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Monthly Archives: January 2021

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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