Amy Artisan

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Category: Show Us Your Books

Recent Reads – June 2018

Ah, summertime reading! June was filled with an eclectic assortment of reading. Some NetGalley reads…recent releases…some continuations of favorite series and more.

Fiction Finds

Love and Ruin by Paula McClain – As I previously shared…This recent release returns to Hemingway’s Women – this time, the focus is on Martha Gellhorn. Martha became his third wife and their stormy relationship plays out in the pages. But more than just “a Mrs. Hemingway” we see Gellhorn as a writer in her own right – someone who jumps overseas to be in the midst of the global turmoil unfolding; someone who struggles to find her voice in the stories she tells – both news reporting and fiction storytelling. As I finished this tale, I was definitely interested to learn more about Martha and appreciated the afternote that the author included in the book – and am also intrigued to track down some of her own works.

A Storied Life by Leigh Kramer – The debut novel from a blogger who I follow…in recent years, it has been fun to see Leigh’s journey to finish this novel and the path to publication in June. I saw someone compare this book to Amy E. Reichert novels and that is an apt comparison, especially having the locale be as much of a character in the story as the people (although, sidenote…why do we we always have to compare one author/book to another?!?!). Leigh tells a compelling story of love of self, love of family, finding love and romance all set against a family matriarch’s decline with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Drawing on her experience in hospice social work, her love of Chicagoland and the Chicago White Sox, art, and romance novels Leigh paints a complete and engaging tale that radiates such hope in the midst of a seemingly grim season in family life.

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Stawser – A recent release that falls squarely into the “woman suddenly vanishes and those left behind are left to unravel a life that isn’t what it seems.” This time, a woman and her preschool twins disappear without a trace from their home in a small Ohio town. This tale didn’t draw me in as much as some – I think it might be time for me to give this genre a rest for a bit.

NetGalley Notes

NetGalley continues to be an interesting source of books. These are recent good fiction reads from my NetGalley bookshelf.

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble – Set against the backdrop of a picturesque harbor and surrounding lavender fields and forests, The House at Saltwater Point is a rich tale of suspense, mystery, drama, family and love. Families shattered, families trying to come together, a possible terrorist plot, a stolen cache of drugs, a missing (and presumed dead) sister – all of these threads come together in a story that pulls you in and keeps you interested in how it resolves. The characters in the story are filled with depth and emotion beyond what you typically find in a suspense/thriller – Colleen Coble writes so that you are pulled into the characters and their stories…not just rushing to solve the mystery. This is the second book in the Lavender Tides series – while I believe you could read this as a standalone book, I’m glad I sought out the first book in the series before diving into this one – it was probably a richer reading experience with that background. I look forward to what the third book in this series will hold.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Book is available July 3rd.

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris – Sold on a Monday transports you back to the Great Depression and takes you on a journey that starts when a struggling Philadelphia reporter sees two children on a porch in front of “kids for sale” sign and snaps a picture. From that simple click of the camera, lives as changed forever – when an editor sees the picture and asks for the story behind the photo wheels are put into motion that are difficult to stop. Along the way you are drawn into the stories of the struggling reporter and the ethics & conscience he experience with the choices he makes; the newspaper secretary with dreams of being a journalist while also raising the son that she has “hidden” from her Philly existence; a widow struggling with her health while raising 2 young children; a banker trying to bring his wife back from the abyss after the tragic death of their young daughter; a New York mobster and glimpses of the NY underworld and more. Reading the description of the photo that Ellis captures on a Sunday afternoon to set this story in motion, I immediately thought of the Depression era images of mothers and children captured by Dorthea Lange. Kristina McMorris does a masterful job of building characters and a construct against the backdrop of the Great Depression and delivers a compelling story that has you engaged to the final pages to see how it resolves and who is able to find happiness. This was my first book by this author and I will definitely look to read more from her.
An e-ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is available on August 28th.

