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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

January 28, 2019

Donna's January Wrap Up #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber

Hello, again! Has your 2019 got off to a good start? Mine has been pretty good. I got good news about a health issue, I celebrated my 42nd birthday, and Girl Who Reads turned 8. To top it off, I've read some really good books.

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Discussion Posts

I'm participating in a Discussion Challenge this year. My goal is to do at least one non-book review post each month. We were a little low on reviews as I cleared the backlog by the end of 2018 so I actually wrote 3. Susan also wrote two discussion type posts along with C.M. North's and Alison Deluca's monthly articles.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton ~ a Discussion (Donna)
Making Time for the Things You Love (C.M. North)
Literary Realism and Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (Donna)
A Great American Author: Pat Conroy (Susan)
Girl Who Reads Turns 8! (Donna)
Bird Box: A Netflix Film Review (Alison)
Sue's 2019 Reading Plan (Susan)
Best Reads of January 2019 (staff)

New Books Bought

For my birthday, I took myself to Barnes & Noble and though I haven't read all the books I purchased last year for my birthday, I couldn't resist picking up 4 new books. They were on sale and I had a coupon!

A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay, In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear, Right Behind You by Jennifer Gardner, and The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter.

Books Read

So far I've read or listened to 8 books (there's still a few days of the month left so I might squeeze in one more). I have a goal of 115 books read/listened for the year. So far I'm on track. As I have been trying to do this past year, I'm focusing on clearing my review TBR pile. Let's see how I did.

Of the 9 books read/listened: 2 paperbacks, 6 audiobooks, 1 e-galley. 3 of the books were for review.

The Island of Always

The Island of Always by Stephen Evans

It's kind of an odd story but one so compelling that I couldn't put it down. I felt very hopeful at the end of the book. I received an ARC for an honest review. Read my full review.

Minneapolis environmental attorneys Nick Ward and Lena Grant are no longer partners in law and marriage. But neither Lena’s heart nor Nick’s imagination can seem to accept that fact. As Nick pursues ever-wilder animal rescue schemes, Lena continues to rescue him. But who will rescue her?

Buy The Island of Always at Amazon

Camino Beach

Camino Beach by Amanda Callendrier

An interesting story about friendship. The story is told in 2 timelines - present day and 20 years ago when the characters are seniors in high school. I liked seeing the different perspective between the teen-aged characters and their adult selves. The audiobook was well done, but if you are easily distracted they it can sometimes be difficult knowing which timeline you are on. This was a Prime free ebook with free Audible narration.

Sarah Martin had every intention of skipping her high school reunion. Once a popular girl and valedictorian, she’s now pushing forty, divorced, and running a small bookstore in Nashville—not exactly an impressive life. But Sarah’s best friend, Kristen, won’t take no for an answer, and she won’t let them return to Briley High without Roxanne, the missing third in their senior-high trio.

The beautiful and wild Roxanne—who listened to eighties rocker chicks, let anyone kiss her at parties, and dragged Sarah into plenty of trouble—disappeared just weeks before graduation. But Sarah’s not so sure she wants to track her down. She knows Roxanne’s departure was likely because of a betrayal—hers.

Along with their pal Jack, Sarah and Kristen embark on a quest in a beat-up old El Camino, once the center of their spring-break dreams, in search of Roxanne. But the road ahead is full of surprises that will force the friends to confront their pasts and consider the paths they’ve chosen—and the ones still waiting to be explored.

Buy Camino Beach at Amazon

A Pledge of Silence

A Pledge of Silence by Flora J. Solomon

This was a well-done audiobook. I loved the story. Though I've read a lot of WWII stories, I've not read many (if any) set in the Pacific Theater and not about army nurses. I liked that the story spanned more than just the war years. This was another Prime free read with Audible narration. A while I don't often write a full review of non-for-review-books, I loved this one so much that I did a full write up.

January of 1941, Margie Bauer is called to active duty in the Army Nurse Corps of the United States Army Reserves. She delights in her assignment to Manila, the Pearl of the Orient. She falls in love with the beauty of the island and a carefree social whirl of bridge games, pool parties, and dancing under twinkle-light stars with handsome young doctors. Though rumors of war circulate, she feels safe—the island is fortified, the airbases are ample, and the Filipino troops are training intensively.

