Book Talk Tuesday: Catching Up

I’ve decided 2018 is going to be about catching up with my favorite series. The last few months have been filled with some great books, but also some lackluster entries. I realized that I have many favorite authors and their characters that I’ve set aside for other reading.

I’m going to fix that. I’ve made a list of what’s next.

downloadAlexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books are always wonderful, but I hadn’t read one in three years. So I found THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY in my TBR stack and read it! It was lovely, of course, although I had a few quibbles with dangling plot points at the end. Next will be LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTIVES.

From Susan Wiggs’ Willow Lake series, I just requested from the library, RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE. A few months ago, I did read MARRYING DAISY BELLAMY, so that’s one mystery solved.

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A friend gave me a copy of Alan Bradley’s AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST, but that’s three or four stories ahead of where I left off in his Flavia de Luce series. Fortunately, I have a cousin who’s also a fan and she’s loaning me SPEAKING FROM AMONG THE BONES this weekend.

I’ve already read three of Jan Karon’s Mitford books so far this year, and that’s what spurred my impetus to catch up on all my favorite series.  I just finished IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS, which is set in Ireland. Father Tim and Cynthia visit the ‘auld country and of course find a parish away from home to minister to. Next download (3)will be COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. I read these slightly out of order. Earlier this year I read SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD, which is directly after IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS. I’m trusting that picking up COME RAIN OR COME SHINE next won’t be a problem.

Since Sue Grafton’s death in late December, I’ve also been reviewing her books to make sure I didn’t miss any along the way. I don’t think I did, but I’m definitely behind. So S IS FOR SILENCE is next on my list.

download (2)I have one last Deborah Knott title by Margaret Maron that I’ve been saving, but it seems appropriate to add it to my list. Maron announced LONG UPON THE LAND would be the last Deborah Knott novel. Maron is still writing, but I don’t love her Sigrid Harald books as much as I do Deborah and Dwight and the family.

Finally, my last series to catch up on isn’t a series. I do love Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper books and I’ve read them all. I haven’t kept up with her stand alones. I added two of those to my list. LOVE MERCY will be up first.

And then Nora Roberts. I haven’t read all of the IN DEATH series and Roberts is far too download (4)prolific for me to attempt to keep up. I’ve decided to go back and read the first in the series, NAKED IN DEATH, and then read whatever is in my TBR stack and whatever crosses my path. The books don’t require being read in order. The characters change slowly enough that it’s easy to pick up anytime. These books are all about the case, although Lt. Eve Dallas and Roark are fascinating and compelling protagonists.

Of course, as my favorite authors release new stories, I’ll add those in. They’re not included on this list because I’m already caught up with everything they’ve written. This includes Susan Mallery, Kristan Higgins, Susan May Warren, Kathryn Cushman, Tamara Alexander. I could keep going, but I’ll stop for now.

Last year I read 100 books. This year, I’m at 37 so far. Looks like I may hit the century mark again.

Expect reviews in the next weeks. And please, ask me how the list is coming along. I estimate I have 27 books to read to consider myself “caught up.” And I’ve pre-ordered several books from my favorites that will be released in the next few months and will have to be factored in.

Gotta go. I’ve got a book waiting!

 

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Book Talk Tuesday: A Cold and Lonely Place

I’ve had this one on my TBR stack for quite a while, but I was in the mood for something chilly to offset the hot days to come, so I pulled this one out.

It’s wonderful.

Very atmospheric. The Adirondacks, Lake Placid and Lake Saranac are described in not overly detailed terms, but well enough that if I ever go there, it will feel familiar. I’ve said the same thing about Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books set in upstate New York. When we visited there in 2011, it really did seem like I’d been there before. But only in the pages of a book.

1473581_origA Cold and Lonely Place is described as a “literary mystery,” and I don’t disagree with that description. While it may not be your typical “fair play,” mystery, there is a mystery at the heart of the story. Actually two mysteries.

What happened to Tobin Winslow? And what happened to his brother six years ago? Both drowned, although in vastly different circumstances.

Our “detective,” is Troy Chance, a freelance writer in the Lake Placid and Lake Saranac area. She’s taking pictures of the construction of the annual Ice Palace when a body is found. She recognizes the frozen face, as the boyfriend of one of her roommates, and begins piecing together the last days, months, then years of the victim’s life.

When I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. The chapters were short and engaging and begged me to turn the page and keep going. As the story progressed, it wasn’t quite as compelling, especially as I suspected we weren’t going to receive a villain neatly captured and handed over to the authorities.

But that didn’t lessen my enjoyment. A Cold and Lonely Place is an excellent, engaging, and enthralling story. I’ll read more by this author.

Book Talk Tuesday: RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER

RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER by Sally Andrew is a change of pace from J.D. Robb and Harlan Coban. Reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books with a smidgen of Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schultz mysteries, RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER is an excellent debut book.

RFLAMTold from the first person point of view of Maria van Harten, a cooking columnist in Ladismith, South Africa, the story is heavy with descriptions of meals and food, but the mystery is compelling too.

Maria is called Tannie (Auntie) Maria by her friends. She’s a fifty-something widow whose husband abused her. She’s content now to be alone with her chickens, her column in the local paper, her cooking, and her friends.

The paper’s editorial staff decides to ditch the recipe column and replace it with an advice column, so Tannie Maria finds herself having to dispense wisdom to the lovelorn. She sees a need for a recipe in each answer, but the advice is sound and the recipes yummy.

One letter, from an abused wife, strikes Tannie Maria hard. When a woman is found dead soon after, Tannie Maria is certain her husband killed her. She soon learns the case is much more complicated.

