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January 26, 2020

Life, Reading and Blogging Wrap-up - January 2020

by Donna Huber



I've decided this year to move my monthly wrap up posts to Sundays because, in addition to linking up to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Feed Your Fiction Addiction's Monthly Wrap-up, I wanted to try out the meme The Sunday Salon. I talk about everyday life as well as bookish, bloggy things in my wrap up posts, it seemed natural to join that meme as well. It does mean more blogs to visit, so I hope everyone will bear with me if it takes a few days (week?) to get to you.

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Life Update

For those who visited my wrap-up posts in November and December, you know that there has been a good deal of pet drama at my house. The holidays went well and everything seemed to be calming down. Then I came home from work on January 6 and found my beloved dog of 14 years had died. Above is one of my favorite pictures of Charlie. My friend Todd took it at a local park. I can't remember when the picture was taken but I think it was within a few years of Charlie's adoption. He came from a rough situation and he loved to run (I swear he had some greyhound genes in him). Sunbeams were another favorite of his. He loved the park because he could run and there was plenty of sun that day. He had been in declining health the last couple of years and he may have been as old as 17. He was my shadow so it has been a difficult adjustment. I've been trying to give extra attention to my other dog Schatz and the cats have kept my spirits up with their antics. Speaking of cats. I got a new kitten for my birthday (pictured at the top). I love orange cats and she had been looking for a home since the beginning of December. It will be 2 weeks on Monday that Ginger came to live with us. (For new readers, I now have 5 cats!).


I celebrated my birthday last weekend. My parents came over to help me hang the interior shutters I made to keep the cats from sliding off the ledge when they are dashing around the upstairs bedroom. I also purchased the material to make a climbing wall for them.

Work has been hectic since the new semester started. So while the beginning of the month seemed to crawl, I'm now finding myself shocked that it is the last week of the month.

On the Blog

It has been a busy month full of new releases as well as few titles that we just couldn't fit in during 2019.

Our most viewed post was Susan's review of The Playground by Jane Shemilt. My most viewed review was for Bound By Murder by Victoria Gilbert. MK's review of Ka-e-ro-u: Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara was her most viewed post this month.

Again, I signed up for Feed Your Fiction Addiction's Discussion Challenge. Outside of the Goodreads Reading Challenge, this is the only challenge I've committed to. I hope to write 12 discussion posts this year. Since my blog's anniversary is in January, I thought "Do You Celebrate Your Blogiversary?" was an appropriate topic. Alison discussed Reading Resolutions for 2020. Guest Kenny Trinh gave some tips on How to Choose an eReader. Susan also looked back at her 2019 reading and set some goals for 2020.

See which books we named our favorite reads this month.

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Books Read

While January is a long month (there are 5 weeks), I haven't done much reading until this past week. I'm finding it difficult to listen to audiobooks in the new office (I went from my own office to a shared office and I don't like headphones). After Charlie died I had trouble concentrating on the audiobook I was listening to. It didn't help that I didn't particularly like the book I was reading that week either. Thankfully I started my January ARCs in December, so I didn't get behind.

I read 9 books: 5 ebooks, 1 print, and 3 audiobooks (2 books I finished Sunday night and 1 book I finished Tuesday night). One of my reading goals this year is to read at least 1 review copy for every non-review book. All 5 ebooks were for review. Another goal this year is to read at least 12 nonfiction books. I read 2 - one ebook and one audiobook.

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly

This was a really good book. I love listening to older people tell stories about their younger days so they way this book is set up is perfect for me. Most of history skims over the fact that Germans, Austrians, and other people who were from Axis countries were interned during WWII. I liked that this book shed light on this subject. Read my review. I received an ARC via NetGalley.

In August of 1939, as Britain watches the headlines in fear of another devastating war with Germany, three childhood friends must choose between friendship or country. Erstwhile socialite Nora is determined to find her place in the Home Office’s Air Raid Precautions Department, matchmaker Hazel tries to mask two closely guarded secrets with irrepressible optimism, and German expat Marie worries that she and her family might face imprisonment in an internment camp if war is declared. When Germany invades Poland and tensions on the home front rise, Marie is labeled an enemy alien, and the three friends find themselves fighting together to keep her free at any cost. (Goodreads)

Buy The Whispers of War at Amazon

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God
I listened to this in one day which provided a great overview. But really it needs to be read slowly to get the most out of it. I really liked the chapter on "holy days". It was a free Prime ebook with Audible narration. I haven't returned it yet as I hope to read the ebook as I think I will get more from it than I did listening to the audiobook.

