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December 31, 2017

2017 Wrap Up

by Donna Huber

It has been another great year at Girl Who Reads. I find it slightly hard to believe that in a few short weeks we will be celebrating our 7th anniversary. We have read so many great books, some fun bookish features, and welcomed a number of guests this year.

Reviews: Perennials by Julie Cantrell

by Susan Roberts

This was my first book by Julie Cantrell and I enjoyed it so much that I just ordered her older books (Donna review The Feathered Bone). Perennials is a heart- warming story about an estranged family that is trying to become a whole family again. Plus, it has beautiful descriptions of flowers and gardens - if it wasn't winter, I'd be out planting flowers after reading it.

December 30, 2017

Review: Write For Me by Michelle Holt

by Donna Huber

A few years ago, before I had a review team, I became overwhelm with the amount of review requests I received. My answer was to stick my head in the sand and not open emails. Now I don't do that, but it did leave a mound (of around 1,600) of unread emails. A month or so ago I made it a priority to get through those emails. In doing this I discovered several ebooks that had been sent with the request so I thought I would check a few of them out. Write For Me was one of those ebooks.

Review: The Girl Who Saved Ghosts by K. C. Tansley

by MK French

In the second book of "The Unbelievables" series, Kat is approached by the ghost of an ancestor begging for her help in solving a murder mystery. Kat has to learn how to use the magic she had inherited, especially before the Dark One tries to kill her and the other heirs to the families that hers is tied to.

December 29, 2017

3 Novels about WWII

by Susan Roberts

There are many new books about WWII and it amazes me that there are so many new ways that the story of the war are being told.  I have reviews of three books that all show how horrible the war was for the people in Europe but they are told from different perspectives even though they are all based on real people.  I have read all three in the last month and after the sadness of these books, I think it's time to start reading Christmas books.

December 28, 2017

Review: Travels and Trevails of Small Minds by Daniel Falatko

by MK French

Nathan is a temp office worker without much ambition. He works for Professor Behr with one other office mate, with stacks of folders and papers all around him, and does little more than get yelled at or fetch coffee. His relationship with his girlfriend isn't much better, his coworker often makes fun of him, and he has little more to occupy his time than the occasional request from Dr. Behr. This allows him to start looking into the property deal, which seems odd, and then get sent to England and then Eastern Europe.

December 27, 2017

Life in the E.R.

by Susan Roberts

I don't read many non-fiction books and when I do, I choose them very carefully.  There are several medical professionals in my family so I am always drawn to books about the stress on the people who work in the medical field.  I read a new book this week that I want to share with you about the daily stress on an emergency room doctor.  Dr. Philip Green is an emergency medical physician in Walla Walla Washington.  His new book People of the ER along with his previous book Trauma Room Two give the reader a sense of what life in the ER is like for the medical professionals.  Dr. Green not only writes about some of the people that he sees but he also goes into details about how it affects him as a doctor, a husband, a father and a son.  This is an interesting look at life in the ER as well as a very introspective view of how it affects the staff.

He's Behind You!

by Ross Kitson

So this Christmas I've managed to wangle some time off between the big days and new year (which I have the joy of working) and for the first time since… well, since I was a child, I've got the pleasure of going to a pantomime. In my wife's family it's become a bit of a traditional trip to take the grandkids to the local pantomime, and in fact, Mrs. K tells a great story about being taken to the pantomime as a little girl by her own grandfather who was the mayor of Halifax at the time.

This year the show is Aladdin, which is a tried and tested pantomime play with not a hint of festivity about it, which for those that read the blog outwith anywhere in the former British Empire will probably leave them rather bemused and confused. So, with the benefit of my magical wand, and adopting the transient role of Fairy Godperson (gender neutrality mystically achieved) I shall enhance your knowledge of the pantomime tradition in the UK…

Image from
Purists would have the true origin of pantomime in the ancient classical era of Greek and Roman theatre, but the composition of said plays was far removed from the gaudy, bawdy, loud spectacle that I recall that I think I'll travel onwards through time to the 17th Century when an Italian travelling  theatre began to utilise traditional tales and stories told with a set of regular supporting characters: these included characters who would become near-household names such as Harlequin, Clown, Scaramouche, and Pantaloon. These would form the basis of characterisations such as the comical, witty, cunning servant who latterly becomes the romantic lead (Harlequin), or the greedy old man/ father (Pantaloon). This 'commedia del' arte' developed with the harlequin character as a lover who eloped with the daughter of the greedy old father, usually involving a chase scene, and usually involving magical scene changes with Harlequin using his 'slapstick' to enact such sorcery.

Maurice Sand [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the UK in late Georgian/ Early Victorian times this 'harlequinade' started to utilise traditional fairy tales, folk tales, and nursery rhyme characters, often in synergy and often with adaptation of the plots. The presence of Harlequin as the key character began to alter with the evolution of Clown, and the seminal performances of Joseph Grimaldi whose depiction of the smiling trickster has fuelled many horror films and phobias ever since. Other recognisable pantomime characters then began to feature in the mid-to-late Victorian era, with Harlequin's transforming magic being taken by the Fairy Godmother, and the cross-dressing Pantomime Dame becoming a staple feature after the starring performances of Dan Leno.
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Pantomime takes much of those traditional fairy tale elements and mixes them with garish outfits, slapstick, risqué comedy (designed to appeal to parents, not children), a certain Victorian burlesque, and the classical roles that have evolved from those nascent days of Harlequinades. To me, the essence of pantomime has to be…

The Dame: a bloke cross-dressing, often as the hero's mother (such as Widow Twanky), with plenty of smutty puns. Even Ian McKellan has taken his turn!

The lead boy character: is conversely played by a girl, often in an outfit that leaves no doubt. I can remember seeing Peter Pan as a child and getting really disturbed. It also makes me think of Blackadder's 'Bob' (from Blackadder 2: Bells) when I consider this.

