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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

October 31, 2021

Books Piles as Big as the Piles of Fall Leaves

by Donna Huber

From the piles of leaves on the ground you would think my trees would be bare, but no, leaves still cling to their limbs. It kind of reminds me of my books piles. Just to look at my piles, it would look like I haven't read anything. However, I think I read a near record-setting number of books this month (it might be a record). 

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Fall has definitely set it here. It has been wet and cold, with a few warm days. I had to turn on the heat the other day (I try not to turn it on until Nov. 1) but the house dipped below 60F and with highs only in the 50s for a few days (and more rain), I knew that I had to turn on the heat. You know how the heater always smells a little funny when you first turn it on? Well, it made the cats go bonkers. It was so funny as they dashed through the house.

I'm not too excited about the TV shows I'm watching this fall. The only new ones I added are NCIS Hawaii which I find boring and La Berea which I am enjoying. If you haven't watched it yet, it kind of has the feel of Lost. The shows I'm most enjoying (and will stop reading to watch) are Call the Midwife and Grantchester (I like the show more with Will than I did with Sydney).

I've completed 8 months of doing yoga every day. This past week's Yoga with Adriene videos were all Halloween-themed which was fun. Mid-month I celebrated studying French with DuoLingo for a year. Now I've studied 5 years of French (3 years of high school French, 1 year of college French, and 1 year of DuoLingo French). 

The cats got a new toy and Oliver has claimed it as his. The fluffy part sounds like a bird when they bat at it so Oliver comes running whenever he hears the bird sound and makes whatever cat playing with it move.


By now we are all aware of supply chain issues for things like groceries (the brand of toilet paper at the store I usually buy it is out of stock again). In case you haven't heard, it is also affecting the publishing industry. Bookstores, especially if you shop at Indie bookstores, are urging customers to buy/pre-order early this year, particularly if you are wanting the latest, hottest titles as shipping is causing stocking issues. I've also heard that some publishers are pushing publication dates back because of paper shortages so if you are planning to pre-order a book for a gift you might want to keep an eye on the pub date.

Here at Girl Who Reads, we are helping you learn about all the books you might want to buy for friends, family, and yourself for the holidays by pushing out as many reviews as possible. That means we've done several Book Lists this month:
Do you like these book lists or do you prefer to hear about just one book at a time? If you do prefer single book reviews, here are our most viewed reviews this month:
We also had a few authors share about their books:

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The rare selfie. I'm horrible at taking selfies when I want to feature a book too - I actually had a better shot (after taking 50 pictures) but then the app froze and then shut down and the photo went POOF!. So after another 50 tries, I decided this one was good enough.


Wow! I read a ton of books (well half were listened to). I told you TV hasn't been holding my attention. I think 21 books is my record (I know there was a month last year when I was home that I read a bunch of short books so that might have been my record month). Of the 21 books: 11 were audiobooks, 2 were print books, and 8 were ebooks. 17 of the books were for review. Here's a look at my goals
  1. Read more or as many reviews copies: 17/21 (YTD: 105/136)
  2. Read 12 backlog (prior to 2021) review copies: 0 (YTD: 1)
  3. Read/listen to 125 books: 136/125

Books in the mail

I won a Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers from Book Girl. I was totally surprised at receiving a copy of The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman. And I received Visual Intelligence by Amy E. Herman when I attended a professional development seminar at work (I got free Chick-fil-a breakfast too!).

Books read

Since I read so many books this month I'm just going to share my thoughts shortly and then link to the full reviews when I did a full review, a Goodreads link in case you want to add a book to your shelf, and of course, an Amazon buy link in case you can't resist buying one or more of my recommendations.

Auntie Poldi and the Handsome Antonio by Mario Giordano

Auntie Poldi and the Handsome Antonio
Colorful characters and outrageous adventures - that's what makes Auntie Poldi books great. You don't necessarily need to read them in order as I read book 1 and then book 4 which is when I realized I missed books 2 and 3. I'm all caught up now and look forward to the next adventure. I borrowed the audiobook from the digital library.

A Most Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton

A Most Clever Girl
The story is quite the journey. I didn't know anything about Elizabeth Bentley - I hadn't even heard her name prior to picking up this book. While I was aware of McCarthyism and the Red Scare it was more something I picked up because of my own interest rather than something studied in a history class (all the history classes I ever took barely made it to the end of WWII). The book was interesting from a historical perspective but also as an intimate look into the life of one woman who kept trying to do her best in a complicated situation. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley, but I also borrowed the audiobook from the digital library (the audiobook was one of the best I've listened to in a while). Read my full review.