In June, I also enjoyed a variety of cookbooks via NetGalley and am queuing up some food related posts to highlight them – some sneak peaks have been popping up in my Instagram feed.

Serial Stories

The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker – The next investigation to solve with Bruno, the Chief of Police in St. Denis, France. This time, a local vineyard and barn are set on fire and as the fire is extinguished the unmistakable scent of petrol make this an arson investigation. As Bruno solves the case, GMO crops and ecological terror and hippie communes and local wineries vs. international conglomerates weave throughout the tale. Another pleasant visit to St. Denis.

At Risk & Secret Asset by Stella Rimington – As I previously shared, I’m not sure how this thriller series wasn’t even on my radar. As a fan of the show MI-5/Spooks as well as Alias and several others in that vein, this series is definitely my cup of tea! I’m working my way through this series and enjoying every tale, so far.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny – Another great mystery for Inspector Gamanche to solve in Three Pines. This time the tale includes a young boy with a vivid imagination, a seemingly mythical war machine hidden in the woods, intrigue and national intelligence and crimes from long ago. This book continues my view that time in Three Pines is time well spent.

What are you reading these days? 

Linking up with Show Us Your Books, hosted by Stephanie & Jana.

Recent Reads – May 2018

In this current season of transition, I’m finding lots of time to dive into books. As I look at my May list, it is too long to share in a single post – so I’ll share thoughts on some of my NetGalley reads and books that had me moving along through several series.

NetGalley Notes

In May, I read several ARCs courtesy of NetGalley and their respective publishers. I have some specific posts planned for some of the books (coming soon) – these are other advanced reads that filled my time.

Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin (*****) – The Charles Martin touch is at work again in this tale weaving together stories of family, sacrifice, PTSD, the Vietnam experience (and aftermath), illegal workers and so much more. As the stories of Jo-Jo, Allie, Catalina and others unfold and converge you are taken on a journey through pain into hope and inspiration and transformation. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are my own. Book is available June 19th.

The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichart (****) – With this literary meal, Amy E. Reichert dives into a multi-generational tale of mothers and daughters navigating life milestones that resonate with many people today – especially the “sandwich generation” that is focused on parental care and child care at the same time. A story wrapped in grilled cheese and brownies, Gina is navigating life as a recent-ish widow, oldest daughter and mother of a middle-schooler the best that she can with daily to-do lists. When her mother suffers a serious stroke, the stage is set for discovering her mother’s “dark secret” that has shaped life for all of them for decades. At the same time, her distant daughter is discovering a budding relationship with a classmate as they play video games and watch Netflix in the basement. Once again telling the story in Milwaukee, this time the city of Milwaukee is not as much a character in the tale as Milwaukee and Door County have been in earlier works. All in all, a good read that reminds you how family decisions can ripple for decades and also how often times mothers and daughters are more alike than they want to admit. Free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Book is available May15th.

Kappy King and the Pickle Kaper by Amy Lillard (****) – A fun and breezy “whodunit” set in a charming Amish valley in Pennsylvania, “Kappy King and the Pickle Kaper” has Kappy and Edie on the trail to find the real reason a young Amish woman was killed when a car hit a horse and buggy on the main road. Descriptions of the people and locale reminded me of fun day trips to Lancaster County, PA. An enjoyable read that you can’t help but smile about as you are reading. This is the second in the Kappy King series – but I didn’t feel “at a lost” not yet having read the first book prior to this story. Free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Book is available June 26th.

Formerly Known as Food by Kristin Lawless (***) –  Formerly Known as Food is jam packed with information about our food production system, the impact of farming and other chemicals on our health, the “magic” of baby digestive systems developing and the lifelong impact they have and so much more. There are several paths of research and education in this book and while each was interesting, it seemed as though they weren’t cohesively presented. Some could read this book and walk away with a sense of “we’re doomed” because of the detail about how some chemicals and treatment exposures have multi-generational impacts and so we have already impacted our grandchildren and beyond with the chemicals in our lives. Others may walk away feeling like they want to get engaged by aren’t sure what to do. The book can be filed on the book shelf with many other books that I’ve read about the state of food production and health today – and seems best suited for people that are reading across the spectrum of food/health books. Compared with other books of this vein, I felt like the author was more self focused in her narrative than some others. Free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Book is available June 19th.

