January Favorites

It was a 22 book month. Not a bad start to the year.

Adults-5 (Thriller-2, Historical Fiction-2, Non-fiction-1)

Teens-2 (Fiction-1, Non-fiction-1)

Middle School-3 (Fiction-2, Non-fiction-1)

Elementary-12 (Non-fiction-9, Fiction-3)

Highly Recommend
*The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
*On Tyranny Graphic Edition by Timothy Snyder and Nora Krug
*The Personal Librarian by Marie Bededict and Victoria Christopher Murray
*A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson and Akita Kusaka
*Just Being Dali by Amy Guglielmo and Brett Helquist
*The Notebook Keeper by Stephen Briseno and Magdalena Mora

*The Honeys by Ryan La Sala
*Little Audrey’s Daydream: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Sean Hepburn Ferrer
*The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket
*Beyond Me by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu

What was your favorite January read?

January Movies & Money for Charity

When I started this monthly list forever ago it was a way for me to track the movies I watched and to involve others on my blog. I’ve been less involved in the blogging community and some of my main participants around anymore, but I’m still going to plug along and hope a few of me will join me when you can 🙂

In a comment, give me your 5 words (or less!) and earn $1 for charity. Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity. Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to. Anyone is welcome to join in at any time. Click here to see past movie posts.

We’re at $85 right now.  Your charity could be next 

Streaming- We finished up Emily in Paris season 2 and The Recruit season 1

Bullet Train, 2022 (Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito Antonio, Martinez Ocasio, Sandra Bullock) Grade B+

Brad Pitt at his Bradliest.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, 2022 (Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Dave Bautista) Grade B+

More Detective Benoit Blanc please!

The Pale Blue Eye, 2023 (Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Robert Duvall, Toby Jones, Simon McBurney, Harry Lawtey) Grade B-

Slow moving fictional Poe mystery.

Long Story Short, 2021 (Rafe Spall, Zahra Newman, Ronny Chieng, Dena Kaplan, Noni Hazelhurst) Grade B-

Whimsical take on meaningful life.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever, 2021 (Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, John Corbett, Henry Thomas, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Saraya Blue) Grade B

Touching end to sweet trilogy

Effie Gray, 2014 (Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson, Greg Wise, Tom Sturridge, Julie Walters, David Suchet, Derek Jacobi) Grade B-

Real love triangle, quiet film

What have you seen this month that I need to watch?

This Week – Snowy Days

It’s raining right now, but it’s been a snowy week in the Cleveland area. These are the steps down to the waterfall in the next town over earlier this week. I’ve started planning a roadtrip vacay for February and I’m hoping we can avoid the white stuff for a bit. Jason got some new furniture for his home office. Gage has art class once a week just a few minute drive from this picture, so I enjoy the time walking around the village, it even has a bookstore! It’s been a relatively quiet week otherwise.

Books read – 5 (22 for the year)


A Bowl Full of Peace

What a beautiful, heartbreaking, gut wrenching, hopeful picture book about Sachiko Yasui, a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan during WWII.

Sachiko and her family always ate out of her grandmother’s bowl, filling it with the delicacies of the region, until the war forced plainer fare. At 6, she was half a mile from ground zero. It killed all of her playmates and one of her siblings. Two of her brothers died soon after from radiation exposure.

When the family went back 2 years later they found her grandmother’s bowl in the rubble of their home, unscathed. Every August 9, first her mother and then she, put ice in the bowl to remember those last.

Gage and I are studying Japan this week and this is the only time I set aside to talk about the bombings but what a great discussion we had.

I cannot recommend this book enough for your middle schooler, but be prepared to talk about death and the ugliness of war. Gage knew the details of the war but this story really brought the people to life.

Sachiko outlived her family and died in 2021 at the age of 83. I’ll be feeling this book for awhile.

The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border

The fictional story of a young girl from Mexico making her way to the US border with her mother. Once at the San Ysidro checkpoint in Tijuana, they are met with the kindness of the notebook keeper as they wait for their opportunity to enter the US.

It perfectly depicts the reason she leaves Mexico, the stress of getting to the border, and the worry of waiting for the elementary age set.

It also gives some additional information about the notebook keeper, a refugee chosen to keep track of those coming to seek asylum until their own number was called and the responsibility was handed to another refugee.

I loved the illustrations and the story. Highly recommended. 40 pages.

All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More

We loved this book. It was a really an all-in-one curriculum for kids. 64 pages of stories, activities, songs, information giving in a fun way. I’ll definitely be looking for more of these as we continue our world travels.

