My Agatha Christie Obsession

Agatha Christie books March 2022

The first Agatha Christie book I ever read was And Then There Was None. I was 10 or 11 and my mom picked it out for me because I had read all the Nancy Drew books, all the Trixie Belden books, and I wasn’t into the Hardy Boys. Mom was a mystery book lover and Agatha Christie fan. After And Then There Was None, so was I. 

Over the years, my Agatha Christie book collection has grown, depleted as I’ve worn out copies, and then grown more as I discovered how much I love the cover art on some of the older versions. My husband and I enjoy poking around antique and vintage shops on weekends and it’s become my habit to keep an eye out for old books that may fit into my collection, in particular, any Christie books. 

I’ll admit, I’m picky. I won’t pick up any copy. It has to have cover art that catches my eye, be one of my favorite titles, and I try to rescue those fabulous older pocket novels because they have so much character. 

Recently, we were exploring the amazing stores in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City. If you’re into vintage, antiques, and historic buildings, most definitely plan a visit when in the K.C. area. We began our exploration of the multi-story shops early, enjoying the wide array of displays. There really is something for everyone here, and so much to see, that it can almost be an overload. But it’s worth it. 

At our second stop, Martin’s Memories, I was browsing through a display of furniture and spied a bookcase. Of course, I had to take a look and see what was on the shelves. A quick glance and I saw “Agatha Christie” on a spine. Well, that got my attention. I looked closer. There was another one. And another, and another, and another. 

The little bookcase held all Agatha Christie books, and one Martha Grimes. 

50 Agatha Christie books.

 Box of books

Now I had already bought two others at our first stop, but that most certainly wasn’t going to stop me from picking through this batch. As I started pulling the books off the shelf, I was struck by their good condition. A little dusty, but definitely in good condition for their age. The majority of the books were from the 1960s and 1970s. And the covers!

Oh my. I was in love. 

We offered to buy the entire lot, and they were happy to sell us the lot. I was thrilled! My Agatha Christie collection consisted mostly of my favorite titles of her work, largely Poirot mysteries. This lot has many that I never had purchased plus some that I’ve never read. I’m looking forward to indulging in some reading time, but I wanted to share a few pictures of some of the fantastic covers.

If you’d like to see a full list of Agatha Christie titles, please visit AgathaChristie.com.

Middle-Grade Reading: The Eye of Ra Series

I love stories with time travel, so when I saw a middle grade book featuring time-traveling siblings and their first adventure was to ancient Egypt, I was all in. 

In November 2020 I read the first book of the The Eye of Ra series (book one is the same title as the series) by Ben Gartner. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was an action-packed, historical romp in time. Book two in the series is Sol Invictus and I had the opportunity to read an ARC in January 2021. It’s equally action-packed with even higher stakes. I loved the book, reading it in less than two days!

When Ben offered to send me an ARC of the third book in the series, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I have reviews of the first two books up on Goodreads if you want to check them out. Below are my thoughts on the third book: People of the Sun.

People of the Sun by Ben Gartner whisked me away on a time-traveling adventure filled with humor, heart, and history. This story is book three in the “The Eye of Ra” series featuring a sister and brother duo who find themselves traveling back in time to help save the future.

Sarah and John have traveled back to the ancient Egyptian town of Saqqara via a cave portal in Colorado and to the ancient Roman town Aventicum via a portal at a museum in Washington D.C. People of the Sun opens with the siblings hiking in California with their aunt when an earthquake hits.

I love that author Gartner immediately hits the reader with action—the earthquake, the arrival of two mysterious older individuals, and a quick trip into the future. The roller coaster of time travel action kicks into high-gear for John and Sarah from here, as they’re assigned a mission to go back to the ancient Aztec civilization.

People of the Sun effectively wraps up the time travel saga that began in “The Eye of Ra” giving readers the final reveal about why and how the kids have been selected for these missions.

It’s a fun story!

Gartner balances heart-thumping action sequences with smart dialogue, vivid descriptions, and history lessons that never feel like actual lessons. I highly recommend People of the Sun and the full “The Eye of Ra” series for any middle grade reader and for the adults who enjoy well-crafted stories.

You can find more information about “The Eye of Ra” series on author Ben Gartner’s website. Go check it out and make sure to get your copies of these fantastic middle grade books.