Audience participation: think of a kid's version of the Rocky Horror Show, with everyone yelling "He's behind you!" or "Oh yes he is…" then "Oh no he isn't" and you get the idea. This is the best part for me, especially with the 'boos' at the villain, and the two halves of the theatre competing in sheer volume. Interestingly this audience participation is something that stadium rock seems to emulate, whether singing parts of the song, copying the singer, or sides of stadium competing!

Really really bad jokes (and double-entendres): still a very British thing, especially with the content of UK 'Carry on' films, or sitcoms. It permeates into US humour too, I think, but not to the same immature magnificence as here in Blighty.

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And finally… why is it at Christmas? Quite simply, back in th' old days, the opportunity for the children to get to the theatres to see pantomimes was within 'holiday' seasons, and this was seized upon by David Garrick in the 19th century when he sought to promote the fun and frivolity of pantomime as an alternate to serious popular theatre in London's Drury Lane.

A tenuous link perhaps, but one that's very much part of the x-mas experience over here, and one that'll make me feel like a kid again but this time with my own children in tow. Of course, the other Xmas experience is likely to be the Star Wars movie, but I'll probably leave that one to another post.

Happy Xmas!

Ross M. Kitson is a doctor, occasional blogger, full-time geek, and sporadic author of fantasy and YA sci-fi. Connect with Ross on Twitter

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December 26, 2017

Review: Mr. Either/Or by Aaron Poochigian

by MK French

An ancient legend from China foretells of the end of the world, and it's up to an FBI agent to track down the artifact and get it to his handlers. He goes up against warring gangs looking for it, and even defusing the artifact's danger doesn't end his mission. The very fate of the world is at stake.

December 25, 2017

Donna's December Reading Round-up

by Donna Huber

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I have been on a roll this month - thanks to audiobooks and short holiday romances. And most of the books have been really good, which makes me a very happy reader. A lot of these were free when I got them; some may still be free.

December 24, 2017

Series Review: The Mer Chronicles Book 1 & 2 by Errin Stevens

by MK French

Today, I review the first two books in Errin Stevens's fantasy series The Mer Chronicles - Updrift and Breakwater.

December 23, 2017

2 Novellas by Fredrik Backman

by Susan Roberts

I enjoy reading novels and usually skip short stories and novellas but I made an exception with these two novellas by Fredrik Backman. Though both are very short, they are full of poignant insights into life and death and contain messages that will resonate with readers.

December 22, 2017

Review: Forbidden by F. Stone

by MK French

In 2047, Samarra is the capital of the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories. Eliza McKay is the last minute paramedic added to an American team of Habitat for Humanity workers, and ultimately the only survivor when the team is slaughtered. Politics are at work when Captain Hashim Sharif is ordered eliminate all evidence of the event, but as a devout Muslim, he cannot bring himself to harm an innocent. The cover-up is only one piece of corruption within the city, and keeping Eliza alive may cost him the lives of his parents and children in the countryside, especially when the CIA comes to investigate.

December 21, 2017

Review: The Monster at Recess by Shira Potter

by MK French

Sophie is bullied at Grey Stone Day School, and her teacher doesn't do anything about it. The schoolyard is shared with a monster school, and Sophie soon makes her first friend there, even though she is afraid of monsters.

Review: Roll the Dice By Wayne Avrashow

by Susan Roberts

This political page-turner is a great reflection of what goes on in the political arena every election. Is it possible to elect a man to high office who has zero political experience or knowledge? You can look at the people we have in office today and answer that question with a resounding YES and this book will give you a behind-the-scenes look at how the political machinery works to make it happen.

December 20, 2017

Review: Triple Cross Killer by Rosemarie Aquilina

by Donna Huber

I usually wrap up reading review copies around the end of November and then indulge in holiday books until Christmas when I pick back up on review reading. This year, I was pitched a thriller that had a bit of a Christmas twist and I'm so glad that I broke my "rule" and didn't pass on it.

December 19, 2017

Reviews: The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons

by Susan Roberts

The Girl in Times Square is my first Paullina Simmons book but it certainly won't be my last. This is a roller coaster ride of a book with love, mystery, health problems and family issues and lots of surprises for the reader. Once you got started in this book, you won't want to put it down.

December 18, 2017

Review: Ensnared by Rita Stradling

by MK French

Alainn Murphy's father is hired on to create an AI for the reclusive billionaire Lorccan Garbhan, and he created the Rose model in Alainn's image. There are some flaws with the AI and the design, and her father isn't being given more time to perfect it. In order to ensure that he isn't sent to prison for fraud, Alainn takes the place of the robot. She is isolated in Lorccan's tower, away from living things and windows, as he is scarred and has a poor immune system. At first, she is scared of the situation, but gradually comes to love him.

December 17, 2017

Review: Children of the Salt Road by Lydia Fazio Theys

by Susan Roberts

Catherine and Mark rent a home on Sicily to get away from problems in NYC. Catherine, an artist and art instructor was questioning her ability to teach after a disastrous situation with a student and Mark, an architect, was looking for ways to help landowners on Sicily make better use of their land for the tourist trade. They also both needed to get away and work on their marriage. After Catherine sets up the barn for her art studio, she begins to see a young boy that no one else seems to be able to see. She becomes very intrigued with the small boy which creates even more problems in her marriage.

December 16, 2017

Review: The Juliet by Laura Ellen Scott

by MK French

The Juliet is a large emerald that had been stolen from an Egyptian tomb. It made its way to the United States, until its rumored final local location in Death Valley. Many people have tried to hunt it down throughout the years, and there are stories that it's cursed. Despite that, people constantly try to hunt down its whereabouts, no matter the cost.

December 15, 2017

Review: An Angel's Alternative by Rick Brindle

by Donna Huber

As I have mentioned a few times, I have a backlog of review books because in the early days of reviewing accepted way more than I could read. I also have a backlog of emails and while going through them I found a few ebooks that the author sent with their request. An Angel's Alternative is one ebook I found hidden in my mound of unread emails so I decided to give it a chance.