These were so-so

More Than You’ll Ever Know had potential, enough that I made it through the 436 novel, barely. I did almost give up on it a few times, but liked it enough to see it through to the end. This would have probably been a better book if it had been 100 pages shorter. It’s about a woman leading a double life, married to two different men in two different countries. And then one of them is murdered. It’s dual storyline involved the reporter trying to unravel the truth. If the true crime nature of the plot interests you, give it a try.

Beyond Me I’m not a fan of books written in verse, but as a homeschool mom I decided to spread my wings a little and give Beyond Me by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu a try for Japan week.

This is a 304 page middle school novel about a girl in Japan and her experiences after the 2011 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that killed around 20,000 people. She was in a safe area, but didn’t feel safe as aftershock after aftershock and radiation fears from the nuclear plant left her feeling scared.

I read this to Gage this week and liked it well enough, but it didn’t make me love books written in verse any better 🤷🏻‍♀️. We tried.

When the Sakura Bloom was a pretty little book for elementary kids about the importance of cherry blossom trees in Japan and being mindful of the nature around us.

Reviews Posted The Personal Librarian, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

On the TV

Jason and I finished season 1 of The Recruit (not a fan, but I puzzled while watching, lol) and season 2 of Emily in Paris (which he claims to hate, but he’s made it through 2 seasons so you decide)

To All the Boys: Always and Forever I’m glad I finally finished the trilogy. The first one was still my favorite, but the conclusion was much better that than the second one.

Long Story Short A sweet romantic movie with an interesting premise. What if you lived one day every year of your life, seeing your life in snapshots? (tip-don’t overthink it)

Happy National Puzzle Day! I’m still working on the same 3000 piece puzzle. It’s coming along slowly.

Plans for the weekend

When there’s a stop in the rain, a family hike. What about you?

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, 4/5 stars, 341 pages, 2021

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

I’ve always loved libraries. Since I was young and my mom used to drop me off for a few hours to now as I volunteer with the Friends of the Library, libraries have always been a comforting space. This book of historical fiction is based on Belle da Costa Greene, the woman who became JP Morgan’s personal librarian who curated his collection and looked after it after his death.

Did I mention she was Black but passed for White in high society and to Morgan himself? What an amazing story to tell!

I love Marie Benedict’s stories about overlooked women in history and I especially love that for this one she had a co-writer, Victoria Christopher Murray. In the letters at the end of the book Benedict explains why she wanted a woman of color to help her get this story just right. And I love the friendship that was formed in the writing of this book.

If you like historical fiction and intriguing women don’t miss this one.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, historical fiction, 4.75/5 stars, 389 pages, 2017

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways. from Goodreads

I finally got to see what all the hype was about! We read this for book club this month and it was mostly loved. I stayed up past 1am to finish it and found it addictively juicy.

Evelyn Hugo was a force to be reckoned with. Abused by her father and determined to become a star, she used the assets she was born with to reach the highest echelons of 1950s Hollywood. She reaches out to Monique, a relatively unknown reporter to write her life story and we find out what can be hidden during a lifetime spent in the public’s eye.

This was a fast read with highs and lows, but always at its heart, a story about the price of fame. It was about other things too, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises of Evelyn’s life. She was unapologetically bold and an honest liar. Let me know if you agree. The choices she made are worth discussion and the reason I loved her character so much is that she owned every one of them.



“You’re the most beautiful woman here,” Don said into my ear as I stood next to him. But I already knew that he thought I was the most gorgeous woman here. I knew, very acutely, that if he did not believe that , he would not have been with me.

Men were almost never with me for my personality.

I’m not suggesting that charming girls should take pity on the pretty ones. I’m just saying it’s not so great being loved for something you didn’t do. page 116


Evelyn shakes her head,” Heartbreak is loss. Divorce is a piece of paper.”

“If you are heartbroken right now, then I feel for you deeply,” Evelyn says. “That I have the utmost respect for. That’s the sort of thing that can split a person in two. But I wasn’t heartbroken when Don left me. I simply felt like my marriage had failed. And those are two very different things.” page 141

This Week – Sunny in January

January in Cleveland took a turn for the better as we were able to enjoy sunny day walks this week. It is currently snowing with an inch or so already on the ground 😦 I was able to attend book club for the first time in months and Gage went to a 3 1/2 hour birthday party yesterday, so both of us were able to charge our social batteries with friends. And Gage applied for his first passport!

Books read 7 (17 for the year), but only 2 adults. The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Posted review of Lies She Told by Cate Holahan and kid/teen books we liked this week about the US/Mexican border.

On the screen

The Pale Blue Eye moved slowly, but I don’t mind watching Christian Bale in slow motion.


