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March Reads and February Follow-Up

I did meet my reading goal for February by finishing At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. A friend had recommended that series a long time ago. It was a very satisfying read. It is about a minister in the small fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina. Father Tim, the bachelor Rector is about to turn 60 and he is beloved by the village. He is the go-to person whenever there is a need. Each chapter is like a short story. The village is made up of quirky characters. It was written in 1994 but it felt like it could have been set in an earlier time but there are references to some technology. Father Tim has a mysterious children’s book novelist who lives next door and they have an immediate attraction. He takes in a young boy whose mother abandoned him and all of his siblings. The young boy had been living with his grandfather when the Rector was asked to help with him. Tim also adopts an annoying dog that is a little rambunctious. The keep it from jumping on himself and others, he quotes the bible and the dog settles down. The dog actually adopted him first and he didn’t have the heart to give him away. Each chapter adds another layer of stories about each of the local people. I plan to read more of this series in the future. I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining read that is Christian based.

Jan Karon is an American novelist who writes for both adult and young readers. She has been designated a lay Canon for the Arts in the Episcopal Dicease of Quincy IL by Keith Ackerman, Episcopal Bishop of Quincy. In May 2020 she received the Degree Doctor of Humane Letters honoris casa by Nashotah House, a theological seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin.

My goal again for March is to read four books. I did complete one novel so far this month. Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson. That book is part of a series that I love. I read several back in the 80’s but never finished so last fall I started them all over again. This series is about a caterer – Goldilocks Catering in Aspen Meadows Colorado who constantly either finds a body or gets dragged into investigating a murder. She always has a struggle with her business because she works out of her own home and the health inspector seems to have the need to shut her down whenever possible. Another problem is her abusive ex-husband who seems to always get tangled in her life no matter how hard she works to be rid of him. She was raising their grade school son, Arch, by herself with visits to his father until she marries a local cop. She also has a young chef, Julian, she meets along the way who helps with her business and becomes part of the family. The other character is her best friend Marla who also used to be married to her ex- The Jerk, a name Goldie and Marla gave him. Again full of quirky characters and enough twists to make me want to come back for more. She does have recipes for the food she highlights in each story. I did purchase her cook book last fall but I have yet to try anything. I tend to like to eat food but not cook it.

I hope to include as many of that series each month as I can fit in. I do enjoy series because you get to spend time with characters you become fond of. There is another series I hope to start a re-read of this year – The Sue Grafton A,B,C series, another series I started many years ago but never finished.

So I have a fairly ambitious stack of books for this month. I have started reading – The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. I love Agatha Christie and felt this would be an interesting read. It is not a biography but it is a novel about that time when Agatha disappeared. So far very interesting.

I have been lucky enough to receive my first Covid vaccine and look forward to not being so afraid to leave my house soon. I should be fully vaccinated by the end of the month. How are you doing? Books help me to accept our situation and give me something to look forward to doing besides housework. During the winter it hasn’t been too bad. Our weather makes it difficult to get out that much anyway. I am looking forward to planting some flowers toward the end of April or early May. I also look forward to meeting with friends who are also getting vaccinated, so it will be safe. Take care of yourselves. I hope you are enjoying books now too. Let me know what you read this past month or what book are you excited about reading in March.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Read so far in February

I have read the following three books so far this month and I am about half way through with a fourth. If I do complete that one before the end of February, I will post my review of it also.

I have been working on my novel more this month and I do feel like my focus is improving.

The first book I completed was The Thursday Murder Club. This was an enjoyable read. It is set in an English retirement center and the sleuths are four septuagenarians who meet to discuss old murders. When a developer is murdered near them, they jump at the chance to investigate an active crime. Of course, they do all the things you would expect older people to do, basically get in the way of the investigation, they do help catch the killer. While doing so, the reader does suspect each of them. The characters are quirky, which I like and the plot was complicated enough to make me want to keep reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next in the series.

Richard Osman is a well known face on British television as host of quiz shows. He has also created and worked as an executive producer Numerous UK and US television shows. This is his debut novel. He lives in London.