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” This thirst for an intimate relationship with God, claims A.W. Tozer, is not for a select few, but should be the experience of every follower of Christ.

Here is a masterly study of the inner life by a heart thirsting after God. Here is a book for every child of God, pastor, missionary, and Christian. It deals with the deep things of God and the riches of His grace.

In The Pursuit of God, Tozer sheds light on the path to a closer walk with God. (Goodreads)

Buy The Pursuit of God at Amazon

The Secret Guests by Benjamin Black

I found this book to be pretty boring. A lot of nothing was going on until the last 20% of the book and even that action felt flat. I received an ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

As London endures nightly German bombings, Britain's secret service whisks the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret from England, seeking safety for the young royals on an old estate in Ireland.

Ahead of the German Blitz during World War II, English parents from every social class sent their children to the countryside for safety, displacing more than three million young offspring. In The Secret Guests, the British royal family takes this evacuation a step further, secretly moving the princesses to the estate of the Duke of Edenmore in "neutral" Ireland.

A female English secret agent, Miss Celia Nashe, and a young Irish detective, Garda Strafford, are assigned to watch over "Ellen" and "Mary" at Clonmillis Hall. But the Irish stable hand, the housemaid, the formidable housekeeper, the Duke himself, and other Irish townspeople, some of whom lost family to English gunshots during the War of Independence, go freely about their business in and around the great house. Soon suspicions about the guests' true identities percolate, a dangerous boredom sets in for the princesses, and, within and without Clonmillis acreage, passions as well as stakes rise. (Goodreads)

Buy The Secret Guests at Amazon

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

The Murder on the Links
I had trouble concentrating on the story. I think I prefer Miss Marple to Poirot. It was a free Prime ebook with Audible narration.

The unassailable Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot travels to northern France to investigate a millionaire’s cry for help. Unfortunately, he arrives a day too late. Paul Renauld is found on a golf course in a freshly dug, shallow grave. Stabbed to death, he is in possession of a cryptic love letter. Pitting his wits against the hostile Paris Sûreté, Poirot is looking into Renauld’s past when another corpse surfaces on the same grounds—with wounds from the same murder weapon. But this time, the victim is a total stranger.

With his penchant for delving into the psychology of murder, the intuitive Poirot finds his footing in Christie’s second classic whodunit featuring the now iconic private detective. (Goodreads)

Buy The Murder on the Links at Amazon

The Hitwoman Goes to Prison by JB Lynn

Another great installment in this series. It is such a fun read and I found myself grinning more than once. I received a free ebook from the author. Read my full review.

Family is everything.

That’s the motto Maggie Lee lives by. She’s proven that she’ll do anything (even become an assassin…albeit an inept one, as God likes to remind her) to take care of those she loves.

Even when they drive her crazy.

But as Maggie attempts to reunite a young boy with his mother, her own family is in danger of falling apart.

The human members are facing a heartbreaking loss, the animals are mutinying against one of their own, and a missing skull is causing trouble for everyone.

Maggie may be able to save an innocent’s life, but can she save her family? (Goodreads)

Buy The Hitwoman Goes to Prison at Amazon

Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther by Craig Pittman

While Craig Pittman worked on this book I was still dreaming of becoming Dr. Donna and studying the Florida panther. It was interesting to get personal insight into the people whose papers I read and behind the scenes look at what went into those published studies. I was obviously aware of the "Maehr scandal" but not all the details. One of my committee members is even mentioned in the book. I have often thought of publishing a version of my non-defended dissertation, but after reading this book I know it would never be as good a read as this one. I received an ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

It wasn't so long ago when a lot of people thought the Florida panther was extinct. They were very nearly right. That the panther still exists at all is a miracle--the result of a desperate experiment that led to the most remarkable comeback in the history of the Endangered Species Act. And no one has told the whole story--until now.

With novelistic detail and an eye for the absurd, Craig Pittman recounts the extraordinary story of the people who brought the panther back from the brink of extinction, the ones who nearly pushed the species over the edge, and the cats that were caught in the middle. This being Florida, there's more than a little weirdness, too.

