Reading Round-Up: January 2021

It’s a brand new year and I’ve promised myself to read 61 books in 2021. If you’re part of Goodreads, have you signed up for the 2021 Reading Challenge? If you’re not part of Goodreads, hop on over to goodreads.com, sign up, and join the challenge! There are no winners or losers—just people who love to read.

Christmas Cow Bells

Christmas Cow Bells (A Buttermilk Creek Mystery Book 1) by [Mollie Cox Bryan]

I was so happy to start off the year with a five-star read by Mollie Cox Bryan. What a great way to end the holidays and kick off 2021! Christmas Cow Bells (a Buttermilk Creek Mystery #1) is the terrific tale of a dairy farmer who has recently moved to a small town in Virginia to live and build her cheesemaking business. With a staff of three lovable cows, Brynn is determined to make a success of her cheeses and her involvement with the local CSA (community-supported agriculture) members to bring a healthy organic and agricultural revitalization to the area. But there are members of the community who prefer to dwell in the past…can they make enough trouble to force Brynn to up and move? Are they willing to resort to murder to do it? You’ll have to find out for yourself in this wonderful Christmas mystery. Read my review here.

***

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain by [Elaine Faber]

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain, by Elaine Faber (see her guest post from last week here), is a page-turning read that I found most interesting because it’s a story I could see happening in real life (with the possible exception of the paranormal element, which Ms. Faber handles extremely well). I figured out whodunit (at least for one of the crimes), but still enjoyed going along for the ride as the main characters figured it out, too. You can read my review here.

***

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet by [Sally Cronin]

I read Sally Cronin’s blog frequently and I find that the array of topics she covers is mind-boggling. She has interests in everything from music to nutrition to travel to holiday customs to…you name it. I have found that her writing style is easy to read and fun-loving—it’s just like you’re having a conversation with her over a cup of tea in the back garden. That’s why I knew I would enjoy Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, and Ms. Cronin didn’t disappoint. I didn’t just enjoy it—I devoured it. The book is comprised of poignant short stories and beautiful, descriptive poetry. You can read my review here; I’m excited that Sally will be on the blog to discuss the book in February.

***

The Art of War

The Art of War illustrated by [Sun Tzu, Lionel Giles]

This book, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, was written in the sixth-century B.C. and has been read by countless military leaders, business leaders, politicians, and regular people down through the centuries. Though is may have been written as a military treatise, approaching its lessons with an open mind proves that it holds relevance today in situations we all face. It proves to me that people twenty-six centuries ago are not all that different from people today. We may look different and act differently, but our hearts remain the same. Read my review here.

What have you been reading?

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: December Edition

It’s almost 2021! This is my last reading round-up for 2020, and pretty soon this year will be just a memory. Though 2020 brought lots of changes and more than a few blessings to my family, I know that’s not the case for millions of people all over the world.

Reading has always been a great escape, and my belief is that books have been more important than ever during the past nine tumultuous months. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews and that you’ve been inspired to read and review a few books of your own. I look forward to continuing my reviews in 2021 and I hope you’ll join me.

***

A Noël Killing (A Provençal Mystery Book 8) by [M. L. Longworth]

The first book I read this month was A Noël Killing by M.L. Longworth. I was looking for a Christmas mystery, and though I hadn’t read the first 7 books in the Provençal Mystery Series, I took a chance on this one. I enjoyed it. It’s a traditional mystery, as opposed to a cozy mystery or a thriller, and the setting in the south of France made it feel exotic. You can read my four-star review here.

***

The Getaway: A Magical Christmas Story by [Bibiana Krall]

Next up was The Getaway: A Short Read Christmas Romance by Bibiana Krall. If you know someone with a humbuggy heart this year, give them this book to read. If it doesn’t bring a smile to their face, nothing will. It’s a quick read (as the title suggests), it’s got everything I look for in a Christmas story, and it wraps up with a note from the author that makes the tale even more endearing. Read my review here.

***

Two books down, five to go in the Harry Potter series! Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a great read, and my husband grabbed it up as soon as I finished it. There was really only one thing I didn’t understand in the story, and that was the presence of one particular character. But as I say in my very short review, that really didn’t matter, because the book was a treat to read. Why did I wait so long to start this series?? Read my review here.

