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

Recent Reads 12.1.2020 – August/September

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a reading round up so this is Part One – August/September. So hearken back with me to late summer/early fall, when the the sun was still blazing before the breeze picked up too much. When we made the switch from flip flops and sandals to sneakers and (some days up here in the mountains) boots. When everything moves from soft and breezy to cozy and crisp. Now that you’re there with me, here are some books I read during that time:

Nacho Average Murder by Maddie Day

What a fun book set in a great location (Santa Barbara)) for a summer read. Robbie is on vacation For her ten year high school reunion and comes across information that her mother, who died of a brain aneurysm, might have been murdered instead. Before she knows it, she’s trying to sort out a feud with a high school nemesis, a toxic chemical, and an old friend trying to get her life together. This has a few twist and turns with no shortage of clues. I liked the ending but kept expecting one more twist that left me feeling a little unsettled. Would definitely recommend.

Thank you to NetGalley for the Review copy of the book. All opinions are my own. Rating: Four stars

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

I love this book! I’m not usually a big fan of World War II books, but this one really grabbed me from the very first line. The characters of Charlotte, Horace, And Julian have strong depth. I felt like I was right there for every raid, every kiss. The tension was palpable and the choices Charlotte has to make are wrenching. Charlotte’s daughter Vivi was a bright light and I liked the journey of her character. Very compelling! Not an easy read, but it pulls you in and won’t let you go. I highly recommend it! Rating: Five stars 

Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin Press and NetGalley for the review copy of this book.

Leaning Out: An Alternative Perspective for the Modern Corporate Woman by Monica E. Pierce (Audiobook)

This was an interesting perspective on the corporate work world for women. It explores the question: what about women who want to foster a balance in their lives and don’t want to go for the corner office. Leaning out is not giving up on any ambition, but is a balance of ambition and family/personal life. 

I’m one who has always leaned out so I could relate. It agues strongly for choice in the work world. A good read, but dragged in some spots. (listen- I listened on audio).

Thank you to NetGalley for the review audiobook. All opinions are my own. Rating: Three stars

Christmas Carol Society by Rebekah Jones

I LOVE Christmas stories. This one was an especially fun one. A riff on the Dickens story, the author did a good job of taking the twist and creating an inspiring story full of faith. Charlie’s story was compelling and kept me reading. This would be a great addition to anyone’s Christmas reading list. Start the season early when this one comes out.

Thank you to Celebrate Lit and NetGalley for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: Four stars

September

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain (Audiobook)

Bourdain provided a deep dive behind the scenes of some of New York City’s famous (Rainbow Room) and not so famous restaurant kitchens. A gritty (and foul-mouthed) look at what it’s like in the militaristic hierarchy on the kitchen line, Bourdain shows the interesting, and sometimes ugly, side of where upscale food is made. He minces no words about his own experiences starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to chef in various restaurants. The book was written while he was chef at Les Halles, before he went on to host his own travel-food show on CNN. He outlines his successes, his many failures, and the inner workings of restaurants. The book is filled with colorful characters (many pseudonyms are used) unique insights into human character, especially his own.

Some parts of the book unappealingly gritty or revealing, but anyone who’s ever thought that they wanted to be a chef (not me, especially not now) needs to read this book. It also a good book for restaurant patrons who want to be “in the know” about the origins and etiquette surrounding their food.

I listened to the audiobook version of this, which is narrated by Bourdain whose own voice adds more life to his words. I recommend it. Rating: Four stars

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

I chose this book for my church book group (Faith Fiction Fans-woo!) because it had a bookish theme and a thread of a faith story that wound through it. The book follows five people who get mysterious invitations to a story society at a book shop on Fifth Avenue: a professor who is trying to finish his dissertation on a famous writer, his ex-wife who is struggling to get the recognition she deserves at her job, a cosmetics company owner who almost became a princess, an Uber driver trying to reconnect with his kids, and an older gentleman who wants to write the story of his ideal marriage.

As the group continues to meet weekly, secrets are shared and each person grows in unexpected ways. The faith storyline is deftly thread into the story without being overbearing. The characters are likable and unlikeable in turn and every time you think you know what’s going to happen, a twist gets thrown in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially the characters of the professor and the cosmetics company owner. The bond the group forms is realistic and close and reflects the same connection I have with my book group.

Rating: Four stars

Girl Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis (Audiobook)

I listened to this on audio, which I recommend as the way to consume this book. It was a great motivational book that helps you to let go of excuses and to train your behaviors for success. It’s about dreaming big and setting big goals. I felt like some of it applied to my life, while some of it was focused on creating a business that is scaled way up (which is not my goal). Still, she shares her experiences and has some good advice for anyone who has some ambition to build a business or just expand your experiences in life.