Also in NetGalley,  three food books that I shared last week.

Serial Stories

I visited several novel series during May – some books were returning to old favorites and some were new discoveries that I’ll work my way through as time allows…

  • Visiting Inspector Gamanche in Three Pines with How the Light Gets In  & The Long Way Home  – I continue to enjoy working my way through these tales and will continue to read these along the way.
  • Returning to River Heights with a re-read of the very first Nancy Drew – The Secret of the Old Clock – inspired by a tweet highlighting it had been 80 years since the series began.
  • Keeping current with Cotton Malone in The Bishop’s Pawn by Steve Berry. The latest offering in this series that I have been hooked into in recent years – this story is told differently than others in the series – it is essentially the “origin” story of how Cotton Malone joined the Magellan Billet. Told in more of a flashback approach, this tale revolves around a case concerning the “real” story of MLK Jr.’s death.
  • Finishing the Divergent trilogy by “finally” reading Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I had read the 2 previous books “back to back” several years ago & really enjoyed them. While packing to move in March, the 2 movies on TV provided entertainment & triggered me to finally finish the series.
  • In The Demon Crown by James Rollins, Six Sigma is called upon to save the world from engineered bees that threaten to wipe out life as we know it. Part of this story involved an attack on Hawaii and the possibility of needing to annhialite all lifeforms there for the good of the world – it was a bit “odd” to be reading this just as the latest Kilauea eruptions were starting several weeks ago & evacuations were being implemented.
  • Stepping back into the Pink Carnation spy adventures with The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig – it has been several years since I picked up this series which is a mash-up of spies/intrigue & regency romance & present day chick-lit.
  • Visiting Lavender Tides in The View from Rainshadow Bay by Colleen Coble. I picked this up to read ahead of a NetGalley read of the 2nd book in the series (to be shared later). The “blurb” on the cover of the book said you’d stay up late reading it – indeed I did. A nice mix of relational story lines & mystery/thriller story lines that has me looking forward to continuing the series.
  • In Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal, I had a first introduction to Maggie Hope  in a story laying the foundation for following her exploits as a WWII spy and code breaker. This will be a fun series to work through.

I have a few other worthwhile fiction reads that I will share later this week.

What are you reading these days?

Joining in with Show Us Your Books hosted by Stephanie & Jana.

Recently Read – April

Since being back home in the Ville, my reading progress has soared! In the last month, I have doubled my 2018 reads. Among the “settling into the Ville” tasks for me was getting a library card & I have been putting it to good use already. Also, I’ve finally started utilizing NetGalley for some advanced reads. Here, some snapshots from my April reading list.

The Last Sword Maker by Brian Nelson – A techno-thriller that takes several current technologies and scientific discoveries and tweaks them into more frightening possibilities that threaten to alter the world in drastic ways. Taking place in the near future, this tale of utilizing DNA to target and wipe out specific people and people groups leaves you at the last page pondering “what-if” and other implications of taking some of these discoveries to the extreme. Free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Book is available October 16th.

The Lido by Libby Page –  A story of community and the importance of time and place to come together from all backgrounds into a common purpose. A quick and cheerful read that leaves you thankful for the multi-generational relationships and communities that you have in your own life. Free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Book is available June 19th.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan –  – A spring release that keeps getting mentioned  & has a spot on book cover recommendation blurb: “As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock” —Joyce Carol Oates A quick paced story set in  Morocco – filled with the mystique of a foreign land – a newlywed orphan feeling adrift in the dusty and bustling city of Tangiers as her husband pursues a mysterious job. When her former college roommate suddenly appears on her doorstep the temperature rises and life boils over with discontent, jealousy and dark secrets in the heat of a land in turmoil. A Kindle deal.

