Don’t Know What to Read in April?

“In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood – Bluebeard’s Egg.

I probably won’t smell like dirt but I will most definitely smell like good books.

It’s easy to get into the rut of only reading newer releases. Most of my suggestions are from books that have been out for a while but you may not have been aware of them.

In the spring, I like to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. I do like to plant a few flowers but I am not a gardener. I am a reader. I do like to read books in the Spring that are a little lighter and maybe set in the season but as you know, I love mystery and a little horror too so here are my choices. Most of these books are on my to-be-read list and I don’t want to spoil the story for you or me, I will give a brief description.

Maisie Dobbs is a maid in a London household. She first became employed there when she was thirteen. Her employer is a suffragette so you have a good idea of the era of this story. After working for her mentor for several years and with the outbreak of war, Maisie becomes a nurse. She serves in France at the Front. While there, she found and lost an important part of herself. Ten years later in the spring of 1929, she sets out on her own to investigate her first case involving infidelity but discovers something unexpected. In the end she finds herself confronting a personal ghost that has haunted her for over a decade. I chose this book because it begins in the Spring and it is one that has been on my radar for a while. I believe it is the first of a series and I do love series. It has 3.92 stars on Goodreads.

This book is definitely on my list for April. I have been watching the series on PBS and love it. It is the story of a young man who apprentices with a Veterinarian in rural Yorkshire. Since I am an Anglophile, this hits so many buttons. It shares his heartwarming stories of the people in the area and their animals. It begins with James Herriot’s train ride from Scotland to Yorkshire and the immediate household where he ends up living and serving as an apprentice. The Vet, Siegfried Farnum, his housekeeper, Mrs. Hall, and eventually Mr. Farnum’s brother, Tristan, are main characters. The series is full of heart warming stories and the descriptions are beautiful. You can picture the English landscape. Though I haven’t read this one yet, I know I will enjoy it. Goodreads gives this one 4.34 stars.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is another one that I have no idea why I have waited so long to read. I think I was drawn to it because it is set in Iowa. The protagonist is Sara, who is from Sweden. She travels all the way to meet her pen pal. When she arrives, she discovers that her friend Amy has passed away and Amy’s friends are leaving her funeral. The residents of the small town take it upon themselves to look after Sara. Amy’s home is full of books and between Sara and the residents of the community she is encouraged to open a book store. Sara and the townspeople are a little quirky. This book is said to be a reminder of why we are booklovers. Goodreads has given this book 3.56 stars.

I may not get to all of my Spring recommendations in April but this one I want to read for sure. I have set myself a goal to read one Agatha Christie each month and I am awaiting the arrival of this book. This book has some of Agatha’s short stories set in the springtime. If you are new to Agatha’s novels, I highly recommend them. I love mysteries and I feel Agatha is the queen. You won’t find gore but good mysteries set in an era long gone. She may have some things we don’t feel are politically correct but I am comfortable because of the timeframe they were written in. Goodreads gave this one 3.74 stars.

I am almost done with The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner and will have a review when finished. I am looking forward to April reads. Let me know if you read any of these or what books you would choose to read next month. As the days become longer and warmer, I do move my reading out onto my patio with a cool beverage and a little sunshine. That is what I am waiting patiently for. Where is one of your favorite reading spots?

Please subscribe to my blog to make sure you don’t miss out. I hope to be able to bring content that all readers will enjoy.

Until next time,

Virginia

What is Better Than New Books? – Free Books and Book Festivals

I attended an online author event recently with local authors. I won a copy of this book from an author I have never read. Tracey is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Thanks so much Tracy Garvis Graves. I look forward to reading this. Free books are always a good thing.

Saturday was the Des Moines Book Festival so I sat at the Sisters in Crime Booth at the event. Here I am with another SINC member – Julie Fridinger.

The Book Festival is a fairly new event for Des Moines. In the beginning someone said they hoped it would become as popular as our Art Festival. It hasn’t grown to be quite that large yet but after this Saturday, I think it is on it’s way.

The Book Festival is part of the Greater Des Moines Partnership

The author pavilion featured Sequoia Nagamatsu, NoViolet Bulawayo, Chris Bojhalian, and Sarah Penner who presented talks during the day. There were hands-on workshops from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM in two different rooms that featured Bookstores, authors Kay Fenton Smith and Carol McGarvey who offered food samples along with their – Baking Blue Ribbons book. Django a local restaurant who showed how to build a better Cheese and Charcuterie Board. True Crime and tasting wine with John Brassard and Madison County Winery and way too many to list on this post.

There was food and adult beverages available.

A live stage set up with Musicians and performers.

A VIP area was available for some lucky attendees.

A Kids’ Zone featured face painting, story time, a magician, and more.

