The Top 10 (or so) Books to Read in Winter

As I write this, it’s about 30 degrees outside my window. I know, I know. Not exactly the frozen tundra, but it’s still cold. The fireplace is kicking out heat and pretty soon I’ll bundle up to take my dog for a walk. She loves the cold–in fact, she’ll lie down on the chilly ground outback and just survey her kingdom for hours.

Today’s weather has me thinking about books set in the wintertime. This weather is perfect for curling up on the sofa and reading. My list isn’t limited to novels; there are books for grown-ups, books for children, and books that combine the best of both worlds.

So without further ado, I present you (in no particular order) with my list for the top 10 books to read during the winter:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that I read this book last year. It was haunting. In the several months that have passed since I finished the novel, I’ve come to regard it even more highly. It’s the story of a couple who are blessed with a magical child in early twentieth-century Alaska. You can read my review here.

 

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

I read this quite some time ago, but it has stayed with me. It’s a beautiful story told, in part, almost like a fairy tale (albeit a very dark fairy tale). It spans decades and has its roots in the starvation of Leningrad. It’s fascinating and spellbinding, and you’ll remember it long after you read it.

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

There’s a reason this book has been read by millions, made into a movie, and spawned countless imitations: it’s really that good. Set in a magical kingdom of eternal winter, it’s the ultimate tale of good versus evil. Younger readers appreciate the action and the family drama that unfolds; adults can appreciate the more subtle messages and dark humor in the story.

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

You know the story: the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on the night before Christmas, prompting Mr. Scrooge to learn a valuable lesson about kindness and generosity. If you’ve never read the original by Dickens himself, do yourself a favor and read it. The language is flowery, much more so than modern novels, but there’s something about reading the words Dickens wrote that makes the story even better.

 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Set in Russia, the coldest of cold places, this book examines the life of Anna, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who refuses to let that be her destiny. As she attempts to build a life with her lover, she faces scorn, ridicule, and social norms that force her to make a devastating choice. Spoiler alert: as with much of Russian literature, this book does not have a happy ending.

 

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Full disclosure: The Long Winter and the rest of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder have been among my favorites since I was old enough to read them. This one is especially exciting because it tells the story of one particularly bad winter in the Dakota Territory, when one blizzard after another culminates in a shortage of food, fodder for the animals, and even firewood. It’s thrilling to read about how the people of the territory managed to survive.

 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

This was one of my favorite books to read to my kids when they were little, but you don’t have to be little to enjoy it. A young girl and her father go owling, hoping to see one of the magnificent creatures swoop by in the moonlit darkness. The illustrations are exquisite and the story is timeless.

 

Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams and Jean Stoick

This book, comprised of gorgeous photographs and simple words, is a love story to nature. There’s a stranger in the woods and the animals need to determine whether the stranger means them harm. Spoiler alert: the stranger brings only good.

 

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

David Sedaris has been called “one of the funniest writers alive” by Economist (because who knows humor better than economists??) and this collection of essays/short stories is an entertaining introduction to Sedaris if you’re not already familiar with his writing. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a Macy’s elf? Check it out.

 

And last, but not least, there is a tie between

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

 

 

and Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M. C. Beaton

 

You knew there was going to be an Agatha on this list, didn’t you? It was a toss-up between Dame Agatha Christie and another Agatha (Agatha Raisin, nosy and forthright brainchild of M. C. Beaton), so I chose to include both.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is classic Hercule Poirot, with the great detective trying to figure out whodunit in the murder of a millionaire businessman. The murdered man is surrounded by enemies on the Orient Express, a luxurious sleeper train that has become stuck in a huge snowdrift, so Poirot has his work cut out for him.

Kissing Christmas Goodbye follows the antics of fireball Agatha Raisin, Cotswolds detective and middle-aged divorcee, as she attempts to curate the perfect Christmas while trying to find the murderer of an elderly widow. M. C. Beaton, who passed away only three weeks ago, is a master at writing cozy mysteries.