A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin – Once again, opening a Charles Martin book is a soothing balm – this time, an engaging story of a star football player…well, after an amazing high school and college career he was set to be the #1 draft pick until he was accused of an unthinkable crime and spent the next 12 years in prison. When he is released, he comes back to his small Georgia down to try to rebuild his life – a parole condition of no contact with children is put to the test when he is asked to quietly coach a high school player at his old school. As the story unfolds, we learn the true story of how the start came to be accused and a story of redemption and forgiveness unfolds. A Kindle deal.

Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson – A cookbook from a food blogger that I used to follow in the heyday of blogging. Lots of fresh fruit and veggie based recipes that look like they will be fun to try as the local farmers markets kick into high season. A Kindle deal.

The Lost Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland – A tale of lost and found with a main character so guarded that it takes you a while to get to know her. A clever story that seemed to cross several different flavors of reads that I enjoy. It is more than a “bookshop story that draws in learnings from favorite books.” It is more than the story of a young woman with a mysterious past that is told in present time and also by jumping back into her history. It is more than a young woman trying to figure out her way in the world. Woven into the storyline is an ode to the tactile memory we all have as we hold a book in our hands and are transported back to the time/place/moment of reading that book for the first time and the memories that will always be invoked. Free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Book is available June 19th.

Natural Disaster by Ginger Zee – I first started seeing Ginger Zee weather reports when I lived in Chicago – she was at my “default” news station. In recent years, I see her whenever I have “Good Morning America” on as I get ready – more often than not, that seems to be while on the road. This was a quick and candid read that provides insights into her career and also unflinchingly shares her struggles with depression and that impact on her choices and life.  New Release borrowed from my local library.

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell – Picking up in Tombstone, AZ this novel recounts the life and times of Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers leading up to and after the famous/infamous shootout at the OK Corral. A richly crafted story of the full cast of characters – on both sides of the shootout as well as their supporting cast of wives, girlfriends, town locals and more. This is the follow-up to Doc that I read last month. I snagged a Kindle deal on this one. 

What are you reading these days?

Linking of with other readers via “Show Us Your Books” with Stephanie and Jana.

Recently Read…catching up on 2018

A long overdue reading update…according to Goodreads I’ve been running behind schedule on my 2018 reading goals  – but there are still plenty of days in the year & I’m confident that I’ll reach my goal before the end of the year. Evidently I haven’t shared any reads in this “new” year. Looking over the first quarter of this year, these are the highlights of my bookshelf:

  • The Great Halifax Explosion by John U. Bacon –  I first heard about this last fall on NPR while driving to work one morning. This falls into my excellent narrative nonfiction bucket – I learned so much while reading this – both about the history/evolution of Halifax and then the improbable events that brought about the epic explosion in the harbor in 1917 & the disaster relief & rebuilding. So many things that I had never heard about before.
  • Doc by Mary Doria Russell – A “what if…” story about Doc Holiday that shows how the friendship with Wyatt Earp came to be. This was a fun read – the Holiday House in the Ville is tied to Doc’s family and there were some local Georgia references in his childhood story.
  • Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon – A “what if…” story about the final voyage of the Hindenburg dirigible – imagining storylines of the passengers and crew on that trip that came together to the moment that the blimp exploded as it was preparing to land in New Jersey.
  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone –  The fascinating story of Elizebeth Friedman – who was instrumental in developing the cryptology field in the US with her husband – and a woman whose code-breaking work largely went unrecognized for decades. Another well written narrative nonfiction – filled with so many details about the works she did and the lasting impacts that work has on the country.
  • The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – A fast paced read that tells the story of a woman coveting a wealthy wife/mother and the scheme that she undertakes to move into that woman’s life…and of course there are some secrets that could ruin the plan. A popcorn read that has been getting a lot of social media play – but worth a read.
  • The Café by the Sea by Jenny Colgan –  I find that Jenny Colgan books are a “go to” for me when I want fun reads that are just a bit light but not too fluffy. A far northern Scottish isle is the setting for this story about a woman who is forced to return home to this isolated island to help her law firm’s big American client. Along the way, she takes stock of her life and why she left and how she can help the locals find a solution for the American client seeming to take over the island. A cute story and I’ll look to read the next story in the series once it is available.
  • The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen – A “back and forth” story set in WWII Italy and England/Italy in the 1970s. A woman chooses to go to Italy to track down the story of her father’s time there when his plane was shot down during the war. A good story by the author of last year’s WWII tale, In Farleigh Field.

