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L is for Literary Fiction #AtoZChallenge

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...

August 29, 2021

Last of the Summer Reading

by Donna Huber

International Cat Day was on August 8 and since I have a bunch of literary kitties, I thought I would show them off again. I was just able to catch the kitty at the top right corner laying with the stack of books recently. 

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Life Update...

It has been hot, humid, and rainy much of August so I haven't really done much. Also, my old dog was doing poorly and I knew the end was near so I tried to spend extra time loving on her these last couple of weeks. I said goodbye to her on Friday evening. I had her for 16 years.

Schatz when she was a puppy.

Otherwise, August has been pretty much the same. I've spent some time in my parents' pool on the weekends (when the weather is nice). I've continued to practice French with Duolingo. I was actually able to read a few French tweets the other day so I do think I'm learning something. I've kept up with the monthly Yoga with Adriene playlist. On Tuesday, I will mark 6 months of practicing yoga every day. I think I'm going to try to add swimming to my schedule next week now that I don't have to come home at lunchtime to take care of my dog. I've been having some neck/shoulder pain so I'm not sure if swimming will make it worse or better.

COVID-19 cases have really been on the rise in my area and we have a low vaccine rate so our hospitals are full. The university where I work went back to class a couple of weeks ago so I'm really keeping an eye on the numbers as we had a huge spike last year and this year there is no mask mandate. I'm also worried about when we have our first home football and 90,000+ fans are in town.

Blog Update...

We covered a lot of great books this month. In case you missed them, these are some of our most popular posts this month.

Popular on Instagram

Reading Update...

It hasn't been a great month for reading. I've only read/listened to 11 books. I hope to finish my book club book, but I doubt I will. It will probably be a close call if I get it done before we meet on Thursday.  10 of the 11 books were for review: 6 were audiobooks (5 of them were for review), 1 print book, and 4 ebooks.
  1. Read more or as many reviews copies: 10/11 (YTD: 74/98)
  2. Read 12 backlog (prior to 2021) review copies: 0 (YTD: 1)
  3. Read/listen to 125 books: 98/125 (I'm 15 books ahead of schedule)

Books in the mail

I received just one book in the mailbox this month.

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

Books read

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. Not to say it wasn't a good book. The twist and turns surprised me as I never knew what would happen next. I also broke my rule of not reading books with animals, so of course, I cried. I received a free audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.

Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?

Propulsive and spell-binding, Charlotte McConaghy's Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable story of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves—if she isn’t consumed by a wild that was once her refuge. (Goodreads)

Buy Once There Were Wolves at Amazon

American Delirium by Betina González

American Delirium

I picked up this book mainly because it was translated fiction by an Argentinean author. I haven't read anything from South American authors that I know of. I was also drawn to it because the story was set in the US. American authors are all the time setting stories in other countries but the translated fiction I've read has been set in the author's home country so I thought it would be interesting to see how an outsider would see the US in storytelling. The story was a little stranger than I prefer and the bouncing around from character to character, particularly in the beginning, was confusing. I received a free book from Henry Holt & Co. Read my full review.

In a small Midwestern city, the deer population starts attacking people. So Beryl, a feisty senior and ex-hippie with a troubled past, decides to take matters into her own hands, training a squad of fellow retirees to hunt the animals down and to prove to society they’re capable of more than playing bingo.

At the same time, a group of protesters decides to abandon the “system” and live in the woods, leaving behind the demands of modern life―including their children. Nine-year-old Berenice never thought her mother would join the dropouts, but she’s been gone for several days, leaving only a few clues about her past for Berenice to piece together.