An engrossing narrative of wry humor, sharp writing and exhaustive reportage, Cat Tale shows what it takes to bring one species back and what unexpected costs such a decision brings. (Goodreads)

Buy Cat Tale at Amazon

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
Since I'm having a hard time with audiobooks, and none of the Prime books piqued my interest, I went to the digital library for a familiar author and series. 

The residents of Lake Eden, Minnesota, are planning to paint the town red, white, and blue to celebrate the Fourth of July—but the fireworks are already going off at Hannah Swensen’s bake shop, The Cookie Jar…

Hannah Swensen thought she’d finally discovered the recipe for a perfect life. But her sometime beau Norman Rhodes tosses a surprise ingredient into the mix when he phones to tell her he’s just bought a house from local drugstore clerk Rhonda Scharf—which he plans to tear down in order to build the dream home he and Hannah designed. It seems the plan has been cooking for quite some time, and Hannah’s shocked. Especially since her ring finger is still very much bare…

The good news is that the soon-to-be-torn-down house is full of antiques—and Norman has given Hannah and her mother first dibs. They uncover some gorgeous old furniture, a patchwork quilt…and Rhonda Scharf’s dead body. A little more sleuthing turns up the half-eaten remains of a very special dinner for two—and one of The Cookie Jar’s famous lemon meringue pies. Now it’s up to Hannah to turn up the heat—and get busy tracking down the clues. Starting in her very own kitchen.

Buy Lemon Meringue Pie Murder at Amazon


When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

When You See Me
This is the last of my January ARCs from NetGalley. I love Lisa Gardner's books and they usually read really quickly, I didn't start it until Saturday evening and I finished it Sunday evening. I did stay up way too late last night reading it but I just didn't want to put it down. Read my full review.

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective DD Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. And when a disturbing piece of evidence comes to light, they decide to bring in Flora Dane who has personal experience of being imprisoned by Ness.

Their investigations take them to a small town deep in the hills of Georgia where something seems to be deeply wrong.

What at first seems like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister as they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed.

Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers - and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.

Buy When You See Me at Amazon

The Cabin at the End of the World by Peter Trembley

Cabin at the End of the World
This is my post-apocalyptic book club's February read. We are doing a Facebook Live event during our discussion. We meet on February 6 and I'll post a link on Girl Who Reads's Facebook page (I'm not sure if it will be in the book club's Facebook group or the library's Facebook page). where the live feed will be in case you want to join in the event. I checked the book out of the library.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, "None of what’s going to happen is your fault". Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: "Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world." (Goodreads)

Buy The Cabin at the End of the World at Amazon


I have a couple of books in progress...

A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing by Tim Weed

A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing
This is one of the 12 "backlog" review copies that I have set as a goal to read this year. It's a collection of short stories. I picked it up when I was still having trouble concentrating on reading because I could read a complete story in a short period of time. 

A high altitude lake is the point of departure for these stories of dark adventure, in which fishing guides, amateur sportsmen, teenage misfits, scientists, mountaineers, and expatriates embark on disquieting journeys of self-discovery in far-flung places.

Buy A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing at Amazon

Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Fudge Cupcake Murder
I thought this was the next book in the series that I hadn't read and checked it out of the digital library, but then I realized I hadn't read Lemon Meringue Pie Murder so I went back and checked it out too. While I enjoy this series, I can't read (listen to) too many of them in a row as they are a bit cookie cutterish (sorry about the pun).

Bakery owner Hannah Swensen just can't keep her hands out of the batter when murder stirs things up in Lake Eden, Minnesota, leaving the sheriff dead, an innocent deputy accused, and a killer still on the loose...

For Hannah, life seems to be lacking a certain flavor. It's not that she doesn't enjoy teaching a weekly "Potluck Cooking Class" at the community outreach center. Or that she's not excited about her sister Andrea's bun in the oven -- watching the very pregnant Andrea try to sit on a stool at The Cookie Jar is worth it every time.

Maybe it's this year's sheriff's election that's got her down. For years, Sheriff Grant's been the iron hand in town. But now, Hannah's brother-in-law Bill is giving the old blowhard the fight of his long, dubious career -- and Grant's not taking it in stride, especially once the local polls (and The Cookie Jar gossip) show Bill pulling ahead.

But before anyone can get a taste of victory, things go sour. Just as Hannah's emptying the trash, she makes a very unappetizing discovery: Sheriff Grant's body in the dumpster behind the high school where she's teaching her cooking class. And if that weren't bad enough, the poor man still has fudge frosting on his shirt from the cupcake she gave him earlier. She'd been trying to find the secret ingredient left out of the recipe. Now she has a more important mystery to crack.