***

Mistletoe and Mayhem: Yuletide at Castlewood Manor by [Veronica Cline Barton]

Mistletoe and Mayhem: Yuletide at Castlewood Manor, Book 4 in the My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series by Veronica Cline Barton, was a fun Christmas read that I devoured in a few hours. If you are a royal watcher and you like cozy mysteries, this is one for you. Read my review here.

***

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding: A Hercule Poirot Short Story (Hercule Poirot Series Book 33) by [Agatha Christie]

It seems there are two versions of Agatha Christie’s Christmas short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, a shorter one and a longer one, and I have to say I don’t know which one I read. Whichever one it was, it was throroughly enjoyable. I love a good Hercule Poirot mystery, and this one was fun. Poirot is hired to (discreetly, as always) spend Christmas at an English manor house where he hopes to recover a ruby that was stolen from a prince who had placed himself in a, ahem, compromising situation. What ensues is a mystery that is finally solved after a key clue is found in the Christmas pudding. Read my review here.

***

Menace at the Christmas Market: An English Village Murder Mystery (Murder on Location Book 5) by [Sara Rosett]

Menace at the Christmas Market by Sara Rosett was a great short mystery. Though it’s not the first book in the Murder on Location series, I found that it was easy to follow. I was brought up to speed instantly with the main character and her job as a location scout in England for a Jane Austen documentary series (I want that job!) and her relationship with Alex, another recurring character in the series. This is a quick read that has all the satisfying elements of a longer novel—murder, red herrings, and a great setting. Highly recommend! Read my review here.

***

A LITTLE TASTE OF MURDER: A Brightwater Bay Cozy Mystery (book 1) (Brightwater Bay Cozy Mysteries) by [Carolyn L. Dean]

This was the 60th book I read this year, and my goal was to read 59 books. So…mission accomplished! And bonus—it was a great book AND the first in a series! A Little Taste of Murder by Carolyn L. Dean was an intriguing Christmas mystery with a gorgeous setting (the Pacific Northwest), wonderful and well-drawn characters, and some engaging red herrings. I didn’t figure out whodunit, and I love that in a mystery. Read my review here and put this on your TBR list if you love a good cozy!

That’s all, folks! Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: October Edition

It’s been another great month of reading! I hope you’ll take a look at the titles I share this month and add your own to the comments.

***

Murder on Astor Place: A Gaslight Mystery

The first book I finished this month was Murder on Astor Place, Book 1 in the Gaslight Mystery Series by Victoria Thompson. This is an historical mystery set in New York City around the turn of the twentieth century and features main character Sarah Brandt, ex-socialite-turned-midwife who is compelled to help solve the mystery of a young woman’s death shortly after meeting the girl under stressful circumstances. I am going to read every one of the Gaslight Mysteries! Read my review here.

***

Alice by [Bibiana Krall]

Next up was Alice by Bibibana Krall. If you receive my newsletter, you may remember that Bibiana is one of the authors who makes up the BookEm YouTube team, of which I am a part. With that being said, Bibiana writes paranormal stories in a way that makes me feel like I’m right there, watching the scenes unfold in front of me. Read my review of this remarkable paranormal tale here.

***

The Woman in Black (The Susan Hill Collection)

If you like ghost stories, this one is for you. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill was apparently made into a movie some years ago, but I had not heard of it until just last week. I read this story with nary a care for food, drink, or sleep, much like the main character, Arthur. This tale will give you the chicken skin and make you reconsider going outside at night. I highly recommend this for lovers of all things scary. Read my review here.

***

And next was something a little different (actually, very different). For my book club this month, we read A Walk on the Beach by Joan Anderson. Written as an ode to the author’s friendship with a remarkable woman she met on Cape Cod one fateful autumn, this is a beautiful tale of wisdom, zest for life, and the importance of being active and engaged. I gave this book five bright stars. Read my review here.

***

The Guest List: A Novel by [Lucy Foley]

I was intrigued by Lucy Foley’s The Guest List because of a blurb I read about it some months ago, and I found it to be a thrilling look at some of the secrets people keep and the things that drive them to commit unspeakable acts. With that being said, I would only recommend this book to someone who doesn’t mind a close-up look at those unspeakable acts, because some of them are pretty gritty and nauseating. Read my review here.