2021 Books Read

I had an exceptional year of books read. According to my Goodreads challenge, I read 90 and this doesn’t include the beta reading I did for author friends. I typically read across three genres: Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), and adult.

By the Numbers

Pages read: 28,001

Average pages per book: 311

Longest book read: HUNGER by Michael Grant (590 pages)

MG books read: 26

YA books read: 44

Full series read: 7

For me, I find that when writing MG (which I was for most of this year), I gravitate more toward YA books for my leisure reads. However, 2021 was a FANTASTIC year for Middle Grade books! So many good ones! A few of my favorites include:

  • Fright Watch (The Collectors & The Stitchers) by Lorien Lawrence
  • Amari & the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston
  • Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley
  • Sol Invictus by Ben Gartner
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T Kingfisher
  • Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko
  • Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRocca
  • What Lives in the Woods by Lindsey Currie
  • The Verdigris Pawn by Alysa Wishingrad

If you’d like to see the full list of the books I read this year, it’s HERE.

Book Review: “Falling & Uprising” by Natalie Cammaratta

Plus insight into book two: SCATTERED & BREAKING

I love a good YA dystopian book, and FALLING & UPRISING, the debut novel from Natalie Cammaratta did not disappoint! Told in alternating POV, the story  follows socialite Serenity and marshal Bram as they navigate a society built on lies and the revolution that has been brewing for many years. 

Everyone in Kaycie knows that their city is the last dry haven for humans. Kaycians enjoy a life of prosperity, safety, and glamour. Serenity thinks she has it all, until she learns the truth. The Establishment has lied to its citizens.

Other islands exist, their main purpose being to provide goods and labor to the glittering city of Kaycie. There is a major imbalance and people from the islands are suffering. Young people taken from their families, their memories erased, and forced into zombie-like service as marshals in Kaycie. 

When Serenity learns the truth and is offered a chance to make a difference, she takes it—much to Bram’s surprise. He’s known the truth for a long time, having been born on one of the other islands and rescued by Sophos, Serenity’s mentor and one of the revolution’s key leaders.

FALLING & UPRISING has a nice balance of dystopia, sci-fi tech, and YA glamour. I found myself immersed in Cammaratta’s vivid details—I would love some of the fabulous clothing worn by Serenity and her best friend Vogue. The story moved well, and I never felt bogged down with techno-babble.

The connection between Serenity and Bram worked for me. I liked their prickly beginnings and enjoyed watching the two very different personalities find common ground and respect for each other. Serenity’s attraction and relationship with Jase, another member of their revolutionary team, had a few sizzling moments and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with those two in the next book. 

The reader is left hanging a bit at the end as there is another book coming. However, many threads are tied up nicely, but I found myself saying—WAIT! MORE! I wanted to continue reading and will be anxiously awaiting the next book!

And guess what? I got to read book two!

Scattered & Breaking by Natalie Cammaratta

I was thrilled when Natalie offered to send me an ARC of SCATTERED & BREAKING! Yes, I actually squealed and there may have been some bouncing/dancing about.

Here are some of my thoughts:

It sucked me in from page one! Seriously. I didn’t want to stop reading.

Being back with Bram, Serenity, Vogue, and friends was so much fun, but boy are they dealing with a LOT.

Book two picks up after the uprising and deals with the fallout, lies, and corruption that entangles each of the characters as well as their friends and family. The islands are splintered, the sea water has receded, and there is another enemy at the gates.

SCATTERED & BREAKING is a deep dive into this dystopian’s world’s political intrigue, twisted family dynamics, and the determined group fighting to make things right.

The book kept me turning pages, the action fast, but Natalie also gives the reader deliciously tender moments where we suck in a breath and just go “oh.”

It’s about relationships, the good, bad, and the very bad. But there also is hope. However, hold on when you’re reading SCATTERED & BREAKING because it’s a ride! And not everyone makes it out.

I’m am so ready for this story to continue!

Where To Find These Books:

To get a copy of FALLING & UPRISING and to preorder a copy of SCATTERED & BREAKING, please go visit author Natalie Cammaratta at her site: nataliecammarattabooks.com/books.

You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

SCATTERED & BREAKING releases on December 29, 2021.

You’ve got plenty of time to read FALLING & UPRISING first & then dive right into the SCATTERED & BREAKING. I highly recommend BOTH.

