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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...

April 26, 2020

This is What Happened in April

by Donna Huber

Monday will start my 7th week of working from home. I've been under a local stay-at-home order for just over a month and a state-wide stay-at-home order for just under a month. Life has fallen into a good pattern. Monday - Friday I work, take an hour walk, talk to my parents, watch some news, watch a bit of television, read a book, and then bed. On the weekends, I work in my yard or clean a room in my house, depending on the weather, read, watch a little television.

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My state has been in the news quite a bit the past week. Georgia decided that salons, barbershops, massage therapists, bowling alleys, and a few other businesses could reopen on Friday, even though we are technically still under the stay-at-home order until the end of the month. Tomorrow, restaurants and movie theaters can reopen, though with reduced capacity. I'm still not going out much. I had groceries delivered on Tuesday for me and my parents (no one delivers to their house) and yesterday I went to the local produce store to pick up my vegetable and fruit baskets then went to my parents' house to drop off fruit and veggies for them. I filled up my car on March 23 and since then I've driven just over 80 miles (~28 miles was the round trip to my parents). I'm a wanna be recluse so I'm actually loving all this at home time.

My library asked for patrons to submit nature writings for them to post on their Facebook page. I thought I would write an essay since I'm used to long-form writing, but as I looked for inspiration on my daily walks, I kept coming up with great phrases. So I wrote a poem instead. It is something I've never done. I've written a few more but I don't think any are as good as the first one.

When We Emerge
By Donna Huber

I emerge from the cool, dark house
Into the warm, sunlit spring
Flowers and trees greet me
With showy blooms and vibrant leaves
As I reflect on their time of dormancy
Needed to survive the harshness of winter and produce such a display
And I wonder how vibrant we will be
When we emerge

I spy the doe in my backyard
Keeping to the shadows 
In search of a safe place to rest
Who may now be carrying new life within
I reflect on the fawn she lost last year
To a predator for which it had no defense
And I wonder what hope and fears we will carry
When we emerge

Birds and song fill the air
As they return to reclaim territory that is the same
But different from that which they left
They rebuild nests that have been destroyed by wind and rain
Knowing, even so, they may have to start again
I reflect on their resilience in the face of adversity
And I wonder what new life awaits us
When we emerge

A butterfly flits about the yard 
With wings like stained glass
I reflect on the great struggle it endured to escape its cocoon
And I wonder what beauty we will behold
When we emerge 

Books in the Mail

On the blog

I know Susan and I have had some trouble focusing on our reading this past month, so there have been few more reviews from MK French than usual. Even so, I think we still did a good job of highlighting a variety of book genres and audiences.

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What I read

I feel like, in the past couple of weeks, that I've gotten back in my reading groove. It helps that news has slowed down, but I'm also making a concerted effort to get away from my computer for at least a few hours every day.

I've read 8 books: 5 ebooks and 3 audiobooks. While 8 books aren't quite my normal reading amount, it is definitely better than last month. I'm 6 books behind on my Goodreads challenge and I still have 3 April ARCs to read.

My reading goals:

  • Goal 1 - Read as many, or more, review copies as non-review copies: 5/8 this month. (YTD: 21/33)
  • Goal 2 - Read at least 12 nonfiction books this year: 1 this month (YTD: 6).
  • Goal 3 - Read 12 backlog review copies: 0 this month (YTD: 1).

Unknown 9: Genesis by Layton Green

This a really great thriller. It is kind of like the Da Vinci Code but with science instead of religion. The story really sucked me in. It only took so long to read because of current events and the fact that the font of the ARC was super tiny making it difficult to read. I received a free ARC from the author. Read my full review.

To solve the enigma of her past, a brilliant but troubled young woman joins a deadly global treasure hunt.

Strange hallucinations have plagued PhD student Andie Robertson throughout her life. After years of consulting doctors, she decided the visions were a glitch in her own mind until her mentor, the famous physicist Dr. James Corwin, is murdered in Italy, and Andie finds a stack of ink drawings in his office that bear a remarkable resemblance to her hallucinations.

Shocked, Andie digs deeper and learns that Dr. Corwin developed a device that might shed light on the very nature of reality. She is even more stunned to discover that her mother, an academic who disappeared when Andie was a young girl, might also be involved.

Determined to find answers, Andie follows a trail of clues placed by Dr. Corwin, for reasons unknown, in museums and cultural sites around the world, highlighting human achievement as well as a tapestry of secret knowledge woven into the threads of history.

Yet Andie is not the only one searching. Powerful forces know of her mentor's invention, including a mysterious elite society that spans borders and will stop at nothing to find the device. Now a target herself, Andie and a disgraced journalist embark on a perilous journey that might hold the key to a new frontier of knowledge-and which also promises to unlock the doors of her past.