***

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson was the October choice for one of my book clubs. As I write this post, I haven’t yet attended the discussion, but I think it’s good to reflect on the book before listening to the opinions of others. So my review of this book about white Americans and their relationships with and to Americans of African descent is here and I hope you’ll take a minute to read it. This is a hugely important book on an even more important topic, and I think everyone should read it. It’s scholarly enough for high school and college students, yet written in a style that’s easy enough for everyone else to read.

***

You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by [Michael Ian Black]

I had so many mixed feelings about this book, and in the end I gave it three stars and would not recommend it. The author, who is a comedian and actor, was new to me. His brutal and (admittedly, sometimes very funny) shameless honesty was really something to behold, and his obsession with sex and genitalia were off-putting, at best (he seemed never to have gotten beyond adolescence). And let me just say that if my husband ever talked about me the way Black talks about his wife, I’d give him the boot. Read my review here.

***

So what have you all been reading? Care to share?

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: September Edition

This was another great month for great books! I’ve got seven to share with you this week, and I’m well into the first book that I’ll share with you at the end of October.

I hope you’ll share your own reads in the comments below!

The first book of the month was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I wish I had read this book when it was first published in 2008. There’s more wisdom and inspiration packed into this this volume than I would have thought possible. Randy Pausch gave his last lecture shortly before he passed away from pancreatic cancer, and this book was his gift to his children. I think it should be required reading for college students—and everyone else. Fair warning: it’s a tear-jerker. Read my review here.

 

Lou's Tattoos: A Comedy of Errors by [Iris Chacon]

I knew I would enjoy Lou’s Tattoos, A Comedy of Errors by Iris Chacon before the first page. I’ve loved every book I’ve read by Iris Chacon. Her characters are well-drawn and quirky, her scenarios are delightfully far-fetched yet plausible, and they are just so much fun to read. I read this in one sitting, as I recall I did with the last book I read by her…it seems to be a habit of mine when I read her books. Read my review here.

 

The Lions of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by [Fiona Davis]

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis is a book that will have library and architecture lovers swooning at the descriptions of the New York Public Library in the early twentieth century. The book slides between 1913 (and a few years afterward) and the late 1990s, and I enjoyed the different points of view. Read my review here.

 

Very British Problems Abroad

You may recall that I read Very British Problems by Rob Temple back in January (you can read the post here). And while Very British Problems Abroad wasn’t quite as funny as the first book, it was still quite an enjoyable read. My review can be found here.

 

The Innocents (The Innocents Mystery Series Book 1) by [C. A. Asbrey]

The Innocents by C.A. Asbrey was the kind of book I’d love to read again because I enjoyed it that much. It was fun, there were some laugh-out-loud moments, it was exciting, and I loved that the main characters were so taken with each other, though on different sides of the law. I highly recommend this one. Read my review here.

 

Florence Adler Swims Forever: A Novel by [Rachel Beanland]

Next up was the book club read you all chose! Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland was a fascinating read, made even more interesting for me and, I suspect, the people in my book club, because we live so close to Atlantic City, where the story takes place in the 1930s. To recap the plot if you don’t recall, it’s the story of a young woman who drowns off the coast of Atlantic City and the decision by her mother to keep her death a secret from the young woman’s sister, who is in the hospital on strict bed rest for a high-risk pregnancy. You all did a great job picking this book! Read my review here

 

Hearth Fires (The Haunted Book 1) by [Bibiana Krall, Veronica Cline Barton]

Hearth Fires, Book 1 in The Haunted series, is a collection of short stories by Bibiana Krall and Veronica Cline Barton. Full disclosure, these are the two terrific ladies with whom I share the BookEm show on YouTube. I love their writing styles, which are very different from each other, and this book was a fun way to get into the spirit of Halloween. With their Ouija board themes, these stories are spooky, dark, and atmospheric. Read my review here

So what have you been reading?

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: August Edition

For the entire month of August, I’ve been thinking that the last Tuesday was actually next week. Imagine my shock when I learned it’s today. Luckily, over the past month I’ve been working on this post each time I finish a book, rather than waiting until the day before the last Tuesday and then writing the whole thing.

