story of a satchel of heirlooms (which is based on a real life satchel) first given to a nine-year-old slave who is sold away from her mother. The story also revolves around Millie’s dream to own a dress shop.

I love stories that alternate between time periods and those that connect different people into one big story. I listened to this on audio. My favorite book so far this year, and may end up being a perennial favorite.

Rating: 5 stars

The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller

This is a sweet story about two sisters living completely different lives who inherit land from an elderly woman who was their neighbor growing up. One stayed with the family dinner and helped raise her sister after their mother died, then took over the diner after their father died following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The other sister seemingly flits from place to place and project to project, chasing her dreams. Cue the friction

A big-box store is interested in building a store on the land, which threatens to up end the small Vermont town. The sisters disagree on whether to sell and the situation is complicated when the responsible sister begins to have feelings for the big-box store consultant sent to sell the town on the new store.

The story is nice, and there are some twists, but it has a rather predictable ending. I liked it and I like how the author wrapped things up, but it almost seemed a little too neat. Just a personal preference thing.

I’ve previously read the City Baker’s Guide To Country Living and loved it, so not sure where the disconnect is here. I will definitely read the author’s next book.

The book is well-written and interesting and the characters and town are well drawn. It just wasn’t for me. I listened to it on audio, so maybe it didn’t translate as well for me.

Rating: Three stars

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi

I read a lot of books on organizing and time management, but this one felt unique. I liked the idea of the “lazy genius,” who lands somewhere between a perfectionist approach and a lazy, not productive approach. To me, this is the sweet spot of operation where you can get things done without worrying about being perfect. It’s an ode to the “good enough” life, one where happiness can be found without the stress of perfectionism.

It’s not really a system, per say, but does have techniques described for how to approach things in life. The techniques were pretty simple to use and I’ve tried to integrate them into my everyday way of being.

The book has a humorous tone and is not written as information given from on high. I highly recommend this for anyone who’s looking for a unique way to approach life.

Rating: Five stars

Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle by Sarah Graves

This cozy mystery is set in Maine and centers around Jake (Jacobia) and Ellie who run a chocolate dessert shop in a Maine tourist town. The two occasionally get involved in mysteries that happen in the town and this book focuses on the killing of a reclusive elderly man who frequently changes his will. Jake’s son is business partners with suspect Billy, who was apparently the beneficiary of one of the wills.

Billy previously had to kill his father to save his two sisters from abuse. Now a dowdy aunt is threatening to take custody of the girls and make them into dainty ladies (they like to go fishing and are saving for their own boat).

Also, Jake and Ellie are trying to perfect a chocolate snickerdoodle for the town’s cookie contest to bring publicity to their shop.

The book starts out a little slow, possibly because I’m jumping into the series on the fourth book. But once the action gets going, I couldn’t put it down. The end is a real thriller, and I didn’t predict the twists that happened. Highly recommend this series, though I’d probably start at the beginning because Jake’s family alone has a lot of characters in it.

Thank you to NetGalley for the complimentary e-book preview copy. All opinions are my own.

Rating: Four stars

I am seven books closer to my goal of reading (listening to) 60 books in 2021. How did your January reading plans go? Share your goals and successes (as well as your challenges) in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Eight Reading Goals To Consider For 2021

I spend most of each January setting goals for the coming year. I feel like January is a month for planning, rather than instant resolutions made New Year’s Day. It seems to me that quick resolutions tend to fizzle out before month’s end. I just like to take my time setting up my plan for the coming months.

There are lots of ways to set goals, and reading goals are no different. Why set a reading goal? I’ve found that having some kind of structure in place leads to more enjoyment when I read. (And, it’s part of my job as a reviewer to organize my reading life.) Check out some different approaches to reading goals.

  • Reading a certain number of books: This is one of the most common goals out there. So what’s the magic number? That has to do with how much time you want to dedicate to reading, how fast you read, what type of books you want to read, and many other factors. One person’s 12 books-in–year goal could take as much effort as reading 50 books would be for someone else.

  • Reading a Specific Genre: Maybe you have a specific genre of books that you really want to get into in a deeper way. I love cozy mysteries and could read them all day. Maybe you want to get a survey of a genre to get to know what it’s all about. Or, you could choose a genre you’re less familiar with and want to learn more about.

  • Completing a Series: Some authors have lengthy series’ that can take awhile to work through. I have several series I want to get through at some point (Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen, and Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series).