Vik, a taxidermist at the natural history museum and an immigrant from the Caribbean, is beginning to see the connections among the dropouts, the deer, and the discord. He’s not normally the type to speak up, but when he finds a woman living in his closet, he’s forced to get involved. Each of these engrossing characters holds a key to the city’s unraveling―despite living on the margins of society―and just as their lives start to spin out of control, they rescue one another in surprising ways. (Goodreads)

Buy American Delirium at Amazon

Death at the Gates by Katie Gayle

Death at the Gates

I'm sad that Pip didn't keep the job at the museum as I really liked those characters. As I'm pretty sure she isn't ever going to keep the same job from book to book, I find that I'm starting to not care about the secondary characters. Even the regular secondary characters - her sister, her roommate, her boxing instructor, her mother - have such small parts that I don't feel connected to them either. While this makes the books completely stand alone stories, I like to get to know the characters are a deeper level. I received a free eARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Hurlingham House school is a high-achiever’s heaven, full of happy, hard-working pupils. There’s just the small matter of the dead body on the field… Sounds like a case for Epiphany Bloom!

When Epiphany Bloom’s best friend’s sister Claire is accused of trading exam papers for money, Epiphany agrees to see Ms Peters, the headteacher of Claire’s fiercely competitive school, to provide moral support. Claire has always been a model student and is loudly protesting her innocence: surely it’s all just a misunderstanding.

But when Ms Peters hears about Epiphany’s previous sleuthing exploits, she enlists her help to track down the true culprit!

Taking a job as a PE teacher, Epiphany soon realises she has plenty of suspects for the exam scam mastermind. The broke young teacher with a shady past? The father willing to buy his daughter anything – including grades? The school governor desperate to keep Hurlingham House at the top of the ranks?

Then Epiphany finds one of them dead at the school fair, and it becomes clear someone is taking the cut-throat culture of the school too literally – and when mysterious accidents start happening around her too, it seems the killer knows she’s onto them.

Can Epiphany solve the murder as well as clearing Claire’s name, before she becomes the next victim? This is one test she can’t afford to fail. (Goodreads)

Buy Death at the Gates at Amazon

Still Life and Death by Tracy Gardner

Still Life and Death

This is the first book in the Shepherd Sisters Mysteries series that I've read and had no problems with it. The town is cute and I enjoyed the characters. I received a free audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Savanna Shepherd, a former art authenticator turned grade school art teacher, is delighted when her Uncle Max and Uncle Freddie move to Carson. Uncle Max takes a job at Libby’s Blooms, where Savanna teaches a still life painting class for adults. But one morning, Uncle Max finds a dead body in the rooftop greenhouse…and even worse, it looks like an inside job.

Savanna and her sisters—Skylar, a lawyer, and Sydney, the owner of a pet shop and grooming salon—dig in to find the real murderer. With their connections to the community and Savanna’s keen eye for details, they uncover longstanding resentments and horticultural clues. Meanwhile, Savanna’s dating local doctor Aidan Gallager, but she worries it’ll cause a scandal, since his daughter is in her class. As Savanna’s investigation leads her into thorny situations, the killer may be arranging another murder: her own. (Goodreads)

Buy Still Life and Death at Amazon

Plymouth Undercover by Pamela M. Kelley

Plymouth Undercover

It was okay. I liked the setting (maybe I need a vacation) but I had trouble following the plot. I had some trouble with keeping some of the characters straight (the male characters didn't sound very male). I received a free audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Emma McCarthy, is a thirty year old failed actress who moves home to Plymouth, MA when she and her mother, Cindy, inherit a private detective agency. The agency comes with a part-time employee, Mickey, an 80 year old retired detective. They expect cheating spouses or workman’s comp cases, but quickly learn that the agency has a reputation for solving murders. (Goodreads)

Wait for It by Jenn McKinlay

Wait for it

I had high expectations for this book because I loved Paris is Always a Good Idea. However, it didn't fully live up to those expectations. It was more romance than I care for - there were a couple of sex scenes that I could have done without. It was still enjoyable and I really liked Annabelle. I received a free eARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Stuck in a dreary Boston winter, surrounded by annoyingly happy couples, Annabelle Martin would like nothing more than to run away from her current life. She's not even thirty years old, twice-divorced, and has just dodged a marriage proposal... from her ex-husband. When an opportunity to start over arises, she jumps at it and flees to Arizona for a dream job as a graphic designer.

