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September 27, 2020

The Start of Fall Reading

by Donna Huber

Here we are at the end of September. I think time is starting to normalize as this month didn't feel like it flew by nor did it drag. I'm also back to reading my average number of books per month.
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Life Wrap-up

I have now been working from home for 6 months. I took a week of "vacation" as I had 4.5 weeks of leave to use before the end of the year. It was kind of a weird vacation. I never go anywhere for my vacations but I guess because I'm home all the time I didn't have that same satisfaction of not being at work. I did get a few things done around the house but it wasn't nearly as productive as my usual staycations. As far as the pandemic goes our case numbers and positivity rate is starting to decline, following a huge spike due to the opening of the university.

During my staycation, I put together a climbing wall for my cat Mia. I still need to cover the crates and add the scratching post. I also did a bunch of yard work. I'm still clearing bamboo so that I can put in more garden boxes. Now that the weather has cooled I hope to get the next section cleared. The cooler weather also means I'm back to baking. I finally made the Raspberry-Almond Coffee Cake recipe I got from Pudding Up with Murder by Julia Buckley. It went really well with my morning cup of tea.

I received some really great news from the library regarding RBDigital - our digital library for audiobooks and ebooks. RBDigital has been bought by the same company that owns Overdrive. I have been pretty open about my dislike of RBDigital so I'm super excited that we will once again have access to Overdrive (or the Libby app) for our audiobooks and ebooks. With RBDigital, I could not access ebooks with my Kindle Paperwhite but I will be able to with Overdrive. If your library also uses RBDigital and you are unhappy with it, you should see if you will be switching to Overdrive/Libby. I am supposed to be able to access Overdrive starting on Oct. 1.

Blog Wrap-up

Some really great books came out this month. We also caught up on some books that came out while we were all dealing with reading slumps due to the onset of the pandemic. I hope you found something great to read. Be sure to check out some of our most popular reviews.
We didn't have any discussion posts but we did have a guest post from author Kandi J Wyatt who shared what she learned while writing her new novel Dragon's Winter. Be sure to check back on Wednesday for our Best of the Bunch where we name our favorite reads of the month.

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Reading Wrap-up

Usually, when I take a vacation I get more reading done but not this month. Most afternoons I was too tired to read because of all the yard work I was doing and I didn't listen to any audiobooks that week. So I actually had a slightly below average month with only 9 books read - 3 audiobooks and 6 ebooks. I'm hoping to finish one more ebook and one more audiobook before the end of the month which would bring me up to average. 

Let's see how I'm doing with my goals:
  • Goal 1 - Read as many, or more, review copies as non-review copies: 6/9 this month. (YTD: 52/98)
  • Goal 2 - Read at least 12 nonfiction books this year: 1 this month (YTD: 11).
  • Goal 3 - Read 12 backlog review copies: 0 this month (YTD: 1).
  • Goodreads Challenge: 98/120
So I'm doing well with goals 1 and 2, I don't think I'm going to come anywhere close to accomplishing goal 3. I have less new release ARCs on my list for October, November, and December so it might be possible to get close though. I'm 10 books ahead on my Goodreads Challenge.

What I read

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
I continued catching up on some classic children's books that I didn't read as a child. The movies scared me as a child so I had no interest in reading the book. It was interesting to compare what was kept for the movie and what was changed. Dorothy's iconic ruby slippers were actually silver. This cover intrigues me as it features a darker-skinned Dorothy. I listened to the audiobook from the digital library.

