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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the...

April 25, 2021

More Spring Reading - April Update

by Donna Huber

The so few April showers we've had means I've had plenty of days to do yard work which means I haven't been spending as much time reading. My yard is starting to look nice but my reading pile is toppling more than ever!

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Life update

We have been having beautiful weather (bar yesterday when we had a good soaking rain all morning). A friend of mine has a greenhouse and a couple of weekends ago she had a plant sale where I picked up zinnias, herbs, tomato plants, eggplants, and a leek plant. So I spent some time potting up those plants. Then this weekend (yes in the rain) I went to the Master Gardeners Plant Sale where I picked up a couple of bell pepper plants to finish out my vegetable plantings, a spider plant to replace the one that didn't survive the last cat attack, a purple heart, and a few hellebores for the garden bed I've been working on the last few years.

On the cooking front, I made my first two-crust pie. It was an absolutely delicious Italian sausage and spinach pie - here's the recipe.  

You may recall last month I started doing yoga every day. I'm pleased to say I've been able to keep that up. I really do enjoy the monthly calendars that Yoga with Adriene provides - there's a nice variety of different practices. I loved the week of bedtime practices. It was definitely a God thing that the day after I got my second COVID-19 vaccine that the video was Intro to Yin Yoga (in case you don't know, it is done with lots of pillows and blankets). And yes, I got my second vaccine! I even got a shirt for it. The next day my joints hurt but not any more than they do on a normal flair-up day - Advil was able to take care of it.

Blog update

It's been another good month on the blog. We've featured plenty of books. If you need something to read, I'm sure you can find something to your likely. Here's a quick recap of our most popular posts.

On Instagram

This month I have been participating in the A to Z Challenge. I've been having fun highlighting some of the books in my collection and talking about books in a different way than I do here on the blog, though I wish I had time to do so. I hope you will check out my posts. Our most liked post came from the challenge.


Book update

Book mail! I received two books in the mail this month. Both of them came from Henry Holt: The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz and Your Turn by Julie Lythcott-Haims. 

Books Read

I read very few books this month. I think the last time I read so few books it was the beginning of the pandemic when I couldn't focus on anything but the news. This month I've been distracted with getting the yard cleaned up - I did this last year too but I also had more times because I wasn't commuting to work every day. Again, audiobooks saved me. Otherwise, I would have been even worst with the number of books read. There is still a week left of April so I hope to finish up at least the two books I have in progress. But as of right now I've read 10 books: 1 print book, 6 audiobooks, and 3 ebooks. Because I was able to get some of the ebooks I had for review as audiobooks from the library my review count continues to stay up - 8 books were for review. Let's look at my goals for the year.
  1. Read more or as many reviews copies: 8/10 (YTD: 34/45)
  2. Read 12 backlog (prior to 2021) review copies: 0 (YTD: 1)
  3. Read/listen to 125 books: 45/125 (I'm 5 books ahead of schedule)
And here's a closer look at what I read (or listened to).

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Moon of the Crusted Snow
This was April's book club read. It was a quick read - I read it in 2 days. The words and sentences just flowed so well. I'm glad that there is a sequel planned as I would like to see how things turn out in the long term for the characters. I bought the book.

With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow.

The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision. (Goodreads)

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton

Agata Raisin and the Vicious Vet
I do like these early Agatha Raisin books. I'm glad I still have so many to read. The audiobooks are great. I checked the audiobook out of my digital library.

Feisty Agatha Raisin, former London PR exec, retired to quiet Cotswold village. Handsome vet Paul Bladen accidentally kills himself while attending Lord Pendlebury's horse. Agatha and attractive neighbor James Lacey investigate the curious lack of sorrow shown by his divorced wife while a killer plans another "accident". (Goodreads)

Deadly Editions by Paige Shelton

Deadly Editions
A good mystery. I enjoyed the characters. A great book for a lazy afternoon of reading. I received a free ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

Bookseller Delaney Nichols receives a mysterious cloaked visitor one evening at the Cracked Spine Bookshop. He presents to her an even more perplexing note: an invitation to an exclusive treasure hunt hosted by eccentric socialite Shelaigh O'Connor. Delaney is intrigued, but also cautious: Shelaigh, while charming in person, has a reputation for her hijinks as a wealthy young woman in the '70s. She was even once suspected for the murder of a former boyfriend, though ultimately cleared of all charges.

But Delaney is enticed by the grand prize at the end of the treasure hunt: a highly valuable first edition copy of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The winner is also to receive the contents of Shelaigh's vast library, and an unspecified sum of cash.

