Delightful Cape May Cozy

Scones and Scofflaws by Jane Gorman

Following the death of her great-aunt Louise, Anna McGregor—the main character in this first-in-series cozy mystery—has inherited Climbing Rose Cottage, a bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey (don’t you love the name “Climbing Rose Cottage”??). Anna, a medical anthropologist, has arrived in Cape May with some emotional baggage, a must for all great main characters. She has recently broken up with someone who not only hurt her romantically, but also destroyed her career.

Anna is in the process of fixing the B&B up a bit and is eager to welcome her first guests, though with that eagerness comes some trepidation about this new venture. The trepidation turns to dismay and horror when her first guest drops dead at the breakfast table, having eaten one of Anna’s blueberry scones.

Talk about killer scones.

Now Anna has to convince the people in the charming south Jersey town, as well as any future guests of her fledgling new business, that she’s not a killer. Luckily, she’s not alone—she has the help of her hunky handyman, a certain police officer (a big plus, since the police are mostly not on her side), her best friend (a Wildwood bakery owner), a young Irish visitor, and a keen kitty.

Anna is an intriguing main character and I enjoyed the way she puzzled through the clues and red herrings in this book. She has a hot temper and manages to alienate people in the closely-knit town because of the way she approaches them with questions, but she’s strong and determined to exonerate herself without becoming a damsel in distress. I like her spunk.

The pacing of the book is great and the potential for relationships between and among the various characters is ripe. I look forward to reading the next two books currently in the series and seeing where the author takes these possible storylines. I also love Cape May, so it was fun to read a story set in the area and recognize some of the places the author mentions. And bonus: if you like a good cocktail, the Scofflaw recipe in the back of the book is terrific!

Special note: for anyone living in or visiting the Cape May area, author Jane Gorman will be at the Cape May Fall Festival on October 15, 2022, at Cape May Convention Hall.

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I’ve got a great deal to share with you this week. Sixty authors have gotten together to offer sixty free stories to readers! I picked up a few of them myself. Follow the link below to take a look at the books!

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What I’m reading:

Murder in the Crypt by Irina Shapiro

We are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

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Until next time,

Amy

A Riveting Read…Plane and Simple

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

I was intrigued by this book from the moment I read the blurb on the back cover: two women, each running from dire circumstances, switch tickets at the airport. Claire, the wife of a politician, gets on a plane headed to California and Eva is going to Puerto Rico.

When the plane bound for Puerto Rico crashes into the Atlantic Ocean, Claire knows the media is going to erupt with news of her supposed death. She has no choice but to adopt Eva’s identity … and along with it, the secrets Eva left behind.

I read this book at every opportunity I had: in line at the post office, waiting at the doctor’s office, and sitting in parking lots. It moves at a quick clip and had me turning the pages as fast as I could devour the words.

The characterization in this book is what makes it so good. The author does a great job of developing these two women and the reader feels sympathy for both of them (though Eva has made her fair share of bad choices, even when alternatives were available to her, and tends to blame others for her misfortunes). I was rooting for both of them. There are a few spots in the book where the reader has to suspend belief a little bit, but because the story is so good, that is easy to do.

I think, in the end, the book is really about strong women, the consequences of telling one’s story in the face of abuse, and having the courage to take the actions that can bring about personal empowerment. Claire and Eva are not without fear and doubt, but they do what they have to do to save themselves.

And the epilogue…you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

I would recommend this thriller to anyone who loves a story featuring strong and well-written female characters, a unique and twisty plot, and stories that explore serious social issues.

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If you are one of my newsletter subscribers, you’ll know that I have tweaked the format of my newsletters. One of the changes I’ve made is to share deals and releases by other authors here on my blog instead of in the newsletters.

So with that in mind, I have two books to share with you this week. Both are by Laina C. Turner, each one is the first book in a series, and they’re both just 99 cents (and free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I have not had a chance to read either of these books yet, but I have both on my Kindle. I’m looking forward to reading them soon.