December 8, 1941, her dream world shatters. Japanese bombers roar into the Philippines, turning everything in their paths to smoldering piles of rubble. Racing to stay ahead of the enemy, the U.S. Army evacuates all personnel to the jungles of Bataan, where Margie tends to wounded, sick, and dying soldiers in open-air field hospitals. With the Nips at her heels, she withdraws to an underground tunnel-hospital on the heavily fortified island of Corregidor.

Ultimately captured, she is interned at Santo Tomas, a Japanese prison camp in Manila. For three years, she doubts her survival in the harsh environment, where she faces escalating danger, starvation and loss. When American planes appear in the sky, she excitedly waves and calls, “We’re here! We’re here!” The liberation forces, however, bring with them a threat more dangerous than the Japanese guards, ensuring she will never truly be free of this evil place and all that has happened.

Buy A Pledge of Silence at Amazon

The Light Over London

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

I broke my own rule of not reading two books in the same genre at the same time. I was listening to A Pledge of Silence during the same time as I was reading The Light Over London. I had to mentally remind myself which book I was reading, but this one was too good to put off. Read my full review.

It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.

Buy The Light Over London at Amazon


Educated by Tara Westover

I've been waiting for my hold at the library forever but it was so worth the wait. I really enjoyed the story. If you like The Glass Castle, you will enjoy this memoir as well. I wondered what the people that Tara met at college thought after the book came out but the only response I could find on the internet was from her parents' lawyer. 

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Buy Educated at Amazon

The Fall of the Faere adn Other Stories

The Fall of the Faere and Other Stories by William Timothy Murray

I met William Timothy Murray at a local author event last year and he gave me a copy of his collection of short stories. It is a sort of prequel or companion to his The Year of the Red Door series. Read my full review

The Elifaen once had wings.

They came into being during a time before there was time, when the sun and moon and all the stars shone together in the sky with equal glory.

In those days, they were called the Faere.

They reveled in light and air, spoke with all things, heard all things, loved all things, and were loved by all things.

But strife and discord entered the world…

These stories, myths, and legends set the stage for the epic events of The Year of the Red Door. Here is told how the world was created, how the Faerekind lost their wings and became the Elifaen, The Fallen Ones, and how they failed to save their people from strife.

Some of the figures within these tales fought valiantly to avert the conflicts and violence that they foresaw. Some saw the error of their ways and sought to undo the plight they had inflicted upon their people. Others remained unrepentant and vengeful, and they ensured the fate of all the others.

By the late Second Age, almost all of the significant players in these tales would be dead, and many of them would be all but forgotten. But the power of their acts, stretching beyond the breadth of their lives, seeded the crisis that unfolded during the year 870-871 of the Second Age, The Year of the Red Door.

Buy The Fall of the Faere and Other Stories at Amazon

The Victims's Club

The Victims' Club by Jeffery Deaver

As far as short stories go it was good. I liked the characters. It is a good introduction to the detective Jon Avery if there are more novels featuring him. The audiobook was well done. It was a Prime free read.

In this page-turning short story from international bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, senior detective Jon Avery inherits a deeply troubling case. At an off-campus party, university professor Rose Taylor is drugged, undressed, and photographed on a burner phone. In seconds her humiliation is uploaded, and millions of JPEGs are zipping like immortal wasps through the internet. But why would someone target her? She has no vengeful exes or rival academics, no stalkers or unhinged students. Jon Avery, the sharpest, most experienced investigator in the sheriff’s office, is determined to find out who’s behind this horrific invasion of privacy. But soon he runs into a wall of silence at Preston College—an academic mecca whose reputation one doesn’t dare tarnish. The message is clear: if he pursues the case, he’ll pay for it.

Buy The Victims' Club at Amazon

The Magnolia Inn

The Magnolia Inn by Carolyn Brown

A really good audiobook. While there is romance, it isn't really a romance novel. It is about healing and moving on into a future not held back by past hurts. It was a Prime free read.

Inheriting the Magnolia Inn, a Victorian home nestled in the East Texas pines, is a fantasy come true for Jolene Broussard. After living with the guilt of failing to rescue her self-destructive mother, Jolene knows her aunt and uncle’s B&B is the perfect jump start for a new life and a comforting place to call home. There’s just one hitch: stubborn and moody carpenter Tucker Malone. He’s got a half interest in the Magnolia Inn, and he’s planting his dusty cowboy boots squarely in the middle of her dream.