December 14, 2017

Review: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay

by Susan Roberts

This is an excellent book about love in the past and the present. It's about a house and the way memories seem to be part of the house to be felt by future families who live within its walls.

December 13, 2017

Review: The Red Grouse Tales by Leslie W. P. Garland

by MK French

This is a collection of four novellas told at the Red Grouse Inn, so they're all written in a conversational style of one person telling another the story. This is a nested story-within-a-story and sometimes -within-another-story format, which can make it really difficult to get into. Some of the punctuation felt odd as a result, but I'm not sure if some of the oddity of it is because the author is using British English and I'm more used to American English. The four stories are separate yet do somewhat refer back to other stories in the collection; the theme of rumors, judgment, good vs evil and the choices that people make run throughout all of them.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Red Grouse Tales
December 2015; ebook (385 pages); fantasy
"The Little Dog" especially seems to take its time winding up to a point, and it doesn't quite feel as though we get good explanations for why the other foresters feel off about Stan. His actions are never explained, and the dog of the title remains a mystery as well. There is definitely a supernatural feel to it, a little bit of the otherworldly laid over the reality we know.

That sense continues through the other stories of the collection, though in "The Crow" it seems more creepy and demonic. The nested storytelling is more convoluted in this tale, which made it harder for me to approach the events or feel any kind of emotional connection. There's far less of that in the final two stories, "The White Hart" and "The Golden Tup." It's far easier for me to understand the stories and the interweaving of conversation and existential discussions. Both of these stories have a heartbreaking element to it, though "The White Hart" feels more hopeful and possibly would have been a more uplifting way to conclude the collection.

Buy The Red Grouse Tales at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever. 

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December 12, 2017

Review: The Road to Bittersweet by Donna Everhart

by Susan Roberts

Once all the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over and you want to relax and read, The Road to Bittersweet is the book that I suggest you read.  It will be available from Amazon on December 26 so if you pre-order it, the book will be there right after the busy holiday.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Road to Bittersweet
December 2017; Kensington; 978-1496709493
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); family life
" was like all we'd been doing was traveling down a road towards this bittersweet ending. Nothing could change what we'd been through."

These are thoughts from Wallis Ann Stamper, the 14-year-old main character in The Road to Bittersweet. And what a road she and her family had been down. Living in a rural area in the Appalachian mountains in 1940 with her parents, sister Lacy and baby brother, they lived a hardscrabble life but always had food on the table and love within the family as well as their love of singing. Until the night that the Tuckasegee river overflowed its banks and forced them out of the house that had been in their family for generations.

The family's flight during the flood was one of the scariest things that I've read in a long time.

Wallis Ann survives the flood and starts looking for her family. Miles away from her home, she learns a lot about herself and the world that she had never been part of. The family gets reunited at the site of their home but they continue to struggle as they try to re-build. As the family tries to survive, they have to leave their mountain home and go out into the world where family loyalties are tested and decisions are made that cause horrible repercussions to them all.

Wallis Ann is a fantastic main character. She is strong and can work like a man but she still has the feelings of a young girl. We see the land and the family problems through her watchful eyes and we see her change from innocence to wisdom about life and her family. This is a wonderful novel and I think it will be one of the most read books this winter. The is the second fantastic book by this author and if you haven't read her first book The Education of Dixie Dupree, you need to read it too.

Warning: Be sure to clear your calendar before you start reading The Road to Bittersweet because once you start, you won't want to put it down until you finish. Trust me, there were no meals cooked or cleaning done at my house once I opened this book.

Buy The Road to Bittersweet at Amazon

This is Donna Everhart's second book.   I highly recommend her first book - The Education of Dixie Dupree (Amazon).

The Education of Dixie Dupree

The Education of Dixie Dupree
In Donna Everhart's debut novel, we meet 11-year-old Dixie Dupree in 1969. Dixie lives in Alabama with her parents and her older brother. Her home life is very unstable - her dad drinks too much and her mom is very unhappy in Alabama and longs to return to her home in New Hampshire. In order to try to make sense of her life, Dixie keeps a diary and it becomes the only place that she can share her deepest thoughts and questions about her life and her family without worrying about her mother's anger and punishment. She also copes with her life by telling lies and her family has learned not to believe much that she tells them. So when a situation occurs that really needs to be shared with her mother, she keeps it to herself because she knows that no one will believe her.

This novel covers several very difficult subjects to read about but they are subjects that need to be addressed and discussed.

This is a remarkable book told by an 11-year-old girl who is trying to figure out her family and her life. Dixie is a character that I won't forget.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.

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December 11, 2017

Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso #MondayBlogs

by MK French

Magic is such a rare trait in the kingdom of Revarra that practitioners are usually found as children and conscripted right away into military uses for the state. Zaira did manage to escape their attention by hiding in the slums, but it doesn't help keep her out of trouble. In the middle of an outpouring of Zaira's fire magic, she is caught by Amalia Cornaro, heir to The Countess. Amalia was supposed to be a scholar and part of the Council of Nine when old enough to succeed her mother, not a Falconer in charge of a mage. Once the jess was in place, however, there was no escaping the fact that she had to help control Zaira's power, even if she desperately wanted to evade that control. In addition, international tensions are brewing, and Amalia is involved due to her birth and her friendships.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Tethered Mage
October 2017; Orbit; 978-0316466875
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); fantasy
The Tethered Mage is a fascinating read, and I love the concept of magic as it is introduced here. It is dangerous if uncontrolled, especially the powerful and rare kinds. Those that can create magical artifacts aren't considered as dangerous as Zaira, but the applications of their work could be. This is all introduced in a fluid and natural manner; by introducing Amalia into the Falconers, the reader learns about the politics involved in finding those with the mage sign, as well as the implications to "regular" politics now that Amalia has a mage in her control. Whether Amalia actually does or not is irrelevant, it's the perception of it, which clearly mirrors the politics in every era and fantasy realm.