Friends and Foes: A Read Wine Bookstore Mystery

Stilettos and Scoudndrels: A Presley Thurman Cozy Mystery

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Until next time,

Amy

Collect them All!

A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

A Fatal Collection is the first book in the Keepsake Cove Mystery series by Mary Ellen Hughes. Don’t you love the cover? It just radiates cozy mystery vibes.

Keepsake Cove is a charming community in the town of Mapleton, located on Maryland’s eastern shore. Filled with adorable shops selling everything from toys to candles to glass, the area holds a special place in the hearts of the people who call it home and the hearts of the people who love to visit. Callie Reed has gone to Keepsake Cove to reconnect with her aunt, the vibrant, smart, and fascinating owner of a music box shop. The two haven’t seen each other in ten years, though they’ve corresponded and their ties are strong.

When Melanie dies shortly after Callie’s arrival, Callie is numb with shock. And when Callie learns that Melanie has left everything to her—her shop, her cottage behind the shop, her inventory, and even her cat—Callie is left reeling.

But once in Keepsake Cove, Callie has some time to think over some of the choices she’s made. She discovers that maybe the inheritance and the new responsibilities as owner of the music box shop are just what she needs to take her life in a new direction. And then there’s that one incredible music box that … well, you’ll just have to read the book to know what I’m talking about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were plenty of juicy red herrings, hidden secrets, and conflicts among friends and foes in this vibrant and engaging story. There was a complex and rich set of characters, many of whom I hope to see in future books in the series. The author did a great job setting out the clues, most of which went unnoticed by me. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best kind of mystery.

I highly recommend this to cozy and traditional mystery readers, as well as people who enjoy a good story set along the Atlantic seaboard.

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What I’m reading:

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

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Until next time,

Amy

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.

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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.

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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.

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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: November Edition

I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked during November because I was participating in NaNoWriMo (a novel-writing challenge, for those of you who are unfamiliar), but I did manage to sneak in a few reads. Add your own November reads to the comments below!

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The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by [Samantha Vérant]

First up this month was The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Vérant. If you know me, you know why the title of this book intrigued me—I thought I would be reading scads of French recipes. But alas, there are only a few recipes in the back of the book, and those are not ones I’m likely to make.

Anyway, this was a romance. Let me start by saying I’m not a romance reader unless there’s a mystery to solve, too, and there wasn’t much mystery in this one. The beginning of the story is a little too dramatic to be believable, but who am I to say? I’ve never lost a job at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Once the main character moves to France, the story gets better. I think readers will find themselves getting hungry while they read this book and they are DEFINITELY going to want to travel to France. Read my review here.

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It’s time I let you all in on a shameful secret.

Until this month, I have never read any of the Harry Potter books. I have, likewise, never seen any of the Harry Potter movies.

I read this book because the Harry Potter books are among my niece’s favorites and she was appalled (read: disgusted, horrified, speechless) that I hadn’t read them yet. I promised her I would read Book 1 before Thanksgiving so we could discuss it together (it may have to be over the phone thanks to COVID, but we’ll still discuss it).

In short, the book is AMAZING. I can’t wait to read the second one. I would love to spend just ten minutes inside J.K. Rowling’s imagination and discover where she learned to tell stories like this. You can read my review and 7 million others here.

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I had never heard of Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet until I read a review of it on someone else’s blog (thanks, Debby Gies!). And what a book. First published in 1923, The Prophet is a collection of short essays that make up a story. The essays (there are almost 30!) cover every topic from good and evil to crime and punishment to eating and drinking to prayer to children to joy and sorrow and everything in between. The beautifully poetic essays are full of spiritual lessons and brilliant metaphors for human life and behavior. If I could give this book ten stars, I would. Read my review here.