From the author of the bestselling Dominic Grey novels, Genesis is a mind-bending thriller about how far two people will go for answers, and to save the ones they love. (Goodreads)

Buy Unknown 9: Genesis at Amazon

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network
I don't usually like to listen to dual timeline stories because I get confused, but the two timelines in this novel were easy to follow. It is a great look at how women supported the war effort during WWI and I liked the parallels with WWII. I listened to this audiobook during my free trial of Scribd.

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the matter where it leads. (Goodreads)

Buy The Alice Network at Amazon

One Fatal Flaw by Anne Perry

It was not quite what I was expecting. I thought it would be more about the fires and deaths but it felt like the story was more about bring down a man from his high horse. I didn't really connect with the characters. None of them seemed to have much personality. I haven't read the first two books in the series and I probably won't seek them out. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

When a desperate woman comes to Daniel Pitt seeking a lawyer for her boyfriend, Rob Adwell, Daniel is convinced of the young man’s innocence. Adwell has been accused of murder and of setting a fire to conceal the body, but Daniel is sure that science can absolve him—and Miriam fford Croft is the best scientist he knows. Miriam connects Daniel with her former teacher Sir Barnabas Saltram, an expert in arson, and together, they reveal Adwell’s innocence by proving that an accidental fire caused the victim’s death. But it’s not long before Adwell is killed in the same fiery fashion. If these deaths are, in fact, murders, what essential clue could Daniel and Miriam have missed?

As their investigation deepens, one of Saltram’s former cases comes into question, and Miriam finds herself on the defensive. If the reasoning Saltram used in that case is proved false, several other cases will have to be re-tried, and Saltram’s expert status—not to mention Miriam’s reputation—will be ruined. Haunted by Saltram’s shady tactics in and outside of the classroom, Miriam is desperate to figure out truths both past and present and protect herself in the face of Saltram’s lies. What started as an accidental fire in Adwell’s case seems to be linked to a larger plot for revenge, with victims accumulating in its wake, and Miriam and Daniel must uncover who or what is stoking these recurring flames—before they, too, find themselves burned. (Goodreads)

Buy One Fatal Flaw at Amazon

The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

I knew from the beginning that Simon was bad but I didn't see the twist about halfway through. I had a really high expectation for this novel after reading Saving Meghan. I'm happy to say it lived up to my expectations. A really great read. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

What makes Simon Fitch so perfect?

-He knows all her favorite foods, music, and movies.
-Her son adores him. He was there when she needed him most.
-He anticipates her every need.
-He would never betray her like her first husband.

The perfect husband. He checks all the boxes.

The question is, why?

Nina Garrity learned the hard way that her missing husband, Glen, had been leading a double life with another woman. But with Glen gone―presumably drowned while fishing on his boat―she couldn't confront him about the affair or find closure to the life he blew apart.

Now, a year and a half later, Nina has found love again and hopes she can put her shattered world back together. Simon, a widower still grieving the death of his first wife, thinks he has found his dream girl in Nina, and his charm and affections help break through to a heart hardened by betrayal. Nina's teenage son, Connor, embraces Simon as the father he wishes his dad could have been, while her friends see a different side to him, and they aren't afraid to use the word obsession.

Nina works hard to bridge the divide that’s come between her daughter and Simon. She wants so badly to believe her life is finally getting back on track, but she’ll soon discover that the greatest danger to herself and her children are the lies people tell themselves. (Goodreads)

Buy The New Husband at Amazon

Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer

Secrets in Summer
A bit of good escapism reading. If you are making a list of what to read this summer then this book should be on it. I listen to this audiobook during my free trial of Scribd.

Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It’s also Darcy’s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness. (Goodreads)

Buy Secrets in Summer at Amazon

Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O'Connell

I requested this book months ago and the irony isn't lost on me about reading this during a pandemic. I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped. The first couple of chapters felt very bias and judgemental. The tone turned me off. The later chapters about his nature retreat were a bit more enjoyable. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

By the author of the award-winning To Be a Machine, an absorbing, deeply felt book about our anxious present tense--and coming to grips with the future

We're alive in a time of worst-case scenarios: The weather has gone uncanny. Our old postwar alliances are crumbling. Everywhere you look there's an omen, a joke whose punchline is the end of the world. How is a person supposed to live in the shadow of such a grim future? What does it mean to have children--nothing if not an act of hope? What might it be like to live through the worst? And what on Earth is anybody doing about it?

Dublin-based writer Mark O'Connell is consumed by these questions--and, as the father of two young children himself, he finds them increasingly urgent. In Notes from an Apocalypse, he crosses the globe in pursuit of answers. He tours survival bunkers in South Dakota. He ventures to New Zealand, a favored retreat of billionaires banking on civilization's collapse. He engages with would-be Mars colonists, preppers, right-wing conspiracists. And he bears witness to those places, like Chernobyl, that the future has already visited--real-life portraits of the end of the world as we know it. In doing so, he comes to a resolution, while offering readers a unique window into our contemporary imagination.

