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February 28, 2021

Wrapping Up Winter Reading, Spring is Around the Corner

by Donna Huber



February has been a busy month filled with a ton of books. I think at least half of my favorite authors had new books come out this month. I read so much that now I have eye strain and trying not to look at any screens (good thing that I can type without looking!).

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Life...

For those of us in the U.S., this month marked the one-year anniversary of the first known cases of COVID-19. It was the last month before life went topsy-turvy. Who would have thought that life would be like this a year later? My parents have received both their doses of the vaccine so we are breathing a little easier. I was hoping that I would be able to get vaccinated when they opened it up to education but my state is limiting it to daycare and K-12 employees and not university/colleges.

I'm still working on my French with Duolingo (almost 5 months and I've noticed improvement). I attended a virtual author chat with Susan Meissner that my local library hosted. It was interesting. Holly Goddard Jones, the author of my book club read this month, came to our book club meeting. It was fun chatting with her. I tried a few new recipes this month. Two of the recipes came from a book I read - The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan. I made a Homity Pie and an Apple and Honey Cake. They were both ever good and I will make them again. And that is about all that is new in my life this month.


Blog...

This month we featured both books that released this month as well as some books we read in 2020 that we just couldn't fit the review in or fit better as a "round-up" type post with similar books. Here are our popular posts:

Popular Bookstagram Post

I've been posting more regularly and playing with superimposing covers onto my black and white Paperwhite screen. But of course, the most popular post features my cat Oliver (don't tell Pete because his picture didn't get as many likes and he's already jealous enough of super cuddler Oliver).




Books...

I had so many books to read this month. I did pretty well reading (or listening to) 12 books: 5 audiobooks (2 were for review), 1 hardcover, and 6 ebooks (all for review). It's starting to look like 12 books might be my new monthly average. I'm doing well on 2 of my goals:
  1. Read more or as many reviews copies: 8/12 (YTD: 17/24)
  2. Read 12 backlog review copies: 0 (YTD: 1)
  3. Read/listen to 125 books: 24/125 (I'm 5 books ahead of schedule)

Books read

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read
I wanted to read this last summer but didn't get the chance so I'm glad I found the audiobook at my digital library. It was a fun book and the performance was well done. If you are looking for something kind of light but not completely fluffy then you should read this book. I checked the audiobook out from my digital library.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really. (Goodreads)

Buy Beach Reads at Amazon

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

The Nature of Fragile Things
This was a really good book, very entertaining. I wasn't sure I would enjoy it as much as I did. The early 1900s is a time period that I rarely read but luckily have found some fascinating stories recently. I loved the characters. I received a free e-galley via NetGalley. Read my full review.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity. (Goodreads)


The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

The Salt Line
I'm never sure what to expect with my book club's book each month as I'm not a fan of horror or hardcore science fiction. I loved this book though. It falls squarely into the dystopian genre that I enjoy. A well-written story with complex characters. It made for a great discussion too. I think it might be my favorite book that I've read for book club. I checked the book out from the library.

In an unspecified future, the United States' borders have receded behind a salt line--a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what's left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.

Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks--and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line. (Goodreads)

Buy The Salt Line at Amazon

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
I like the early books in the series. It's fun to get to know Agatha Raisin. My digital library recently added a few more of the books in the series and I'm looking forward to listening to them.

Agatha Raisin has a crush on James Lacey. In order to endear herself to him, she takes up gardening, hoping to participate with him in the prestigious Carsely Horticultural Contest. But as the contest approaches, plants are being mysteriously uprooted, poisoned, and burned. When the prime suspect turns up dead, Agatha must solve the murder mystery. (Goodreads)


The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck

The Invisible Woman
Wow. This was an emotional story. Fans of Code Name Helene will want to read this book. I love that the stories of these brave women are finally being told. I received a free e-galley via NetGalley. Read my full review.

France, March 1944. Virginia Hall wasn't like the other young society women back home in Baltimore--she never wanted the debutante ball or silk gloves. Instead, she traded a safe life for adventure in Europe, and when her beloved second home is thrust into the dark days of war, she leaps in headfirst.

