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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...

March 29, 2020

March Wrap Up

by Donna Huber

I think we will all agree March has been one crazy ride. All seemed so normal at the beginning of the month and then suddenly it all went sideways. I've been working from home for 2 weeks now and the new normal is starting to settle in but things still feel surreal at times. How are you doing?

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Life Update

Everything feels a little out of whack. Like I can't remember how I usually structure my monthly wrap up post. I think I usually talk about life. I kind of think we will all be talking about where we were when the world shut down - like we did for 9/11 or when JFK was shot.

My university was on spring break when it all started in my state. It was such a crazy time of uncertainty. We received notice on Thursday that the university would resume as usual after spring break then the governor held a press conference and then a few hours later we were sent another notice that classes would be suspended for two weeks while they transitioned to online classes. By Friday afternoon we knew that most staff would be working from home. The next week was a flurry of new information about how everything would happen through the end of the semester. On March 23 my county issued a voluntary curfew and closing of nonessential businesses but by Wednesday it turned into a mandatory shelter-in-place until April 7. My state has not issued a shelter-in-place but did announce that K-12 schools would be closed until at least April 24.

The pets are loving having my home.
I went out a week ago Thursday to pick up plants I had ordered from a local 4-H and then on Friday, I went into the office to check the mail since no one had been in all week and to fill up my car. My church went to online the first Sunday. So I haven't left the house in a week. I will probably have to make a grocery run by the end of this week since I need to pick up a prescription and will need eggs and milk.

Other than doing my day job from home, I've gotten a few things done around the house. Last weekend, I planted my fig trees. I feel like I might finally be bonding with my newest kitten (the one I got in January for my birthday). Yesterday, I cleaned my driveway and washed my car. What I haven't done so much of is reading.

Blog Wrap up

We have definitely been trying to keep up with the book recommendations this month for people looking for something to read as a distraction from the news. I haven't don't as much reading so I've written a few discussion posts.

I discussed digital offerings at my library, which was a timely post as the next day we received word that they would be closed. I made a list of pandemic fiction that I've read, has been recommended to me, or that I want to read. And then when it became evident that I wasn't going to get much reading done, I discussed how the pandemic was affecting my reading and from the comments, I'm not the only one struggling (I also offered how I was hoping to get my reading back on track and I can tell you now that slowly but surely I'm getting back to reading).

Alison shared her thoughts on Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson in her monthly column. Susan's review of Don't Put the Boats Away by Ames Sheldon was our most viewed review this month. MK's most viewed review was for City of Spies by James Ponti. My most viewed review was for Butchering Chickens by Adam Danforth. I wrote this review before the pandemic hit.

We named our favorite read of the month.

Most Liked Bookstagram

I almost forgot that I visited Biltmore Estates at the beginning of March to see the Downtown Abbey exhibit. That seems so long ago. I do remember being concerned about drinking out of the public water fountain and shocked by people not washing their hands better when I went to the bathroom. So COVID-19 was already on our minds.

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Reading wrap up

As I've already said it hasn't been a great month for reading, but things are looking up and I hope to be back on track by the end of April. I'm 3 books behind on my Goodreads challenge, but I can catch up this summer and over the Christmas holidays.

I've finished 6 books this month: 3 ebooks, 1 print book, and 2 audiobooks. The ebooks and print book were ARCs/for review. I read two of the ebooks before life went crazy. I'm about halfway through another ebook.

Goal update:

  • Goal 1 - Read as many, or more, review copies as non-review copies: 4 review copies this month. (YTD: 15/25)
  • Goal 2 - Read at least 12 nonfiction books this year: 1 nonfiction books this month (YTD: 5).
  • Goal 3 - Read 12 backlog review copies: 1 for the month (YTD: 1).

Butchering Chickens by Adam Danforth

An informative read. While I don't plan on slaughtering a live bird, I found the chapters about cutting up the various parts and deboning and packaging for the freezer helpful. Read my full review. A free galley was provided via NetGalley.