The vague rumblings of war and discontent within the empire are revealed a bit at a time, and Zaira provides a lot of color commentary to Amalia's general and somewhat willful naivete regarding the politics she is expected to navigate. They actually wind up working together after a point, and Amalia is able to use the information she learns from Zaira well.

Amalia's romance of sorts with the lieutenant is at once in character and out of place. She wants to be her own person and not subject to her mother's planning or the responsibilities of her rank, and she is still a teenager. At the same time, I don't get a sense of what really draws her to the lieutenant in a romantic sense. It seems more a basis for friendship than romance as it starts, as well as her own fascination with his history and rank within the Falconers. The character development is excellent, and I love the world created here. I am looking forward to reading the sequel to this when it comes out in April 2018!

Buy The Tethered Mage at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever. 

Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 10, 2017

2 In Person Author Events

by Susan Roberts

I love going to author events and meeting my favorite authors. It's a chance to get to know them better, ask questions, show your support AND have your books signed. The authors that I enjoy meeting are usually at indie bookstores so it's also a chance to visit new bookstores and to buy a few new books. Really, who can visit a bookstore without at least one purchase? I was lucky enough to have two author events close to me during a week in November and was able to attend them both.

December 9, 2017

12 Books to Read This Holiday Season

by Donna Huber

Christmas themed books have been hitting shelves since October, which if you are like me thought was way too early to think about the holiday. You may have missed a few of the great tales we've already reviewed, but don't worry I have you covered with this round-up of recently released Christmas books. Plus, I've thrown in some of the books I've recently read, which is a mix of older titles that should be available through your library and free ebooks.

December 8, 2017

Review: Fire's Kiss by Brittany Pate

by MK French

Embyr is a half fire demon and hides her heritage by running a tavern just outside of town. It's a lonely life, but she is safer this way than how she had grown up. Her peace is disturbed by reports of Death's Horsemen coming, and one of the hellhounds taking too much of an interest in her. His leader, Death himself, figures out Embyr's abilities and wants to use them in his war against Atrarius, the vampire that had killed his wife and turned his brother eight hundred years before.

December 7, 2017

10 Books You Don't Want to Miss

by Susan Roberts

I seem to be reading a lot of different genres lately so there's no way to group these books into one subject.  We could call it a collage of books but that doesn't sound quite right, either. So here are reviews of a few books that I've read this year and enjoyed.

December 6, 2017

Review: Class of '59 by John A. Heldt

by Donna Huber

When I need a light-hearted, easy, entertaining read I know I can't go wrong with one of John A. Heldt's time-traveling tales. As a bonus, the books in a series can be read in any order, which means I can select the first one I come to on my Nook.

December 5, 2017

3 New Books Reviewed

by MK French

There are only a few more publishing weeks left in 2017. Here are three new releases you can pick up today.

December 4, 2017

Review: A Catalog of Birds by Laura Harrington #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts

This beautifully written book will definitely be on my list of top 10 books of 2017. I absolutely loved it - the characters, the plot and most of all the beautiful writing. I feel like I know these people and miss them now that the novel is done.

December 3, 2017

Review: Bound to a Spy by Sharon Cullen

by MK French

Rose Turner had been sent to the court of Mary Queen of Scots in order to marry well. She, unfortunately, overhears men plotting to murder Mary's husband, as does the English spy Will Sheffield that Elizabeth had sent to Mary's court. As much as Will knows there are always sacrifices and casualties, he can't leave Rose alone at court.

December 2, 2017

New Books for December 2017

by Donna Huber

Here we are, the last month of 2017. There have been some truly great books this year. I would love to hear what your favorite reads on 2017 are. If you are trying to fit in another new release or two before the year-end, there are a few books coming out this month from popular authors.

December 1, 2017

Indie Authors Are People Too

by C.M. North

The holidays are coming—the holidays are coming! Presents and parcels and gifts galore, most of them arriving from Amazon, are going to be piling up under trees and in front of fireplaces the world over, and most of them—cynical though it is of me to say—will probably last a day or two (especially the chocolates) before being forgotten forever.

November 30, 2017

Review: The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy

by Susan Roberts

I read a lot of books about WWII and The Boat Runner was a different look at the war than I've read before. Devin Murphy did a fantastic job of creating a main character who drew the reader into the book from page one until the last page. It was more than just your normal coming of age story - it was a coming of age story during a time that the wrong decision could have caused your death or that of someone close to you.

November 29, 2017

Series Review: When It's Time by Nadine Keels

Love Unfeigned on Amazon:
Hope Unashamed on Amazon:

Love Unfeigned and Hope Unashamed are part of the "When It's Time" series, and complement each other.

November 28, 2017

Review: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

by Susan Roberts 

The Stolen Marriage Named a Barnes & Noble Best Mysteries & Thrillers of 2017

Diane Chamberlain has done it again -- written a fantastic new book that will keep you turning pages until you get to the end. I have read all of her books and the new one is one of my top three favorites. Thanks to the publisher for an early copy of this wonderful book to read and review. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I definitely would!

November 27, 2017

Review: The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle #MondayBlogs

by MK French

Directly on the heels of their first case, Miss Lane and Mr. Jesperson are confronted by a man looking for them. He dies on their front steps crying "Witch!" and Mr. Jesperson isn't satisfied with the London coroner pronouncing it heart failure when the man looked healthy. Tracking his brother down, they are hired to look into the circumstances surrounding his death and discover a little more in the countryside than they had thought they would.

Books Read, Reading, To Read - November 2017 #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber

It has been another great month for reading. I set a reading goal this year of 80 books, and currently, I have read 95. If my reading trend continues through December, I will surpass 100 books! I'm also pretty excited that I can start reading the Christmas books I found during my bookshelf cleaning.