When she arrives in the Valley of the Sun, Annabelle moves into a pool house attached to a mansion with a mysterious owner. Having assumed her anonymous landlord, Nick Daire, to be some old, rich curmudgeon, Annabelle is shocked when she finally meets him and finds that he's not much older than her and is in a wheelchair. Nick suffered from a stroke a year ago, and while there's no physical reason for him not to recover, he is struggling to overcome the paralyzing fear that has kept him a prisoner in his own home.

Despite her promise to herself not to get involved, Annabelle finds herself irresistibly drawn to Nick. And soon she wonders if she and Nick might help each other find the courage to embrace life, happiness, and true love. (Goodreads)

Buy Wait for It at Amazon

Mystery at the Abbey Hotel by Clare Chase

Mystery at the Abbey Hotel

This is my first Eve Mallow mystery and I enjoyed it. It's been a while since I read a cozy mystery that featured a more mature female lead character. I liked Eve and the rest of the cast. I received a free eARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Eve Mallow’s stay at the luxurious Abbey Hotel takes a turn for the suspicious when the owner is murdered – leaving Eve surrounded by suspects!

Saxford St Peter is Eve Mallow’s beloved home, but she can’t resist the chance to spend a weekend in the nearby Abbey Hotel, famed for its glamorous owner Debra Moran and an array of celebrity guests. For a confirmed people-watcher like Eve, it’s perfect: she can observe the rich and famous while sipping tea in the gardens, her faithful dachshund Gus by her side.

But her relaxing break takes a shocking turn when Debra is found lying dead in the shadowy woods around the hotel. One of Eve’s fellow guests didn’t come to the Abbey for fine food and delightful décor – but to kill.

When the investigation gets underway, Eve finds herself trapped with a wide range of suspects. Could it be Debra’s new friend Harper, who inherits everything? Her ex-husband Chester, still seething over their messy divorce? Or her estranged sister Amelia, who came hoping for reconciliation, only for Debra to shut the door in her face?

As Eve roams the hotel, searching for clues and hunting down alibis, she uncovers a whole host of secrets. But can she find the truth before the killer brings her holiday to a deadly end? (Goodreads)

Deadly Scandal by Kate Parker

Deadly Scandal

This book combined two of my favorite genres - cozy mystery and WWII-era fiction. I liked the main character. I will probably look for more books in this series. I checked the audiobook out from my digital library.

Olivia Denis is a contented young wife with a carefree life in late 1930's London. Then her world is shattered with the violent death of her husband, Reggie. The police want to call it a suicide and close the care, but Olivia knows Reggie couldn't possibly have fired the fatal shot.

Further mysteries surface surrounding her husband's death. Did the trustworthy Foreign Office employee betray government secrets? Was his murder linked to the death of a German embassy clerk the same night? And who searched their flat?

Her desire for answers and her need to support herself cause her to break away from the pampered life she's known and take a job. But with the much-needed paycheck as a society reporter for a major London daily comes a secret secondary assignment - one that involves her in the increasingly dangerous world of European politics as the continent slides toward war.

Can she find Reggie's killer before she is added to the list of the dead? (Goodreads)

Buy Deadly Scandal at Amazon

Mystery at the Church by Clare Chase

Mystery at the Church

Another cute cozy. I didn't even try to guess who the killer was - there were too many twists and turns to come up with a suspect. I received a free eARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

When a TV drama crew descends on sleepy Saxford St Peter, Eve Mallow joins the excited throng of extras in a funeral scene. But then a real body is found… and Eve gets a starring role as sleuth!

Eve Mallow is looking forward to her fifteen minutes of fame when Saxford St Peter is chosen as the location for a new drama series. A devoted people-watcher, Eve is thrilled to learn that TV stars are just as glamorous – and tempestuous – as she’s always imagined.

But then someone delivers a bouquet of poisonous flowers to the director Rufus Beaumont, making Eve worry that some of the rivalries she’s noticed are deadly serious. And when Rufus’s body is found in the church where the funeral scene took place, it’s clear that someone’s out for the kill in real life.