  • An Author’s Complete Works: Some authors are more prolific than others (Terry Pratchett, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, most romance writers), so this may be a more lofty goal depending on who you want to focus on. This goal could be a fun way to check out a relatively new author with a smaller catalog.

  • Debut Authors Only: Who doesn’t like a shiny new author? This goal would give you the chance to get in on the ground floor with a variety of authors in as many genre’s as you like.

  • Book Club Picks: There are lots of book clubs out there, from your neighborhood or church group to online groups (Modern Mrs. Darcy, Reese’s Book Club, and of course the grandmother of them all, Oprah’s Book Club). This can direct you to a lot of new and interesting books.

  • Read What You Own: As the owner of many bookshelves full of works I haven’t read yet, I considered this as my goal for this year, but chickened out. I hate the idea of a year of no new books. But for some people, this could be a relief, shopping your own home bookstore.

and finally…

  • All Paper/Digital/Audio: The format of a book changes how you take in the story. With paper books, you have the joy of turning pages, enjoying the cover image and jacket copy, and having something to hold in your hand. Digital books offer convenience (hundreds of books in one compact container), the ability to read in the dark (I know, weird, but this is what sold me on e-readers), and font/size adjustments. Audiobooks bring back the joy of being read to (like when you were a kid). The narrator can bring a lot to a story, and you attend to general tasks or exercise while you listen.

Since I review books for this blog, my goals have an interesting combination. Overall, I want to read at least 60 books this year, divided up each month in the following way:

  • Church book club selection
  • Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club selection
  • NetGalley review book (3 to 4 of these)
  • Home/Organization/Non-fiction book
  • Audiobooks (2 to 3 of these, could fulfill a book club selection)

For January, I’ve read:

  • The Dress Shop on King Street (audio, church book club)
  • The Late Bloomer’s Club (audio, MMD book club)
  • Killer Kung Pao (NetGalley)
  • Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle (NetGalley)
  • Paw and Order (NetGalley)
  • The Lazy Genius Way (non-fiction)
  • Welcome Home (non-fiction)
  • Why Not Me? (audio)

I feel like I’m off to a good start, and I work nights as a news writer for a media company, so I can listen to audiobooks while I work. I have three other audiobooks lined up, but I won’t finish them until early next month. My favorite audiobook sources are the Libby app from my local library and Libro.fm, where you choose your favorite indy bookstore to support.

Do you set any yearly reading goals? Are yours similar to the ones listed here? Or are they something else all together? Share in the comments below. We’ll be checking in with this topic every month.

Happy reading!

— Amy

Holiday Last Minute Book(ish) Gift Guide

Still working on your holiday shopping? Here are a few last minute gifts you can feel good about, from books to bookish goods. No links are included for the books, so be sure to support your local independent bookstore. Many of the bookish gifts come from small businesses, always a good way to shop. Time’s a-wasting, so use this guide to get shopping for your favorite book lover!

(Top Left) — Literary Candles from Uncommon Goods. Try scents like 221B Baker Street and A Mad Tea Party. Available here.

(Top Right) — A cute book keychain that supports a small business. Available here.

(Bottom Left) — A fun option for book lovers with reading goals. The 100 Book Scratch Off Poster covers a range of books that your book-loving friend or family member can scratch off the one’s they’ve read. Another one from Uncommon Goods, available here.

(Bottom Middle) — Know someone who lends a lot of books and needs something to help them keep track of them all? A personalized library stamp could be just the thing they need. Another small business! Find it here.

(Bottom Right) — A great gift for bookworms who love some tea while they read. Small business Literary Tea Company offers individual tins of bookish-themed teas to accompany almost any work. A subscription service is also available. Try them out here.

More Choices:

There are several stores with similar names, but this small business is located in Breckenridge, Colorado (just down the road from me!). This is one of my favorite stores. They don’t offer things online, but if you click here and call the owner she can send you pics and recommendations for all you socks, pajamas, and assorted goods needs. Support a struggling business and tell them Erin’s friend Amy from Get Cozy Book Nook sent you. Stay tuned! I’m in contact with the owner to see if I can offer a discount code. Should be up by Tuesday.

This vintage bookish t-shirt and many others are available at Dreameris. It’s hard to go wrong with a good shirt, and this vintage-look tee can work for guys and gals. Find it here.

This round up includes some of my favorite choices for book lovers. There are no affiliate links, I just love these products. Try express shipping to get your gifts by Christmas Eve!