November 26, 2017

Support Books For Keeps #GivingTuesday

by Donna Huber

Last year, Girl Who Reads partnered with Athens, GA based literacy group Books For Keeps to raise funds to aid their mission to stop the "summer slide".  Each spring, they provide children in area schools with 12 books that the child gets to take home forever. You can read last year's letter from executive director Leslie Williams Hale.

Books I bought at their annual book sale.
The schools that Books For Keeps work with are in some of the poorest areas. In these schools, at least 90% of students eat free or reduced lunch, which means their family is living near or below the poverty level. During the summer months, most of these kids have little or no access to books. There's no money to buy books and access to local libraries are often hampered by lack of transportation particularly in communities where it is unsafe for kids to travel by foot or bus to the library.

Research has shown that children who do not read during the summer can lose a grade level or more in reading ability. This is known as summer slide. Summer slide threatens the most vulnerable in our communities and can lead to continuing cycle of poverty.

I cleaned off my bookshelves and donated 50 books.
I've been able to support Books For Keeps this year by shopping their annual book sale and donating books. Now I'm asking you join me in wrapping up the year by donating funds. I've pledged $1 for each book I've read in November, which right now stands at 12 books. Will you match my pledge or make your own pledge based on the number of books you have read?

Donate via Books For Keeps website TODAY
You can designate your gift as Girl Who Reads fund drive.

Thank you for helping a child in need maintain their reading skills!

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November 25, 2017

Review: Swan Song by Charlotte Wilson

by MK French

Ava has come to London to participate in the tribute to her mother, the iconic ballerina Beatrice Duvall, who had died when she was a baby. It's painful for her because she won't dance after leaving the Royal Ballet School and all that had defined her. Returning to London for the tribute will allow her to learn more about the mother she never knew, as well as herself along the way.

November 24, 2017

Book Suggestions for the Readers on Your List

by Susan Roberts

Christmas is right around the corner and it's time to make your list (and check it twice). Lots of avid readers would prefer to unwrap a book on Christmas morning more than anything else (ok, maybe diamond earrings would be better but we have to be realistic here.) I have listed some of my favorite books of 2017 below.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site.

For the reader who enjoys books about food

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman (read my review)
Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Buy The Welcome Home Diner at Amazon

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (read my review)
Christmas at Little Beach Streat Bakery
It's Christmas in the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne - a time for family, friends and feasting.

Polly Waterford loves running the Little Beach Street Bakery. She's at her happiest when she's creating delicious treats and the festive season always inspires her to bake and knead something extra special for the village residents. In fact, the only thing she loves more than her bakery is curling up with her gorgeous boyfriend, Huckle. She's determined that this Christmas is going to be their best one yet, but life doesn't always work out as planned...

When Polly's best friend Kerensa turns up with a secret that threatens the life Polly and Huckle have built together, the future begins to look uncertain. And then a face from Polly's past reappears and things become even more complicated. Polly can usually find solace in baking but she has a feeling that's not going to be enough this time. Can she get things back on track so that everyone has a merry Christmas?

Buy Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery at Amazon

For the reader who enjoys books about music

Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way by Ryan White
Jimmy Buffeet
A candid, compelling, and rollicking portrait of the pirate captain of Margaritaville—Jimmy Buffett.

In Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way, acclaimed music critic Ryan White has crafted the first definitive account of Buffett’s rise from singing songs for beer to his emergence as a tropical icon and CEO behind the Margaritaville industrial complex, a vast network of merchandise, chain restaurants, resorts, and lifestyle products all inspired by his sunny but disillusioned hit “Margaritaville.”

Filled with interviews from friends, musicians, Coral Reefer Band members past and present, and business partners who were there, this book is a top-down joyride with plenty of side trips and meanderings from Mobile and Pascagoula to New Orleans, Key West, down into the islands aboard the Euphoria and the Euphoria II, and into the studios and onto the stages where the foundation of Buffett’s reputation was laid.

Buffett wasn’t always the pied piper of beaches, bars, and laid-back living. Born on the Gulf Coast, the son of a son of a sailing ship captain, Buffett scuffed around New Orleans in the late sixties, flunked out of Nashville (and a marriage) in 1971, and found refuge among the artists, dopers, shrimpers, and genuine characters who’d collected at the end of the road in Key West. And it was there, in those waning outlaw days at the last American exit, where Buffett, like Hemingway before him, found his voice and eventually brought to life the song that would launch Parrot Head nation.

And just where is Margaritaville? It’s wherever it’s five o’clock; it’s wherever there’s a breeze and salt in the air; and it’s wherever Buffett sets his bare feet, smiles, and sings his songs.

Buy A Good Life All the Way at Amazon

The Summer Springsteen's Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn (read my review)
The Summer Springsteen's Songs Save Me
Coming home to catch her husband with his face between the long, silky legs of another woman is the last thing Sofia expects—and on today of all days. But, after scratching an expletive into his Porsche and setting the cheating bastard’s clothes on fire, she cranks up her beloved Bruce and flees, vowing to never look back.

Finding solace in the peaceful beachside town of Bradley Beach, NJ, Sof is determined to start over. And, with the help of best friends, new acquaintances, a sexy neighbor, and the powerful songs of Springsteen, this may be the place where her wounds can heal. But, as if she hasn’t faced her share of life’s challenges, a final flurry of obstacles awaits.

In order to head courageously toward the future, Sofia must first let go of her past, find freedom, and mend her broken soul.

Buy The Summer Springsteen's Songs Saved Me at Amazon

For the reader who enjoys fiction books about WWII

The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan (read my review)
The Baker's Secret
From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day

On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country.

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.

But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers.

But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.

Buy The Baker's Secret at Amazon

The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (read my review)
The Boat Runner

In the tradition of All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale comes an incandescent debut novel about a young Dutch man who comes of age during the perilousness of World War II.

