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

July Release Spotlight One: Tea and Treachery

I wanted to come up with something special on Monday’s to start your week off on a good note. What’s more fun than looking forward to a book that comes out this week? So each Monday, I’m going to spotlight a book that’s coming out in the current month.

Preorders are big for authors, so knowing what’s coming out helps you to know what you want to add to your cart (or get a jump on your library waitlist). I’m starting out with my favorite genre, the cozy mystery, but I’m going to try to vary the genres of the books I feature and to promote diversity in your reading life.

July’s first featured book:

Tea and Treachery by Vicki Delany (Release Date 7/28/20)

This is the first in what will be the Tea By the Sea Mysteries series. The series will focus on the owner of the Tea By the Sea tea shop, New York-expat and pastry chef Lily Roberts. When a real estate developer who had been trying to drive Lily and her grandmother Rose (who owns a Victorian B&B) out of business is found dead near Rose’s property, Lily must try to solve the mystery to help Rose get out of trouble.

There are several new cozy mystery series’ starting, so this particular book is a great way to get in on the ground floor. Vicki Delany is a prolific writer, so you can expect regular doses of Lily Roberts and her tea shop.

I have loved tea shop mysteries since I read (most of; still working on) the books in the Laura Childs tea shop series.

Pour your own cup of tea and see if this book fits your taste.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Recent Reads – The COVID-19 Edition

This month’s reads ran the gamut, from Christian fiction to heartfelt, agonizing poetry. April was the height of the stay-at-home order in Colorado, so it made finding reading time much easier. Still, I found myself distracted from my reading, drifting some amidst the tension of the time. Eventually, I got back into a groove and began enjoying my reading life even more. Has the quarantine had the same effect on any of you? Let me know in the comments.

Recent reads:

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

This is very different from my usual reading, but was recommended to me. Amazing poetry that expresses the pain of abuse, and the joy and agony of love won and lost. Kaur captures her feelings in a revealing way, with no filter. Illustrations that accompany the poems can be quite explicit. Her poetry is powerful and hard to read, but also very moving. Not for the faint of heart.

Rating: Four stars.

Desert Willow by Patricia Beal

In following Clara’s journey with Andrew, Beal tells a tender story of second chances in this Christian romance. Her portrayal of Clara is sweet as she slowly opens up after starting out so guarded. Both she and Andrew are compelling characters that tell a story that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. Read with a box of tissues!

Thank you to NetGalley and Celebrate Lit for the review copy of this book.

Rating: Four Stars

Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon

This is the first book in the Tourist Trap mystery series and follows Jill Gardner who runs a bookstore and coffee shop in South Cove, California. When her elderly friend Miss Emily is murdered, Jill inherits her dilapidated home that happens to be on prime property. While trying to figure out who killed Miss Emily, Jill is hounded by a greedy developer and threatened to sell or else by the mayor. Jill works to renovate her new home before a condemnation order by the city takes effect, and she’s assisted by the handsome Chief of Police, who is also on the case.

This was a fun book. I related well to Jill, who was slightly quirky but not in an annoying way. She is frazzled through most of the book, and you can feel the tension mounting as the city’s deadline nears and death threats start to come in. The suspense is really good, and though I had a good idea of whodunit, it was still a surprise ending and wrapped up in a satisfying way.

Rating: Four stars.

I love Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series. The mysteries are always engaging and I love to reconnect with the people from Lake Eden. This latest installment doesn’t disappoint. Hannah has to help clear her sister’s boyfriend and sheriff’s detective Lonnie of a murder he didn’t commit. The path through the book is familiar to readers of the series and can, for the most part, be read as a stand alone. You’d miss out on a lot of the backstory though. (I skipped a few books in the series and was at a loss for some of the storyline, but it didn’t affect solving the mystery).

The solution is a satisfying one, but there aren’t a whole lot of twists and turns. Should be another favorite for fans of the series. For those who haven’t met Hannah yet, I’d suggest starting at the beginning so you can really become familiar with the interrelated arcs of the characters. I’ll definitely keep reading (but I’m going to have to go back and catch up some).

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy of this book.

Rating: Five stars

I listened to this on audiobook, which I love to do with books of essays. It’s read by the author and the work comes through in a much more touching way through audio. The author shares about her life and work and family, all tied together with a quote from her son which makes the title of the book.

It’s not really a how-to, lessons on life type of book, but you certainly can learn from Philpott’s experiences. The essays give insight not only into her life, but into how we shape our lives as well. Never preachy, Philpott shares her experiences in a way that is relatable and gives you hope that your life is full of interesting experiences too.

Rating: Four stars

I listened to this on audio and I highly recommend that format.

This quirky book centers around a journal that a lonely, elderly man leaves in a coffee shop with an essay about his “authentic” life in the front. He goes on in the essay to challenge those who find it to write their authentic story and to leave the book for someone else. As the book finds new owners, a group of friends forms, betrayals and secrets are revealed, and lives are changed.

I thought the idea was original and interesting. Pooley ties the characters and storylines together well and comes up with some interesting twists. My favorite is the grandma in the art class. She’s not a main character, but her sassy nature adds some interesting spice to the book.

I rarely re-read books, but this is one I might take a look at in print or electronic form, just to see if the experience is different.

Really loved this book. Rating: Five stars

So what are you reading during this season of isolation? Has your reading life been altered in any way? Share your thoughts in the comments.