This book is aimed at women, so many men may not be able to relate to some of the advice. Not the end-all, be-all of self help books, but some great motivational tips and ways to set yourself up for success.

Rating: Four stars

Spies and Sweethearts by Linda Shenton Matchett

I love a good spy story, and this was a fun one. Throw in romance and the World War Two era, and you’ve got a great suspense novel. The author did a great job making the setting come to life and really breathed life into the characters. They were interesting and I really cared about their story. The suspense was just right, put you on the edge of your seat without going overboard. It’s the tried and true hate-to-love trope without being tired and worn. This is book one of a trilogy, and I intend to come back for the next two installments.

Thank you to Celebrate Lit and NetGalley for the review ebook copy. All opinions are my own.

Rating: Four stars

Cost Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith

I loved the style in this book. I’ve been looking for a way to describe my aesthetic and this is it. It was also nice to learn some decorating techniques that I can use with what I have. Definitely getting her next book.

Rating: Five stars

If I Run (If I Run #1) by Terri Blackstock

What a thriller! Terri Blackstock really knows how to move the plot along in this Christian thriller. This is the first of the three book series where we follow Casey, who is on the run because she is a suspect in her best friend Brent’s murder, and Dylan, the victim’s childhood friend who is hired to find Casey and bring her back to the police. 

As Casey starts on a journey to discover who is responsible for Brent’s murder and for framing her, she also begins a journey toward faith. Childhood pain, the loneliness of being on the run, and Casey’s good heart will help the reader start putting the pieces together. Dylan’s is also suspicious of the evidence that sets Casey up as a suspect and starts to discover the real truth behind the murder. As he works to manage his PTSD and to find Casey, he relies on his faith to get him to the truth.

Be sure you have the second two books queued up so you can read (or listen to- I took it in as an audiobook) them right after you finish this one. You won’t want to wait.

Rating: Five stars

Stay tuned tomorrow for my October-November reads, followed Friday by a special Holiday Gift Guide edition of Weekend Reading on Friday.

Happy reading!

— Amy

Recent Reading Roundup 8.5.20

It was a busy summer reading season between mid-June and July. This month’s selections included a variety of genres and books that were great summertime reads. Check out the books below:

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate paints a vivid picture of beach community Hatteras Island, located in the Carolinas and draws you into the story of Tandee Jo, who is charged with cleaning out the home of her recently deceased landlord. During the cleaning process, the single mom comes across shoe boxes filled with prayers that takes her on a journey of self-discovery that changes the lives of herself and her two children. Love blooms, and a life of responsibility and spiritual devotion blossoms as she learns the history of the woman who lived in the home and she and her friends work to preserve the landmark.

This was not always a comfortable read. Tandee Jo doesn’t start off as the most responsible mother, which is difficult to get through. But her journey is inspiring and the ending is satisfying. The book is filled with colorful characters, secrets, and redemption in more ways than one. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series. Rating: A-

Deadly Sweet Tooth by Kaye George

I really liked the premise of this book. The sweet shop setting in Texas opens up a lot of possibilities. However, I had a hard time investing in the characters. The main character always seemed stressed and that made me stressed. Some of the plot elements seemed to come together too easily or not at all. The mystery was compelling and even though I figured out the mystery about 2/3rds of the way through, I was wrong about some of the circumstances. A fine book, just not for me. Rating: B-

Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an electronic review copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

Andre Leon Talley is a pillar in the last 40 years of the fashion industry. An insider, first at Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, then at Women’s Wear Daily and W, and finally at Vogue, Talley has all the scoop on those in the know of the fashion industry. This dishy book names names and gives an inside look at Talley’s 40 year friendship with Chanel’s late Karl Lagerfeld and a unique look at his on-and-off friendship with Vogue editor Anna Wintour. He name checks throughout the book, with talk of YSL, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, even a bit about Alexander McQueen. The book also focuses on his experiences as a black, gay man in fashion and his continuing battle with his weight. He serves up the scoop with manners in line with his Southern heritage. It’s a great ride for anyone with an interest in fashion, but could feel a little dense for those who don’t know all the names (especially the early ones). This is definitely aimed at fashion fans, not fashion beginners. Rating: A

Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews

Loved this book! It follows reporter Conley Hawkins as she returns to her small town and is set up by her Grandmother to work at the family’s small weekly temporarily with her sister (with whom she doesn’t really get along) who is editor in chief. Right away Conley starts ruffling feathers with the story of a local Congressman eho dies in a mysterious car crash. She also reconnects with her childhood crush who broke her heat and live two doors down from where she grew up. 