My reading game is strong in April and there will be plenty of reads to share next month. What are you reading these days? 


Linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit and Show Us Your Books hosted by Stephanie & Jana.

A Year in Books…2017

Somehow 2017 escaped from me without spending time here on the blog recounting my reads. A lot of my reading occurred while on the road (or more accurately in the air) – I was blazing through books until August – and well, everything has been different since then – including reading. I set a goal of 60 books for the Goodreads Reading Challenge and I just barely managed to reach the goal before the calendar switched to 2018. The stats that Goodreads provides are always fun to look at.

(After these screen grabs, some highlights from the year.)

Looking through the eclectic assortment of reads, there are some themes and some definite highlights.

  • Thoughtful police detectives are a good read- I continue making my way through the Inspector Gamanche series set in Quebec (books 3/4/5/6/7/8 this year). Additionally, I started into the Commissario Brunetti series set in Venice and my first visit with Bruno, Chief of Police in a small French town has me wanting more visits. These series are all library loan reads – I need to get my queue setup to keep moving through them in the new year.
  • finally started into the Anne of Green Gables series ahead of our road trip to Prince Edward Island – these reads will continue, for sure.
  • I continue to work through a couple of fun “thriller/history/elite agencies/fate of the world in the balance” series by Steve Berry (Cotton Malone) and James Rollins (Sigma Force)
  • Charles Martin books always seem to be read at just the right time for me – this year, I enjoyed 2 more from his collection: Long Way Gone and Thunder and Rain.
  • Becoming Bonnie was a fun debut novel from a colleague’s wife. This take of Bonnie before she became “Bonnie & Clyde” is a nice addition to the “fiction inspired by real women of the early 20th” genre – together with The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhorn and Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.
  • I enjoyed several memoirs throughout the year.
  • The Secret Wife was a sweeping fiction read that came highly recommended by my best friend. I was immediately pulled into the stories from the last days of the Romanovs connected to a modern day women in transition.
  • While I haven’t read many short story collections to date, I enjoyed the Uncommon Type collection by Tom Hanks and want to read more collections in the new year.
  • During the Christmas season, I seek out fun and sweet Christmas stories. In 2017 I enjoyed several, including: A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg; Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan and Dear Santa: Children’s Christmas Letters and Wishes, 1870-1920. A couple more Christmas stories were picked up via Kindle deals and filed away for next Christmas,
  • My under the tree fiction gifts were just right! The last week home in the Ville was filled with lots of reading time for all of us and my varied fiction stack was very enjoyable. I started with The Austen Escape – then onto Sourdough – and my last night in the Ville included staying up till 1:00 AM to finish Manhattan Beach. Once I got to the gate for my flight home, I started into The Simplicity of Cider and it was finished before bedtime back home in PA that evening.

For 2018, I’ve kept the same goal of 60 books to read. Along the way, I plan to be involved in a couple of book related blog connections to help ensure I’m sharing books here along the way.

What were your best reads from 2017?
What are your reading goals for 2018? 

Finally connecting up with Stephanie & Jana for the monthly Show Us Your Books link-up. Also joining in the Modern Mrs. Darcy QuickLit roundup

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