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If it's good, I'll read it! Instagram:  @crystenasbooks

Friday reads 3.24.2017

Murder at an Irish Wedding (An Irish Village Mystery) - Carlene O'Connor Knight's Shadow - Sebastien de Castell

I actually read a few non-fiction/ self help books in the past week that I really enjoyed. I recommend Rewire You Brain. Very good.


As far as fiction, while I do love The Golden Cup by Belva Plain, my Netgalley obligations are calling to me and affecting my conscience. I have to put that book on hold for a minute while taking care of these. 


I'm reading Murder at an Irish Wedding first, the second in a cozy mystery series set in Ireland. 


And I have resolved to finish Knight's Shadow, because I need to review the next book in the series.


This weekend it will be rainy and I am fighting a cold. So I hope to get some reading done.


Happy reading!

Friday Reads! 3.17.2017

The Golden Cup - Belva Plain Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior - Richard O'Connor

I wasn't ready to leave the world of Evergreen yet, so I'm following my emotions and diving right into the next book,The Golden Cup.  Making this my fiction book for the week ahead.


My nonfiction will be Rewire  - Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits , Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self Destructive Behavior.  I love reading about how to change- I believe strongly in our ability to and that it's an ongoing process in our lives, from a personal and spiritual standpoint.  I enjoy reading the science behind it. 



This is what I will be reading this weekend. My other plans? The weather is going to be meh. So I will be cooking vegetarian burgers with my boyfriend and family Saturday night, watching Rebels (cuz it's the Maul and Obiwan showdown!!! Round 2!!)  and we might visit a local museum after our religious meeting on Sunday.


Enjoy your weekend! 


Happy reading! 


Nonfiction Library Book Haul

The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital - Alexandra Robbins George Lucas: A Life - Brian Jay Jones You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior - Richard O'Connor J.J. Abrams vs. Joss Whedon: Duel for Media Master of the Universe - Wendy Sterba

Been enjoying my foray into non-fiction. So I hit up the library and took out some nonfiction books I found interesting.  


J.J. Abrams vs Joss Whedon could be interesting. Fan of both.


Looking forward to all of these!


Still deciding on my Friday reads. I will probably post them later today. Decisions, decisions...

Eat That Frog!

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time - Brian Tracy

Informative collection of mantras and ideas to help you handle time and work more efficiently.


Nothing new per se, but I always enjoy reminding myself of the principles involved. This book does that nicely.


Evergreen - Belva Plain

Author: Belva Plain

Rating: 5 star. All the stars.


Book Blurb: Born into poverty and fear, Anna is desperate to leave her native Poland. Determined to make something of herself, Anna moves into a cramped New York slum and finds a job in a sweatshop. When two very different men fall in love with her, Anna is destined to be forever torn in love and loyalty.


****One of the best books I've ever read.*****


This is the book I've been looking for. Following one character through their entire lives, 705 pages, and the story never dragging. Secondary characters so powerful in their own right, they feel like people you know. History woven effortlessly into the fiction. This book hit all the right notes.


I'm sorry it's over.  


It is the first in a series though and I own the next book, so that tempers my book hangover.


If you're even slightly interested in a book like this, go read it. You won't be disappointed.

I Work at a Public Library

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks - Gina Sheridan

Author: Gina Sheridan

Rating: 4.5 stars


Book Blurb: 


Straight from the library--the strange and bizarre, ready to be checked out!

From a patron's missing wetsuit to the scent of crab cakes wafting through the stacks, I Work at a Public Library showcases the oddities that have come across Gina Sheridan's circulation desk. Throughout these pages, she catalogs her encounters with local eccentrics as well as the questions that plague her, such as, "What is the standard length of eyebrow hairs?" Whether she's helping someone scan his face onto an online dating site or explaining why the library doesn't have any dragon autobiographies, Sheridan's bizarre tales prove that she's truly seen it all.

Stacked high with hundreds of strange-but-true stories, I Work at a Public Library celebrates librarians and the unforgettable patrons that roam the stacks every day.


This was a lot of fun. The section on gratitude- showing the way the library has helped people and the ways they've expressed it - was my favorite and made me bump it up a star from my original rating.


Some of these were really funny.  I knocked it half a star because these books always walk a fine line. It can seem like you're mocking or making fun of patrons in a way that might seem a little cruel. There were a couple of instances that were borderline. Uncomfortable, I couldn't give it a 5 star stamp.


But there was plenty to amuse and make me smile otherwise. And I liked how it brought home how helpful the library was and still is in people's lives. The account about the man finalizing his work visa application and begging the librarian for help comes to mind. That part and the touching outcome brought a tear to my eye.


Overall, definitely recommend. 

Friday Reads!

Evergreen - Belva Plain Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time - Brian Tracy I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks - Gina Sheridan Knight's Shadow - Sebastien de Castell After the Fire - Belva Plain

It's that time of  week again!