Happy shopping!

–Amy

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Stories and Songs of Faith

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Stories and Songs of Faith by Alexis Goring

About the Book

Book: Stories and Songs of Faith

Author: Alexis Goring

Genre: Christian Devotional

Release Date: April 25, 2020

Stories and Songs of Faith: My Journey with God is a 52-week devotional that will bless your heart, soothe your soul, encourage your mind, and strengthen your God-given spirit.

Join author Alexis A. Goring on an inspirational journey. Each devotional builds from real-life experiences that impart many faith lessons learned along the way.

Each day is built on the foundation of a Bible verse or edifying quote, followed by Goring’s personal story and reflection questions for a personalized experience.

All of the devotionals are tied to a song in order to go a little deeper into the heart of the message. A song directory at the end of the book connects the reader with music online to further enhance the study experience and glorify God.

Spend a year on a journey growing closer to the Lord through Stories and Songs of Faith, and discover personal transformation as time with Jesus Christ changes your heart to look a little more like His.

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.

More from Alexis

Stories and Songs of Faith: My Journey with God was published in April 2020.

However, the idea for this devotional wasn’t a thought in my head until around the beginning of last year. It’s interesting because though I have been writing devotions since recovering from a health crisis at age 16, and have had my devotionals published in books, on blogs and on websites since then, I never thought of putting together a book filled with my original devotions until January 2019.

It’s amazing how God works! Because at the time that God inspired this project, I was actually still trying to recover from writer’s block and work on another fiction book which I planned to have published before the end of that year. But God had other plans.

And His plans were (and always are) perfect!

God put this devotional on my heart and I went to it! First, I gathered all of the devotions that I’d written over the years that were published on other blogs. Since they didn’t pay me to publish my work, I still had the rights to each one. So that meant I now had about 25 percent of the content for my book! Next, I reached out to the women’s devotional book editorial team who had published several of my devotions over the span of about 14 years. I planned to ask permission to re-publish those devotions that I wrote, this time in my own devotional. But later, I decided that it would be a better idea to simply write new material for my book. And so I did! But it wasn’t easy.

At first, I was barely writing more than one devotion every two or three weeks. It was then that I realized that as a trained journalist, I thrive on deadlines (never missed one). So I decided that it would help motivate me to write consistently if I gave myself a deadline for each new devotion. Around that time, I had been writing a few times a month for a friend’s blog called Whispers in Purple. I decided to sign up to write a new devotion for her blog every week until I was done putting my devotional together. So I booked myself for one of my new devotions to be published every Friday from around February 2019 through Summer 2019.

By Summer 2019, I had a total of 44 devotions and thought I was done. However, God knew I was not and He let me know that through two professionals in the publishing industry. The first was a popular book editor who told me, “You know, Alexis, if you wrote 52 devotions then it could be a weekly devotional because there are 52 weeks in a year.” I gave her a nod but wasn’t convinced that was the best idea for me as the author. Not soon after, a literary agent gave me the final push by simply saying, “You need to keep going.” And so I, reluctantly then but gratefully now, did keep writing more devotions. I booked myself to be a guest on Whispers in Purple blog every Friday through the rest of that year and then finally by the end of February 2020 (the next year), I wrote devotional number 52. I was so relieved to be done writing my book!

Not only does God have perfect timing; He positions you perfectly for success! Long story short: My publisher had hired a new editor who has decades of professional experience in editing devotionals and she (Patty) was the editor who my publisher assigned to me! Patty had a wonderful idea that really shaped my book by giving it the perfect title and bonus idea. The title of my devotional, as you can see, is about my real-life stories and faith-based songs that guided me on my journey with God. And the fun bonus idea was to have links to the songs that I mentioned in each devotion. These links were made available for the reader in a song directory at the end of my devotional in both the print and e-book versions. Even better, the link is live if you are using a Kindle to read my book meaning that the reader can just click on the hyperlink and hear the song via YouTube while using their Kindle app or Kindle device, without having to look it up first online. Patty said that there’s really not another book on the market yet with this kind of idea and format. She told me that it may help a lot of people, especially music lovers. As a music lover myself, I loved this idea!

But God wasn’t done directing my steps (praise the Lord!): He allowed 20 professionals from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences to agree to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of my book and write an endorsement. We’re talking actresses, journalists, pastors, doctors, teachers, authors, bloggers, singers and a Christian radio show host … a wonderful variety of people who were all behind my book!