Both investigative and deeply personal, Notes from an Apocalypse is an affecting, humorous, and surprisingly hopeful meditation on our present moment. With insight, humanity, and wit, O'Connell leaves you to wonder: What if the end of the world isn't the end of the world? (Goodreads)

Buy Notes from an Apocalypse at Amazon

The King of Warsaw by Szczepan Twardoch

It was a little too stream of consciousness for me, especially in the beginning. I didn't like that the Yiddish dialogue didn't have a translation on the same page. There is definitely a twist at the end that I didn't see coming. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

It’s 1937. Poland is about to catch fire.

In the boxing ring, Jakub Szapiro commands respect, revered as a hero by the Jewish community. Outside, he instills fear as he muscles through Warsaw as enforcer for a powerful crime lord. Murder and intimidation have their rewards. He revels in luxury, spends lavishly, and indulges in all the pleasures that barbarity offers. For a man battling to be king of the underworld, life is good. Especially when it’s a frightening time to be alive.

Hitler is rising. Fascism is escalating. As a specter of violence hangs over Poland like a black cloud, its marginalized and vilified Jewish population hopes for a promise of sanctuary in Palestine. Jakub isn’t blind to the changing tide. What’s unimaginable to him is abandoning the city he feels destined to rule. With the raging instincts that guide him in the ring and on the streets, Jakub feels untouchable. He must maintain the order he knows—even as a new world order threatens to consume him.

Buy The King of Warsaw at Amazon

Doing It Over by Catherine Bybee

Doing It Over
A nice light read. I would read more in the series as I like the characters. It was a free Prime ebook with Audible narration.

Voted Most Likely to Succeed, Melanie Bartlett ended up anything but. The down-on-her-luck single mom wants a complete do-over—is that too much to ask? With her family long gone from River Bend, strong, independent Mel is as surprised as anyone to end up in the quaint small town she once called home. But with her friends, Jo and Zoe, by her side, and a comfortable room at Miss Gina’s quirky bed-and-breakfast, she just might have turned the corner on a new life.

Wyatt Gibson never liked the big city. River Bend suits the ruggedly handsome builder just fine. Wyatt knows he’s home, even if that means being charmed by the appearance of Melanie and her spunky, adorable daughter. Is Wyatt’s calm devotion—even amid a coming storm—enough to convince Mel she may have found a home to call her own, a family that never leaves, and a true love to last a lifetime?

Buy Doing It Over at Amazon

How has your month been? Did you get much reading done?

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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  1. I like the summary of your day. Especially the bed part. I hope you're seeing a bit out on your walks maybe even having a chat with a neighbor. Although that could lead to who know's what..

    1. A member of my church lives in one of the houses I pass on my walk. If she is working in her garden I usually stop to chat but we stay way more than 6ft apart - the benefit of living in a rural area.

  2. You seem to be in a good routine during this time. We are, too, but I feel more isolated because of this cough I've had for a couple of weeks.

    Your poem is wonderful. It perfectly captures the confusion and worry of this time, and it reminds us that other creatures deal with their difficulties in ways we might watch and learn from.

    I saw Notes from an Apocalypse as an ebook at my library and I considered reading it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it.

  3. Your poem is very thoughtful, congratulations on taking a chance!
    I’d be inclined to still stay at home as much as you are able.

    Wishing you a great reading week, be well xx

  4. Your poem is lovely. We're in SC and we've reopened some, too - a flea market near us claims their enforcing social distancing. We have a small business and have been doing curbisde sales and, to be honest, I'm not ready to do much beyond that. I need to read The Alice Network.

  5. Lovely poem! I too have very rare, like once every five years, impulses to write a poem. I do wonder what we will find "when we emerge."

    I am nervous for your state. I hope most people continue to stay home.

    I just added a few books to my TBR from your descriptions. I am so immersed in the world of MG and YA as a middle school reading teacher that I almost forget how much I love a good thriller.

  6. Very nice poem! Beautiful.

    It's been hard and I know there are many states want to re-open. I just hope everyone does it safely. For me, I'm still staying at home. I'm in Florida and we haven't re-opened yet.

    Have a great week!

  7. Cool poem! I’ve also been going for walks or runs every day. I get up really early so I see more animals than people. I hope you have a good week!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  8. Nice looking bunch of books! I'll be eager to see how Georgia's reopening affects Covid numbers. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  9. My eyebrows need waxed so badly that I can't wait for our salons to open back up but I haven't heard of a timeline for them. Have a great reading week! I hope you can stop by:


  10. I love your poem. I have written poetry too but the impulse is lacking at the moment. I hope you will be inspired again!

  11. What a lovely poem! I used to write poetry but I haven't in so long! And you got some great books this month!

  12. Getting into a routine has kept me sane through all this. For the first two weeks, I was so stressed, I couldn't focus or accomplish much. Now my days basically start and end the same, and I fill in the rest with yardwork, housework, practicing my flute, helping with homework, and exercising. Your poem is really excellent.

  13. Thoughtful poem! I've been enjoying the time at home as well, though there are definitely things to miss about pre-pandemic life. Best of wishes with your reading goals for this month.