Once she's recruited as an Allied spy, subverting the Nazis becomes her calling. But even the most cunning agent can be bested, and in wartime trusting the wrong person can prove fatal. Virginia is haunted every day by the betrayal that ravaged her first operation, and will do everything in her power to avenge the brave people she lost.

While her future is anything but certain, this time more than ever Virginia knows that failure is not an option. Especially when she discovers what--and whom--she's truly protecting. (Goodreads)

Buy The Invisible Woman at Amazon

An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch

An Extravagant Death
I've not read any other books in this series but I loved the cover so I thought I would try the book. I haven't read many books set during the Gilded Age of America so it was interesting to see some of that history. I really liked the character Charles Lenox. I would definitely read more in the series. I received a free e-galley via NetGalley. Read my full review.

London, 1878. With faith in Scotland Yard shattered after a damning corruption investigation, Charles Lenox's detective agency is rapidly expanding. The gentleman sleuth has all the work he can handle, two children, and an intriguing new murder case.

But when Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli offers him the opportunity to undertake a diplomatic mission for the Queen, Lenox welcomes the chance to satisfy an unfulfilled yearning: to travel to America. Arriving in New York, he begins to receive introductions into both its old Knickerbocker society and its new robber baron splendor. Then, a shock: the death of the season's most beautiful debutante, who appears to have thrown herself from a cliff. Or was it murder? Lenox’s reputation has preceded him to the States, and he is summoned to a magnificent Newport mansion to investigate the mysterious death. What ensues is a fiendish game of cat and mouse.

Witty, complex, and tender, An Extravagant Death is Charles Finch's triumphant return to the main storyline of his beloved Charles Lenox series—a devilish mystery, a social drama, and an unforgettable first trip for an Englishman coming to America. (Goodreads)

Buy An Extravagant Death at Amazon

Gerta by Kateřina Tučková, Véronique Firkusny (translator)

Gerta
I read a lot of WWII novels but I haven't read one like this before. It covers a huge chunk of time - from slightly before the war until the 2000s. It was largely focused on what happened after the end of WWII. The female protagonist is of German nationality, though her mother was Czech. It is a heartbreaking and difficult story to read, but eye-opening as well. I received a free e-galley via NetGalley. Read my full review.

1945. Allied forces liberate Nazi-occupied Brno, Moravia. For Gerta Schnirch, daughter of a Czech mother and a German father aligned with Hitler, it’s not deliverance; it’s a sentence. She has been branded an enemy of the state. Caught in the changing tides of a war that shattered her family—and her innocence—Gerta must obey the official order: she, along with all ethnic Germans, is to be expelled from Czechoslovakia. With nothing but the clothes on her back and an infant daughter, she’s herded among thousands, driven from the only home she’s ever known. But the injustice only makes Gerta stronger, more empowered, and more resolved to seek justice. Her journey is a relentless quest for a seemingly impossible forgiveness. And one day, she will return. (Goodreads)

Buy Gerta at Amazon

Crazy Like a Fox by Rita Mae Brown

Crazy Like a Fox
I've read a couple of books in this series and while they're enjoyable I haven't rushed to read the others in the series. However, I decided to listen to this one and I think I like the series more as audiobooks. The things that usually kind of annoy me didn't annoy me as much. I think it was because I could half listen to those sections. I think I will try more in the series as audiobooks. As I've read books that came after this one I was a bit confused but in the end it was nice to get the back story on one of the characters. I checked the audiobook out from my digital library.

The fox has made short work of the henhouse and is wreaking havoc across the once-peaceful Virginia hunt country, as Master of the Hunt “Sister” Jane Arnold, her gentleman friend Gray Lorillard, the members of the Jefferson Hunt Club, and their loyal, clever hounds confront a most challenging—and all-too-human—adversary. (Goodreads)

Buy Crazy Like a Fox at Amazon

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The Four Winds
In high school, I read and loved The Grapes of Wrath so I wasn't sure if I wanted to read Kristin Hannah's dustbowl era novel. Would I compare the two? Would it feel like the same story? etc. But in my reviewers' groups, everyone was talking about wanting to read it and I finally gave in to FOMO (fear of missing out). I'm glad that I did read it. Thematically it is similar to TGOW. If you have read TGOW then many of the scenes will feel similar. But there are differences. The main difference is it is a story about a woman's journey through this period of time. I received a free e-galley via NetGalley but I also got the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation. (Goodreads)

Buy The Four Winds at Amazon

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

The Kitchen Front
I was mostly drawn to this novel because of the recipes and focus on wartime rationing. I enjoyed the characters and their stories. While I have read a few other books about the homefront, this one was unique in that there really was an emphasis on cooking and home life. I received a free e-galley via NetGalley. Read my full review.