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THE BODY IN THE TRANSEPT a cozy murder mystery full of twists (Dorothy Martin Mystery Book 1) by [JEANNE M.  DAMS]

The final book I had time to read this month was The Body in the Transept by Jeanne M. Dams. This was a thoroughly enjoyable cozy mystery, complete with English setting, a widowed main character, a much-loved cat, and plenty of suspects. I did manage to guess the killer, but the operative word there is “guess.” I was totally wrong about the motive and that was part of what made this book so much fun to read. I highly recommend it. Read my review here.

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Remember, every Wednesday afternoon at 1:45 Eastern, I and the other two authors who make up the BookEm channel on YouTube debut a new episode! This week I’m in the hot seat, talking about the importance of hobbies and introducing you to a few new-to-me reads! Join me here at 1:45 if you can. If you can’t join me then, drop by to watch the video at your leisure anytime after that!

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I wish all of my American friends a happy and safe Thanksgiving! And to the rest of you, have a great week!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

And the Winner Is…

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s poll to choose the next read for my book club. The book I hoped would win (These is My Words by Nancy Turner–I have read another of her books and loved it) didn’t win, but I am pretty sure I’ll be reading all the books on the list eventually. And, of course, I’ll review each one and keep you posted on the last Tuesday of each month.

The winner is Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. The story actually takes place in Atlantic City, which is about ten miles from my house as the crow flies. When I go for a walk in the evenings I can see the casinos lit up on the horizon.

Now on to my main topic for today. As many of you know, I am currently working on the second book in my Libraries of the World Mystery series, which uses special library collections from around the world to commit or solve crimes. In the first book in the series, Trudy’s Diary, the main character (Daisy) helps solve a crime in the present day by using the dime novel collection in the Library of Congress to solve a related mystery that took place in the 1800s.

In the second book, Dutch Treat, Daisy is working as an associate professor at a college in New York City while she’s on sabbatical from her job at Global Human Rights Journal in Washington, D.C. When one of her colleagues is murdered, Daisy is drawn into the search for the killer and discovers some fascinating information about her own family’s background in New Amsterdam, long before the city became known as New York.

New York Public Library, Library, Books, Manhattan

In my research for the book, I’ve done a lot of reading about the New York City Public Library. Today I’m going to share my top ten favorite facts about the library.

  1. When the New York City Public Library opened in 1911, it was the world’s largest marble building. Its exterior walls are 12 inches thick and builders used 530,000 cubic feet of marble to construct the magnificent edifice.
  2. The two lions guarding the front entrance to the library on the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, Patience and Fortitude, are both males. Their original names are Lord Lennox and Lady Astor.
  3. And speaking of the lions, Teddy Roosevelt was not happy with the choice of mammal to grace the library’s entrance. His vote? Buffaloes. He wanted animals that would symbolize the American West.
  4. In 1987, the original Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and Kanga became permanent residents of the library.
  5. In the early years after the library opened, it took 20 tons of coal per day to heat the building.
  6. In one of the library’s collections, you will find Charles Dickens’ favorite letter opener. The tool consits of an ivory shaft topped with the embalmed paw of Dickens’ favorite cat, Bob.
  7. Lions aren’t the only animals featured in the library’s architecture. There are also dolphins, catfish, oxen, turtles, snakes, birds, rams, bees, dogs, eagles, swans, and roosters.
  8. In 1911 all the employees of the library were given rubber-soled shoes to wear at work because the marble floors were so hard on feet!
  9. If you’ve ever wondered where you might find a lock of Charlotte Brontë’s hair, you’ve come to the right place (likewise the hair of Wild Bill Hickok, Walt Whitman, and Mary Shelley).
  10. The New York City Public Library has the fourth largest collection of volumes in the United States. The library with the largest holdings is the Library of Congress, followed in order by the Boston Public Library and the Harvard Library.

Which is your favorite fun fact? Have you ever visited the New York City Public Library?

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?

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Until next time,

Amy

 

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