Buy A Most Clever Girl at Amazon

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

The Memory Police
This might be one of the strangest books I've ever read. I read it for my post-apocalyptic book club and the discussion was really good. I'm not a big fan of magical realism, but I do like the Japanese style of spare prose. I borrowed the book from my library.

Buy The Memory Police at Amazon

Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Tales from the Cafe
I started out with the audiobook but really struggled to listen to it so I picked up my ebook copy and read it in just a few hours. If you liked the first book Before the Coffee Gets Cold then you will enjoy this one. As they are short, quick reads you can easily read them together if you haven't read the first book. I received an audiobook and e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Buy Tales from the Cafe at Amazon

God Hears Her, A Joyful Christmas by Our Daily Bread

God Hears Her, A Joyful Christmas
Christmas can be busy and we can lose our focus on what we are supposed to be celebrating. Start and end your day with this new collection of devotions focused on the joy of the season. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Buy A Joyful Christmas at Amazon

God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen by Rhys Bowen

God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen
This book paired two of my favorite things - cozy mysteries and Christmas books. Even with the murders, it was still a fun story. I love seeing Darcy and Georgiana as a married couple. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Buy God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen at Amazon

Twelve Days of Christmas by Elizabeth Neep

Twelve Days of Christmas
In turns, I wanted to hug and shake Poppy. It makes me so glad that I'm not in my twenties any more. I can't say this is a lovely Christmas story as I spent most of my time reading it feeling sad for Poppy. But it is a heartwarming story in the end. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall

The Spectacular
I don't think this was really my kind of book. I enjoyed the previous book I read by Zoe Whittall so wanted to give this one a try. The first part was a little too much sex, drugs, and rock and roll for me. I enjoyed the second part more but it was shorter. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley but I also borrowed the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

Buy The Spectacular at Amazon

Reserved for Murder by Victoria Gilbert

Reserved for Murder
While this is book 2 in the Booklover's B&B series, it is the first one I've read. There is enough backstory given that you don't necessarily have to read book 1. I've read several books in Gilbert's Blue Ridge Library series and this book had a similar vibe. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley but I also borrowed the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

Buy Reserved for Murder at Amazon

Dreaming of Christmas by T.A. Williams

Dreaming of Christmas
Definitely a cute holiday romance. When her boyfriend breaks up with her on Christmas Eve I thought this might be a story of her trying to win him back but it is not. It definitely put me in the mood for Christmas with its perfect Christmas scenery of Austria. Now I want the luxury European hotel or really any mountain lodge where I can sip hot cocoa. Seriously with all the fun these former roommates have on this holiday reunion, you will want to join them too. I received an audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Buy Dreaming of Christmas at Amazon

The Rule of All by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders

The Rule of All
My book club read book 1 and I decided to read the rest of the series. I almost didn't make it through this book. It was so boring. We know how the story is going to end and there wasn't really anything going on in the book. I would have liked more character growth. While the entire series has had at least a whiff of white privilege, I thought the opening of this book reeked with it. I loved the world-building in the first book of this trilogy but with no character growth in books 2 and 3, it was just a flat story. I borrowed the book from my library.

Buy The Rule of All at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Dear Santa by Debbie Macomber

Dear Santa
Another great Christmas book from Debbie Macomber. It was so heartwarming - I might have got misty-eyed a few times. The characters are great and I loved the small-town feel. The story is sweet; it definitely played on the magic of Christmas. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Buy Dear Santa at Amazon

A Darker Reality by Anne Perry

A Darker Reality
A good mystery. I read book 2 in this series but not book 1; I don't think you necessarily have to read the previous books to enjoy this one. It is a bit different than other WWII set spy books that makes it more of a comfort read than a suspense novel. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley, but I also borrowed the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

Buy A Darker Reality at Amazon

Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan

Christmas by the Book
It was so nice to have a Christmas story where the main character wasn't just dumped by her long-term boyfriend (that seems to be the theme this year). Every bookworm will want to read this book for all the literary references. But it is also a great heartwarming novel about family and community. So far this is my favorite Christmas book this year. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my review.

Buy Christmas by the Book at Amazon

Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar

Christmas at Frozen Falls
This wasn't too Christmasy. It is set at Christmas and there are a few mentions but it is more of a wintery romance. I read Christmas books, not for the romance, but the magic of the season. It is a solid story that any romance reader will enjoy. I received an audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

I'm Suppose to Make a Difference by Keven Vought

I'm Supposed to Make a Difference
It read a bit more like a self-help book than a true memoir. I didn't feel much of an emotional connection with the author. I appreciate that the author shared his memories of trauma and battle with mental health. I received a free audiobook from the author. Read my full review.