The second novel I read this month is The Butterfly Sister. I found this one from a local independent used book store. I had never heard of the author but I picked it up by perusing the shelves and was first drawn to the cover. It is the photo of the clasp and lock for an old suitcase.

In this one, a woman receives the suitcase of a missing woman she’d known at college. It was sent to her by the airlines because she’d once borrowed it and apparently the woman had not removed her name tag. The college holds bad memories and the woman is tempted to throw it away but tries to do the right thing and contacts the woman’s family. That is how she finds out about her disappearance. The protagonist agrees to deliver the case to the woman’s mother but before she turns it over to the police, she attempts to see if the contents would help her to locate the missing woman.

This was a good thriller and it did keep me wanting to read more. I did spend one late night finishing it. Messing up my wellness goal of going to bed earlier. But with the pandemic, I find myself stuck home most days anyway. So what if I do have a late night once in a while?

Amy Gail Hansen is a freelance writer and journalist living in Chicago at the time this book was written. This too is a debut novel. I would probably read more of her work but not the way that I read other series where I actually wait most impatiently for the next in the series.

The last book was All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny. This author is one of the authors whose series I don’t read immediately when I purchase her books, not because I don’t want to but because I know she only has one book come out a year and I try to pick a time that I can savor the read.

The only negative about this book was that it was not set in Three Pines, Canada but in Paris, France. So instead of getting to hang out with the residents of Three Pines we were introduced to new characters and visited a few of Armand’s family who’d moved to France. In this book, both Daniel, his son, and Annie, his daughter, live in France with their families. Armand’s daughter Annie is expecting their second child at any time and he and his wife have flown over to be there at the happy moment.

One evening after a family dinner, Armand and his wife witness an attempt on his godfather’s life when he is hit by a car. They go to his apartment and find the body of a stranger. The Paris police don’t believe there is a connection so Armand and his son-in-law Jean Guy – who was also his second in command on the homicide squad in Canada start investigating. That puts the whole family into danger.

The story gives you a better picture of Armand’s family dynamics and while he and his son Daniel have had a strained relationship, it slowly changes to give them a better outlook for their future by the end.

Louise Penny’s books are good for making you feel like you are present in the location and her quirky characters are part of the reason her readers are so loyal. Though she deals with serious subjects there is always a little humor sprinkled in. The only thing bad now is that I have to wait for fall for her next book.

If I manage to complete my current read – At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon, I will have another post later this week. If not, I will add it to my reads in March.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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February To Be Reads

January was not a good month for reading for me. I only completed one book – Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie.

Midwinter Murders is a collection of short stories set during the winter. I enjoyed all of the stories but I would say my favorite was the last one – Christmas Adventure. That story had an older Poirot. It involved a family in a manor house at Christmas where the children decided to fool Poirot into thinking someone had died. After the prank was done and the victim did not get up, they realized they had a real murder. Luckily Poirot was there to solve the mystery. The rest of the stories included a few more with Poirot and Miss Marple but some had random characters. It was an enjoyable read for a cold winter month. Since I love Christie, it will be a keeper.

Each month I plan to also choose my favorite read for the month and then at the end of the year, narrow them all down to my favorite for the year. January is simple this month since I only have one book to choose from but I will move forward to find my favorite for the year.

So far February has started out much better, I have completed one novel already in my TBR stack. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I will follow up with a review of that book with my next post. I have four books chosen to read this month so besides Thursday Murder Club, I would like to read The Butterfly Sister – Amy Gail Hansen, All Creatures Great and Small – James Herriot, and All the Devils Are Here by Louis Penny. I have already read a few chapters of both The Butterfly Sister and All Creatures Great and Small. So hopefully I can reach my goal of four books this month.

Today we are in a winter advisory with snow all morning and several car crashes on the interstate and a blizzard warning north of us. I have spent the day doing a little laundry, reading, and watching the snow. It truly is a good day to read.

I made it through my first month with the happiness project. When I started this project, I acknowledged that I wasn’t unhappy but I felt I could be happier. Considering what we have been dealing with, I am sure everyone has been struggling with staying home more and the inability to see friends and family. I can’t say I succeeded but I made progress. The main goal for January was to have more energy. So get more sleep, walk or exercise, eat better, and de-clutter my home.