What wintertime books do you recommend?

Until next time,

Amy

 

I Need Your Advice!

Some of you may know that I’ve recently joined a book club. I love being part of this group and I’ve enthusiastically embraced the duties of membership (i.e., I have to be ready to discuss each book we read and I’ve agreed to host the club at my house at least once a year–where we discuss the book of my choosing).

So here’s where I need your help. It’ll be my turn to host the book club in March, and I need to be thinking about which book I’m going to choose. I’ve narrowed it down to five books, and I’d like you to vote on which one you think our book club should read (many thanks to blogger and author James J. Cudney for sharing this idea–click on his name to be redirected to his site, which I think you’ll love).

Whichever book you choose, we’ll read. I won’t tell you which one I hope you pick! Scroll down through the choices to the poll at the bottom of the page.

Here are the choices:

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion.

A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trials of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days.”

***

Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.”

***

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened — something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.

Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay — demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy’s daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy’s daughter died covered in someone else’s blood.

A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.”

***

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

***

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything―everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome’s got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy’s not only a book woman, however, she’s also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy’s family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she’s going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere―even back home.”

The poll will close on Monday, January 20, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Until next time,

Amy

 

First Tuesday Recipes of 2020!

Happy New Year! Welcome to another installment of my monthly First Tuesday Recipes series. This month we’re going international. I’ve got an Eastern European comfort food, a French-inspired entrée, and a German side dish.

Let’s get cooking!

***

Chicken Babka

For the dough:

1 1/4 c. flour

1/4 t. salt

1 t. baking powder

1/2 c. solid Crisco (do NOT use butter)

1 egg, beaten

3 T. milk

For the filling:

2 c. cooked chicken breast, chopped

1/2 c. chopped celery

1 T. chopped parsley

1/2 t. salt

1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted and divided (do not substitute another cream soup)

chicken broth

Prepare dough: sift dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in Crisco with two knives until pieces are pea-sized. In a small bowl, combine egg and milk; add to dry ingredients. Toss with a fork until dough holds together. With floured hands, pat dough into a ball. Chill overnight.

Prepare filling: in a large bowl combine chicken, celery, parsley, salt, and 1/2 c. soup.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Assemble: on a floured surface, roll out dough into 16″ by 17″ rectangle. Spread with filling. Roll up lengthwise. Shape roll into a ring and place in a greased 9″ pie pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden.

While babka bakes, in a small saucepan combine remaining soup and chicken broth to make a gravy. The amount of broth you use will depend on how thick you like your gravy. Simmer until heated through. Slice babka and serve with gravy.

***

Chicken Monte Cristo

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 slices deli ham

3 slices Swiss cheese

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1/2 c. seasoned breadcrumbs

Cooking spray

Cherry preserves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Flatten chicken to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Sprinkle each chicken breast with black pepper. Cut each slice of ham and each slice of cheese in half. Place one piece of ham and one piece of cheese on top of each chicken breast. Roll up each breast lengthwise, tuck ends under, and secure with a toothpick.

Dip each chicken roll in egg white, then dredge in breadcrumbs.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray and place the chicken on the sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

Serve with cherry preserves.

***

German Potato Salad

6 medium potatoes

6 slices bacon

1/2 c. chopped onion

2 T. flour

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

1 t. celery seed (key ingredient–no substitutions)

dash pepper

1 c. water

1/2 c. vinegar

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

Cook potatoes until tender. Drain well and slice. Cook bacon until crisp, reserving 1/4 c. drippings. Crumble bacon and set aside.

Cook onion in drippings until tender. Stir in flour, sugar, salt, celery seed, and pepper. Add water and vinegar. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes more; fold in bacon and potato slices. Heat through, tossing lightly. Add egg slices; toss lightly just to mix.

Enjoy!

As always, if you have a recipe you’d like to share, please email me at amymreadeauthor@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to include it in a future post!