When Dorothy and her little dog Toto are caught in a tornado, they and their Kansas farmhouse are suddenly transported to Oz, where Munchkins live, monkeys fly and Wicked Witches rule. Desperate to return home, and with the Wicked Witch of the West on their trail, Dorothy and Toto - together with new friends the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and cowardly Lion - embark on a fantastic quest along the Yellow Brick Road in search of the Emerald City. There they hope to meet the legendary, all-powerful Wizard of Oz, who alone may hold the power to grant their every wish. (Goodreads)

A Question of Betrayal by Anne Perry

A Question of Betrayal
I love books about spies and I love books about WWII. So this book was perfect for me. I haven't read book one but I want to go back and read it as I think it will help straighten out some of the character relationships but overall this book can be easily read on its own. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Britain's secret intelligence service, MI6, has lost contact with its informant in northern Italy, just as important information about the future plans of Austria and Nazi Germany is coming to light. And young Elena Standish, to her surprise, is the only person who can recognize MI6's man--because he is her former lover. Aiden Strother betrayed her six years before, throwing shame on her entire family. Now, with so much to prove, Elena heads to Trieste to track down Aiden and find out what happened to his handler, who has mysteriously cut off contact with Britain.

As Elena gets word of a secret group working to put Austria in the hands of Germany, her older sister, Margot, is in Berlin to watch a childhood friend get married--to a member of the Gestapo. Margot and Elena's grandfather, the former head of MI6, is none too happy about the sisters' travels at this tumultuous time, especially when a violent event at home reminds him that even Britain is growing dangerous. As his own investigation collides with his granddaughter's, what's at stake on the continent becomes increasingly frightening--and personal. (Goodreads)

Buy A Question of Betrayal at Amazon

The Hitwoman Plays Games by JB Lynn

The Hitwoman Plays Games
Another great installment in the series. It was a happier book than some have been in the series. Maggie didn't have to commit any crimes though there is still plenty of tension. I received a free ebook from the author. Read my full review.

Life’s not all fun and games…

Hitwoman Maggie Lee has faced off against some bad people in the past, but nothing she has ever faced before has prepared her for her new assignment. Nothing.

What could be worse than working at a kid’s game center?

Flashing lights, beeping machines, screaming kids on a sugar high, and the world’s biggest claw machine may be the combination that finally pushes Maggie over the edge, as she tries to hold down a legit job as a cover for her first PI case.

Not that her downtime offers any respite. While she’s “off” she has to deal with family drama, dangerous dancers, a weird job assignment from the mob boss, and a VERY high stakes poker game.

Thankfully she’s got her animals to confide in, a bodyguard who’s looking out for her and a certain police detective on her side.

Maggie’s got to deal with the hand she’s been dealt…but there’s no guarantee she’ll come out the winner. (Goodreads)

A Witness to Murder by Verity Bright

A Witness to Murder
I loved this from the first page to the last. I want to be Eleanor. I will have to look for the first two books in this series as this one was such a delight. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Autumn, 1920. Lady Eleanor Swift, accidental amateur detective and retired explorer, is determined to take a break from investigating murders. So when a local politician dies suddenly at an elegant dinner party at Farrington Manor, she tries her hardest not to listen to the raft of rumours around the village that he might have been poisoned by the fudge. It’s the anniversary of the disappearance of her beloved parents and she’s promised herself not to get mixed up with any more mysteries. She isn’t sure they’d have approved.

But when she arrives home to discover that Mrs Pitkin, the kindly cook from Farrington Manor, has been dismissed without wage or reference because the police consider her a suspect, Eleanor knows she needs to act. If there was a murder, then she needs to track down the culprit and clear Mrs Pitkin’s name.

Accompanied by her faithful partner in crime, Gladstone the bulldog, who has the best nose for sniffing out bones in the country, Eleanor sets out to find the killer. And when another body turns up and she finds poisoned fudge in the victim’s house, Eleanor knows she’s on the right track. But can she sort the truth from the lies before she becomes a witness to another murder – this time rather closer to home? (Goodreads)

Buy A Witness to Murder at Amazon

Handbook for Homicide by Lorna Barrett

Handbook for Homicide
The writing was a little rocky for me in the first few chapters. I don't know if the ARC was just needing polish or if that is how the final product turned out but it did get better about a third of the way through. The town is a little too perfect and cute to feel real. Tricia grew on me but I don't know if it is a series I will continue with. I haven't read the other books in the series but it was easy enough to read as a stand alone. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Haven't Got A Clue bookshop owner Tricia Miles's relationship is on the rocks. After a not-so-fun vacation with her on-again-off-again lover, Marshall Cambridge, Tricia's hoping for smooth sailing back in Stoneham. Unfortunately Booktown greets her not with blue skies but with another body.