I rarely hit my designated bed time but I did figure out that I may have been trying to go to bed too early, so I pushed my bedtime back a little and did make that goal sometimes.

I really was not able to change my time to shower and dress daily. I still hang out in my pajamas longer than I probably should. I know that will change when we are able to get out and do more and as soon as Spring arrives so I am okay with that but will continue to work on that again in February.

Steve and I had been fairly successful with walking until the weather turned but we do take advantage of the good days. We made a little road trip to a furniture store about an hour away. We figured if nothing else, we could walk around inside and add some steps on our Fitbit. Well we did more than just walk. We bought new furniture for the formal living room and formal dining room. After we’d found a loveseat, tables, and lamps, and while the sales clerk was doing the paperwork, we found the table and chairs we’d seen a year ago but had put off buying. We both really liked that set so much that Steve told the clerk to add it too. Because of Covid we have to wait for a couple items so we will be getting the living room furniture the end of this month and our new table and chairs the end of May or early June. They actually have to make the table the size that we wanted. It is solid wood and made by the Amish. Steve plans to paint the rooms and clean carpet once the old furniture has found its new home. I guess maybe I am happier than I was on January 1st but new furniture always makes me happy.

We continue to work on our diet but that will be on-going. I always say baby steps. As long as we move forward.

So I am continuing with the Happiness project. For February, I am learning to be more kind, stop nagging, and don’t expect praise for things that I do. I will let you know how that goes.

Happy reading and until next time,

Virginia

P.S after I was done, I realized there is a series that I started reading last summer and really want to get back to so if I can, I will read the next Diane Mott Davidson book in my stack of her books to be read.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Midwinter Murder – Agatha Christie

January did not start out so well for reading. So far this month, this is the only book I have completed and since we only have six more days, I am not holding out much hope that I will complete another.

Midwinter Murders was a cozy read for winter nights. It is a collection of short stories. Some have either Poirot or Miss Marple as protagonists and some do not have the famous characters in them at all. The one thing they have in common is that they are winter themed.

The book opens with an introduction from Agatha Christie of Christmas at Abney Hall when she was a girl. That experience I guess helped her develop her stories of Manors in the English countryside. My favorite was the last – Christmas Adventure and an older Poirot. These are stories that are read best when the snow has piled up, wind whistling through the tree branches outside your home, and a warm tea or hot chocolate.

Like most of Agatha Christie’s novels they do keep you guessing until the end but they manage to tell a tale of murder without exposing you to too much violence.

I knew I would enjoy this book because I have been a fan of Christie since my twenties when I had my first child and we spent time at the library for her story time. While she had the opportunity to practice her social skills with preschoolers, I discovered Agatha Christie. Over a short period of time, I devoured as many of her books as I could. I was a young mother and had the opportunity to stay home with our first child. Living on one salary, I learned how to entertain myself and Jenny without spending much money and the library was a very good start. So I have fond memories of Dame Agatha.

I would have read more this month but I got sucked into the craziness of our world right now. With a pandemic and an attempted coup followed by an inauguration that felt it may be under siege, I couldn’t wrap my mind around fiction.

I did attempt to read one other book, a romance but even though I enjoy romances, this one wasn’t my cup of tea. I had to abandon it half way through. Since I don’t like to disparage other writer’s works, I will keep the title to myself because I also know that everyone has their own tastes when it comes to what they read. I will say that it was well written but I found it difficult to find much story between the sexual interludes.

Since I have almost a week left, I will start another book and hope to finish it by the end of this month.

I hope you have been able to escape the chaos into a good book. Each day, I do feel better.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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The Mistaken Widow – Cheryl St. John

Reading has always been my escape but this January I have struggled. Not only with what has been going on in our world but somehow through it all I lost a week. I am the President of the local chapter of Sisters in Crime and I realized that we have a meeting tomorrow. Unfortunately I didn’t remember until Tuesday.

Not only do I need to lead the meeting but I am presenting a program on setting goals. So my reading had to take a back seat. I had hoped to post my review of Midwinter Murders – an Agatha Christie novel. That review will come out next week but I needed to post something.