Until next time,

Amy

Out with the Old…

As 2019 draws to a close, I’d like to wish everyone a happy and healthy 2020! Normally on the last Tuesday of the month, I like to share what I’ve been reading. I’ll get back to that schedule in January, but today I’m going to share a few of my (many) New Year’s resolutions.

FYI, I have a love-hate relationship with resolutions and there have been years I’ve refused to make any, but this year I’m determined to make them, stick to them, and succeed at them.

First, I am committed to releasing four books in 2020, beginning with Be My Valencrime (Book 4 in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series) and including Ghouls’ Night Out (Book 5 in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series), Dutch Treat (Book 2 in the Libraries of the World Mystery Series), and Cape Island Menace, a tentatively-titled historical mystery set in Cape May, New Jersey. This will be the first book in a new series set in Cape May.

Photo courtesy of pixabay/alexas_fotos

Second, I want to eat a more plant-based diet. My family has done pretty well with eliminating meat for at least one or two meals a week, and I would love to continue the trend and make it three or four meals a week. This only includes dinners, by the way. Breakfast for us is almost always meat-free, and lunches are meat-free about half the time.

This is neither my house nor my backyard. 😉

Third, by the time 2020 is over, I WILL have a plan to landscape my backyard. I may not start the work, but a plan will be in place. More on this later.

***

I would love to read about your resolutions, the goals you’re setting for yourselves, and your reflections of the year that’s coming to an end, so please share in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Amy

The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

Do you have a blog? A website? Please share your links by clicking the link below to help some special animals this holiday season. And many thanks to Hugh Roberts for his generosity.

 

via The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

Author Spotlight: Heather Weidner

Today I welcome Heather Weidner back to Reade and Write. Heather is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries, and she’s here to talk about her new release, Glitter, Glam, and Contraband (book three in the series). If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you may remember Heather from previous posts in which she talked about the book To Fetch a Thief (here) and 50 Shades of Cabernet (here).

Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, Glitter, Glam, and Contraband.

Thank you so much for letting me visit your blog. I’m so excited about the third book in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. In this one, my sassy private investigator is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a local drag show. Delanie gets more than she bargains for and a few makeup tips in the process. She also uses her skills to track down missing reptiles and uncover hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.

 

People who have read the other two books in the Delanie Fitzgerald Mystery series will know Delanie is spunky, smart, and courageous. For readers who aren’t familiar with the series, can you give a quick synopsis of each book?

In Secret Lives and Private Eyes, we meet Delanie and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, and his sidekick, Margaret the Wonder Dog. Delanie is hired by a tell-all author to locate eighties rock star, Johnny Velvet, whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago. And as though sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed, strip club owner, also hires Delanie to uncover information about the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz, is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out why landscaper Tripp Payne, keeps popping up in her other investigation.

The Tulip Shirt Murders is the second in the series, and Delanie and Duncan are hired by a music producer to find out who is bootlegging his artists’ CDs. Delanie uncovers more than just copyright thieves. And if chasing bootleggers isn’t bad enough, local strip club owner and resident sleaze, Chaz Smith, pops back into Delanie’s life with more requests. The police have their man in a gruesome murder, but the loud-mouthed strip club owner thinks there is more to the open and shut case. Delanie and Duncan link a series of killings with no common threads.

Pick one character from Glitter, Glam, and Contraband and tell us more about him or her—preferably something that’s not in the book!

In this mystery, Delanie is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a drag show in Richmond, VA. I had so much fun with the characters. Three of my writing friends planned a field trip, and we went to Godfrey’s in downtown Richmond for research. The queens found out that we were mystery writers, and they provided all kinds of anecdotes and ideas. The research and the brunch were so much fun.

 

I think my favorite new character is Tara Byte, computer application manager by day and glamorous entertainer by night. I enjoyed all the research for this part of the book, and it was so much fun to come up with these over the top characters and their names. My favorites are Ginger Snap, Paige Turner, the naughty librarian, and Nova Cain, the nurse.