These are the books I have lined up on my TBR over the next week.


I'm happy to say I was wrong  - apparently I do like reading certain types of non fiction- self help and the like. I have added a few such titles to my TBR. I have two memoirs ready to go as well. Glad to finally be excited about this genre.


Have to finish up Evergreen and my next fiction book will either be Knight's Shadow or After the Fire. Little obsessed with Belva Plain right now.


It's going to be all kinds of cold on this weekend! I will be in NYC eating the Impossible Burger - a burger that supposedly tastes like real meat - but it isn't. My boyfriend is dying to try it. Other than that I will just be trying to keep warm. May go see the Kong movie, we'll see.


Enjoy your weekends!


Happy reading!



Reading progress update: I've read 502 out of 704 pages.

Evergreen - Belva Plain

This book is why I am so glad I resolved to read books on my shelf. 

It's just so good, like a warm blanket- I can lose myself in the story. And I am so emotional over these characters! Historical fiction at its best. It's 700+ pages and I'm not antsy reading it which is unusual for me with long books.


I have the series - just missing the last one.  


Love it when you discover a new author -  and to discover that she's written 20+ books is even better! :)

Reading progress update: I've read 28%.

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks - Gina Sheridan


"Patrons will often let us know when they really like, or hate, a book. One day, a woman expressed both emotions when returning two books. 


WOMAN: [Slams first book onto the counter.] This book is born of the devil. It was absolutely repulsive and I don’t think it would benefit anyone to read it. [Lovingly places the second book in my hands.] Now this one. This one, well, I insist that you read it. Insist! Do you think you could read it by next week? I’d like to discuss it with you. I bet you’ll just love it. You’d better love it! "



I don't get it. Doesn't everyone do this when returning their books to the library? #thiswasprobablyme #prettysureofit 


Totally Organized

Totally Organized - Bonnie Runyan McCullough

This was pretty good and an easy read.


It had a few suggestions I want to try and good reminders, such as doing "minimum maintenance" before leaving each morning - just a quick tidy up to keep things in order.

Also, I liked the recommendation on deciding on dinner early, in the morning. I always fail to do that and scramble to figure out what to eat and fail to eat healthy.


The actual planner section was a touch outdated and reminded me a bit of Franklin Covey's method, but the principles were sound.


I always enjoy reading these books as they inspire me to hone my cleaning and organizing skills.

The Widow's House

The Widow's House - Daniel Abraham

Author: Daniel Abraham

Series: The Dagger and the Coin #4

Rating: 3.5 stars


Still a solid series, though I am ready for it to be over. 


The villain, Geder, is the most conflicting villain since Darth Vader. Just when I hate him, he does something that makes me feel bad for him. I feel as if Abraham is going somewhere with that, so I have no idea how this turns out. 


The female characters kick serious tail (well maybe not literally)  and are a force to be reckoned with. I love their strength. And the newest...uh... addition to the cast was worth waiting for. 


I will finish this series definitely this year but I need a break. 


Overall definitely recommend this series.


Friday Reads!

Evergreen - Belva Plain The Widow's House - Daniel Abraham Murder at an Irish Wedding (An Irish Village Mystery) - Carlene O'Connor A Crown of Wishes - Roshani Chokshi Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery - Melinda Mullet

It's that time of week again!


I have a busy weekend ahead and it's going to be cold! But these are the books I will be reading into next week.


Right now I'm working on Evergreen - which is a family saga and  nice easy read before bed. Just what I was looking for. Though I will admit, I read for 20 minutes past my bedtime cuz I was so engrossed. 


The Widow's House- things have picked up and I'm moving along at a nice pace. Such a good series...


The others are Netgalley obligations due this month but ones I really want to read. I didn't read The Star Touched Queen and will attempt to dive into A Crown of Wishes without having done so. When I requested it, I didn't know it was a sequel/companion book.  The Star Touched Queen is at my local library. I passed by it when I was there on Tuesday. Hmmm.  We'll see how I do.


Hope you all have a great weekend! Happy Reading! 



An Extraordinary Union

An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole

Author: Alyssa Cole

Rating: 5 Stars


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. My opinion that this is the best historical romance I've read is purely my own.


I'm not a huge fan of historical romance novels but this book was amazing.


When I first read the synopsis- that a freed slave with an eidetic memory is employed as a Pinkerton detective and  is sent back to be a slave so she can spy for Union forces ... and then falls in love with her white colleague, I said yes please. Cuz if you can pull off that daunting of a premise without making me face palm, you deserve the slow clap.  


Ladies and gentleman, the slow clap.


*clap* *clap* *clap* 


This book had me tense, freaking out. It was a roller coaster ride. I loved how strong she was and how much saving she did even in the confines of the times. She was highly intelligent and definitely a true heroine. 


And Malcolm, her colleague. *cue swoon* Oh my. 


This is a series and I am hooked. Looking forward to reading the next one. 