The final part of this amazing experience that brings joy to my heart is the fact that this is the first book I wrote where all of the first few reviews were each 5-stars on Amazon.com! That has never happened to me before (I have three other books published though they are all fiction stories but this devotional is my first nonfiction work).

Several of the people who have endorsed and/or reviewed my book have said that it was timely and needed for such a time as this (the Coronavirus pandemic, intense politics, increased racial tensions, and everything else that’s been hitting us hard this year on and off the news). Only God can do that so I give all the glory to Him!

In closing, I’d like to share words from my friend Morgan’s endorsement.

She said: “God has profoundly touched my life through Alexis A. Goring’s uplifting and personable weekly devotional book sharing God’s love through her own experiences and insights. It is so well-written and in a voice that feels as if a close friend is having coffee with you and talking of God. Every entry is backed by Scripture, as well as highlights meaningful songs that God has used to touch the author’s heart. As a fellow journalist, I love how the author uses her talent of observation to see God at work all around her as well as the use of thought-provoking questions at each devotional’s end to further connect our lives to that entry’s theme and the Scripture truth it has been based on. If you are looking for a devotional that is short but powerful, this is it. It would be a perfect gift for a special person in your life.”

Morgan’s words about how reading my devotional made her feel like she was having coffee with a close friend and talking about God is how I want every person who reads my book to feel. And if you don’t like coffee then we can have tea or ice water! At the end of the day, I hope and pray that God uses my devotional to touch your heart and bring you closer to Him.

My Review

This 52-week devotional includes a weekly personal story from the author, lessons learned, scripture, reflections, and a song to accompany the topic. I enjoyed the format of each week’s study and found the devotions inspirational. I plan to return to this in January and go more in-depth with each week for the coming year.

As a devotional, I found it to be useful for learning and growing in faith. It provides a personal connection not only with the author, but also with others who are experiencing similar issues.

Thank you to Celebrate Lit for the review e-book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4+ stars

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 11

Spoken from the Heart, December 11

Texas Book-aholic, December 12

Inklings and notions, December 13

Mary Hake, December 13

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, December 14

Splashes of Joy, December 15

Kathleen Neely, December 15

For Him and My Family, December 16

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 17

Captive Dreams Window, December 17

Ashley’s Bookshelf, December 18

Get Cozy Book Nook, December 18

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, December 19

Happily Managing a Household of Boys , December 20

deb’s Book Review, December 20

Artistic Nobody, December 21 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Sara Jane Jacobs, December 22

Simple Harvest Reads, December 22 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 23

Godly Book Reviews, December 24

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Alexis is giving away  the grand prize package of a $10 Starbucks gift card, an eBook copy of “Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories”, and a signed copy of Alexis’ devotional book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/104a6/stories-and-songs-of-faith-celebration-tour-giveaway

Happy reading!

–Amy

Book Review and Giveaway – Christmas Stalkings & New Year’s Revolutions

Book Review and Giveaway – Christmas Stalkings & New Year’s Revolutions Author: Chautona Havig On Tour with Celebrate Lit

About the Book

Book: Christmas Stalkings & New Year’s Revolutions

Author: Chautona Havig

Genre: Fiction / Christian / Romance / Holiday

Release Date: January 29, 2017 and December 31, 2016


Christmas Stalkings

If her life had to transform into a TV movie, couldn’t it have been a sweet romance instead of a creepy suspense?

Wendy Nabity has redefined “crazy cat lady,” and she’s just fine with that. She’s got a tree and a stocking for reach of them, too.

All that festivity turns ominous when things begin turning up in odd places—places her fur babies couldn’t move them. The local police? They think she’s as crazy as the fleas jumping from cat to cat—or something like that.

Her neighbors aren’t much help. The nice one won’t come near her, despite his obvious interest, and the other hates her enough to torment her every chance he can. Seriously, if Neal Kirkpatrick makes one more rude demand of her, she might just start dumping the litter box on his front porch!

However, when a threatening note appears in one of the stockings, even Fairbury’s police officers have to admit no cat could have written it, and one officer takes it upon himself to do something.

Who knew Christmastime could feel so sinister?

____________________________________

New Year’s Revolutions

His life is spinning out of control, and his heart isn’t far behind!

Neal Kirkpatrick: project manager, staunch atheist, and town grump. Aside from an apparent soft spot for a neighborhood boy, the man has nothing to recommend him.