Back on the Bookshelf

Last Act by Christopher Pike

Several years ago I downsized my book collection, and then regretted that action. Not right away. At first, it was like, “Oh hey look at all this lovely bookshelf space” and I took the opportunity to add new books to the shelves.

Fast forward to about three years ago when I found “Until the End” the trilogy that is Christopher Pike’s three books “The Party”, “The Dance”, and “The Graduation.”

“Until the End” by Christopher Pike

Once I reread it, I wanted the other Christopher Pike books that I had let go, but I wanted them with the original covers that I had as a kid. I’ve been on the hunt ever since. Antique shops are a great place to find books like this, and I’ve added “Chain Letter” and “Remember Me” to my collection.

But the one I really wanted was LAST ACT. And now I finally have it. It arrived today — I ordered it online from a bookseller, because I could not find it in any of the used bookstores or antique shops that I’ve explored.

It’s been a couple of decades since I read LAST ACT and I’m looking forward to the reread. Will it be nostalgic? Probably. Will it be as good as preteen Barb remembers? Maybe not, but you never know. I’m still looking forward to it.

Do You Read Every Day?

Recently, someone asked me if I read every day, and I said, yes.

They seemed surprised. So I asked them if they watched TV or a movie every day.

They said yes, and seemed surprised that I’d ask that.

I said I don’t see any difference between picking up a book and reading for 30 minutes or sitting down and watching a sitcom for the same amount of time. I like to read. I also like to watch TV shows, movies, and other programming. But I usually feel like I relax more when I read.

I don’t think reading every day is strange, just as I don’t think watching TV daily is strange. Or listening to music.

My copy (with original cover) First book in the GONE series.

Reading makes me happy (most of the time). So yes, I do read every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

What am I reading right now? The GONE series by Michael Grant. It’s a reread for me, and I’m currently on book three: LIES. It’s a YA series that can be quite disturbing in parts, but it’s one of my favorites because of its complexities.

I have a few other books that I will be starting soon, in particular an ARC that I’m excited to read (keep an eye out for a post about that) and a beta read of an MG book written by one of my critique partners.

If you need me, I’ll be over here writing and always reading.

Halloween Week: Spooky MG Books for Kids

Some of the spooky MG books currently living on my bookshelves.

It’s Halloween week, but I enjoy a good spooky story any time of the year!

I’ve read several fantastic middle grade spooky stories this year, both in print and on my ereader, which include Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko, The Stitchers and The Collectors both by Lorien Lawrence. I totally recommend each and every one.

Here’s my Spooky MG list based on what I currently own and have read this year (it’s in no particular order.) Click on the author’s name to go to their website or book links. Add to your TBR and get ready to enjoy some creeps, chills, and thrills.

The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts

Ollie Oxley and The Ghost by Lisa Schmid

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Magic Can Be Murder by Vivian Vande Velde

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley

Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne Salerni

The In-Between by Rebecca KS Ansari

The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca KS Ansari

Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence

The Collectors by Lorien Lawrence

The last three in the list are not in the above pic because my copies are digital, but I’m thinking I’d like to add the print versions to my shelves. They’ve all got great covers!

This is just one small list of MG spooky books — there are so many great ones out there! Go visit these authors on their sites, check out their books, give them a read. It’s worth it. Looking for other titles? Head to your local library and ask a librarian for recommendations. Your librarians can help you find the perfect book to fit your mood any day of the year.

I hope you enjoy reading these books as much as I did! And if you have any recommendations you want to share, let me know. Tweet me your favorites. Find me talking books, writing, and more on Twitter at: BarbH2014.

Loving My Library

Library with bookcases and books

I have always loved libraries. If you follow me on any of my social media, you’ve seen countless posts about the absolute awesomeness of libraries. Today is one of my favorite days of the year and it’s totally library-related. It’s my local library’s FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY BOOK SALE! 

Books! Tons of wonderful used books, all for sale! And the best part?

The money goes back to the library to buy MORE BOOKS!

That is truly pure awesomeness. I love the anticipation of going to the annual book sale. You never know what’s going to be there. I may find dozens of books to add to my collection or it might just be one. It doesn’t matter. It’s more than just acquiring new books. For me, it’s the joy of walking into this massive space filled with tables and tables of books just waiting to find a new home, new hands to hold them, and new imaginations to entertain.