Highly recommend!


Cover love! 


Oh yes and the book blurb:


As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past . . .

Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South—to spy for the Union Army.

Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton's Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet—risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia.

Two undercover agents who share a common cause—and an undeniable attraction—Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy's favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost—even if it means losing each other . . .

The Chilbury Ladies Choir

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel - Jennifer Ryan

Author: Jennifer Ryan

Rating: 3.5 stars


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


Book Blurb: As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.


This was an enjoyable read. It reminded me of  The Guernsey Literary Potatoe Peel and Pie Society.  Like that book, this story is told through letters and journal entries. We are introduced to a series of women (and  a few men) who remain in Chilbury village during WWII.  


What I Liked:  The writing was enjoyable. The characters are quirky and likable. My favorite would have to be Kitty- the young girl coming of age during the novel. And the characters took surprising turns. I had my mind made up about a few- but lo and behold there was more beneath the surface.  I enjoyed being surprised.


What I Didn't Like: The book did seem to drag a bit. There are some pivotal parts of the war addressed, like Dunkirk, and it is handled well.  I can't pinpoint why I couldn't get as invested as I wanted to be with this novel. It was just... missing something.


Overall I would recommend it though.



Death By Chocolate Lab

— feeling amazing
Death by Chocolate Lab - Bethany Blake

Author: Bethany Blake

Series: Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery #1

Rating: 4.5 stars


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


Book Blurb: Pet sitter Daphne Templeton has a soft spot for every stray and misfit who wanders into the quaint, lakeside village of Sylvan Creek. But even Daphne doesn’t like arrogant, womanizing Steve Beamus, the controversial owner of Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy. When Steve turns up dead during a dog agility trial, Daphne can think of a long list of people with motives for homicide, and so can the police. Unfortunately, at the top of the list is Daphne’s sister, Piper—Steve’s latest wronged girlfriend.

Certain that Piper is innocent, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, Daphne sets out to clear her sister’s name—and find Axis, Steve’s prize-winning chocolate Labrador, who went missing the night of Steve’s death. Aided by Socrates, her taciturn basset hound, and a hyperactive one-eared Chihuahua named Artie, Daphne quickly runs afoul of Detective Jonathan Black, a handsome and enigmatic newcomer to town, who has no appreciation for Daphne’s unorthodox sleuthing.

Can a free-spirited pet sitter, armed only with a Ph.D. in Philosophy and her two incompatible dogs, find the real killer before she becomes the next victim.


I am going to say right off the bat, this book surprised me. The book blurb read like your standard cozy mystery and the cover did nothing for me. But I gotta tell ya, this was an excellent start to a cozy mystery series and goes on my must read list for series.


What I Liked:  The writing. I don't know how else to say it, Blake writes dog well. These dogs were characters, they each had their own unique personalities and it came across well on page. I loved waiting to see what Artie the chihuahua would pull next and Socrates the basset hound made me fall in love with basset hounds. Nothing supernatural or the like,  just dog behavior dog lovers and owners can relate to. It made me miss my dog so much.  


I also liked the relationship between Daphne and Jonathan Black. It is cliche for the MC to have a police detective as a romantic interest but this was written so well - that perfect mix of banter, tension and humor. I loved when they were on the page. Full disclosure - yes, there is a love triangle present but it's not as ridiculous as most. You know where this is headed and the other person is an afterthought. So it did not bug me. As much.


I also enjoyed the mystery- the culprit took me by surprise. I didn't see it coming, but it wasn't so out there I couldn't buy it.


What I Didn't Like: It's not that I didn't like it per se, but the philosophy angle came across as a touch gimmicky. The story and the writing stood so well on it's own that the series didn't need this as a hook. Though I reserve the right to change my mind if the angle plays out well in future books.


I recommend this if you like cozy mysteries or mysteries in general. Definitely would be an evening of enjoyable reading.

Mystery Science March 2017

Knight's Shadow - Sebastien de Castell Saint's Blood (The Greatcoats) - Sebastien de Castell Defy the Stars - Claudia Gray Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem - Lois McMaster Bujold Kneaded to Death - Winnie Archer Murder at an Irish Wedding (An Irish Village Mystery) - Carlene O'Connor Edgar and Lucy: A Novel - Victor Lodato Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery - Melinda Mullet
— feeling excited

So I'm excited for the month of March!


Aside from what I'm presently reading, here are some of the things in the TBR. 


As you can probably tell, there is some science fiction/fantasy picks in there. I was going through withdrawal.  And one can't go back to reading the genre without a Vorkosigan novel.  I've also decided to continue with the Greatcoats series as the first book was a five star read. 


I've thrown some mysteries in there as well as I've gotten back into reading them and have been enjoying myself.


Edgar and Lucy was an impulsive Netgalley pick last month. My literature picks off Netgalley have been mediocre at best, but this one was well reviewed. So I'm gonna try. 


Happy reading!