So when he overhears criticism from a neighbor he secretly respects, Neal decides maybe it’s time for professional help. With the same straightforward tenacity he uses in his job, Neal goes on a hunt for a therapist to help him unravel the mystery of himself.

His therapist says he’s in love, but Neal Kirkpatrick does not do relationships.

Does he?

Is any woman worth changing his entire life for?

Is He worth it?

You met him in Christmas Stalkings. Now it’s time to get to know him.

Discover what happens when the town curmudgeon steps out of his comfort zone and into a psychologist’s office to learn what’s up with his heart.

Click here to get your copy of Christmas Stalkings!

Click here to get your copy of New Year's Revolutions!

About the Author

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

More from Chautona

SOMETIMES, YOU JUST CAN’T LET A CHARACTER GO

I met him in my book, A Bird Died. Neal Kirkpatrick. Grumpy, snappish, the man just seemed to look for something to grouse about. Except when it comes to a little boy in the town, and then a soft side came out that no one expected.

A few years later, I got the idea for a Christmas comedic suspense “noella” (Christmas novella), and the minute I knew what I wanted to write, I knew I’d be writing about him, too. He’d be the main character’s neighbor and always on her case about something. Instant conflict and subplot. Oh, yeah!

Something unexpected happened as I wrote the story, though. I fell in love with the cranky guy and didn’t want to let him go. Did I have time to write a book for New Year’s, too? I mean, how cool would that be? After much deliberation, I decided to go for it.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t know what kind of Christmas our family would have that year or I would never have decided to do it, and I doubt Neal’s story would still be languishing in the slush-pile of my mind (for the story of our family’s Christmas that year, you might want to check out Sand & Mistletoe).

That story turned into something unexpected.

First, there was more to his story than I’d ever imagined. A dysfunctional family, a past that he didn’t even choose himself, and a rather immoral life I wouldn’t usually care to consider. But reality made me admit that a man with no concern for what the Lord says about things wouldn’t necessarily live the kind of life I think people should! Don’t worry, I didn’t do deep into those kinds of details! My prudish streak got pushed, but not pushed aside.

More than just “his side of the story,” New Year’s Revolutions tells the story of a man who sees himself through the lens of someone he respects and goes on a journey to see why he is as he is and if there is something inherently wrong with it or if the trouble lies with others (as he suspects).

Both a personal and a spiritual journey ensued that made me dig deep into Scripture to discover what it had to say about Jesus, relationships, and honesty. Neal’s discovery of what the Word says about things drove me to study and restudy things that I believed. We didn’t always come to the same conclusions, but it was interesting and I learned more than I would have expected to.

I hope you love Neal as much as I do. I know one thing for sure… this isn’t the last we’ll see of him.

My Review

I first encountered Chautona as an author when I read Sand and Mistletoe. I enjoyed her then and I love these followups.

Christmas Stalkings 

I love a good Christmas mystery and this one doesn’t disappoint. It is quirky and fun. Wendy is a hoot as a “crazy cat lady.” Neal is interesting too. He has a rough exterior, but you kind of know something else is there (spoiler second book!) Overall this is a fun and enjoyable mystery to read.

Thank you to Celebrate Lit for my e-book copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4

New Year’s Revolutions

This book follows Neal’s story as he searches for a way to become happy. I realizes he’s in love with Wendy, and must reconcile their differences (he is n atheist and she is a Christian). It’s interesting to see the growth Neal goes through and the ending is satisfying.

Chautona weaves a faith theme through this book in an easy and natural way. It never seems forced.

Thank you to Celebrate Lit for the e-book review copy of this. All thoughts are my own. 

Rating: 4

Blog Stops

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, December 14

For Him and My Family, December 15

Get Cozy Book Nook, December 15

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 16

Captive Dreams Window, December 16

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, December 18

Holly Jo Morris, December 18

Inklings and notions, December 19

Ashley’s Bookshelf, December 20

Mary Hake, December 20

Sara Jane Jacobs, December 21

deb’s Book Review, December 22

Blogging With Carol, December 22

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 23

CarpeDiem, December 24

Godly Book Reviews, December 25

Artistic Nobody, December 26 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Simple Harvest Reads, December 26 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Texas Book-aholic, December 27

Batya’s Bits, December 27

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a paperback copy of each book, Christmas Stalkings & New Year’s Revolutions!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/104a9/christmas-stalkings-new-year-s-revolutions-celebration-tour-giveaway