Family drama ensues and Conley and her sister fight blowback on the stories and find new ways to save to paper. Political shenanigans I. The Congressman’s family also tear up as truths come out. 

Lots of good twists and turns. I love a good mystery/romance/political drama. Conley is a strong character with being overly abrasive. Other stories are well interwoven. A joy of a book and a great summer read! Rating: A

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an electronic review copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

Summer By the Tides by Denise Hunter

This Christian family drama-romance is the epitome of a summer read. Three sisters, Maddy, Nora, and Emma are called to their grandmother’s beachside North Carolina cottage when she is reported missing by neighbor Connor. Turns out the whole this was a set up by grandma to get the sisters to settle their differences. Nora and Emma have been feuding for 20 years since Nora stole and married Emma’s fiancé. But each of the sisters is bringing secrets and baggage to the cottage and as Gram returns and a storm brews, the sisters begin to untangle the web of anger and betrayal that has affected them all. During the whole process Maddy and Connor strike up a growing attraction. The fallout from the stormy weekend will change all of their lives.

The conflicts in this book were a little uncomfortable, but they were well drawn and each of the characters was sincere in their beliefs and crafty with their secret keeping. The ending is far from pat and shows the journey each of the women and Connor went on throughout the story. Highly recommend to fans of Christian fiction. Rating: A-

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

What a fun book set in a great location (Santa Barbara)) for a summer read. Robbie is on vacation For her ten year high school reunion and comes across information that her mother, who died of a brain aneurysm, might have been murdered instead. Before she knows it, she’s trying to sort out a feud with a high school nemesis, a toxic chemical, and an old friend trying to get her life together. This has a few twist and turns with no shortage of clues. I liked the ending but kept expecting one more twist that left me feeling a little unsettled. Would definitely recommend. Rating: A

Nacho Average Murder by Maddie Day

What a fun book set in a great location (Santa Barbara)) for a summer read. Robbie is on vacation For her ten year high school reunion and comes across information that her mother, who died of a brain aneurysm, might have been murdered instead. Before she knows it, she’s trying to sort out a feud with a high school nemesis, a toxic chemical, and an old friend trying to get her life together. This has a few twist and turns with no shortage of clues. I liked the ending but kept expecting one more twist that left me feeling a little unsettled. Would definitely recommend. Rating: A-

Thank you to NetGalley providing me with an electronic eview copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

July Reading Challenge Review

As with many plans, my reading challenge choices changed as the month went on. I originally planned on reading Rodham, Hello, Summer, One Perfect Summer, Summer by the Tides, Nacho Average Murder, and Peachy Scream. Rodham is a very long book, and I only had a short hold on it, so I set it aside for The Guest List. I finished Hello, Summer, Summer by the Tides, and Nacho Average Murder. One Perfect Summer is in progress and Peachy Scream will be early on my August reading challenge. (All other books on this list were read in late June.)

Count: Books in Challenge completed: 3; Extra Books completed: 1; Books in progress: 1, Books held over: 1; for a total score of 4/6 for books read in July. August’s challenge (posting tomorrow) includes a higher number of shorter books, but is a bit ambitious. We’ll see how it goes.

How has your summer reading been going? Have you been able to read at a pace that is enjoyable? Any books still on your list that you want to get read before summer officially ends in September? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Weekend Reading 3.13.20

It’s been a busy week here. My kids have been home with one of their friends on Spring Break, and my daughter cheered at the MVC men’s basketball tournament (last of the season; all others were cancelled!) while my husband, son, and his friend attended the games (So close to being champions, Valpo!).

I’ve been getting some freelance queries out and have done some planning for my next big push on my cozy mystery. Also got some good reading done (Recent reads post coming Monday).

Hope you’re all safe and taking precautions in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We’re safe so far here in our little mountain town. While you’re practicing social distancing and staying in more, here are some things to keep your mind occupied. Have a great weekend!

CDC information about symptoms of COVID-19 here. CDC travel recommendations here.

What’s the future of book blogging? This article gives some good insight.

Book Riot’s 15 best online book clubs.

Weird ways to beat writer’s block.

Looking for ways to boost your creativity? Try this article.

I hate being a slow reader and loved this article about how to read faster.

Try these five best budget pens.

Wish you could move the pages around in your writing/reading journal? This magnetic notebook may be for you.

Check out these clever bookish tees and these fun writer tees. This is my fave book tee and my fave writer tee.

I love my morning coffee and especially enjoyed this article about whether your morning cup is good for you.