The space, setup, and equipment required to raise and process poultry are minimal when compared to other types of livestock, which is part of what makes chickens such an appealing choice for small-scale meat producers. Expert butcher and teacher Adam Danforth covers the entire slaughtering and butchering process in this photographic guide specifically geared toward backyard chicken keepers and small-farm operations invested in raising meat responsibly. With step-by-step photos, detailed instructions, and chapters dedicated to necessary tools and equipment, essential food safety measures, how to prepare for slaughter and process the birds quickly and humanely, how to break down the carcasses into cuts, and how to package and freeze the cuts to ensure freshness, this comprehensive handbook gives poultry raisers the information they need to make the most of their meat. (Goodreads)

Buy Butchering Chickens at Amazon

The Lane Betrayal by John A. Heldt

Like all of John Heldt's books I enjoyed this one. It is a bit different from the other books I've read of his. In the other books, time travel has been by some natural phenomenon. In this book, a time machine has been invented. The 1860s, the time period the Lanes travel to, isn't a period I usually read, but the history tidbits were interesting and I really like the characters. Read my full review. A free ebook was provided by the author.

Virginia physicist Mark Lane has a problem. Weeks after privately creating two time machines, he learns his corporate partner wants to use the portable devices for nefarious purposes. Rather than give him the chance to do so, Mark takes the time boxes and escapes to the relative safety of 1865.

For Mark, wife Mary, and their children, the adventure is a chance to grow. Mary runs a business. Jeremy, 19, and Ashley, 12, befriend escaped slaves. Laura, 22, finds her place as a nurse. Jordan, 25, falls for a beautiful widow. All hope to find peace in the past.

Billionaire Robert Devereaux has other ideas. Shortly after Mark's betrayal, he sends an assassin to 1865 to retrieve his property and set matters straight.

Filled with romance, suspense, and history, THE LANE BETRAYAL follows a modern American family as it tries to find security and contentment in the final weeks of the Civil War. (Goodreads)

Buy The Lane Betrayal at Amazon

Into the Darkness by Sibel Hodge

Into the Darkness
It was good. I don't think I was in the right headspace to really listen to it so I might re-read it one day. It was a free Prime ebook with Audible narration.

The Missing…

In a hidden basement, eighteen-year-old Toni is held captive and no one can hear her screams. She’s been abducted after investigating unspeakable things in the darkest corners of the Internet.

The Vigilante…

Fearing the worst, Toni’s mother turns to ex-SAS operative Mitchell to help find her missing daughter. And when Mitchell discovers Toni’s fate rests in the hands of pure evil, he races against the clock to find Toni and bring her out alive. But even that might not be enough to save her.

The Detective…

DS Warren Carter is looking forward to a new job and a simpler life. But when he’s called in to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly normal couple, he becomes entangled in lives that are anything but simple. And as he digs deeper, he uncovers a crime more twisted than he could ever have imagined. (Goodreads)

Buy Into the Darkness at Amazon

Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing by Tim Weed

I don't typically like short stories but after reading a collection of domestic thrillers that I really enjoyed I thought I would try more short stories. Unfortunately, I struggled with this book. There was nothing particularly wrong with the book. I just think I'm not the target audience. It would make a great Father's Day gift for a literary dad. Read my full review. A won a copy through Goodreads.

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. (Goodreads)

Buy Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing at Amazon

Famous Men Who Never Lived by K. Chess

Famous Men Who Never Lived
The story seemed like a good one. I had a little trouble following along. I don't know if it was because I was listening to the audiobook or if I'm just having trouble following. The ending really confused me. It is my post-apocalyptic book club's book for April. We are still going to meet. Like so many other groups we are going to use Zoom. I was worried about getting the books because the ebook is pricey, the library is closed, and it isn't offered through our digital library. But then Scribd offered 30 days free with no credit card so I was able to get the audiobook there. I really like the site and it's regularly only $8.99/month.

Wherever Hel looks, New York City is both reassuringly familiar and terribly wrong. As one of the thousands who fled the outbreak of nuclear war in an alternate United States—an alternate timeline—she finds herself living as a refugee in our own not-so-parallel New York. The slang and technology are foreign to her, the politics and art unrecognizable. While others, like her partner Vikram, attempt to assimilate, Hel refuses to reclaim her former career or create a new life. Instead, she obsessively rereads Vikram’s copy of The Pyronauts—a science fiction masterwork in her world that now only exists as a single flimsy paperback—and becomes determined to create a museum dedicated to preserving the remaining artifacts and memories of her vanished culture.