Buy I'm Supposed to Make a Difference at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for free)

Murder at the Wedding by Helena Dixon

Murder at the Wedding
It is always a fun time with Kitty and Matt. Though the book is set in the spring it is kind of perfect for Halloween reading as they are staying in an old and almost in ruins castle - there's even rumor of a ghost! I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my review.

Buy Murder at the Wedding at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

The First Christmas by Stephen Mitchell

The First Christmas
An interesting book. It isn't quite a linear narrative type story. Instead, Mitchell examines closely different the different "characters" of the first Christmas. This is not an audiobook that you will want to do much multitasking with as there is a lot of information to absorb. I'm not sure how accurate some of his details are to the Christian-held beliefs (I say this because in the chapter about the Magi he mentions them seeing Christ's life and some of the details of the Crucifixion are wrong), but still, it gives food for thought. Like I never gave much thought to what Mary might have known of the Roman gods. I received an audiobook via Netgalley. My review will post next week.

Buy The First Christmas at Amazon

The Unseen Body by Jonathan Reisman

The Unseen Body
A good mix of memoir, medical history, and anatomy & physiology. As a science geek, I loved it. If you know a medical student or someone that is thinking about going into medicine, this would make an excellent gift. I received an audiobook via Netgalley. My review will post on Friday.

Buy The Unseen Body at Amazon

The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler by Karen Pokras

The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler
My niece and nephew read some of Pokras's books when they were younger and enjoyed them I've read a couple of her books for adults as well as middle grades books and liked them. This is her newest book for middle-grade readers. While I don't normally read middle-grade books, I know that her books are enjoyable for readers of all ages. I was not disappointed with this one. With the remake of The Wonder Years on TV this fall, I feel like the timing is really great for this book as it has a similar vibe (though it is set in the 1970s). I received an e-ARC via the publisher. Read my full review.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex
I kept seeing this book in my Instagram feed and in my book groups on Facebook and I had to recommend that my digital library get the audiobook so I could listen to it. I'm not a big reader of rom-coms but this one looked too cute to pass up. It is definitely a paranormal chick-lit type novel (and has some sexual description), but it also had a vibe of a cozy mystery as Vivienne and Rhys have to find out how to reverse the curse Vivienne cast on Rhys in college after he broke up with her - before the curse dooms the entire town. This is great for Halloween reading for those not wanting horror. I borrowed the audiobook from my digital library.

Buy The Ex Hex 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. Thanks for mentioning Grantchester, I just checked and I haven't seen season 3 yet! Midwife - I haven't got into yet, but I plan to.
    I added Clever Girl to my wish list.

  2. I just got my first Auntie Poldi book. Thanks for sharing a little about this series.

    I usually like Stephen Mitchell. I hadn't heard about this audiobook. The Unseen Body sounds promising, too.

    I'm especially glad to see all the Christmas cozies as that's what our book group is reading in December and we need possibilities.

  3. I tried reading Christmas by the Book and couldn't get into it. I think it was me and not the book, as I have heard others have enjoyed.

    I am looking forward to reading Tales from the Cafe and Reserved for Murder.

    Have a great November!

  4. I'm just starting to see all sorts of Christmas cozies, so the season is here, lol! The Aunt Poldi books look good, too. Have a good week.

  5. wow, so many great books, and cool covers!
    I enjoyed a lot The memory Police:
    I have enjoyed Before The Coffee Gets Cold (I co-hosted a read-along on it), but haven't opened that one yet.
    Congratulations on learning French! I'm actually a French tutor (online), so let me know if you are interested in one on one classes. I do whatever the students wants.

  6. What a great list of books - haven't read any, altho have read several of the authors. Christmas books are sure coming out now. These ones look good. Happy reading in November.

  7. We had to turn our heat on too (and yes, I know that smell you're talking about! ha). Thanks for sharing these book ideas!

  8. What a fabulous reading month for sure. I am way behind you in the Rhys Bowen series and really look forward to when they are married! I have the new Viola Shipman book to read and I am sure that will be a good read. Oh dear, toilet paper issues the world over. The kind I like has disappeared off our shelves here in New Zealand too and I have had to buy far more inferior stuff!

  9. I've caught snippets of La Brea and it's definitely rocking a Lost vibe. I'm seeing so many publication dates being pushed. On the bright side, I guess this means we have a lot of books to look forward at the same time next year. Our wallets might not agree though. Congrats on picking up so many books. Happy November!

  10. I know exactly what you mean about the first time turning on the furnace. Here I try not to turn it on until October and this year actually made it to mid October with the warm fall weather. Twenty-one books is amazing! The only time I can read that many is if I include the picture books I read. I'm studying Japanese with Duolingo and am on day 306 today. Great job on your French!

  11. That a lot books you read this month. The Unseen Body look like a cool read.