I guess you may be wondering why I posted a photo of this book. Well I thought I might share a little personal story. Cheryl St. John is an author from the Omaha area whom I met in the 1990’s. She has written over 50 novels and a couple of how – to writing craft books for Writer’s Digest. She has also presented workshops in both New York City and Los Angeles for the Writer’s Digest Conferences they normally hold each year.

Cheryl gave me permission to use Write Smart Write Happy for my goal setting program tomorrow. She had a prior engagement or she would have presented the program for us, virtually. Since I had purchased the book when it came out, I had read it before and was familiar enough to use it for the program.

You know how people talk about getting lost in a book? Well I found myself in a book, literally. Well at least my name.

The Mistaken Widow is a book that Cheryl wrote in 1998. I bought it back then and as I was reading it, I saw Virginia Gruver.

If you are able to read this, you will see my name embedded in the story. There are two characters, one is Gruver – a chauffeur, and Virginia is his wife. This immediately gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I emailed Cheryl and told her that I caught it. She laughed and said she often does that in her books. Well if that wasn’t enough.

Several years later I was given a copy of the copy edit manuscript as a keepsake from someone in my local RWA chapter. I am not sure if they realized I already had a connection with this book but this felt like serendipity. With today’s technology, I doubt authors receive a hard copy anymore. As a writer, this is so valuable. It allows me a sneak peek at Cheryl’s process of getting this book published.

This week has been a struggle and something tells me next week may be challenging as well but taking the time to plan a goal setting program and remembering a couple happy moments in my past has helped get me into a better place.

We had a blizzard last night and now that my work for the meeting is done, I think curling up with a good book sounds like the perfect end to this week.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

I don’t make resolutions each new year but I do set goals and this year have decided to choose a word as a theme. This year’s word is Happiness. I chose this word before I found this book. When I found the book it felt like serendipity. I plan to review this book but not before the end of the year. I love the concept of finding more happiness. After the train wreck of 2020, this seemed like something I could attempt to do.

I found this book during one of my trips to a local book store and after reading the blurb thought it intriguing. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is a book she wrote mapping out her process to become happier. Like me, she said she wasn’t depressed. She was happy but she felt she could be happier. All credit for this idea goes to Gretchen, I will just apply her ideas to my own life and hopefully find more happiness in 2021.

From what I have read so far, I would recommend it. She approaches this with a serious attitude but also with a little lighthearted feel. So far, I feel like her January goals are something that I could benefit from but like she says everyone is an individual and we all have different needs. If I continue to find this book useful, I will continue reading her monthly sections and applying some of the things she does to make her life happier to my life or discover ways to meet my own challenges that are affecting my happiness. Obviously we are two different people who may have different definitions of happiness but what I have read so far, I think we have enough in common to make this little project worthwhile.

Each month she decides what things she needs to do with her life to become a happier person. January involves boosting her energy. She chose that topic because with more energy she thought it would make it easier for her to make more changes as the year unfolds. Each month she shares anecdotes about her own life and how she plans to make the journey toward more happiness. I plan to review each month and adapt her ideas or add some of my own so that they will work for me. January felt like she truly was talking to me personally. All of her suggestions sounded doable so here we go.

For January I plan to start this journey of transformation by doing the things she suggests for more energy. The first is to get more sleep. I do struggle with this. I tend to be a night owl. Now that I am retired, I thought that was no big deal but it is. I like to be more productive especially now that my days are spent doing the things I want to do. So I have committed to going to sleep earlier so that I can wake up feeling more refreshed and able to go the whole day without longing for a nap. This is day four so far and I did get nine hours of sleep Saturday night.

The next step is Exercise Better. This one isn’t quite as foreign as it might have seemed because my hubby and I have been walking together for a few months now. With the cold weather, it does make it a little more challenging but we are finding ways around it by walking during the warmest part of the day. We also vary where we walk, most of the time it is around the neighborhood but we have expanded to a small lake in our area as well as downtown Des Moines and especially an area called The East Village. We have discovered new shops we enjoy visiting, like the spice shop and a popcorn shop. We have also gone to a local mall that is struggling so, unfortunately for the mall but fortunately for us we do feel safer walking there when the weather is really too cold outside.