And as I go on and on about libraries, I’m happy to report I FINALLY set up the free app on my ereader and TV to be able to check out ebooks, audiobooks, and digital programs/movies.

Why or why did I wait this long??? Don’t be like me. Take advantage of all these amazing and free services your local library has. You won’t regret it!

Book Review: The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez

“The truth was so much more X-Files than Lucy could have imagined.” (pg. 177)

Readers looking for a young adult, sci-fi thriller with mystery and even a bit of romance can find it all and more in The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez. The story follows Lucy Phelps, an intelligent 18 year old in the last few weeks of her senior year of high school and the “shocking” information she uncovers about herself, her family, and the legendary Nikola Tesla.

Lucy has epilepsy, or so she’s been told her entire life. Because of that, she’s been sheltered by her parents shunned other kids, especially when she was younger. A budding and brilliant scientist, Lucy just wants to venture out on her own terms and that means getting away to college. She does have the love and support of her best friend Claudia, but things are a bit rocky with her boyfriend Cole. When Lucy accidentally discovers a hidden message in a photograph of her younger self, it leads her into New York City and an experience that will change her life.

After discovering the hidden Tesla room in New York, Lucy has her hands full. She’s promised Claudia she’d help with the lighting design for prom, there’s issues with her boyfriend, she needs to keep working on her science experiment, and there’s also this little (not!) issue of her newfound abilities that involve her ability to manipulate and control electricity. And let’s not forget the handsome new teaching assistant that’s taken an interest in her as well as the two rival, ancient, alchemical societies that each want Lucy for their own agendas.

I enjoyed The Tesla Legacy immensely. It kept me entertained and engaged, even during its science-y moments. For me, there was a nice balance between sci-fi and action as well as between the sci-fi and romantic elements. Lucy is a likable character and I found myself cheering her on as she takes a stand.

Author K. K. Pérez provides enough twists to keep a reader guessing, but not too many where it becomes tedious. I do like that we’re set up for a sequel and when it’s released, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Please go check out the other books by K. K. Pérez at her website and grab a copy of The Tesla Legacy today.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

“It was the dawn of new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a videogame.”

(Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Chapter 0005, page 60)

Fun and entertaining—Ready Player One by Ernest Cline delivers more than just a nostalgic look at the games and pop culture from my childhood. The story is as immersive as the fictional OASIS, a mix of dystopia and sci-fi with plenty of action and references to satisfy my inner geek.

RPO

I did not read the book before I saw the movie and I’m glad I saw the movie first. Full disclosure, I really enjoyed the Ready Player One movie directed by Steven Spielberg and I’ve watched it multiple times. It’s the movie that prompted me to check out the book and want to read it; and I’m really glad I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

My advice: Don’t go into reading the book expecting to find the movie jammed between the pages. While they share the same title, characters, and overall theme, the Ready Player One book and movie really are two separate entities, both with their own merits.

Now, if you read the book first, I can see why maybe you didn’t care for the movie. Or maybe you did. Whatever. It’s my review and I liked them both, but have no issue keeping them as two different stories.

Let’s get back to the book. I liked it and plan to re-read it because there’s a lot to take in. It’s very detailed (okay, at times rambling) but I enjoyed the references and it didn’t take long for me to become invested in the journey of Wade Watts.

Wade Owen Watts (yes, his initials are W.O.W. and how fun is that when they’re entered into the high scorers screen of an old-school video game) spends his free time in the OASIS: the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. It’s 2044 and the world is a mess due to many factors including the Global Energy Crisis. The OASIS is a virtual utopia where humans can escape their depressing reality. Its creator has died but left behind a challenge; a game for gamers. If they can find the Easter egg Halliday hid in the OASIS, they inherit his vast fortune.

Halliday left three keys that had to be found followed by challenges to be won/solved before moving to the next key. Wade is on the hunt, one of the “gunters” going for egg, and his OASIS avatar is known as Parzival or “Z”.

Along with his best friend Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”) and other gunters known as Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito, they vie to reach each key and claim the ultimate prize. Throw in the corporate baddies and their leader Sorrento and the race is on.

The book is told in first person from Wade/Parzival’s perspective. It’s extremely detailed, almost too much at times, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the overall story and rooting for Wade to get to that egg and not let Sorrento win.

Do I recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline? Yes, I do for fans of light sci-fi that’s filled (brimming!) with 80s pop culture and gamer references.