There was also a Des Moines Architecture Walking Tour with the Iowa Architecture Foundation for a chance to learn more about downtown buildings.

They had a local author alcove with booths for authors to meet, greet, and sell their books. That is where our SINC booth was for the day. I was there for a couple hours in the afternoon. Met many people, most were readers. Had fun talking about SINC and books. I introduced our group by telling them we were all about murder. That seemed to get their attention.

The event was held at Capital Square, downtown. Does your community have an event similar to this? If you are local and have never attended, I would recommend it. I have been involved from the beginning because of the writer’s organizations I belong to and I do remember several years ago it was held in the summer, outside, and it was not nearly this well organized.

The last hour of the event, I attended the author talk with Sarah Penner. I am currently reading her first book – The Lost Apothecary. She was promoting her latest book – The London Séance Society. I got that one autographed and she promised an author interview if I can wait until mid May. Of course, I can wait.

Sarah Penner is the first author for the library’s AVID (Authors Visiting in Des Moines) program. There are six more authors who will speak over the next few months and I do plan to attend as many of those talks as possible.

Her talk was interesting. She is from Kansas and used to work in the finance industry. She worked in London for a while and the setting for her books is actually not far from the office building she worked in there.

She never expected her books to take off so quickly and when her publisher offered her a contract for books three and four, she gave up financing to write full time. She now lives in Florida.

A local news lady was the moderator for her talk. Everyone laughed when her first question was where Sarah got her red pant suit.

Several years ago, I got to be a moderator for AVID for Eloisa James. It was great fun and I felt honored because most of the moderators over the years have been big-wigs around town. Like, the Hubbell family, or reporters from the Des Moines Register and people from Meredith publishing.

Hopefully Sarah will remember when I send my interview request in May and I will share more about this author at that time.

I hope your weekend was as fun and exciting as mine. I hope you’ve found a little time to read and look forward to our next chat.

Until next time,

Virginia

A Beginner’s Guide to Murder

March Mystery #6

This is the first book by Rosalind Stopps for me. I was pulled in by the first line – “We had known him for two days when we decided to kill him.” Then when I realized the main characters are older women, I had to read it. It you like watching British mysteries/detective shows, I think you will enjoy this story.

Grace, Meg, and Daphne are just getting to know each other in a coffee shop when a young woman obviously distressed runs into the shop asking for help. They send her off to the restroom as an intimidating male enters the shop looking for her. They decide unanimously to help Nina, the young woman.

As the women work together for the same cause, we slowly learn more about their personal stories.

They find out the Nina is a victim of human trafficking but before they can do much about it, she is pulled out of a vehicle and taken away. The three women along with an ex-con, a couple who will kill for hire and some homeless people work together to get Nina back.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and would read more from this author. Goodreads gave 3.47 stars while I gave it 4.

Do you enjoy British television? If so, what shows do you watch? I can’t put my finger on why this book reminds me of British television, can’t think of a show that it reminds me of but it is set in London and though I can’t hear the accents, I seemed to know they were speaking with an accent while reading it. Obviously, I watch too much British television, or maybe not.

Other book related news:

I will be attending a local Book Festival Saturday by working the Sisters in Crime booth for an hour and then I hope to go see the Sarah Penner talk. Sarah is the author of my current read, The Lost Apothecary. So far, it is a great read. I will share more when I review this book soon. I am hopeful that I will score her latest book at the festival. Sarah is also the opening author for the Des Moines Public Library Avid event for this year. More to come about that in a future post.

Just found out that a few indie bookstores are having a cookie crawl today. So off to check out books and get cookies.

Hope your day is joyful and you are able to relax with a good read.

Until next time,

Virginia

The Writing Retreat/The Moving Finger

March Mystery #4 was a book I couldn’t wait to read. I ended up listening to it on audible. It took me a little longer to finish because most of my listening time was while driving. I had high hopes that this book would be about the struggles of writing a novel. It was, in a way. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the story so I am sorry for being vague.

This is the story of a famous author who invites five unpublished authors to a private retreat in her mansion in a secluded area in northern New York state. It is in the winter and they do become stranded. They are expected to write a completed novel within thirty days and she will choose one that she will help get a six figure contract to get published.

The twenty something aged writers are all women and they are all competitive. They have a grueling writing schedule of 3000 words a day. They have to turn the pages in by midnight each day or be eliminated.

That storyline in itself, I could have handled but the story took off in a sick and twisted direction and lost me. I probably wouldn’t have minded so much but this title gave no clue that this was a horror novel. I did finish it but it wasn’t really scary in the sense of horror novels for me but it did become embedded in gore and sex that I didn’t think added to this particular story. They lost me.

