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

Weekend Reading 7.17.2020

How has your week been? I’ve been busy getting my house in order as we have company coming this weekend. And I’ve been doing a TON of reading. I’m working my way through our July Reading Challenge (two down, four to go) and continuously adding more to my TBR. Latest addition is Miracle Creek, which came out awhile back but never made it on my list.

WEEKEND ROUNDUP 7.17.20

A sad loss for the children’s book world. Joanna Cole, the author of the Magic School Bus series has died. Read here about her legacy.

Miss traveling? Here’s a list of great travel memoirs to take you around the world from the comfort of your own couch.

Try these literary board games to keep you busy during quarantine.

Penguin/Random House has a great interview with Elizabeth Gilbert.

Check out this preview of former Jeopardy host Alex Trebek’s memoir. Comes out July 21st.

Just discovered RedBubble for bookish gifts. They even have bookish shower curtains here and a great selection of canvas prints here.

Oprah’s list of black authors to read this year.

Book lover boxes delivered to your door? Yes, please! . Here’s a round up of some of the most popular.

Summertime is a fun time to wear anklets. Check out these cool choices on Etsy, including a cute cookbook anklet.

I have an eye on this hammock for my backyard reading.

We’re having a beautiful summer here in the mountains. I’m sneaking in reading time as I work on my mystery novel, try to add yoga to my daily routine, and work on training our new dog, Zoe. Hope you’re able to have some (safe, healthy) fun despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Happy reading!

–Amy