The third step is to Toss, Restore, and Organize. This too is something that I have been working on for the past year. I take a different location in my home to de-clutter each week. I don’t do everything all at once. I set a timer and maybe clean out a closet, cupboard, or bathroom vanity and do a little bit at a time. Like another YouTuber I follow, it is progress not perfection.

The next step is Tackle a Nagging Task. This involves doing something that you keep putting off. Maybe make an appointment with the dentist or an eye exam. Just find one thing that you need to do but have ignored for too long.

The last step is to Act More Energetic. This is basically the same concept as we act a certain way because of how we feel when in reality we feel a certain way because of the way we act. I know what I want to change for this step and I hate to admit it here as I type in my office in my pajamas but I know I would feel better about myself if I would get up in the morning and get my stuff done earlier and then shower and dress before noon. I know that this is true because I worked from home for the last three years before retirement and I had the opportunity to work in my pajamas if I chose to but because of my work ethic, I only took advantage of doing that when I was ill. Every other day, I got up like I had all those many years, dressed, put on make up and fiddled with my hair so that I was presentable. Though our virtual meetings were scheduled, we never knew when a supervisor might plan a surprise virtual one on one. I could not let that happen and not be prepared. So that is on my calendar this month to change. This is January 4th as I type this and I will admit, it did not happen today. Tomorrow is another day and I will do better. To do my part to help make these changes happen, I have written down a step each day that addresses each of these areas in my planner. As I do them, I can cross them off. I will see what works and what doesn’t and share my results. I have a feeling that even if I don’t make all the changes, I will see improvements that will make me happier. Again, progress not perfection.

One of my 2021 Planners

What do you do at the beginning of each new year? Do you set resolutions or goals? If you do, please feel free to share them. Have you heard of this book and maybe tried this yourself? If so, was it successful?

Well lunch is calling me. May 2021 bring us all more happiness. Unless this project takes a weird turn and I abandon it, I will follow up monthly with updates.

Until next time…

Virginia

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

December Reads – 2020

Yes this is a picture of my December Reading Goal.

I would like to say I read all of the books on my to be read pile in December but I can’t. I also missed my goal of four books for the month. I did read three books from this pile. You can find my reviews of those books in posts during December. They were The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White. I did enjoy that book and I would probably choose it as my favorite read for December. I also did see that she has the next book in that series done and it will be out in the fall 2021. I will be adding that to my list.

My second favorite for the month was Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva. That was an interesting holiday read and again, I would look for more from this author in the future.

The last book I completed for December was Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliott. It was a good cozy and the first by this author that I have read. I have another in this series that I hope to read in January. After I start that book, I will decide if I want to continue with that series. If I hadn’t purchased that second book, I may not have committed to another. It was a good book, if you are a cozy fan. It was well written but something didn’t pull me in to call it a favorite. I did like it well enough to finish the book so it may have been more about me and where I was at this month, than anything actually about the book. I wouldn’t discourage you from reading it, if you like cozies. We all have different tastes and this series may be something you will enjoy. And since I plan to read another one, I may change my mind later.

I had hoped to squeeze out at least one more read before the end of the month but it didn’t happen. If anything, I hope maybe I introduced you to a new author. Let me know if you have read any of these books and if you have any suggestions for me to check out in this new year.

I am thrilled to be starting a new year. I have probably spent too much time setting goals and that may be part of the reason my reading seems to be a little slow jumping out of the gate this month. I did decide what books to choose for my January picks but I found it difficult to choose which one to actually start reading.

I have started the new year out waffling between two books to read first but think I have finally settled on reading Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie. I need to read Emma for sure this month because it is part of a Jane Austen reading thing from a Vlog I follow where the Vlogger invites other readers to discuss the book.

I hope to meet my minimum goal of four books this month. I will give it my best.

Have you set any reading goals? Is that something you even do?

While setting goals for this year, I decided my word for the year is Happiness. Not that I am not happy but 2020 has been difficult and I think I could be happier. This goal is set around a book – The Happiness Project. My next post will explain a little more about that project and my goal.