Goodreads gave this book 3.53 stars so there are readers who loved it more than me. I ended up giving this book a 2 star review on Goodreads because it just didn’t do it for me. Some people will love it and that is fine. I finished it out of curiosity, not because I really cared enough about the characters because all of them were pretty unlikeable. This was a debut novel so I may see what this author does next and if other reviews sound good, I may give her another chance but I was truly disappointed by this one.

March Mystery # 5

Agatha Christie doesn’t disappoint. I have read her novels for years and for me they stand up to time. Do I think she is the greatest novelist of all time? No but she does know how to tell a good story. This one was a Miss Marple novel and I was surprised to see how far into the novel we were before Miss Marple was introduced. It felt as though the two main characters, Jerry and Joanna Burton would be the only sleuths but later in the book Miss Marple did show up. The story is set in a small town and while Jerry is recuperating from an accident, they rent a small home from a Miss Barton. I thought it was odd that Agatha used two names that were so similar but that did become a clue down the road.

When several people within the village start receiving poison pen letters, most of the residents don’t take them seriously until someone commits suicide. Afterwards, the police become involved and start investigating the letters.

The story is filled with quirky characters that I always love who add a bit of humor to all of her stories. There is a bit of romance and always a good mystery. By the end we know more about this sleepy picturesque village than we ever thought we would know. Jerry and Joanna had assumed their time there would be boring until they become involved in catching a killer.

If you love mysteries, I don’t think you can go wrong with a good Agatha Christie novel. I hope to read one each month and I do look forward to the next one. Goodreads gave this one a 3.86 stars and I gave it 5.

I am currently reading – A Beginner’s Guide to Murder by Rosalind Stopps. So far I am enjoying it. Will tell you more in a few days after I have finished it.

I have read 14 books toward my Goodreads goal of 40 for the year. Looks like I will meet my goal. Of course I will keep reading after I meet my goal and reassess for next year.

I hope you are having a great reading year too so far.

Until next time,

Virginia

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow, I think I have found my favorite book so far for 2023. This was hilarious. LOVE it when I find a new author I love. Finlay Donovan is a hoot. When a young divorcee mom suddenly has to worry about her cheating ex-husband trying to get custody of her kids and she is a struggling novelist who is finding it hard to pay her bills and keep afloat, what should she do? Of course, become a hit mom. A miscommunication in a Panera with her agent leads a Panera customer to think she is a hit man and leaves her a note asking her to kill her husband for a substantial sum of money. Finlay is not a killer but everything she does to get out of the mess causes her to dig deeper into a bad situation. If you like cozy mysteries that make you lol, you will love this series. I can’t wait to read the next one.



View all my reviews

I shared my Goodreads review above but I wanted to add a little more for my own followers.

I have watched several booktubers talking about how great different books are and had been disappointed, until now. None of the other suggestions had panned out so far, until now.

This truly is a new favorite. The writing flows well as she spins her ridiculously funny story. She makes the unbelievable believable. The characters are well rounded and you get to know them so you care about what happens to them. Finlay gets herself into such awful situations, it actually made me nervous worrying about her. It is a story and I know it isn’t real but as far out there as the situations were, I believed it was possible.

If you love cozy mysteries that are not gory but are hilarious, I hope you take my suggestion and read this one. Let me know what you think.

Also, if you are on Goodreads, follow me for all of my reviews. I would love to follow you as well. If you have read this series, what are your thoughts?

Until next time,

Virginia

The Spite House

I really had high hopes for this one. It is actually a horror novel but I felt it held enough mystery to add it to my March reads. I did do a little research to find out what a spite house is. It is a house built to spite someone. Usually they are built to ruin someone else’s view or be a reminder of something to someone who may not appreciate having to look at the house everyday. There are hundreds of them all over the country and I will probably keep my eyes out looking for them when I travel now.

Spite House is the story of a father, Eric Ross, and his two daughters who are traveling around the country like fugitives. We slowly learn why as the story progresses. Eric Ross takes a job in the hill country of Texas in a house that legend says people disappear in it. The owner neglects to disclose that information when she offers him the job. Eric does understand that the house is haunted and Eunice, the owner, wants proof of the afterlife and she is willing to pay plenty to get that information.

If Eric can complete the task he and his daughters will be comfortable for a while. I did think the backstory was interesting and it might explain what was happening in the house in current time but no one really explained how or why that could happen. I can’t explain too much because I don’t want this to be a spoiler. The author did use a fresher idea as to what the ghosts were capable of doing to humans and there was a twist at the end as to who the live people should actually fear.

I love a good ghost story. This was not one. I was able to read this at night which is one clue for me that it isn’t scary. It also isn’t gory which I did appreciate. I enjoy more psychological thrillers. The ghosts weren’t believable and neither were most of the characters. This story had potential but the author didn’t follow through. Everything felt like hints of horror but I never felt the horror. This is the author’s debut book so there probably will be more books in his future and if other readers like them, I probably would give him another shot. I did like the cover art and that is probably what drew my attention to the book as well as a book seller who said he wanted to read it. But for this one, I gave it 2 stars. It wasn’t a satisfying read for me.