When Tricia's assistant manager, Pixie, finds homeless vet Susan Morris's body behind Haven't Got A Clue, Pixie's checkered past makes her the prime suspect. Tricia sets out to clear Pixie's name armed with only an anchor insignia earring found at the scene of the crime.

As Tricia digs deeper she discovers Susan was involved in a scandal right before retiring from the Navy—but since nobody in the village knows Susan, even Tricia's one lead is in danger of drying up. With family drama brewing in the background and all of Stoneham convinced her manager is a murderer, Tricia knows she has to get to the bottom of the case soon before Pixie's life is sunk. (Goodreads)

Buy Handbook for Homicide at Amazon

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage

I listened to the audiobook in preparation for the virtual author chat I attended last week with Tayari Jones. I enjoyed the various narrators used for the audiobook. I thought they did a good job bringing the characters to life. The plot was pretty obvious about what was going to happen. The writing felt realistic and honest. I checked the audiobook out from my digital library.

Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together. (Goodreads)

Buy An American Marriage at Amazon

Christmas Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Christmas Cupcake Murder
I really like that the mystery didn't involve a murder. It is a really sweet Christmas-worthy mystery. I also have several recipes I want to try. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

While Hannah speeds through a lengthy holiday checklist, drama in town grows like Santa’s waistline on Christmas Eve. Her sister Andrea wants to stave off the blues by helping out at The Cookie Jar, Michele’s love life is becoming complicated, Lisa needs Hannah’s advice, and Delores has a Christmas secret she’s not willing to share. But nothing dampens the holiday mood more than the chilling mystery surrounding the man found near death in an abandoned storefront two doors down from Hannah’s bakery . . .

The befuddled John Doe can’t recall a thing about himself—except for his unusual knowledge of restoring antique furniture. With a smattering of clues and barely enough time to frost Christmas cookies, Hannah must solve a deadly puzzle that could leave her dashing through the snow for her life! (Goodreads)

Firing Point by Mike Maden

Firing Point
There's a new Jack Ryan book coming out soon and it made me want to check to see what books I haven't read yet in the series. I also needed a new audiobook and I really love this series. It's been a while since Jack, Sr has been featured in the books I've read in the series. I like Jake, Jr. stories but I have fond memories of the early days of this series. I prefer Cold War-era spycraft but of the more modern espionage novels, I think Firing Point is a favorite. I checked the audiobook out of the digital library.

While on vacation in Barcelona, Jack Ryan, Jr. is surprised to run into an old friend at a small café. A first, Renee Moore seems surprised to see Jack, but then she just seems irritated and distracted. After making plans to meet later, Jack leaves only to miss the opportunity to ever speak to Renee again as the café is destroyed minutes later by a suicide bomber. A desperate Jack plunges back into the ruins to save his friend, but it's too late. As she dies in his arms, she utters one word, "Sammler."

When the police show up they are initially suspicious of Jack until they are called off by a member of the Spanish Intelligence Service. This mysterious sequence of events sends the young Campus operative on an unrelenting search to find out the reason behind Renee's death. Along the way, he discovers that his old friend had secrets of her own--and some of them may have gotten her killed.

Jack has never backed down from a challenge, but some prey may be too big for one man.

Buy Firing Point at Amazon

Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal by Kat Arney

Rebel Cell
An interesting overview of cancer research. The writing was a little drier than I would like, but it isn't overly academic and should be accessible to the general public. If you are wanting to know where science has been and where it is going in regards to cancer then this would be a good book to read. I received a free ebook from the author. Read my full review.

Why do we get cancer? Is it our modern diets and unhealthy habits? Chemicals in the environment? An unwelcome genetic inheritance? Or is it just bad luck?