Two years into WW2, Britain is feeling her losses; the Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is putting on a cooking contest--and the grand prize is a job as the program's first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the contest presents a crucial chance to change their lives.

For a young widow, it's a chance to pay off her husband's debts and keep a roof over her children's heads. For a kitchen maid, it's a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For the lady of the manor, it's a chance to escape her wealthy husband's increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it's a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all--even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together serve only to break it apart? (Goodreads)

Buy The Kitchen Front at Amazon

Broomsticks and Board Games by Amy McNulty

Broomsticks and Board Games
I love cozy mysteries but I don't usually read paranormal cozy except at Halloween. As it is the first book in a series there is quite of bit of setting up the book. The author pretty much colors within the lines as far as paranormal legends - the vampires have the typical Transylvania accent and sleep in coffins and witches fly on broomsticks. She does try to put her own spin on things with Dahlia's broom being her familiar. While the narrator does different voices for all the characters something about her voice (and some of the accents she chose) grated on my nerves. It was more like a parent reading a book to a child than the story coming to life through narration. I received a free audiobook from AudioBookworm Promotions. Read my review.

Dahlia Poplar is a genuine witch, an unofficial gofer, and Luna Lane’s only cursed resident.

With a werewolf best friend, a vampire ex-boyfriend, and a ghost for a hanger-on, Dahlia is far from the most unusual dweller of her sleepy small town, but she’s the only one unable to leave. Dahlia has to perform at least one good deed per day—or she’s one step closer to turning to stone.

Fortunately, the residents of Luna Lane have plenty of tasks for Dahlia to complete to avert the curse until Cable Woodward, fetching professor and nephew of her elderly neighbor, stops by for the semester on sabbatical. Attempting to help Cable’s uncle work through the trauma of losing his wife, Dahlia uncovers the man’s collection of board games, which leads to him reminiscing about the long-forgotten Luna Lane Games Club.

Dahlia reestablishes Games Club, only to find evidence of a number of horrible demises connected to the original group. While trying to uncover the truth about the deaths, Dahlia has to fight off her curse, protect her elderly neighbor from becoming the next victim, and most vexing of all, keep Cable from figuring out Luna Lane’s supernatural secrets. Only with eerie board games like these, there may not be a loser—or even a winner—who survives. (Goodreads)


Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Triple Chocolate Cheescake Murder
If you love this series then you will enjoy this book. I don't remember Hannah having so much internal dialog with her rational self and suspicious self - I found it annoying. I felt that there was a fair amount of repetition and perhaps some of that was cut before the final product. I read an ARC I received via NetGalley. Read my review.

Hannah’s up to her ears with Easter orders rushing in at The Cookie Jar, plus a festive meal to prepare for a dinner party at her mother’s penthouse. But everything comes crashing to a halt when Hannah receives a panicked call from her sister Andrea—Mayor Richard Bascomb has been murdered . . . and Andrea is the prime suspect.

Even with his reputation for being a bully, Mayor Bascomb—or “Ricky Ticky,” as Hannah’s mother likes to call him—had been unusually testy in the days leading up to his death, leaving Hannah to wonder if he knew he was in danger. Meanwhile, folks with a motive for mayoral murder are popping up in Lake Eden. Was it a beleaguered colleague? A political rival? A jealous wife? Or a scorned mistress?

As orders pile up at The Cookie Jar—and children line up for Easter egg hunts—Hannah must spring into investigation mode and identify the real killer . . . before another murder happens! (Goodreads)


And that is me for the month. I hope you had a great 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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26 comments:

  1. It's been a long year since we first started getting worried about Covid. For me, it was the cancelation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that made me see the seriousness of this illness.

    Getting to hear and see authors virtually during the pandemic has been one good thing that has come from this epidemic. I see some every month, and that's great for me.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Four Winds. I need to tell my sister, a huge Nightingale fan, about this one.

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  2. This time last year we had just decided to cancel our March trip to Portugal due to Covid. It's been a long year and the longest I have ever gone without travelling.
    I added Kitchen Front to my TBR list.

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  3. I'm in K12 education, but our county is just opening up tomorrow for limited vaccines. So, I wait.

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  4. I was a great Agatha Raisin fan but fell away after her latest two books. I guess the novelty of the enigmatic Agatha wore slowly off for me. Enjoy your books.

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  5. Oliver looks very comfy on his quilt or blanket! I added The Salt Line to my TBR. Deadly ticks!!!

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  6. Love the book pic! And I'm still working on getting my mom vaccinated- she's leery of it and I've tried sharing the science with her. It's a work in progress.

    I love the look of your books!

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  7. I love the sound of The Salt Line - and I'm impressed with the range of your reading:)). I hope you have a great week, Donna.

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  8. This time last year we had to cancel a trip to Ohio to spend time with family. Maybe we'll be able to go later this year. I see a few books I may read.

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  9. Beach Read is on my TBR. I need something light to read so I should move it up. My Sunday Salon post this week

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  10. I hope you get your vaccine soon, I’m at the end of a very long list. I do think university teachers should be a priority though so that face to face teaching can resume for students.
    Congrats on your reading achievements, you’ve read several on my wish list.

    Wishing you a great reading week

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  11. I am glad your parents were able to get their vaccines and hope you will be able to soon too. My husband is not on any priority list at this point, so who knows when he will be getting his.

    How exciting that you got to attend a virtual event with Susan Meissner! I am glad you enjoyed her The Nature of Fragile Things. I really want to read that. Hopefully soon. The Invisible Woman is another one I am really looking forward to reading and am glad you liked. Broomsticks and Board Games sounds like something I would enjoy.

    I hope you have a great week! Happy Reading!

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  12. I'm so far behind on Joanne Fluke and the Agatha Raisin series. I have to get back to both of them. They are so good. I hope March is a good one for you.

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  13. Hard to believe we've been at this a year now! My parents got their first dose and so did my husband, but I'll be waiting a little longer. YOu just made my wish list explode, lol!

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  14. Those are some seriously amazing covers! Thanks for stopping by :)

    Colletta

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  15. It feels like we are living in our own dystopian world! You read such a diverse, interesting group of books. Will be adding a few to my TBR. Happy reading in March

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  16. I had read quite a few of the Agatha Raisin books and really enjoyed them. I'm a long way from finishing the series but I'd like to return to it sometime.

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  17. Nice reading month! Last year I started German on Duolingo, but didn't keep up with it. I think I am gonna try it out again soon!

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  18. Nice month! I need to try Agatha Raisin one day! Enjoy your March reading!

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  19. So happy you enjoyed Beach Read! It was my favorite book of 2020. :) I'm excited to read Four Winds, so I'm happy to see you enjoyed it. I hope you have a great March!

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  20. I've been thikning a lot of what I was doing this time last year. We only had very few contained cases, so at the begining of March I still did a work trip, and then a few days after I got home everything shut down.
    My dad is scheduled for the vaccine for the 15th and I cannot wait, if it were up to me I'd lock him completely in the house till then.

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  21. I have enjoyed everything I have read by Susan Meissner. How fun that you got to attend a virtual chat with her! Looks like you had a great reading month. I'll be adding a few to my TBR!

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  22. Glad your parents have been able to get the vaccine. Hope you can get it soon too! No one in my family has gotten one yet, even my parents. Hopefully soon!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  23. I need to read Four winds too, among other novels - you have a lovely list ! It makes me want to read about WWII too :)

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  24. My mom got her vaccine! It’s a relief, for sure. I’m excited to get mine, but it probably won’t happen for a while.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  25. Oliver is so cute! I need bump up Beach Read in my TBR.

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  26. I wanted to get to Beach Read last year, and plan on making it a priority this summer. I am hoping to get vaccinated when our state opens up to everyone April 5, but we've already been warned it could take weeks/months to find an appointment. I can't believe how life has changed and so abruptly.

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