The night after the first meeting of the treasure hunters, however, several homes in Edinburgh are robbed in a manner reminiscent of Shelaigh's old tricks. And when a man connected to Shelaigh is killed, suspicion builds. Except Sheilagh herself has disappeared from her home, seemingly kidnapped by the villain.

Terror mounts throughout the city as Delaney attempts to solve the mystery, while trying to stay out of the killer's clutches. For she, it seems, is his next target. (Goodreads)

Buy Deadly Editions at Amazon

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

The Women of Chateau Lafayette
This book was so much more than I was expecting. Spanning centuries, it is about the history of a place and defenders of liberty. I knew little about Lafayette outside of some dim memories of American Revolution history lessons. At first, the chapters of Adrienne (Lafayette's wife) were my least favorite but at some point, I came to enjoy them as much as the WWI-set chapters of Beatrice and WWII-set chapters of Marthe. I actually had to know what happened to Lafayette and his wife so much that I couldn't wait to get to the end of the novel and instead turned to Wikipedia. A must read for all fans of historical fiction and strong females. I received a free ARC via NetGalley and checked the audiobook out from my digital library. Read my full review.

Most castles are protected by powerful men. This one by women...

A founding mother...

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband's political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary...

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing - not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war-relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what's right.

A reluctant resistor...

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan's self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become. (Goodreads)

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Surviving Savannah
I'm not a big fan of southern fiction, but I was hoping the historical portions would be interesting enough for me. And it was. I'd never heard of the Pulaski and Callahan's storytelling skills pull the reader right into web of piecing together what happened from present-day with Everly and "real time" nuances of that fateful day with Lily and Augusta. Augusta made me think a little of Scarlett O'Hara but instead of wanting to save a house, Augusta's sole desire is the safety of her nieces and nephews. I received a free ARC via NetGalley and checked the audiobook out from my digital library. Read my full review.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she's shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can't resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly's research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah's society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving. (Goodreads)

Buy Surviving Savannah at Amazon

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code
Not my favorite WWII story but it was interesting and I enjoyed the characters. It felt a bit ironic reading this story the same week as Prince Philip's death as he is a pretty prominent character. I received a free ARC via NetGalley and checked out the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer. (Goodreads)

Buy The Rose Code at Amazon

Dance with Death by Will Thomas

Dance with Death
I'm not sure I'm a fan of Victorian mysteries. I liked the characters of Barker and Llewlyn and the writing was good. The mystery took an interesting twist at the end. I would probably read another book in the series because I really like Thomas and Rebecca and want to see what happens with them. I received a free ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

In June of 1893, the future Nicholas II travels to London for a royal wedding, bringing with him his private security force and his ballerina mistress, Mathilde Kchessinska. Rumored to be the target of a professional assassin known only as La Sylphide, and the subject of conspiracies against his life by his own family who covet his future throne, Nicholas is protected by not only private security, but the professional forces of both England and Russia.

All of these measures prove inadequate when Prince George of England is attacked by an armed anarchist who mistakes him for Nicholas. As a result, Barker and Llewelyn are brought in to help track down the assassin and others who might conspire against the life of the tsesarevich . The investigations lead them down several paths, including Llewelyn's old nemesis, the assassin Sofia Ilyanova. With Barker and Llewelyn both surviving separate attempts on their lives, the race is on to find both the culprit and the assassin they hired. Taking them through high society (including a masked ball at Kensington Palace) and low, chasing down motives both personal and political, Barker and Llewelyn must solve the case of their life before the crime of the century is committed. (Goodreads)

Buy Dance with Death at Amazon

The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry

The Sweet Taste of Muscadines
I keep trying to like southern fiction but I just don't. About halfway through I was reminded of The Peach Keeper. Probably because it was another story everyone loved but I didn't because it is southern fiction. If you do like southern fiction then you will enjoy this story. I received a free ARC via NetGalley and checked out the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

A woman returns to her small southern hometown in the wake of her mother's sudden death--only to find the past upended by stunning family secrets--in this intimate debut novel, written with deep compassion and sharp wit.

Lila Bruce Breedlove never quite felt at home in Wesleyan, Georgia, especially after her father's untimely demise when she was a child. Both Lila and her brother, Henry, fled north after high school, establishing fulfilling lives of their own. In contrast, their younger sister, Abigail, opted to remain behind to dote on their domineering, larger-than-life mother, Geneva. Yet despite their independence, Lila and Henry know deep down that they've never quite reckoned with their upbringing.