The answer is all of these and none of them. We get cancer because we can’t avoid it—it’s a bug in the system of life itself.

Cancer exists in nearly every animal and has afflicted humans as long as our species has walked the earth. In Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal, Kat Arney reveals the secrets of our most formidable medical enemy, most notably the fact that it isn’t so much a foreign invader as a double agent: cancer is hardwired into the fundamental processes of life. New evidence shows that this disease is the result of the same evolutionary changes that allowed us to thrive. Evolution helped us outsmart our environment, and it helps cancer outsmart its environment as well—alas, that environment is us.

Explaining why “everything we know about cancer is wrong,” Arney, a geneticist and award-winning science writer, guides readers with her trademark wit and clarity through the latest research into the cellular mavericks that rebel against the rigid biological “society” of the body and make a leap towards anarchy.

We need to be a lot smarter to defeat such a wily foe—smarter even than Darwin himself. In this new world, where we know that every cancer is unique and can evolve its way out of trouble, the old models of treatment have reached their limits. But we are starting to decipher cancer’s secret evolutionary playbook, mapping the landscapes in which these rogue cells survive, thrive, or die, and using this knowledge to predict and confound cancer’s next move.

Rebel Cell is a story about life and death, hope and hubris, nature and nurture. It’s about a new way of thinking about what this disease really is and the role it plays in human life. Above all, it’s a story about where cancer came from, where it’s going, and how we can stop it. (Goodreads)

Buy Rebel Cell at Amazon

All in all, it wasn't a bad month. What did you read this month?

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 love love love Overdrive!! I am sure you will too.

    I read An American Marriage a few years ago, it was good but as you said, predictable.

  2. Your climbing wall looks like fun for the kitty...and I love the look of your raspberry almond coffee cake. Yum!

    Enjoy your books, which all look tempting. I read An American Marriage a while ago. I enjoy Joanne Fluke's books and the Hallmark show based on some of them.

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

  3. I'm glad you got a little break from your work at home, with a vacation at home.

    We had Overdrive at our library, but it got too expensive, and they got Hoopla instead. I was glad during the time our library was closed that at least we had Hoopla. I like Overdrive a lot. Our library also has RBDigital, so I wonder if we will also have access to Overdrive again.

    Love the Instagram photo of Christmas selections. I would love to have Christmas come this year. I'm afraid it will be more of the same here.

  4. We are also on holiday at the moment! Not staycation though, we are travelling a bit around our beautiful area. Love your play wall for your cat! Elza just thinks the whole house is hers...

    Hope you will have a good week and are full of energy to be back at work!

    Thanks for visiting us earlier.

  5. An American Marriage is such a sad, discouraging tale. Perfect for informing people about the details of over incarceration without equal justice. I was looking forward to reading it with my group but the library called me and sad the kit would not be returned by the group who had it before us so I needed to select a different kit. Drats. My Sunday Salon post

  6. That’s good you got a little holiday, even if your surroundings didn’t change!

    I love your cat’s play wall, I don’t have a cat but if I did I think I’d go crazy with buying toys and things for it to climb!

    I must start the Joanne Fluke series again, I read the first three books then started something else.

    Have a good week!

  7. i feel sure kitty was happy with your staycation
    sherry @ fundinmental

  8. I love that kitty climbing wall! So much fun. Glad you were able to take some time and get things done. It's so hard right now. Looks like you've got some great books read! I'm adding a few to my list! Have a great week.

  9. The Verity Bright book looks good!

    And Raspberry-Almond Coffee Cake sounds delicious!

  10. The climbing wall looks wonderful. I'm sure your kitty loves it.

  11. You got lots of mysteries read this past month, hope you enjoyed them! Love that climbing wall, my sister has two cats, I'll have to tell her about it and see if she thinks her cats would like something like that. Hope you have a good October!
    Lisa Loves Literature

  12. I haven't read many mysteries this year - these look interesting. Have a great reading month in October

  13. Sounds like a great month! I need to try some Clancy. And I love that cat walk!!