But the refugees are unwelcome and Hel’s efforts are met with either indifference or hostility. And when the only copy of The Pyronauts goes missing, Hel must decide how far she is willing to go to recover it and finally face her own anger, guilt, and grief over what she has truly lost. (Goodreads)

Buy Famous Men Who Never Lived at Amazon

An Exhibition of Murder by Vivian Conroy

I think this is my favorite book in the series so far. I liked that we had all the clues so could come up with our own suspect right alongside Jasper. Read my full review. A free galley was provided via NetGalley.

The opening of an archaeological exhibition brings with it intrigue and evil as a fabled cursed golden death mask lives up to its dark past and death strikes at the exhibition. While digging up pieces of history, these archaeologists have also been burying secrets – deadly ones – and it’s up to Jasper to uncover the truth before the murderer strikes again.

With a nosy journalist desperate to breathe life into the rumour that the mask brings bad luck to anyone possessing it, and the police eager to blame a famous cat burglar who recently pulled off a string of daring robberies, Jasper is on his own in bringing the true culprit to light.

Buy An Exhibition of Murder at Amazon

I'm currently reading one March new release and an audiobook. I hope to finish the March book before the end of the month. The audiobook is 15 hours long so I probably won't finish it until next week.

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
Linked to: The Sunday Salon at Readerbuzz, Monthly Wrap up at Feed My Fiction Addiction, and It's Monday! What are you reading? at The Book Date.

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  1. We are trying to figure out a new normal. We put in our first order of online groceries yesterday, and it went well. I am trying to keep calm, and that's difficult for me. I've done a few sessions with various groups online. I've found it is nice to see some human faces.

    Reading has been difficult, too, and that is a surprise for me. I've never had trouble focusing, but I suppose things are a little different now. I've reading mostly children's books.

  2. March has been an awful month all around. I still can't even comprehend what is going on. It all feels so surreal.

    I want to try the Vivian Conroy series. It looks really good.

    Take care and stay safe!

  3. This is such a strange time for sure. We're staying home and having things delivered instead. That still means a lot of wiping things down when it comes but we figure that's better than going out. Stay safe.

  4. I’m hoping to catch up this month too once we are all in a more stable routine. Good luck with your reading goals for the month.

    Wishing you a great reading week and good health

  5. I work in a grocery store, so there's that... UGH. Happy April! Stay safe and healthy!

  6. This month does feel a bit dystopian. It’s weird not knowing when things will get back to normal.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  7. Our schools here in Alabama are closed for the remainder of the school year. We've not been ordered to shelter-in-place either, but many people are doing it anyway, thankfully. Such a crazy time. :( I've been struggling too, and am trying to get my reading back on track as a way to help. My book club hasn't used Zoom yet but Facebook Video has worked great for us.

  8. It's strange how each state has had to make decisions independently from each other when it's a global crisis, and even town to town with the different states decisions were being made at different times. We will definitely not forget the year 2020, even if we're lucky enough to get through it relatively unscathed!

  9. Where I live we have a Stay at home Order. I been doing for more then when my sate decided to do it. Our governor decided to order stay at home order to hard hit county firsts but not it been a state wide for a few days. Here what I been reading during this time - Check it out

  10. This whole situation is messing with so many reading. Most of the books I finished were books read before pre-school shut down.

  11. Seems like we're all trying to find a new normal. Our state just issued a stay at home order a few days ago... sure hope that helps. Lighter reads seem to work best for me now.

  12. Stay safe...we are pretty much staying in.

    Have a healthy week.

  13. It is tough to really get a schedule going. It's kind of like grief and adjustment so go easy on yourself! I know I haven't done a lot of reading. Good luck and stay safe.

  14. At least you're getting some time to bond with your kitty---there's a silver lining to everything, right?

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  15. It took me at least 2 weeks to find a routine in this "new normal" and this has helped my spirits greatly. I wish you safety and wellness.

  16. The world is pretty crazy right now! And there's some interesting books that you've read! Thanks for stopping by! Happy reading!