Anyway, August was a good month for reading! I’ve finished seven books since my last Reading Round-Up, and it’s an even more eclectic bunch than last month. Let’s get started!

 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. I read this for my book club, and if it hadn’t been assigned, I might not have chosen to read it. I think World War II stories are important, but I have to read them really far apart from each other or I just find them too overwhelming.

Let me start by saying this book is very closely based on a true story, which I find absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it, but only before and after you’ve read something very light-hearted. If you’re looking for a happy book, this isn’t the one for you. It takes a lot to get me to cry while I’m reading, and this reduced me to a puddle. Read my review here.

***

Dead Man’s Prayer: A gripping detective thriller with a killer twist (DI Frank Farrell, Book 1) by [Jackie Baldwin]

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin. I first heard about this book, the first in the DI Frank Farrell series, on Twitter when I started following author Jackie Baldwin. I was intrigued at first because I love books set in Scotland, but once I started reading the intrigue factor jumped into the stratosphere and I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. Are you looking for a thriller that will leave you breathless? You’ve come to the right place. Read my review here.

***

Out of the Woods by Patricia Gligor. This is the third book in the Small Town Mystery Series. In this book, Kate Morgan confronts the man who left her, a pregnant teenager, eleven years ago. For the sake of their daughter, she tries to make the best of the situation, but his return causes some problems, not the least of which is the reaction of her fiance. And when questions arise about the man’s possible involvement in a number of horrifying home invasions, what will she tell her daughter?

This is a great book and although it’s classified as a mystery, it crosses genres into women’s fiction, family drama, and suspense. It’s got it all. Read my review here.

***

Sea Wife: A novel by [Amity Gaige]

I really looked forward to reading Sea Wife by Amity Gaige. Billed as psychological suspense, it’s the story of a family (husband, wife, two young children) who leave their lives behind for a year and sail around the Caribbean. Unfortunately, it’s all psychological and no suspense. The main character, Juliet, suffers from depression and, it would appear, anxiety, and the story ends up being a morose tale of a marriage that has gone stale and the disturbing thoughts of a woman who doesn’t think she was ever meant to be a mother. I gave the book 3 stars and you can read my review hereAs I noted last month when I shared a book I didn’t really like, don’t let my review put you off from reading the book. There are plenty of glowing reviews for this work of literary fiction.

***

The Orchardist: A Novel by [Amanda Coplin]

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin was a book club pick. I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t like it. It was depressing, entirely bereft of any semblance of happiness for any of the characters, and looooong. As in, almost 600 pages. The book spans many years, and I often felt like I was reading it in real time. On the other hand, in taking a look at the many reviews this book has garnered, I am clearly in the minority. There are lots of people who think this book is beautiful, moving, and melancholy in a good way. It’s just not my cup of tea. I think it’s because I like my reads to have at least a little bit of action and some character growth, and I saw almost none of that in this book. If you like a character-driven story, this might be for you. Read my full review here.

***

Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a work of art. I listened to this memoir on CD, and hearing the book read by the author was a great experience. This is the first time I’ve heard a book (at least, not a children’s book) read by the author and though I have my doubts about fiction writers voicing their own work, for a memoir it was a wise choise. Read my review here.

***

The Jane Austen Society: A Novel by [Natalie Jenner]

This book has been on my radar for a while, and I was eager to read it. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner doesn’t disappoint. Read my review here.

What have you read this month? I hope you’ll share your reads in the comments.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

Reading Round-Up: July Edition

I’m pleased to say that I was able to read a variety of genres in July, and the three books I’m reading now, which will be in next month’s Reading Round-Up, just add to that diversity. Even though a couple of the books are out my preferred genres, I’m glad I read them. Which leads me to ask: how often do you deviate from the genres you most enjoy? Do you think it’s important to do that or not?