The number one suspect is none other than Bill. In fact, he's the only suspect. But Hannah's not swallowing it. Plenty of people had reason to hate Sheriff Grant, starting with all the deputies whose cases he stole during election years just so he could take the glory. Soon, Hannah's dishing up scandalous secrets, steaming hot betrayals, and enough nastiness to keep the gossip mill at The Cookie Jar going through several pots of decaf. And the closer Hannah gets to the truth, the closer she gets to smoking out a murderer with a very nasty recipe for silencing people. Will Hannah be able to stand the heat when someone wants her out of the kitchen... for good?

Buy Fudge Cupcake Murder at Amazon

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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20 comments:

  1. Welcome to the Sunday Salon group.

    Happy belated birthday.

    It sounds like your doing well on the nonfiction reads. I have the same goal of reading 12 nonfiction books this year.

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  2. I'm so sorry to hear about your Charlie passing. (((BIG HUGS)))
    Happy belated birthday also.
    Love seeing Agatha Christie in your book mix, and I just bought the 1st book in Joanne Fluke's series and I can't wait to feast on that! :-)
    Happy February!!!

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  3. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Congrats on the dedication, I haven’t had the pleasure yet, only acknowledgements and quotes
    Wishing you a great reading week, and a Happy birthday 🥳

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  4. I'm so glad you joined us at Sunday Salon this week. I hope you will return any time I feel like joining us again. Sunday is always a good day for me to be able to visit blogs and see what everyone is reading and doing in their lives.

    I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. I am sure you feel very sad.

    I've always been a cat person, but I haven't had a cat now in many years. I love their peacefulness and their playfulness. Enjoy your new cat.

    I'm a Texas Master Naturalist, so I'm always on the lookout for good books about nature. Cat Tale sounds like it would be an excellent read. I'm in a book club for our naturalist group, and I've just been chosen to be the librarian for the group. This is a book others in my group might like.

    Have a good week!

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    Replies
    1. I think it would be an excellent choice. There's even a Texas connection - Texas cougar hunter Roy McBride was on the team in Florida.

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  5. Interesting that you a difference between Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple stories.
    Let me know what you think of the latest Lisa Garnder when you get to read it.
    https://wordsandpeace.com/2020/01/26/sunday-post-22-1-26-2020/

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  6. Sorry about the dog, but congrats on the new kitty. I think reading 8 books with everything else going on is pretty impressive.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    Replies
    1. I finished 2 books this weekend so maybe I'm coming out of my funk. I hope so because I have a bunch of ARCs for February to get through.

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  7. I'm sorry for your loss. Pets really do become part of the family. Come see me week here. Happy reading!

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  8. I'm so very sorry about Charlie! He was a beautiful dog! I lost my Patches, who I had for 18 years, and he was my shadow, so I know what you're going through. HUGS!!!

    Happy Belated Birthday!

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  9. So sorry for your loss.
    Some really interesting books you read! Have a wonderful week of reading.

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  10. So sorry about Charlie! I've also enjoyed some of the Fluke books (I am amusing myself by reading them out of order) but I also space them out a bit.

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  11. You have so many pets but losing a very special one must have been so difficult. They do find their way into your heart. You got some good reading in, in January. I like The Whispers of War, it must be difficult for people who are friends to find their countries are at war.

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  12. I am so sorry about your puppy! Losing a pet is soooo hard. I am a cat lover as well, and a few years ago I had to put my two 18 year old cats to sleep 5 weeks apart. It was the worst, and I thought I'd never have a pet again. A few short months later I rescued two kittens from the same litter, and they keep life interesting :). I'm excited to have found another cat and book lover!

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  13. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    The Whispers of War sounds good. I might check it out. Having a book dedicated to you must be amazing!

    Have a great week!

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  14. I'm so sorry about your dog. I still miss mine. Ginger is so pretty! We can't have cats here due to allergies. You had an excellent book month. Hope your February is going well.

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  15. I forgot to write about your book dedication--this is awesome and such an honor! I am glad you explained about the bathroom :)

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  16. So sorry to hear about your pup. I know that can be such a difficult thing, even when you know your pet has lived a long and happy life.

    The book dedication is wonderful, though. I'm sure that had to make your day!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    ReplyDelete

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