Beginning in the summer of 1939, fourteen-year-old Jacob Koopman and his older brother, Edwin, enjoy lives of prosperity and quiet contentment. Many of the residents in their small Dutch town have some connection to the Koopman lightbulb factory, and the locals hold the family in high esteem.

On days when they aren’t playing with friends, Jacob and Edwin help their Uncle Martin on his fishing boat in the North Sea, where German ships have become a common sight. But conflict still seems unthinkable, even as the boys’ father naively sends his sons to a Hitler Youth Camp in an effort to secure German business for the factory.

When war breaks out, Jacob’s world is thrown into chaos. The Boat Runner follows Jacob over the course of four years, through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy, where he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life—and his life’s mission—forever.

Epic in scope and featuring a thrilling narrative with precise, elegant language, The Boat Runner tells the little-known story of the young Dutch boys who were thrown into the Nazi campaign, as well as the brave boatmen who risked everything to give Jewish refugees safe passage to land abroad. Through one boy’s harrowing tale of personal redemption, here is a novel about the power of people’s stories and voices to shine light through our darkest days, until only love prevails.

Buy The Boat Runner at Amazon

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan (read my review)
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir
"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!"

As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit -- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past -- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life.

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

Buy The Chilbury Ladies Choir at Amazon

For the reader who enjoys southern fiction

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey (read my review)
Slightly South of Simple
Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

Buy Slightly South of Simple at Amazon

The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry (read my review)
The Bookshop at Water's End
The women who spent their childhood summers in a small southern town discover it harbors secrets as lush as the marshes that surround it...

Bonny Blankenship's most treasured memories are of idyllic summers spent in Watersend, South Carolina, with her best friend, Lainey McKay. Amid the sand dunes and oak trees draped with Spanish moss, they swam and wished for happy-ever-afters, then escaped to the local bookshop to read and whisper in the glorious cool silence. Until the night that changed everything, the night that Lainey's mother disappeared.

Now, in her early fifties, Bonny is desperate to clear her head after a tragic mistake threatens her career as an emergency room doctor, and her marriage crumbles around her. With her troubled teenage daughter, Piper, in tow, she goes back to the beloved river house, where she is soon joined by Lainey and her two young children. During lazy summer days and magical nights, they reunite with bookshop owner Mimi, who is tangled with the past and its mysteries. As the three women cling to a fragile peace, buried secrets and long ago loves return like the tide.

Buy The Bookshop at Water's End at Amazon

Three of My Favorite Books of 2017

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain (read my review)
The Stolen Marriage
In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?

Buy The Stolen Marriage at Amazon

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash (read my review)
The Last Ballad
The author of the celebrated bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home returns with this eagerly awaited new novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events, that chronicles an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice, with the emotional power of Ron Rash’s Serena, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day, and the unforgettable films Norma Rae and Silkwood

Twelve times a week, twenty-eight-year old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill’s owners—the newly arrived Goldberg brothers—white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and others workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May’s best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it’s the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband John has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever she can find.

When the union leaflets first come through the mill, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including lies, threats, and bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county’s biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement—a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town—indeed all that she loves.

Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the whole story of what happened to Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929.

Intertwining myriad voices, Wiley Cash brings to life the heartbreak and bravery of the now forgotten struggle of the labor movement in early Twentieth Century America—and pays tribute to the thousands of heroic women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent new novel confirms Wiley Cash’s place among our nation’s finest writers.

Buy The Last Ballad at Amazon

A Catalog of Birds by Laura Harrington (read my review)
A Catalog of Birds
Laura Harrington's new novel is a portrait of a family in the midst of recovery, the mysterious disappearance of a young woman, and of a brother and sister whose love of the natural world just might save their lives.

Set in 1970, a watershed moment in American History, A Catalog of Birds tells the story of the Flynn family and the devastating impact of the Vietnam War. At the heart of the novel is the relationship between siblings Nell and Billy Flynn. Nell excels academically and is headed to college and a career in science. Billy, a passionate artist, enlists as a pilot to fulfill his lifelong dream of flying. He is the only survivor when his helicopter is shot down. When he returns home his wounds limit his ability to sketch or even hold a pencil. As Billy struggles to regain the life he once had, Nell and their family will have to do all that's possible to save him.

Lyrical and affecting, Laura Harrington has written an artful family drama about innocence lost and wounds that may never be healed. This is a tale of forgiveness: of ourselves, of those we love best. Illuminated by grief and desire, the novel is full of spirit, wonder and the possibilities of the future.

Buy A Catalog of Birds at Amazon


P.S. If you need more recommendations, check out Donna's 15 Books for the Reader in Your Life.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.

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15 Books for the Reader in Your Life

by Donna Huber

It can be difficult deciding what to buy for the reader in your life or maybe you are the reader trying to make out your Christmas list. Either way, I have a round up of 15 of my favorite books that I read this year.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. 

Literary Fiction

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Water Knife
I joined a book club this year and this was our October book I absolutely loved it.  The first chapter didn't really grab me (even though it started with a bang), but by the second chapter, I was hooked. It's a great thriller.

In the American Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, and California skirmish for dwindling shares of the Colorado River. Into the fray steps Angel Velasquez, leg-breaker, assassin, and spy. A Las Vegas water knife, Angel "cuts" water for his boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her luxurious developments can bloom in the desert, so the rich can stay wet while the poor get dust. When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in drought-ravaged Phoenix, it seems California is making a play to monopolize the life-giving flow of the river, and Angel is sent to investigate. There, he encounters Lucy Monroe, a drought-hardened journalist, and Maria Villarosa, a young refugee who survives by her wits in a city that despises everything she represents. For Angel, Lucy, and Maria, time is running out and their only hope for survival rests in each other’s hands. But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only thing for certain is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.

Buy The Water Knife at Amazon

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
The Best kind of People
I didn't want to put this book down. It deals with a difficult topic so I'm not sure how I feel about how it turned out but I liked that it focused on the family and how they dealt with it. Read both MK French's and my reviews.