***

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

First up was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is one of those outside-my-normal-comfort-zone books, and wow. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. The book was a selection for my book club (which I actually forgot to attend), and I’m so sorry I missed the discussion, because I had really looked forward to it. Read my review here and please ignore the typos. 🙂

***

The Man from the Train: Discovering America's Most Elusive Serial Killer

I was really excited to read The Man from the Train by Bill James. Here’s the premise: there was a serial killer stalking families that were living near railroads across the United States in the early twentieth century. The author, a well-known baseball statistician, makes the tantalizing claim that he knows who the killer was. This book presents the evidence in support of and against his theory. I thought this was going to be a fascinating book leading to a dramatic unveiling of the killer. Parts of it were fascinating, yes, but the unveiling of the killer wasn’t as climactic as I thought it would be. In the end, I gave this book 3 stars because of the way it was presented, the author’s use of language, and a “subplot” that added nothing to the book. Read my review here

Please note that I had to think long and hard about whether to include this book in my post. My policy is to post a review of any book that I would rate 3 or more stars, so I included this in keeping with that policy. As many of you know, I almost always love the books I read. I was disappointed in this one, but that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t love it. Indeed, this book has plenty of 5-star reviews online.

***

The Crown for Castlewood Manor (My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series Book 1)

Moving right along, next I read The Crown for Castlewood Manor, the first book in the My American Almost-Royal Cousin series by Veronica Cline Barton. What a treat! If you like cozy mysteries set in the English countryside with manor drama, murder, and parties fit for royalty, you’ll love this book. Check out my 5-star review here.

***

The Silver Dollar Connetion: A Sandi Webster Mystery (The Sandi Webster Mysteries Book 13) by [Marja McGraw]

Last, but certainly not least, I read The Silver Dollar Connection by Marja McGraw. As I’ve noted before, Marja McGraw is on my auto-buy list because I love everything she writes, and this book didn’t disappoint. It’s the latest installment of the Sandi Webster mysteries, and in this one Sandi and her husband, Pete, are asked to help an older PI (Rocky) who has some serious family issues going on. His estranged son is being threatened and doesn’t even know it, and things are about to take a turn for the worse. But it’s not just a mystery you’ll find in this book. You’ll also find characters who are dealing with friendship, mental health issues (including PTSD), aging, and isolation. You’ll find my review here.

***

That’s my list for this month. Care to share what you’ve been reading?

Until next time,

Amy

 

Reading Round-Up: February Edition

This is a short month, even with the extra day, and my reading list reflects that. I’ve only finished three books since my last update, so this will be a quick post.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

This is the one my book club is reading, thanks to everyone who voted in my recent poll. We meet on March 1st, so we haven’t discussed the book yet. But I loved it and I’m eager to talk about it with the group. Here’s my review:

“There is so much to love about this book, even with the heartbreak that runs through it like a river. Cussy Mary, the main character, is as strong a woman as I’ve seen in a novel, and her determination to bring books and learning to the hill folk of rural Kentucky is inspiring. The Book Woman is a beautiful tribute to the Pack Horse librarians of the WPA and to the ‘blue people’ who lived in Kentucky.

This book taught me a lot about the Depression-era sacrifice and the hardscrabble lives of the people in that unforgiving land, and I am happy to recommend it to anyone who loves books and libraries, anyone hoping to learn more about a group of people that I hadn’t heard of until I started reading the book, and anyone who loves a great story.”

***

Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries Cookbook

Author Jenny Kales will be here in April to talk about this fabulous cookbook, and I couldn’t wait until then to read it. I’m going to make one of the recipes in it this week for my family, so I’ll be able to report back to you in April. Here’s my review:

“I am going to make every single recipe in this book. I can’t wait to get started! The Greek recipes sound fabulous and the Greek-inspired tweaks to Midwestern American foods are just that–inspired! This book is a great addition to any cook’s repertoire.”

***

Under the Tuscan Sun

It took me almost a month to read this book and I will confess, I didn’t review it on Goodreads or Amazon because I just couldn’t give it a review of three stars or more. I finished it because by the time I got halfway through it, it had become a challenge and I’m no quitter.

The book is comprised of the musings of a professor from San Francisco who bought an old house in Tuscany and spends summers and winter breaks there. I found the writing pretentious. It tried way too hard to be poetic and it ended up sounding corny and off-putting. If the author implied one more time that she came from wealth by mentioning the cook her family had when she was young, I would have screamed. What could have been a fun story about the pitfalls of restoring an old house in a faraway land turned into a collection of so many lists of things to be done and excruciating details of some of the more expensive renovations.

The book did, on the other hand, encourage me to put Italy on my bucket list. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I would like to visit Tuscany someday.

If you have read the book, please let me know what you thought of it. I am definitely in the minority of people who didn’t like it.

What have you been reading this month?

Until next time,

Amy

Book Club Winner and Reading Round-Up for January

The votes are in! Thanks to everyone who participated. The book my book club will be reading is…

The winner took 31%, followed by Woman Enters Left and Mystic River, each of which took 24% of the vote. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker came in at 14%, and Between the World and Me brought up the rear at 7% of the vote.

Now, on to my January Reading Round-Up. January got off to a slow start with reading, but I managed to pick up the pace for the second half of the month.

***

First up was The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“If I had read this book 120 years ago, I would have liked it more. The story itself was intriguing and had a wonderful Gothic feel to it, but the endless exposition and introspection made me put the book down countless times out of sheer boredom.

With that being said, the book is considered a classic by many. It was revolutionary at the time of its publication, so I can understand why it was eventually labelled that way. But this is the 21st century and I believe there are other books out there more worthy of being read widely–books that aren’t based in bigotry and cultural misunderstanding.

If anything, this is a good book to read to marvel at how far we’ve come as a society. And I’m glad for it.”

***

The second book I finished was The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves a great story. Here’s my review:

“I just finished reading this book and although I haven’t had time to fully process it, I couldn’t wait to write a review.

I loved The Yellow House. It was heart-wrenching, joyful, tear-jerking, infuriating–I got all the feels when I read it. The main character is a flawed woman with a staggering amount of anger inside her that has built up over years of brutal struggle. Her family is torn apart by religious violence, grief, and secrets. How she manages to hold onto her dream of returning to The Yellow House is testament to her warrior will.

There were a couple parts of the book where I felt Owen’s actions didn’t make sense, but I don’t want to spoil anything by mentioning them. You have to read this book for yourself.”

***

 

Next up was The Winters by Lisa Gabriele, an homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I LOVE the story of Rebecca and I was reluctant to read another writer’s riff on it. But I was pleased with how this author created an updated story that carried much of the same Gothic-style suspense that readers love in the original. Here’s my review:

“This was a really interesting take on the classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. In this version, you’ll find the unnamed main character, Max, a cast of other characters akin to those in Rebecca, and a magnificent home secluded from prying eyes. The book even starts with a reference to a dream.

The story held my interest, and the pacing was excellent. The main character had just the right mix of naivete, courage, and compassion, and her personality was a perfect foil for the other characters.

If you liked Rebecca, I think you’ll like this updated version.”

***

I chose my next read, Very British Problems by Rob Temple, because I needed something light. And I was not disappointed. Here’s my review:

“If you’re British, know anyone who’s British, have ever visited England, want to visit England, are an Anglophile, are a non-British introvert, or just love funny books, find a copy of Very British Problems and find a place to read where your laughing out loud will not disturb anyone.

This book is chock-full of hilarious little bits of wisdom that will help you determine whether you have a mild, moderate, or severe case of being Very British. It’s a love letter to the quirks that one finds in Britain, and it’s done in a way that’s…sorry…apologetic and tongue-in-cheek.

There are quite a few repeats from the author’s Twitter feed, or else I would give this book 5 stars. But it’s definitely worth a read if you’re looking for something light and fun.”

***

And continuing with my love for all things British, I next read Eating Royally by Chef Darren McGrady. Here’s my review:

“This is a gorgeous book, filled with recipes that Chef McGrady cooked for England’s royal family over the years of his employment for them and with anecdotes of the royal family. He later became private chef for the late Princess Diana, so the latter part of the book mostly talks about her and what it was like to work for her.

The photography in the book is exquisite. Not just the food, but the castles and the areas surrounding the royal residences.

I’m eager to try many of the recipes, though some are not to my liking. There are plenty of dessert and main dish recipes.

I do wish the author had shared an anecdote for every recipe. He shares stories for many of them, so when he left out the stories for quite a few, I was disappointed. It’s fun to know how the recipe came about, for whom he cooked it, and what people may have said about it at the time.

I highly recommend the book to avid cookbook collectors and fans of English food.”