For now, happy reading and until next time…

Virginia

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Murder in the First Edition

Addison Greyborne’s eyes glistened with the reflection of the glimmering snowflakes hanging from the delicate fairy lights she’d retrieved from her aunt’s attic. – First Line – Murder in the First Edition.

The back cover of this book says – Lauren Elliott devoured Nancy Drew before graduating to Agatha Christie. Eventually she tried her hand at penning a novel herself and is currently working on the next Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery. I do like to see if there is any information about why the author chose to write a book or series. I tried unsuccessfully to find more information about this author.

This is a new series to me and I broke my own rule by not starting with the first in the series. I chose this book by the cover and that it was set around Christmas time and wanted a holiday book to read. From the blurb, I went on to purchase a second in this series set in January. It is part of my January to be read list.

This series involves a character who inherited her aunt’s book store and all of the characters she meets in the small town in seaside New England. We learn that she had been engaged but her fiancĂ© died. In this book, his father shows up and at first she is excited to think that he wanted to spend time with her over the holiday since it appears she has no family. We learn fairly soon that she wants to like him but he has secrets that she fears make him not such a wonderful person. When she realizes he didn’t come mainly to see her, her excitement dims. She had already determined that he liked his ladies and when he attracts the eye of a local friend, she becomes concerned that he will break the woman’s heart.

When Teresa Lang, a local woman who was in charge of a charity auction that Addie had donated a first edition of -A Christmas Carol, falls down a flight of stairs to her death while the book disappears. Addie suspects murder because the book had been valued at $60,00, plenty reason for some people to kill. Because her fiancĂ©’s father, who also has an interest in books may have been the last person to see her alive, Addie fears he could have had something to do with her death. Several other questionable characters come on the scene and she starts to question their true identity. Addie sets up a white board and notes what happened, with suspects and clues. A couple close friends get involved in the investigation with her.

Besides investigating a murder, she juggles two suitors, a past love, a local police officer, and a local doctor. Both are currently involved in the Teresa Lang death. The police officer tells her to leave it alone and let the police handle it but, of course, she ignores him. The doctor became involved by examining the body. There is plenty of sparring between the two prospective lovers and personally I might have liked this sub plot better if Addie had actually made a choice between the two men.

I can’t say I will commit to reading the whole series but since I bought the book set in January, I will read that one. Hopefully the author will resolve the romantic sub-plot and leave me feeling better at the end of that book. This book was well written but it felt fairly predictable. I feel most cozies do tend to do that and most of the time I am okay with that as long as they sprinkle a few surprises along the way. If you haven’t read this series and like the cozy genre, I would suggest you check it out maybe with the first in the series. I may have missed something by not starting at the beginning. If all goes well with the next book, I probably will do that too. If you have read this series, let me know what you think.

I look forward to sharing more reads with you in 2021. Celebrate safely and have a very Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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January 2021 To Be Read

Today we are being pounded with a snow storm. Sounds like a good day to read a book. I am almost done with one of my December reads and plan to have a review posted on Thursday.

This is a fairly ambitious stack of books for next month but hey it doesn’t hurt to stretch ourselves. As always I will always feel good if I read at least four a month. Even though I am retired, I seem to have found so many things to do to keep busy. Besides starting a new writing project next month, I am also President of our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. Though we only meet monthly, and in 2020 most meetings were virtual. We will be continuing that until it is safe to meet in person. This year besides focusing on writing, we will be reading a few books and reviewing, as well.

I will post a follow-up for my December reads early in January. Did I meet my goal of at least four or did I surpass it? You will have to wait and see.

As I said, I am developing a new mystery novel to write and I am excited to start something new. After a conversation at my last Sinc meeting, it became clear most of the authors and writers swear by Hallie Ephron’s – Writing and Selling the Mystery Novel. I am basing my writing goals around using this book. Currently I am reading and filling out the worksheets to develop the story now. I will be aiming for a first draft by the end of June. I will slip a little bit about this goal into my blog posts to keep you informed, just in case you’re interested.