George Woodbury, a celebrated teacher, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while grappling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep on with their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?

Buy The Best Kind of People at Amazon

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
East of Eden
The classics are usually a good bet for avid readers and book lovers in general. If you think they have already read it, then go for a special edition or pretty binding. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors and when I think "Great American Novel" his are always at the top of the list.

In his journal, John Steinbeck called East of Eden "the first book," and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new, rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives, nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness, enveloped by a mysterious darkness.

First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.

Buy East of Eden at Amazon


Beautiful Hero by Jennifer Lau
Beautiful Hero
Wow. what a story of survival. This wasn't something I studied in history class so it was very eye-opening. Well written and while I knew the author survived I still couldn't put the book down. Read my full review.

With only half a canteen of water and one baby bottle, a family of eight fought for their lives in the killing fields and land mines of Cambodia.

Heroes emerge in the most unlikely places, under the most dangerous conditions. They are often the most ordinary of people facing extraordinary times. Surrounded by unimaginable adverse forces, one strong woman would ultimately lead her entire family to survive. Beautiful Hero is an autobiographical narrative told from a daughter’s perspective. The story centers around Meiyeng, the eponymous Beautiful Hero, and her innate ability to sustain everyone in her family.

Meiyeng’s acumen in solving problems under extreme circumstances is thought-provoking and awe-inspiring. She shepherded her entire family through starvation, diseases, slavery and massacres in war-torn Cambodia to forge a new life in America.

Over two million people—a third of the country’s population—fell victim to a devastating genocide in Cambodia. The rise of the Khmer Rouge posed not merely a single challenge to survival, but rather a series of nightmarish obstacles that required constant circumvention, outmaneuvering, and exceptional fortitude from those few who would survive the regime intact. The story suspensefully unravels the layers of atrocity and evil unleashed upon the people, providing a clear view of this horrific and violent time of the Cambodian revolution.

The book highlights the most basic impulses of man: good vs. evil, individual vs. group, democracy vs. tyranny, and life vs. death. It is the ultimate story of love, sacrifice, survival, and redemption—and lives pushed to the limits. It reaffirms the good in humanity by showing how one family lived and survived with grace and dignity.

Buy Beautiful Hero at Amazon

The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
I listened to this book on audio and I was so drawn into the story that I had trouble concentrating on anything else.

The second child of a scholarly, alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother discusses her family's nomadic upbringing from the Arizona desert, to Las Vegas, to an Appalachian mining town, during which her siblings and she fended for themselves while their parents outmaneuvered bill collectors and the authorities.

Buy The Glass Castle at Amazon


Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
I loved the PBS series and the book provided a few details that I had either missed or were left out of the show. I listened to it on audiobook, and it was excellent.

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world. Surely she must rely on her mother and her venal advisor, Sir John Conroy, or her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who are all too eager to relieve her of the burdens of power.

The young queen is no puppet, however. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

Everyone keeps saying she is destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

Drawing on Victoria's own diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin brings us the brilliantly imagined life of a young woman about to make her mark on her nation - and the world.

Buy Victoria at Amazon

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
The Women in the Castle
Such a lovely book. I see myself re-reading it many times to dig deeper into its depths. I can't praise this book enough. Read my review.

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July, 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First, Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naïve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Buy The Women in the Castle at Amazon


Written in Blood by Layton Green
Written in Blood
I'm a big Layton Green fan. I've loved all his books. I enjoyed the literary references. I hope there will be more books featuring this detective. Read my review.

Detective Joe "Preach" Everson, a prison chaplain turned police officer, is coming home. After a decade tracking down killers in Atlanta, and with a reputation as one of the finest homicide detectives in the city, his career derailed when he suffered a mental breakdown during the investigation of a serial killer who was targeting children.

No sooner does Preach arrive at home in Creekville, North Carolina--a bohemian community near Chapel Hill--than a local bookstore owner is brutally killed, the first murder in a decade. The only officer with homicide experience, Preach is assigned to the case and makes a shocking discovery: the bookstore owner has been murdered in exactly the same manner as the pawnbroker in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

With the help of Ariana Hale, a law student and bibliophile who knew the victim, Preach investigates the local writer's community. As their questions increase, a second body is found, this time eerily resembling the crime scene in a famous Edgar Allan Poe novella. Preach and Ariana realize that their adversary is an intelligent, literate killer with a mind as devious as it is disturbed--and one or both of them may be his next target.

Buy Written in Blood at Amazon

Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy
Fatal Masquerade
This was a pretty cute book. It is the first book I've read by Vivian Conroy, but it won't be my last. If the reader on your list enjoys cozy mysteries there are 4 books so far in this series. Are you giving an eReader as a gift? At 99 cents this is a great one to pre-load. Read my review.

Lady Alkmene and Jake Dubois are back in a gripping new adventure facing dangerous opponents at a masked ball in the countryside.

Masked danger…
Lady Alkmene Callender has always loved grand parties, but when she receives an invitation to a masked ball thrown by Franklin Hargrove – oil magnate, aviation enthusiast and father of her best friend, Denise – she’s never seen such luxury. The estate is lit up with Chinese lanterns in the gardens, boats operated by footmen float across the pond and the guest list features the distinguished, rich and powerful!

But below the glamour, evil is lurking. When a dead body is discovered, it forces Lady Alkmene to throw off her mask and attempt to find the true killer before Denise’s family are accused. If only her partner, Jake Dubois, weren’t hiding something from her…

This case might just be more dangerous than either of them could have imagined.

Buy Fatal Masquerade at Amazon

Southern Spirits by Angie Fox
Southern Spirits
This was a fun and fast read, plus the ebook is FREE  - so another awesome ebook to pre-load on that eReader you are giving. It is a great cozy mystery. It's a little like the television show Ghost Whisperer.