***

The last book I finished in January was The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath. Here’s my review:

“The premise of this book reminded me very much of the Kitty Genovese story every Psych 101 student learns, but the author took the psychological question in a different direction. This is the story of four friends who did nothing to help a woman they witnessed being brutalized. The reader learns what happens to their own psyches as a result of the attack and their failure to help the victim.

The story is told from different points of view in the third person, so that was interesting. The author addressed some very intriguing moral questions and it really got me thinking.

This book is not for the faint of heart. There’s some kinky activity that’s discussed frequently in the book and some readers may find it offensive.”

***

I hope you’ll take a moment to share in the comments what you’ve been reading this month.

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: November Edition

This will be a short post for two reasons: first, I didn’t get much reading done this month because I’ve been so busy working on Be My Valencrime, and second, because it’s Thanksgiving week in the United States and people are too harried to read long posts over the next few days. 🙂

***

The first book I finished in November was The Death of Mrs. Westaway (Ruth Ware) which I’d wanted to read since it was released in May, 2018. It has a Gothic-y cover and a creepy housekeeper and a forbidding mansion on a neglected estate, so I figured it was right up my alley. I didn’t think it lived up to its hype, but I enjoyed it. Here’s my review:

“I enjoyed this story, with its creepy old house, its Mrs.-Danvers-like housekeeper, and its twists and turns. I didn’t give it five stars because I felt the mystery was a little forced and contrived in some places.”

***

You know I love cookbooks. And I LOVE eggs. So when I saw Sunny-Side Up by Waylynn Lucas on the New Releases shelf at the library, I knew I had to read it. It has some great recipes, and there are tutorials on how to make a perfect egg, which I actually found enlightening. I tried the author’s trick of making creamy scrambled eggs by adding a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese to them, and the results were delicious! Here’s my review:

“This book has some unique recipes using eggs, but I was hoping for a little more oomph in the savory department and a little less oomph in the pancakes/waffles department. I’m looking forward to trying many of the recipes. Gorgeous photos.”

***

Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World by Admiral William McRaven (Ret.) is another book I’ve wanted to read since it came out in 2017 and I heard about it on a news program. The book was smaller and shorter than I expected, making it a quick read that it completely satisfying. Here’s my review:

“I loved this little book. I don’t normally read inspirational stuff, but this one was full of stories about perseverance, heart, and courage. I highly recommend it.”

***

And last, but certainly not least, was Still Life by Louise Penny. This author has won award after award for her writing, and I’m embarrassed to say I had never read anything written by her. A friend gave me a copy of Penny’s first Inspector Gamache book and I’m so glad she did. Though I didn’t enjoy the first 50 pages or so, I found the rest of the book riveting and I’m glad I pushed through the beginning to reach the middle. Here’s my review:

“I enjoyed this book, the first in a series. I had a tough time with about the first 50 pages, but I’m glad I stuck with it because Inspector Gamache is a delight. I hope to see Agent Nichol in upcoming books, and I hope she learns some lessons about knowing when to keep her mouth shut. She was a great character–complex and compelling, yet aggravating in a good, literary way. I would love to visit Three Pines!”

***

What have you been reading? Share your recent reads in the comments!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Amy

 

Reading Round-Up: October Edition

It’s been a couple weeks since I spoke to you last because I’ve had some major problems accessing this blog. But thanks to my son and my husband, I finally got back into it so I can keep posting.

I read some great books since my last Round-Up, and a few of them were perfect for spooky Halloween reading! Let’s start at the beginning.

***

First up was Summoning the Winds by Cynthia Raleigh. This story, about a witch living in a Connecticut village early in colonial times, was a page-turner. Here’s the review I posted on Goodreads and Amazon:

“I think this is the first book I’ve ever read about witches (Hamlet doesn’t count). And I LOVED it. The research, the pacing, the writing, the twists and turns–all of it was masterful and fascinating. The author takes the notion of witch trials and turns it on its head with this tale of a real witch in colonial Connecticut.
Yarrow, the main character and a young adult orphan, is spunky and smart, and she uses her quick wit to advantage when danger threatens her and her sister. The story delves into the murky world of spells and hexes, and the author describes sorcery in a way that makes it both believable and understandable. You can feel the storms conjured by the witch, and you can see her when…well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out for yourself.”