Tannie Maria and the paper’s investigative journalist, Jessie, get drawn into the mystery, attracting the killer’s attention.

I enjoyed this one very much. The story moves a bit slower than I’m used to in American mysteries, but the writing is lovely and the story is compelling. The mystery is a fair-play, with clues and red herrings; challenging but not impossible or implausible.

I’m a huge fan of Alexander McCall Smith and Precious Ramotswe, so I was somewhat used to the slower pace of the South African storytelling. The chapters are short, which made it easy to keep turning pages and thinking, “Just one more.”

Probably technically, a cozy, since the book includes recipes and humor, but there is some blood and death, making it a PG instead of a G rating.

Tannie Maria is a worthy addition to the halls of amateur sleuths/cooks, and I look forward to reading her next adventure. And to follow her developing romance with a certain police detective.

 

 

Book Talk Tuesday: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT by Kristan Higgins

I’m a huge Kristan Higgins fan. I love her romance novels and her women’s fiction novels have been even better.

Higgins.NTYMINow That You Mention It is about Nora, an ugly duckling from a small Maine island who has turned into an amazing swan/doctor/aunt/human being. After getting hit by a truck and waking in the ER to hear her boyfriend flirting with a nurse, she decides it’s time for some changes and moves back to her island to recuperate with her mother and niece.

Nora’s backstory about what brought her to this place in her life is carefully dribbled out, a little at a time. There have been some awful things happen to her. But she not only survived, she learned to thrive.

I loved this book. The characters feel like people I’d hang out with. As Nora heals and as spring turns to summer, she learns a lot about herself as well as her hometown and her family.

I highly recommend this one!

Book Talk Tuesday: THE UNSEDUCIBLE EARL

I love love love this book! The attention to historical accuracy and detail makes it a cut above most historical romance. The Victorian mores and attitudes are captured perfectly. But instead of being dry or superficial, The Unseducible Earl is full of emotion, poignancy, and heart.

UnseducibleEarlVictoria Thorne is a Nightingale nurse recently returned from the Crimea and hired by the Earl of Cheriton to nurse his brother, also a Crimea vet, back to health. As Victoria cares for Jamie, she is also able to deal with her own issues that linger from living and working in a war zone. At Cheriton Court, she expected to work hard, to help patients with her skills, and to face some opposition. She never expected the intense attraction she feels for the earl–the betrothed earl.

Robben Merrick is betrothed to a woman who is perfect for him. On paper. He doesn’t love her, but he expects affection will come. It is time for him to marry and produce an heir. He’s grateful his fiancee is willing to postpone their announcement while his brother is still battling for his life, even though he’s out of battlefield danger and safe at home at Cheriton Court. His growing feelings for his brother’s nurse are not part of his plans. And he cannot act on them, even if it feels like he is sentencing himself to a loveless marriage and a broken heart.

Humphreys is a wonderful writer. I felt every bit of Victoria and Robb’s attraction and brokenness.

There are a couple of sub-plots that added to the depth of the story and made the ending even more satisfactory.

Book Talk Tuesday: MRS. OSWALD CHAMBERS

I finished this book two weeks ago but I needed some time to absorb it all before I talked about it.

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I’ve read My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers many times. Sometimes it’s my daily devotional for the year. Sometimes I just pick it up and read random days. But there’s always a copy nearby that I can easily get my hands on.

I had no idea the work, the calling, the sacrifice that went into making copies of this book so readily available to readers.

Michelle Ule has crafted a story that is part biography, part history, and part devotional in its own right.

Mrs. Oswald Chambers is, on the surface, a biography of Gertrude ‘Biddy’ Chambers, Oswald Chambers’ wife and widow. It starts with her early life, moves to meeting Chambers, falling in love, and their decision to marry and minster together. They married in 1910, had a daughter in 1913, and he died in 1917. A short marriage, but one with lasting and far-reaching impact.

Biddy trained as a secretary and took shorthand at 250 words per minute. She wrote 301838_MrsOswaldChambersUle_Posts11down all of his sermons, homilies, lessons, and talks, then transcribed them. After her husband’s death, she began to compile various selections and released them as books under his name.

I loved Mrs. Oswald Chambers! Michelle Ule crafted a story that is compelling, humbling, and thought-provoking. If I’d been widowed with a small child, while living in a foreign country near a war zone, I don’t think my inclination would be to continue to serve God while living in poverty. Biddy did that, not only willingly, but with a faith and a calling that never faltered.

I highly recommend this book and I suggest you run and grab your own copy. It will change you.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: The Engagement Plot

I’m working on a trilogy of novellas set on reality dating shows, so when The Engagement Plot appeared on my radar, I decided to request a review copy.

I’m glad I did.

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Hanna is a charming heroine and Will is an appealing hero. The story begins after they meet and get engaged on a show call The Price of Love. Hanna is a Christian and she kept her virtue and values front and center during the show which ended with Will on one knee and offering her a ring. During the airing of the finale Will said something that caused Hanna to break off the engagement.

We catch up with them about eight months after the show’s finale when Will arrives at Hanna’s Minnesota home to apologize. Her first inclination is to throw him back into the blizzard, but as they spend a few days together, they see a way to save both her reputation and his job, so the engagement plot is on.

Overall, I enjoyed this a lot and it kept me turning the page. It is definitely a Christian romance, but the faith elements rise organically from the characters.

Hanna and Will each had their own reasons for going on the show, for ending the engagement, and for concocting the new engagement plot. I have a few quibbles with some plot points, but they didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

The Engagement Plot is a fun and charming story of romance, second chances, and true love persevering against all odds. I recommend it!


I received an advance copy of The Engagement Plot in return for an honest review.