When out of work graphic designer Verity Long accidentally traps a ghost on her property, she’s saddled with more than a supernatural sidekick—she gains the ability see spirits. It leads to an offer she can’t refuse from the town’s bad boy, the brother of her ex and the last man she should ever partner with.

Ellis Wyatt is in possession of a stunning historic property haunted by some of Sugarland Tennessee’s finest former citizens. Only some of them are growing restless—and destructive. He hires Verity put an end to the disturbances. But soon Verity learns there’s more to the mysterious estate than floating specters, secret passageways, and hidden rooms.

There’s a modern day mystery afoot, one that hinges on a decades-old murder. Verity isn't above questioning the living, or the dead. But can she discover the truth before the killer finds her?

Buy Southern Spirits at Amazon

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhy Bowen
On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service
I really enjoyed this book. Though I haven't read any of the other books in the series, I didn't feel too lost. I have a few questions about Georgie's family that is presumably answered in earlier books. Read my review

There are more important things than being thirty-fifth in line for the British crown, and Lady Georgiana Rannoch knows her true love, Darcy O’Mara, is one of them. Luckily, the Queen agrees, but she has a little mission for Georgie before she can say “I do!”

When Darcy runs off on another secret assignment, I am left to figure out how to travel to Italy sans maid and chaperone to help my dear friend Belinda, as she awaits the birth of her baby alone. An opportunity presents itself in a most unexpected way— my cousin the queen is in need of a spy to attend a house party in the Italian lake country. The Prince of Wales and the dreadful Mrs. Simpson have been invited, and Her Majesty is anxious to thwart a possible secret wedding.

What luck!  A chance to see Belinda and please the queen as I seek her permission to relinquish my claim to the throne so I can marry Darcy. Only that’s as far as my  good fortune takes me. I soon discover that Mummy is attending the villa party and she has her own secret task for me  Then, Darcy shows up and tells me that the fate of a world on the brink of war could very well depend on what I overhear at dinner! I shouldn’t be all that surprised when of one my fellow guests is murdered and my Italian holiday becomes a nightmare.

Buy On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service at Amazon

The Hitwoman Takes a Road Trip by JB Lynn
The Hitwoman Takes a Road Triip
I've been following this series from the beginning and love every new book. They are quick, fun reads so it won't take long to catch up. Read my review.

Some people just can’t outrun trouble.

Overwhelmed hitwoman Maggie Lee thinks she’s leaving her family worries behind when she’s convinced to take a road trip with her buddy, Armani.

But pretty soon an old friend, a pesky relative, and even her pet, are asking for her help.

Loyal to a fault, Maggie soon finds herself tangled in a dangerous theft involving a crime family; confronting the abusive previous owner of her cat, Piss; and dealing with family revelations that rock her world.

With the assistance of psychic predictions, talking animals and unexpected allies, Maggie takes on her troubles head-on.

But if she’s not careful, this “vacation” could literally be the death of her.

Buy The Hitwoman Take a Road Trip at Amazon

The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgin Clark
The Cinderella Murder
It's been a while since I read a Mary Higgins Clark novel and I really enjoyed this one. Though it is the second book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone just fine. The audiobook was well done.

Television producer Laurie Moran is delighted when the pilot for her reality drama, Under Suspicion, is a success. Even more, the program—a cold case series that revisits unsolved crimes by recreating them with those affected—is off to a fantastic start when it helps solve an infamous murder in the very first episode.

Now Laurie has the ideal case to feature in the next episode ofUnder Suspicion: the Cinderella Murder. When Susan Dempsey, a beautiful and multi-talented UCLA student, was found dead, her murder raised numerous questions. Why was her car parked miles from her body? Had she ever shown up for the acting audition she was due to attend at the home of an up-and-coming director? Why does Susan’s boyfriend want to avoid questions about their relationship? Was her disappearance connected to a controversial church that was active on campus? Was she close to her computer science professor because of her technological brilliance, or something more? And why was Susan missing one of her shoes when her body was discovered?

With the help of lawyer and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley, Laurie knows the case will attract great ratings, especially when the former suspects include Hollywood’s elite and tech billionaires. The suspense and drama are perfect for the silver screen—but is Cinderella’s murderer ready for a close-up?

Buy The Cinderella Murder at Amazon


A Sudden Gust of Gravity by Laurie Boris
A Sudden Gust of Gravity
This was fun and cute and kept me up well past my bedtime. Another awesome ebook for just 99 cents! Read my review.

Christina Davenport, waitressing to pay the bills, has given up on becoming a magician—until she meets the mesmerizing Reynaldo the Magnificent. He offers her a job as his assistant in his magic and juggling show. She takes it, hoping she can revive her dream without cutting his giant ego in half.

Devon Park, a surgical resident escaping his own problems, visits the street performers in downtown Boston. But the young doctor worries that the bruises beneath Christina’s makeup go deeper than the training accident she professes.

Suspecting the doctor’s interest is more than clinical, the mercurial magician attempts to tighten his grip on Christina. Now she needs to decide—is the opportunity Reynaldo offers worth the price of admission?

Buy A Sudden Gust of Gravity at Amazon

Links by Lisa Becker
One of the best romantic chases I have read. Read my review.

Charlotte Windham, a nerdy high school prodigy who tutored classmates to earn money for college, escapes her geeky past to become a celebrated novelist. During a chance encounter at a Los Angeles restaurant 15 years after high school, she reconnects with her secret crush, Garrett Stephens, the popular star athlete and teen heartbreaker. Garrett, still leaving broken hearts in his wake, is now a successful professional golfer who recently suffered a possible career-ending shoulder injury. As he and Charlotte spend time together, developing a friendship based on mutual respect and comfortable companionship, can Charlotte forgive the past and can Garrett reform his lothario ways for a chance at love?

Buy Links at Amazon

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If you need more book recommendations, see Susan's Book Suggestions for the Reader on Your List.
Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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