When their elderly mother dies suddenly and suspiciously in the muscadine arbor behind the family estate, Lila and Henry return to the town that essentially raised them. But as they uncover more about Geneva's death, shocking truths are revealed that overturn the family's history as they know it, sending the pair on an extraordinary journey to chase a truth that will dramatically alter the course of their lives. (Goodreads)

Limelight & Larceny by Jordan Riley Swan

Limelight & Larceny
This was a pretty cute story. It kind of rubbed me the wrong way that the police detective was so willing to break the law to get what he wanted. Even though he was right and the law was being broken by others, I would have preferred less blatant law-breaking on his part. It kind of reminded me of the television shows Shades of Blue (though not as gritty) and White Collar. The audiobook was well done with a full cast of voice actors. I received a free audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions. Read my full review.

These actors are going to steal more than the show.

The Tandem Players love their community theater almost as much as they love the sweet old landlady who gave them a home to perform their plays in over the years. But when she passes away, and the will that was to leave the Broadtown Theater to the acting troupe disappears, they don’t even have time to mourn their loss. Her son comes in like a wrecking ball, brandishing a twenty-year-old will and an ultimatum: leave, or be buried under the rubble when he has the place demolished.

The ragtag group of actors—a street magician, a former stuntwoman, an IT student, an FX specialist, a leading man, and their stage manager—will have to pool their talents and steal the will back. And they’ll have to act fast, because the next wrecking ball that swings in is going to be a real one. (Goodreads)

Buy Limelight & Larceny at Amazon

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

The Venice Sketchbook
I discovered Rhys Bowen when I read a book in her cozy mystery series. While that series is fun, I've always enjoyed her stand-alone dual timeline historical fiction stories a bit more. I was really looking forward to this book as I loved her last one. I have to say it probably isn't my favorite, though I did get quite invested in the characters by the end. It just left a little too cookie-cutter for me. A free ARC was provided via NetGalley. My full review will post on Thursday.

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins. (Goodreads)

Buy The Venice Sketchbook at Amazon

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. There's a good array of books here / thx for word especially on The Rose Code. And the mention of the yoga site. Good to know. Definitely have to pair reading with exercise. I like walking with audiobooks. Enjoy your May reading.

  2. You have read the most gorgeous books this month! I am so jealous! Especially for The Rose Code and Moon of the Crusted Snow. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

    Hope May will be a good month for you too! Happy reading and blogging!

    Elza Reads

  3. Thank you so much for sharing information about MailChimp. I'm working on switching over now. I've been wondering what I was going to do about the loss of FeedBurner.

    The Master Gardeners sale is a great place to get wonderful plants at low prices. Ours was sold out in less than an hour.

    I like the sound of an Italian sausage and spinach pie. And I think I'll subscribe to Yoga with Adriene. I miss my yoga so much.

    Thanks for the thumbs up for Women of Chateau Lafayette.

  4. I've been seeing good things about Rose Code so grabbed a copy when I saw it at my local indie book store yesterday. I will try to get to it during May.

  5. So many great books on your list. The Paige Shelton series is one I want to catch up on. Hope you have a great week!

  6. I like this idea of Yin Yaga. I've done a lot of Yoga in my day and it helps. I heard recently that laughter Yoga doesn't really have anything to do with Yoga, but still interested in seeing what that's about.

  7. Congratulations on your second vaccine!

    I've struggled more with reading over the past few weeks than I have since the first couple of months of the pandemic. And I don't think I'm particularly stressed about anything. It's so odd.

    I used to read the Agatha Raisin mysteries as fast as my library shelved them. They're a fun little escape but I lost track of them somewhere along the way.

    Enjoy your week!

  8. I think I did an A to Z challenge in April a few years ago. It was fun, I should do it another time. I think Revival was one of the last Stephen King books I read. I'm behind on his books, but haven't had the urge to pick them up. Hope you're having a good May so far!
    Lisa Loves Literature

  9. I've been spending a lot of my time lately doing yardwork as well. Lots to do, but it's rewarding!

  10. "The Venice Sketchbook sounds like there's some good romance and a bit of a mystery!"

  11. Having a friend with a greenhouse is awesome! I went to my local greenhouse and bought vegetable garden plants--two varieties of tomatoes, two varieties of peppers, eggplant, beans, and cucumbers. Yay for second dose!!! I hope your May is going well. I've been spending lots more time doing yardwork, but it's so much better than cleaning the bathrooms any day.