Some progress was made on this 3000 piecer this week, but, obviously, I’m going to need to pick up the pace.

What are your plans for the rest of the weekend? By the look of things outside, there could be sledding here.

Homeschooling Happenings – Mexico

Today we finish up our time in Mexico. Last week we studied the country as a whole and this week we concentrated on what’s going on at the US-Mexico border and its history. These are a few of the books we liked this week.

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos. 160 pages, 2018, 4.5 stars. This is labeled as a teen book, but most could be shared with younger kids. So important for kids(and adults) to understand the why of the kids that are coming.

Hear My Voice: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States compiled by Warren Binford. 96 pages, 2021, 4 stars. So many things I loved about this picture book. I loved that each page was illustrated by a different artist with Mexican ties. I loved that it was told in both English and Spanish. I loved the additional information at the end, along with questions and ways to help.

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins and Sara Palacios. 40 pages, 2019, 3 stars. A more upbeat story for younger kids about a one day event between San Diego and Tijuana where families on different sides of the border can come together. Fictional story about a real event.

Travesia: A Migrant Girl’s Cross-Border Journey by Michelle Gerster and Fiona Dunnett. 72 pages, 2021, 3 stars. It’s listed for teens, but I think mature 10-11 year olds could also read it. This was about actually coming across the border, with the afterward telling how it changed their family.

We watched videos, read different viewpoints, and had a writing assignment for the week. I wish we’d had time to delve into it further.

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. 3.5/5 stars. Thriller. 304 pages, 2017

Liza Cole, a once-successful novelist whose career has seen better days, has one month to write the thriller that could land her back on the bestseller list. Meanwhile, she’s struggling to start a family, but her husband is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As stresses weigh her down in her professional and personal lives, Liza escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth, a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she aims to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River. from Goodreads

There was a lot going on in this thriller about an author struggling to have a baby with her husband. There were two alternating storylines, one the author Liza, the other the main character of her latest book Beth.

I listened but wouldn’t recommend the audio. I found it somewhat difficult to keep track of who I was listening to as I drove. The storylines were interesting, but the whirlwind of the last few chapters left me feeling like there was just too much to take in. I’d give it a solid 3.5 stars.

This was a BOTM selection a few years ago. Did you read it?

This Week – Every Day I’m Puzzlin’

Gage broke the boards at his tae kwon do this week and got his yellow belt. We tried tae kwon do when he was around 4 and I think he got a yellow belt too, but he just didn’t have an interest so we stopped. But, never say never, he’s really enjoying this time around and goes 2-3 a week with no complaints. Hopefully that will continue.

Books read – 2 (10 for the year) Lies She Told by Cate Holahan and The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events #10) by Lemony Snicket

Reviews postedThe Honeys by Ryan Le Sala A bizarre YA novel that was perfect for my desire for something different.

On the Screen

Effie Gray was based on a true story and while I liked it I wish the ending had been a little more fulfilling. I had to look up what happened after!


I’ve started a Little Free Library for National Puzzle Month. It’s just in the local Buy Nothing group (for now) and it’s just shelves on our front porch, but all of these puzzles have turned me a little puzzle crazy this month. I finished these this week

And started this 3000 bohemoth that Jason gifted me at Christmas. No idea how long this will take, but protecting it from Sammi is going to be a problem, so the faster the better.

This weekend

Jason has tomorrow off of work and Gage and I are doing half day of school, so we’re going to the library to apply for passports. And, of course, I’ll be puzzling.

Are you a puzzler?

The Honeys by Ryan La Sala

The Honeys. 4.25/5 stars, YA novel, 344 pages, 2022

Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline’s radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who’d grown tragically distant.

Mars’s genderfluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions — and expectations — of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.

What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister’s old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying — and Mars is certain they’re connected to Caroline’s death. from Goodreads

What did I just read? A seemingly recognizable story of a teen twin on the search for what happened after their other half died turns into…a dreamlike coming of age story, in a way. I really don’t want to say more. I went in blind and think it’s best you do too, but only if you are in the mood for something bizarrely different.

My favorite part of the book was the gender fluid, oft maligned, main character Mars. He is a character I’m not likely to forget. It really was his coming of age story, every sweet, honeyed drop of it.

I listened to the fantastic audio of this very mind bending book. The production was top notch and I would highly recommend experiencing the story this way. But only if you’re in an open state of mind 🙂

Love this thought…

“The way they talk about themselves—with such frankness—it feels like all people are wet clay, all the shapes that define us self-imposed. I realize this fits into the way I’ve always seen myself, which is: art, attempted, though often spoiled by the demands of another’s taste. It makes me wonder what shape I’d be if I’d never met another human being.”