***

Switching gears, the next book I read was The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Here’s my review of the classic noir mystery:

“I’ve been wanting to read this classic detective novel for a long time, and it didn’t disappoint. The societal attitudes evident from the text are definitely out of date, but the story itself is a primer in how to write great detective fiction with a message. The characters were well-drawn and Sam Spade is a highly-flawed main character. You can’t help rooting for him, though, because he’s on side of justice (even if his method of reaching it is slightly Machiavellian).”

***

A different type of mystery, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary by Elaine Faber was an enjoyable story that took me into a sub-genre I don’t normally read. Let me explain via my review.

“This is the fourth book in the Black Cat series. I have never read a book where the reader is given access to the thoughts and words passing between two felines, but I found the idea really intriguing. These particular felines become the catalyst (see what I did there? Catalyst? Haha!) for Kimberlee, a bookshop owner, to take a second look at a diary she receives one day in a shipment of books. The diary belonged to a WWII American soldier, and as its story unfolds, Kimberlee learns of a possible treasure and a long-lost frienship. But there’s more to Black Cat’s story than the diary–there’s present-day vandalism, possible murder charges for someone close to the kitties, and a dispute about the ownership of a valuable property.

I would recommend this mystery to anyone who loves cats and anyone looking for a clean story with plenty of twists. One note–I wished I had read the other three books in the Black Cat series before beginning with this one because I missed some of the history that had passed in Black Cat’s feline and people families. I recommend starting with Book One, Black Cat’s Legacy.”

***

Next up: another cat book, Molly Finds Her Purr by Pamela Wight. This story may look and read like a children’s book, but the message in it is ageless and timeless. With beautiful illustrations by Shelley A. Steinle and Wight’s lyrical language, this book was one that would be perfect for a baby shower gift. Or a baby gift. Or any gift. Here’s my review:

“A beautiful book with a beautiful lesson for both kids and adults. When Molly can’t find her purr, she goes in search of a friend who can help her. After she is turned away by another cat, a small dog, and a group of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks, she finally finds a friend to listen to her. That friend invites other friends, who… Well, you’ll just have to read the book to discover the lovely ending for yourself.”

***


And then for something completely different, I read No Friend but the Mountains by Behrooz Boochani. A Kurdish-Iranian journalist, Boochani fled the fighting in the Middle East and ended up as a refugee in Australia, whereupon he was sent to Manus Prison with a large number of other male refugees. If you’ve never heard of Manus Prison, it’s a hell on earth on the island of Papua New Guinea. It is notorious for maltreatment of refugees and harsh, practically unlive-able, conditions. The author wrote the book in a series of encrypted WhatsApp messages in Farsi and it has been translated into English. Here’s my review:

“A gut-wrenching look at life inside a refugee camp, or prison, on the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea. The most fascinating part of the book is that it was written by an inmate who was inside the prison at the time of writing. At times poignantly funny, at times horrifying, at times eliciting even a boredom that excellently illustrates the boredom that must plague the prisoners behind the fence, the book gives much food for thought for societies today that wrestle with the influx of refugees to their shores. The book certainly gives a harsh lesson in how NOT to treat people By taking away the prisoners’ access to basic human necessities, by fostering a community built on fear and unpredictability, and by showing a shocking lack of empathy, the Australian government’s egregious treatment of the refugees is a history lesson the rest of the world cannot ignore.”

***

And last, but certainly not least, I read Corvus Hall by Bibianna Krall. It’s the first book in the Irish Phantom Series, and I’m looking forward to more. It’s a gorgeous work of Gothic fiction and one I have recommended to others already. Here’s my review:

“This book has everything I was looking for in a work of classic Gothic fiction. There’s a haunted Irish estate, a family curse, ravens, ghosts, and plenty of spine-tingling suspense. The writing is fascinating: at times terse and urgent, at other times beautiful and descriptive, but always appropriate to the action. The main character, Mary, is a study in the importance of listening to one’s inner voices while at the same time understanding that certain actions are inevitable. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story!

What I found the most fascinating about the book, and the part that gave me the most delightful chills, was the author’s descriptions of a real-life trip to Ireland and the experiences that prompted her to write this story.

Highly recommended to any Gothic fiction fans!”

***

What have you been reading? Care to share in the comments?

Until next time,

Amy