I am enjoying our rather one-sided conversations but it would be great if you could chime in once in a while. I would love to see how many other people out there actually read my blog and either like it or have some suggestions to make it better. I watch a lot of YouTube and the BookTubers on there. I am trying to fashion this blog after some of those. There is something comforting to hear others talk about books. My reviews are deliberately vague because I don’t want to be guilty of spoilers.

I also will be choosing my favorite book read each month and for the year. I will probably slip in more bookish content as I find it to add, as well. I do enjoy writing this blog and I do hope someone finds it interesting enough to follow.

I really would appreciate your comments and if you have a blog that you would like me to support, please comment and let me know.

Until next time, happy new year.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Mr. Dickens and His Carol

“On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.” first line from Mr. Dickens and His Carol.

This is an entertaining take on how Charles Dickens may have come up with writing his famous Christmas story. The author, Samantha Silva, included some facts along with her fiction. I watched an interview with the author on a YouTube channel recently and it took her 15 years to write this novel. It started out as a screenplay that she sold four times but it failed to be produced so she re-wrote as a novel. The author is a writer and screenwriter based in Idaho and this is her debut novel.

The story opens with Charles Dickens who was a rock star for his time. He lived in a spectacular family home with his five children and a wife in labor with their sixth child. He has been riding a high with his success and being a generous man he has been helping both family, friends, and charities financially and happy to do so. Until he is told by his publisher that his most recent work – Chuzzlewit is not selling.

The publisher blackmails Dickens into writing another book before Christmas or they will deduct a portion of his sales to cover their losses. Which might not have been so bad but Christmas was only a few weeks away. At first Dickens refuses to be told what to do by his publisher. That works until he realizes how much his debt currently is and that if he did allow them to cut his sales that it could ruin him financially.

Dickens receives a letter from the woman who left him for another man when he was younger. She broke his heart but her letter tells him she must see him and foolishly he agrees. He soon regrets it but before he knows it the woman has stopped by his own home and speaks with his wife, asking her to have him autograph the letter she’d sent. Mrs. Dickens did not take that very well.

In the middle of planning their Christmas celebration with painters re-painting the front door and entry way, food being delivered for their annual party, and a tree delivered to actually be put inside their home, which was something new to the Victorians; he starts realizing that he may not have a choice about writing the book. His wife takes the children to Scotland with her family, telling him he is no longer the man she married and leaves him home alone.

Dickens has always had a habit of walking many miles at night to work through his troubles and finds himself at the very Inn where he’d written his first story. It reminds him of his earlier relationship that had gone wrong. Though his former lady friend hadn’t been a muse in the usual sense, he had succeeded just to prove her wrong. Now he feels as if he has no muse.

During his nightly walks he meets a younger actress he’d met briefly while he was a young actor on a small town square in London. He soon starts to think she may be the muse he is seeking. They are attracted to each other but both agree that nothing can come of it but they do become friends. During the telling of this story, we are introduced to the major characters from A Christmas Carol.

This was a delightful holiday story. After watching the interview, much of what was written was pulled from his biography. Chuzzlewit did fail and his publisher did request a book because of a clause in his contract. He had an old girlfriend who he felt had been his muse, who had left him for a man she felt could provide better for her and forced Dickens to prove her wrong. This story has an interesting twist at the end that was fitting for a holiday tale about a ghost story.

I loved the way the author weaved characters into this novel who became important characters in A Christmas Carol, like Tiny Tim, Cratchit, Marley, and of course Scrooge. This will be a keeper on my shelf. I may not read it every year but possibly every other. I do think I will add A Christmas Carol to my December list for 2021. Though I have seen several movie versions, I haven’t actually ever read the novel. Now I will have a quest to find a nice collectible edition.

I have been enjoying the days leading up to Christmas. Even though we will not be spending the day with our children, I have attempted to shop, decorate, and cook a few things for me and the hubby. It has cut into my reading time so probably will not meet my monthly goal of four books read this month. I hope you are finding some joy in this most difficult time. I wish you and yours a most glorious Christmas or whatever holiday you may be celebrating. I hope you find peace in your hearts and maybe a tiny bit of time to read a good book.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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