What was the hardest thing about writing Glitter, Glam, and Contraband?

This is the third book in the series. I love the reoccurring characters. I want to make sure that I balance keeping the characters familiar and giving them an opportunity to grow. There is always that tight rope walk with keeping the characters as readers know them but giving them the chance to explore new things as life changes.

When I read the second book in the series, The Tulip Shirt Murders, I was impressed by your knowledge and/or research of roller derby! Is there anything surprising in this book that compares? Was it something you already knew about or something you had to research?

I do a lot of research. My Google history is frightening. Lately, it includes links to stolen art, knives, lidar radar guns, reptiles, and drag queen blog posts. I’m an 80s girl, and pop culture has always been a big part of my life. I can’t help but incorporate it in my writing. This book has makeup tips from the queens, some creepy reptiles (that research gave me the willies), and some stolen historical artifacts with a Poe connection.

What’s next for you?

I am working on a cozy series set in the mountains near Charlottesville, VA. I also write novellas that are part of the Mutt Mystery (dog-themed) series. My story, “The Fast and the Furriest” comes out in March.

What’s your favorite way to promote your books?

It’s hard to narrow that down. I am a huge consumer of social media. I love chatting and sharing books and mysteries with readers and talking with other writers. I really enjoy in-person events too. That gives me a chance to go to different places and meet readers.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?

I love researching, planning, and writing. It is so much fun. My least favorite part is the revising. It’s key to the whole process, but to me it’s not as fun as the creative part.

Falcon Investigations, Delanie’s private investigation firm, is located in Richmond, Virginia, correct? I know you are well-acquainted with Richmond, so tell me this: did you make up locations in your story, take liberties with locations that already exist, or stick very close to the real thing?

I write where I know. I’m a Virginia girl who grew up in Virginia Beach, and we relocated to Central Virginia in the nineties. I include a lot of real places in my books and stories. In Glitter, Glam, and Contraband, readers will recognize many Richmond locales like VCU, the Poe Museum, the Library of Virginia, Short Pump, and the Valentine Museum. For crime locations, I make up those places and establishments. Virginia has so much to offer with its history, culture, and tourist attractions.

Now for some fun rapid-fire questions:

Coffee, tea, or some other beverage? Iced Tea or Dr. Pepper

Early bird, night owl, or something in between? Very early bird

Snacks: sweet or salty? Anything chocolate

Favorite season? It used to be summer, but now it’s fall. I love the cooler temperatures and the colors, especially after a sticky, southern summer.

Favorite color? Red

Where can readers find your books?

They can find them at their favorite retailer.

Amazon

Apple Books

Barnes and Noble

BookBub

Kobo

Scribd

Where can readers find you online?

Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherWeidner1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherWeidnerAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heather_mystery_writer/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121854.Heather_Weidner

Amazon Authors: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/HeatherBWeidner/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-weidner-0064b233/?trk=hp-identity-name

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-weidner

AllAuthor: https://allauthor.com/author/heatherweidner/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyBjyB0zz-M1DaM-rU1bXGA?view_as=subscriber

Biography

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband is Heather Weidner’s third novel in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm. Her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan University and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.

Synopsis of Glitter, Glam, and Contraband

Private investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in Glitter, Glam and Contraband. In this fast-paced mystery, the Falcon Investigations team is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a local drag show. Delanie gets more than she bargains for and a few makeup tips in the process. Meanwhile, a mysterious sound in the ceiling of her office vexes Delanie. She uses her sleuthing skills to track down the source and uncover a creepy contraband operation.

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband features a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations like helping sleezy strip club owner, Chaz Smith on his quest to become Richmond’s next mayor, tracking down missing reptiles, and uncovering hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.

 ISBNs

Paperback: 978-0-9994598-3-6

Ebook: ISBN: 978-0-9994598-4-3

 

Until next time,

Amy