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.

Recent Reads: You’re Staying In, So You Might As Well Read.

Since we’re all staying home more because of COVID-19, it’s a good time to catch up on your TBR list. There are a lot of great new books coming out, but don’t forget those backlist picks. It’s also a great time to buy e-books or download them from the library (try Overdrive or Libby). Audiobooks are great choices for listening to while you’re working from home (support independent bookstores through Libro.fm).

Here are some of my recent reads (just a few this time):

This is a dark, but interesting story. The lead FBI agent Elsa Myers is on the case of the disappearance of Ruby. The case blows up into the hunt for a serial kidnapper and killer. The team Myers is working with sorts through the clues and information to try to find the man who has kidnapped and killed girls in sets of three. During this race against time, Elsa is triggered by her own past as she tries to care for and reconcile with her father, who is dying. As the case ramps up, the third kidnapping makes it personal.

This can be a hard book to read at times, because of the dark subject matter. Elsa is a well-developed, complex character who is hardly predictable. The supporting cast on the team as well as her sister and niece play pivotal roles that lead Elsa down a twisted road to solve the case and resolve her feelings about her past.

I can’t say this book was enjoyable, because of the focus on child kidnapping and abuse. But it was interesting and a good read. I would recommend the author’s future books. Just follow it up with something light.

**Thank you to NetGalley for the e-book review copy in exchange for an honest review.**


This is the third book in the St. Caroline series. I haven’t read the others, but this can be read as a stand alone. Cassidy Trevor is off limits to Matt Wolfe, but when the two are thrown together the chair a holiday event. Their experience becomes a secret friendship that blossoms into love. 

In this somewhat spicy book, the author creates clearly drawn characters that are interesting and fun. The reason they’re “off limits” to each other seems a bit contrived, but the storyline is generally believable. You find yourself rooting for Matt and Cassidy as the story comes to a satisfying end. 

I’m guessing I would have understood all the relationships in the book a lot more easily in I’d read the first two books. 

This is a good, fun, enjoyable escape with some spice for those who like that.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of the e-book in exchange for an honest review.

I love a great cozy mystery, and this one didn’t disappoint. Sammy runs a community crafting store and must involve her cousin Heidi and sister Ellie (who together make up the S.H.E.s) when a woman dies while posing as a live mannequin in Sammy’s window display during the Fire and Ice festival in Hartford, WI.

This book kept me guessing. I’m usually pretty good at guessing the killer by about halfway through, but this one took a little longer. There are some good suspenseful scenes that turn the plot on its head and were great ways to speed along the story through the middle. (No saggy middle here!)

The ending left me with a few questions, but overall it was satisfying. This is the third book in the series, and while it wasn’t hard to read as a standalone, I think some of the characterization would have been easier to understand if you have read the first two books.

A delightful author. I’d love to read more by her.

Thank you to NetGalley for the review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.