Eve and dachshund Gus have been on the ground from the start, and now they’re on the case, interrogating the suspects one by one. Is it the devastating diva whose relationship with Rufus was far from professional? The cameraman who caught Rufus doing something he shouldn’t? Or the groupie groundskeeper who’s in the background of every shot? One thing’s for sure – Eve must catch the killer before she stars in their next murderous production. (Goodreads)

Buy Mystery at the Church at Amazon

Murder in the Village by Lissa Cutts

Murder in the Village

It was a really cute cozy. It isn't often that I like the first book in a new series, but this one was well done. I liked the characters and the mystery was good. I received a free audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Nothing ever happens in Little Challham… until the local pub owner is drowned in his own ale. Belinda Penshurst, owner of Challham Castle, is on the case!

Belinda Penshurst loves her home village Little Challham, with its shady lanes, two pubs and weekly market, and she’s determined to keep it peaceful. She may live in Challham Castle but she knows almost everything that goes on under her nose. So when irritable pub landlord Tipper is found dead in his cellar, she’s perfectly placed to investigate.

Retired detective Harry Powell moved to Little Challham for a quiet life. He didn’t expect to be dragged into a murder investigation. But the police don’t seem half as enthusiastic as Belinda about the case, and there are strange things happening in the village. Particularly the number of dogs that have disappeared lately…

Is there a dognapper snaffling schnauzers and luring away Labradors? Is Belinda barking mad to be worried that her brother Marcus was arguing with Tipper on the day he died? Belinda and Harry track down the suspects: the rival landlord, the outraged barmaid, the mysterious man in the black car following dogwalkers around. But are the dogged detectives running out of time to sniff out the killer, before he starts hounding them? (Goodreads)

Buy Murder in the Village at Amazon

The Takeaway Men by Meryl Ain

The Takeaway Men

I enjoyed the audiobook. I've often wondered what life was like after the end of WWII. So many stories end with the liberation of a concentration camp or VE-Day. This book starts at the end of the war and follows a Jewish family as they immigrate to America and start a new life. I received a free audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

With the cloud of the Holocaust still looming over them, twin sisters Bronka and Johanna Lubinski and their parents arrive in the US from a Displaced Persons Camp. In the years after World War II, they experience the difficulties of adjusting to American culture as well as the burgeoning fear of the Cold War. Years later, the discovery of a former Nazi hiding in their community brings the Holocaust out of the shadows. As the girls get older, they start to wonder about their parents’ pasts, and they begin to demand answers. But it soon becomes clear that those memories will be more difficult and painful to uncover than they could have anticipated. Poignant and haunting, The Takeaway Men explores the impact of immigration, identity, prejudice, secrets, and lies on parents and children in mid-twentieth-century America. (Goodreads)

Buy The Takeaway Men at Amazon

I hope you had a great reading month. I would love to hear about it, please leave a comment.

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. Such a hard thing to lose a pet, I lost three in one year, as hard as it was, they had each lived long lives.

    My link:

  2. No one except Extreme Readers like you and me would call a month where you read ten books a slow reading month!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about these books. Once There Were Wolves just arrived for me and, after enjoying Migration by the same author so much, I'm eagerly looking forward to it.

    Congratulations on winning the drawing at your library! Fabulous prizes.

  3. Books and cats go well together. :)

    I'm sorry for your loss. And I agree about Covid- it's still so scary out there.

    Death at the Gates looks fun.

  4. I read fewer books in August as well.

    I'm sorry about your dog, it is never easy to lose a pet.

    A couple of the cozies you read sound interesting, I'll have to check them out.

    Have a great September!

  5. So sorry to hear about your dog... I know hard this loss is. Looks like you have a lot of great books there!

  6. I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Losing a pet is such a tough time. Now that schools and universities are back in person, the numbers are certainly climbing. I do hope it's safe for younger children to get the vaccine soon as I think that will help the spread.