Ever since his wife’s death, Tucker’s own guilt and demons have left him as guarded as Jolene. The last thing he expects is for his new partner to stir something inside him he thought was gone forever. And as wary as Jolene is, she may have found a kindred spirit—someone she can help, and someone she can hold on to.

Restoring the Magnolia Inn is the first step toward restoring their hearts. Will they be able to let go of the past and trust each other to do it together?

Buy The Magnolia Inn at Amazon

The Undesirables by Chad Thumann

The Undesirables
I'm on a bit of a WWII kick this month so it seems. This is another wonderful WWII story. Again it is in an area that I was unfamiliar with - Soviet Union. I knew a little of the Soviets involvement, but mostly it was towards the end of the war when they were marching into Europe. This is one is set almost completely in Russia when they were struggling against the German invasion. It is a Prime free ebook with Audible narration.

In the winter of 1941–1942, Leningrad is under siege, and Karen Hamilton, a seventeen-year-old American musician, finds herself trapped and struggling to survive. Throughout the city, people are dying of starvation and frostbite, and Karen knows that if she doesn’t escape immediately, she will share their fate. If she has any hope of leaving Russia and reuniting with her fiancĂ©, Bobby, in New York, she must do the impossible: cross enemy lines and then stow away.

On her harrowing journey, Karen encounters Petr, a young conscripted Russian soldier. She isn’t sure she can trust him—he is equally wary of her. But as the two join forces in order to stay alive, an unexpected romance takes root.

Now, as Karen gets closer to the reality of escape, she has a choice to make: Will she return to a safe life in America with Bobby, or remain in war-torn Russia with Petr?

Buy The Undesirables at Amazon

Best of Instagram

I didn't do many bookish Instagram posts this month, but this one was the top liked one.

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

This post is linked to Monthly Wrap Up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction, It's Monday! What are you reading? and Month in Review at The Book Date.

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  1. Happy birthday and blogiversary! I’m glad Educated was worth the wait. I’m STILL waiting for that book. It’s been months. I’ll probably end up buying it eventually.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Looks like you had a good month. Camino Beach caught my attention. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  3. The Light Over London will have to go on my TBR I do believe! Belated happy birthday and doesn't a book sale with books in it you want to read make your heart sing!

  4. Happy Birthday! Enjoy your books and have a great week!

  5. Lots to celebrate. Have a great week.

  6. So many lovely books! Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog.

  7. I can't resist book sales...The Light Over London looks like my kind of book. Enjoy your new books.

  8. I love the idea of doing a January wrap-up blog post! I quite fancy reading The Fall of the Faere.

  9. Great post. Those first two beachy read are fabulous and can't go wrong with Deaver. Thanks for sharing some good looking books.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  10. Camino Beach sounds very interesting. I like the idea of two timelines. Educated is on my TBR list and I hope to get to it soon.

  11. The Island of Always looks beautiful and interesting !

  12. Wahoo! I'm glad to hear you got good news about a health issue! And happy belated birthday!

  13. Lots of good WWII books! Here is my recap:

  14. Happy Birthday and Blog annivertiy. I was wondering something what code did you use to get your Instagram Post in your blog post? Thank for visiting and commenting on my wrap up.

    1. If you go to Instgram on your computer and click the picture you want to embed there will be three dots on the side. Click on the dots and there will be an option to embed. Copy the code and plug it into your blog's html editor.

  15. Looks like a great month and much to celebrate :)
    I read The Light over London last month and really liked it. The Island of Always looks wonderful :)
    Happy reading!

  16. I work part time at a BArnes and Noble, so I had to stop doing posts about what I'd bought because I'd forget what all I'd bought! :-) I need to do better with Instagram. But sometimes I wish I could do things on there from my computer instead of just on my phone. I'm doing the Discussion Challenge as well, but haven't done any yet! Thanks for stopping by my January Wrap-Up post on Lisa Loves Literature earlier!

    1. I only remember what I buy because I usually take a picture of it. Have you tried I use it to add things to Instagram from my computer.

  17. Happy birthday! I'm so glad you found books to celebrate the day! I've been hearing so much hype for Educated that I'm probably going to pick it up sometime soon!

  18. Happy birthday and blogoversary! I'm glad you made your special day very bookish. You read some exciting books too.

  19. My birthday and blogoversary are really close to each other too (I just celebrated both). Hope yours were wonderful!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction