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March 28, 2021

Some Spring Time Reading

by Donna Huber


While last month marked the 1 year anniversary of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. This month marks the 1 year anniversary since the pandemic impacted my life. I looked back on my March 2020 wrap-up post just to see what I was thinking and feeling during a time when life, as I called it, went sideways.

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Life...

March 14 marked 12 months since I have eaten in a restaurant (I've also not done take-out, curbside, or delivery in the past year). Healthwise I haven't seen a difference, but my bank account has grown fat. It has also been more than a year since I have stepped inside my church's building. I'm still watching online. We are planning to do some remodeling of the worship center this summer so depending on timing, I might not ever be in the "old" worship center again. I say it depends on timing because I am considering returning to in-person church in May.
Book mail + a COVID vaccine = a great day 

Last month in my wrap-up
, I mentioned that at the beginning of this month that educators would be allowed to get vaccinated but it excluded university personnel. Well, a few days after the state started vaccinating teachers it announced that 55+ and anyone 16+ with certain health conditions could get vaccinated starting March 15. The health conditions were pretty broad so while my chronic illness didn't put me at high risk according to CDC, it does fall under one of the eligible categories. I was vaccinated on March 16!!! So by the end of April, I will have full immunity and will probably go back to church starting the first Sunday of May. I attend the 9 am service which isn't usually as crowded as the later services.

Now everyone 16 and up can get vaccinated in my state, if you can find an appointment.

In other life news... I made a personal challenge to do yoga every day using Yoga with Adriene's monthly calendar. This month's theme was MOVE which I thought was good because that was what I was trying to get myself to do more of. The videos are available for free on YouTube and the April calendar is up if you want to join me next month. I've also kept up with my French lessons on Duolingo. I missed a few days here or there because the eye strain I was experiencing at the end of last month continued for a while this month. Spring allergies are here! 

I'm going to mention our most popular Instagram post here as it is tied to the yoga challenge. I have something I want to tell you about when I get to the Bookstagram section of this wrap-up so it will spread out the images to this one here.



Blog...

It was a really busy month on the blog. We had to post occasionally twice a day to fit all the reviews in. In case you missed them, these were our popular posts this month:
 

Bookstagram

If you follow us on Instagram, you might have also noticed more regular posting there. I would really like to get more engagement there so I'm going to be participating in the A to Z April Blog Challenge on Instagram this year. I'm challenging myself not only to be creative with my photos but also to enhance my microblogging skills. I've already revealed my theme (I'm sure you can't guess what the theme is), and I hope you take a look at my attempts each day, except Sundays, starting April 1.



Books...

As I mentioned the eye strain from last month continued this month. Spring pollen wasn't helping and my eyes were so dry and gritty it was sometimes physically painful to read. If it wasn't for audiobooks, I would not have read as many books as I did. I read or listened to 11 books: 1 print, 4 ebooks, 6 audiobooks. Eight of the 11 books were for review. As you can see audiobooks really helped me keep reading while resting my eyes. Thankfully I had 3 audiobooks that were review copies and one ebook that I had for review was available at my library as an audiobook. So I was able to keep up with reading review copies. Here's how I'm doing with my monthly goals:
  1. Read more or as many reviews copies: 8/11 (YTD: 26/35)
  2. Read 12 backlog (prior to 2021) review copies: 0 (YTD: 1)
  3. Read/listen to 125 books: 345/125 (I'm 4 books ahead of schedule)

What I read...

Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Andromeda Strain
This was the March book for my post-apocalyptic book club. Though I didn't finish it until the day after we met, I still went to the discussion as I was more than two-thirds finished. It was a good discussion and I had never read a Crichton book before. After reading it though it didn't particularly make me want to go pick up his other books. I checked the book out of the library.

Some biologists speculate that if we ever make contact with extraterrestrials, those life forms are likely to be--like most life on earth--one-celled or smaller creatures, more comparable to bacteria than little green men. Even tho such organisms wouldn't likely be able to harm humans, the possibility exists that 1st contact might be last. That's the scientific supposition that Michael Crichton formulates & follows to its conclusion in his excellent debut novel, The Andromeda Strain.

A Nobel-Prize-winning bacteriologist, Jeremy Stone, urges the president to approve a decontamination facility to sterilize returning astronauts, satellites & spacecraft that might carry unknown biologic agents. The government agrees, almost too quickly, to build the top-secret Wildfire Lab in the desert of Nevada. Shortly thereafter, unbeknownst to Stone, the Army initiates the Scoop satellite program, an attempt to actively collect space pathogens for use in biological warfare. When Scoop VII crashes a couple years later in the isolated Arizona town of Piedmont, the Army ends up getting more than it asked for. (Goodreads)

Buy Andromeda Strain at Amazon

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourne

An Unexpected Peril
I chose this book because I liked the cover. But also because I enjoyed a Victorian mystery and wanted to see if it was a genre I would enjoy by reading another. I really liked the characters of Veronica and Stoker. Unfortunately, I found the plot to be boring. Read my full review. An ARC was provided via NetGalley.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela's chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica's resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica's own family—the royalty who has never claimed her. (Goodreads)

Buy An Unexpected Peril at Amazon

The Kaiser's Web by Steve Berry

The Kaiser's Web
I don't know why I haven't read more of his books. It is a little like a Jack Ryan novel but with a lot more history. I thought from the title that it would have been about World War I but it wasn't. It is about WWII. Though it flashes back to historical moments, I wouldn't say this is historical fiction as the main plot is set in present-day and most of the story takes place in present day. I received an ARC via NetGalley, but I listened to the audiobook that I checkout from the library. Read my full review.

Two candidates are vying to become Chancellor of Germany. One is a patriot having served for the past sixteen years, the other a usurper, stoking the flames of nationalistic hate. Both harbor secrets, but only one knows the truth about the other. They are on a collision course, all turning on the events of one fateful day--April 30, 1945--and what happened deep beneath Berlin in the Furherbunker. Did Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun die there? Did Martin Bormann, Hitler's close confidant, manage to escape? And, even more important, where did billions in Nazi wealth disappear to in the waning days of World War II? The answers to these questions will determine who becomes the next Chancellor of Germany.

From the mysterious Chilean lake district, to the dangerous mesas of South Africa, and finally into the secret vaults of Switzerland, former-Justice Department agent Cotton Malone discovers the truth about the fates of Hitler, Braun, and Bormann. Revelations that could not only transform Europe, but finally expose a mystery known as the Kaiser's web. (Goodreads)

Buy The Kaiser's Web at Amazon

Will Rise from Ashes by Jean M. Grant

Will Rise from Ashes
A great character-driven women's fiction story. I enjoyed the characters and the audiobook was well done. I received a free audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions. Read my full review.

Living is more than mere survival.

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can't lose another loved one.

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ's fear of driving and Reid's military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ's anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family's present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten. (Goodreads)

Buy Will Rise from Ashes at Amazon

Cats, Cannolis and a Curious Kidnapping by Cheryl Denise Bannerman

Cats, Cannolis and a Curious Kidnapping
I kind of think it would have been better if I had read it myself rather than listen to it. The narrator did a fine job but there wasn't enough to really pull me into the story and characters so I would catch my mind wandering. It is also a really short book so everything moved rather quickly so if I was distracted for just a minute I felt like I missed a whole lot. I think Anna Romano could be a fun character to follow on her adventures. I enjoyed it enough to try more in the series. Read my full review. I received a free audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions.

Anna Romano is a middle-aged, Italian woman who is also a successful published author, a lover of cats, and an excellent cook with a hankering for Italian cuisine. She lives by herself in her quaint house, in a quiet community, with a white picket fence in Central New Jersey. When she is not writing her next book or hosting book-signing events with her publicist, she is cleaning litter boxes and baking Cannolis…but never at the same time, of course! In this first installment, on a typical day in Anna’s somewhat-perfect life, a book-signing event turns her world upside down. Is it a case of mistaken identity or was she just being paranoid? After being stalked for weeks, Anna quickly finds herself literally ‘tied up’, fighting for her life, and desperate to get back home to her cats; all while unwittingly falling in love with the detective who was trying to save her. How she finds her way out of this mess is anyone’s guess! Find out more about Anna and the dangerous cases of murder and mayhem she ‘haphazardly’ gets herself into, in the new Anna Romano Mystery Series. (Goodreads)


Mystery by the Sea by Verity Bright

Mystery by the Sea
Go on holiday with Lady Eleanor Swift! But it is not going to be the quiet holiday she was expecting. I enjoyed seeing Eleanor and her staff interacting outside their normal roles at the hall. We learn more about Eleanor's past in this book. Even though it is book 5 it can be read as a stand alone. It's a fun cozy mystery. Read my full review. I received an ARC via Netgalley.

Spring, 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift, explorer extraordinaire and accidental sleuth, hasn’t had a vacation since she arrived in England a year ago. Being an amateur detective can be a rather tiring business and she is determined to escape any more murder and mysteries. So she books into the Grand Hotel in the fashionable resort of Brighton for some fresh air, fish and chips and, of course, a dip in the ocean.

Eleanor is enjoying her view of the waves and trying to find her bathing suit when calamity strikes: a guest has been found dead at her beautiful hotel. The distraught manager, who can’t afford a scandal, asks Eleanor to solve the case as swiftly as possible. Thank goodness she has her partner in crime – Gladstone the bulldog – to help her sniff out the dastardly culprit.

But when Eleanor enters the dead man’s room, she receives a shock big enough to make her forget even the finest ice cream sundae. The body is that of her husband, who supposedly died six years ago on the other side of the world. Has he been alive all these years? Why does he have a copy of their wedding photograph with a cryptic message written on the back? If Eleanor can keep herself safe long enough to find her husband’s killer, she might discover that everything is not quite as it seems beside the seaside. (Goodreads)

Buy Mystery by the Sea at Amazon

A Bloody Stiletto, Cold Lasagna, and a Bestseller by Cheryl Denise Bannerman

A Bloody Stiletto, Cold Lasagna, and a Bestseller
As I was easily distracted during the last book in this series I made sure I did things that would distract me - folding laundry, washing dishes - while listening to this book. I followed the story better. The person reading the book is different than who did the first audiobook. I didn't think this narrator did a very good job with Det. John Solace's voice. I was often confused about his character because he sounded female. I still think Anna Romano has the potential to be a great character but I still don't feel connected to any of the characters. Read my full review. I received a free audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions.

 n this second installment of The Anna Romano Mystery Series, Anna gets herself into a mess that lands her in hot water with the prime suspect and her new Bo, Detective John Solace. Their new romance was going great, when all in the sudden, a simple trip to the grocery store turned into wrestling match between two scorned women. Peeking her interest for a juicy story, Anna's snooping to find out more about the seemingly 'innocent' love triangle, catapulted her into the middle of a murder investigation. The murder weapon of choice? A red stiletto...conspicuously pointing the police in the direction of a female assailant.No one knows whether the adulterating husband killed his wife to avoid a costly divorce, or if his mistress killed her in a fit of jealousy and rage. While the detectives are convinced the husband is the 'killer', it seems Anna's faith in his innocence may be in vain, as additional bodies, and mistresses, keep piling up. Meanwhile, Anna's publicist, Shirlene, tries to convince Anna to leave the detective work to the police, but, as usual, falls on deaf ears. In the end, not even a pan of lasagna and a neighborly smile could save Anna! Find out in A Bloody Stiletto, Cold Lasagna, and a Bestseller if Detective Solace will be able to handle Anna's crazy antics, or if he will make her vow to stay OUT of the realm of 'Murder and Mayhem' once and for all. (Goodreads)


Buried to the Brim by Jenn McKinlay

Buried to the Brim
I like a couple of Jenn McKinlay's other series so I thought I would give it a chance. Book 6 is the only one in the series that my digital library has so I haven't read the other books in the series. I don't know if that made much difference but this wasn't one of my favorite books of hers. I enjoyed the story but I'm not overly sad that there aren't others available at the library.

London's most refined canines and their humans are gearing up for the Pets and Wellness Society's annual dog show--and Betty Wentworth, favorite aunt to Scarlett's fiancé Harrison and proud owner of corgi front-runner Freddy, knows that this could be their year with the right edge. Never one to turn away a corgi in need, Scarlett convinces her milliner cousin, Vivian, to design matching hats for dream team Betty and Freddy as they compete for Best in Show.

It's a tail wagging good time until the dog-food sponsor of the event is found dead and Betty is the prime suspect. Vivian and Scarlett agree to enter the competition in Betty's place and help Harrison catch the real killer before Betty is collared for a crime she didn't commit. (Goodreads)

Buy Buried to the Brim at Amazon

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

Eternal
I was not expecting historical fiction when I picked up Lisa Scottoline's new book but I enjoyed it. I love WWII stories and as I haven't read much (maybe none) about Italy I found it interesting. It was a bit of a slow read but definitely worth the read. I received an ARC via Netgalley. My review will post on Tuesday.

Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro grow up as the best of friends despite their differences. Elisabetta is a feisty beauty who dreams of becoming a novelist; Marco the brash and athletic son in a family of professional cyclists; and Sandro a Jewish mathematics prodigy, kind-hearted and thoughtful, the son of a lawyer and a doctor. Their friendship blossoms to love, with both Sandro and Marco hoping to win Elisabetta's heart. But in the autumn of 1937, all of that begins to change as Mussolini asserts his power, aligning Italy's Fascists with Hitler's Nazis and altering the very laws that govern Rome. In time, everything that the three hold dear--their families, their homes, and their connection to one another--is tested in ways they never could have imagined.

As anti-Semitism takes legal root and World War II erupts, the threesome realizes that Mussolini was only the beginning. The Nazis invade Rome, and with their occupation come new atrocities against the city's Jews, culminating in a final, horrific betrayal. Against this backdrop, the intertwined fates of Elisabetta, Marco, Sandro, and their families will be decided, in a heartbreaking story of both the best and the worst that the world has to offer. (Goodreads)

Buy Eternal at Amazon

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Birds of a Feather

While this isn't a must read series for me it is enjoyable when I'm in between books or not sure what to listen to next. The audiobook is well done and I enjoyed this book more than I did the first book (probably because there was a lot of background that had to be covered to establish the characters). I checked out the audiobook from my digital library.

Maisie Dobbs is back and this time she has been hired to find a wealthy grocery magnate's daughter who has fled from home. What seems a simple case at first becomes complicated when Maisie learns of the recent violent deaths of three of the heiress's old friends. Is there a connection between her mysterious disappearance and the murders? Who would kill such charming young women? As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers to all her questions lie in the unforgettable agony of The Great War. (Goodreads)

Buy Birds of a Feather at Amazon

The Museum Murder by Katie Gayle

The Museum Murder
I enjoyed this book more than I did the first book in the series. I don't think you need to have read the first book to enjoy this one. Pip's sister Flis is enjoyable in small doses as I didn't find her nearly as annoying in this book. I hope the secondary characters from this book appear in future books because I quite liked them. I received a free ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Epiphany ‘Pip’ Bloom, would-be detective and London’s unluckiest woman, finds herself in a real costume drama when she unearths a theft at a fashion museum.

The missing dress is a proper piece of Hollywood history, worth a fortune. And as Pip investigates, she finds the museum staff all had reasons to want the garment gone. From fancy boutiques to sketchy back alleys, Pip discovers the fashion world is not all glitz and glamour as she hunts down her prize.

As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Pip also has her growing feelings for her housemate Tim to contend with, a family of cats to feed and her mother keeps phoning about a shipment of llamas arriving any day now from South America.

But there’s no time for distractions because Pip’s not the only one after the dress. And for the most dedicated collectors, a piece like this is worth any price – even murder.

Buy The Museum Murder at Amazon


How was your month? Are you doing the A to Z Challenge in April? Did you read any great books? Tell me in the comments or leave a link to your wrap-up post.

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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8 comments:

  1. My pandemic behavior has been close to yours. I have not been in a restaurant or church or store for a year. My bank account has also grown. I am now fully vaccinated, and I am contemplating going to church today.

    I love yoga, and I have missed my class at the Y so much during this time. I'll take a look at Adriene's yoga. I would love to get back into a routine with it.

    Good luck with Instagram. Now and then I post there, but I can't seem to do it regularly.

    Have a good week, Donna!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't been in a restaurant since last... june ? But my bank account hasn't grown fat, because I had to feed everybody 3 meals a day for almost a year, so... I love yoga and Adriene's channel especially. Enjoy your week !

    ReplyDelete
  3. I’m really hoping lecture will go back to in person very soon. My daughter is living on campus but only has two face to face classes -chemistry lab, and a forensic lab - a week. Her lectures are all still via zoom and it’s not the experience I want her to have.

    Wishing you a great reading week

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow!! Not sure I could handle a year of my own cooking. LOL That's great that you saved a sh*t-ton of money!

    ReplyDelete
  5. You had a wonderful reading month in March! Such great reads. I am not so good on Instagram as I guess I could be. I am also terrible to link my posts to Facebook and if I remember, I will link via Instagram. I might have to try the A-Z challenge too! I'll take a look at it now.

    Hope you will have a good week and happy reading!

    Elza Reads

    ReplyDelete
  6. I enjoyed An Unexpected Peril even though I haven't read anything else in the series. I think everyone in our state (Michigan) is eligible for the vaccine in another week. I thought my health made me eligible by now, but I haven't been able to find an appointment that fits with my work schedule. Oh well, eventually. Stay safe and enjoy your week!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sounds like you had a great reading month. Mystery by the Sea looks really good.

    Good luck with your second shot. I'll be fully vaccinated by the end of April too.

    Stay safe!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I haven’t been inside a restaurant since January 2020, but I do order delivery whenever I’m lazy and hungry. I’m glad you were able to get vaccinated. I got my first shot on Saturday because my state is currently vaccinating government employees, even if they’re young and healthy. I hope you’re having a great April!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    ReplyDelete

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