What do you look for when you read horror? Have you read this book and what are your views?

I am already in the middle of book three for March and I am loving it. It is a mystery and I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

In the meantime, keep reading.

Virginia

Death on The Nile

Book and Movies

I re-read Death on the Nile in February and watched a couple of the adaptations. The first was the British one from the Poirot series. That adaptation followed the story line more closely then the 1977 movie.

Peter Ustinov starred as Poirot and I probably would have liked it more if I hadn’t already discovered David Suchet who was in the series. Suchet will always be Poirot for me now. In the series Suchet plays the character more seriously. Though Poirot is kind of humorous because of all of his little idiosyncrasies, like working so hard on his appearance and knowing that his little grew cells will help him solve the crime.

Ustinov played the role a little more slapstick. I noticed one scene where he sat down in another characters room on the ship and because the character wasn’t hungry, Ustinov took the tray of food and helped himself. I am fairly sure that did not happen in the book and I could never see Suchet doing that.

I don’t want to give away spoilers so will only give a little information about the storyline. It is about Linnet Ridgeway, a young , beautiful, wealthy heiress. From the beginning of the book it is obvious everyone is curious about her. Everyone appears to be jealous and she admits that no one likes her.

Jacqueline de Bellefort, Linnet’s friend confides that she is in love and newly engaged. She bemoans the fact that her fiancé, Simon Doyle lost his job and begs Linnet to hire him as her estate manager. Linnet asks her to bring him to see her.

That request is the inciting incident. Everything that follows is because of that request. That is the fateful first step toward murder.

The book is one of my favorites and there have been several adaptations. It is a story about love and jealousy. The love of a man and a woman and the love of two friends. Jealousy, hate, and revenge are the other motives allowing Christie so many suspects.

The 1977 movie was filmed on location with major stars. Besides Ustinov there was Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, David Niven, Mia Farrow, and Olivia Hussey who had become famous for her role in the early seventies as Juliet in an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

Their day on location started at 4:00 AM daily for makeup so they could start filming by 6:00 AM. The afternoon temperatures often hit 130 degrees so they would break for a couple hours mid day. They did film at the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. One scene supposedly was at the top of a pyramid.

I read this book before I found out about the ChristieReads2023. Each month Christie fans are reading a selected story. February will be The Moving Finger. I will obviously need to play catch up with the January and February reads but I am sure that will not be a chore. You can find out more online by going to ChristieReads2023.

Death on the Nile is one of my favorites and while Goodreads gave it 4.19 stars, I gave it 5 because I would read it again.

If you have never read Christie, I would suggest checking out her books. What is your favorite Christie?

Until next time,

Virginia

J Is For Judgment

The sun is shining bright today so I should get out a little bit but in the meantime, I finished my first book for the month. It was J is for Judgment by Sue Grafton.

I love Sue Grafton’s ABC series. I had never completed the series so decided last year to start from the beginning and read them through. This one was excellent. It pulled me into the story and would not let go.

This was the story of Wendell Jaffe who made it look like he’d committed suicide off of his boat several years earlier after he and a business partner pulled off a Ponzi scheme. He owed so much money the logical thing to do would be commit suicide or turn himself in, or fake a suicide. When the story begins. We don’t know for sure what happened. The wife filed for a death ruling to be able to collect on his half million dollar life insurance. Kinsey Millhone, the protagonist of this series is called in when someone from the insurance company she used to work for, sees Wendell in Mexico. Kinsey starts her investigation. Meticulously following leads, she is like a little bull dog tugging on a bone while everyone is trying to stop her. This book was complex enough to make me keep wondering what really was going on and who was involved. It had a very satisfying ending. Ms Grafton’s characters always feel rounded and there are enough quirky ones to make you want to come back and visit again. She is able to make even the bad guys have something about them that makes them human so that you care about them and she did do that with Wendell in this story. She is adept at describing the setting. One scene in particular made me feel the spray from the ocean and the bitter cold of the water. I would give this book 5 stars.

I plan to continue this month reading mostly mysteries. I want to read at least one Sue Grafton novel a month until I complete the series. I also started re-reading the Diane Mott Davison series set in Colorado about a caterer who solves mysteries. Same situation, never completed the series so last year started from the beginning.

Instead of waiting until the end of the month, I decided it might be easier to review each book as I complete it. I have been weeding through my bookcase this past month but I have also added a few more to my collection so I have a lot of books I want to read this month.

I hope to have a fun reading month but I do plan to enjoy the first signs of spring.

Enjoy the day but try to read, just a little.

Until next time,

Virginia

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