French books, tea, puzzles and wine

When I decided to participate in Paris in July, I reserved books at the library, bought some French wine, ordered a few puzzles, and…visited Etsy! I only let myself order two things and one came this week all the way from France.

The Eiffel Tower shaped tea bags from Tea Heritage are adorable and tasty. What a fun way to add a little pizazz to my morning tea. They have all kinds of shapes and, as you can see, the shapes and tea sachets are a great size.
We finished our 1500 piece Ravensburger Paris puzzle last night! It was a fun one, although I had a hard time with the dark section on the right. My eyes aren’t what they used to be 😂

I also finished My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme, published 2006, 336 pages. I listened mostly but did like having the actual book so I could look through the pictures included throughout. I liked this so much more than I thought I would!

It’s about food, France, friends, foreign service, and fame late in the game. There were lots of names of people and places and, to be honest, I’m glad that I listened. If I had read it I may have become caught up in the details 🤣. As it was, I felt like I was listening to an accomplished and happy woman tell tales from her life to me and a group of friends and it worked.

Have you ever watched Julia on screen or tried one of her recipes? I haven’t but feel like I need to now.

I’m not saying that having friends drive you through some of the prettiest areas of France was a gift, oh wait, I am saying that! Look at the cover of today’s book an compare to my photo from our trip. 😍. We spent a day admiring the views and visiting small villages and it was a breath of fresh air. This was the Beaujolais area.

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (published 2018, 384 pages) is a great beach read. A single mother takes her 10 year old to France for 5 weeks so that he can spend quality time with a father he rarely sees. She’s leaving a scary situation with her mom, bringing a few friends, and harboring a serious secret. There are heavy topics, but they’re done with a light enough touch. I can’t say I loved any of the characters, but i enjoyed the audio.

I’m drinking a lovely Bordeaux, Chateau Moulin Lafitte. I love the lightness of the full bodied wine.

This was an impulse buy when I visited Barnes and Noble last month and I’m so glad I brought it home just in time for our (modest) vacation planning. It helped awaken the wanderlust 😁. So many gorgeous pictures. Paris had 4 pages of pics, this is just the first.

What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever visited?

And this book went perfectly with the postcard I received yesterday from Poland. I love the whole world in his hands photo. Zuzuka told me the last movie she saw was Birdy (Ptasiek in Polish).

What’s the last movie you saw? We just binged the rest of the final season of Bosch last night so we’re looking for a good movie next.
I listened to Jane Smiley’s most recent (Perestroika in Paris), told from the perspectives of a horse, a dog, a raven, two ducks and a few rats. These animals are living in Paris on their own and have loosely banded together. They understand and use money to pay for things 😒 The story meandered along at a snail’s pace, but the happy ending was nice.

I was completely the wrong reader for this one. I don’t usually care for these kinds of first person animal stories, but I wanted to try something different set in Paris and this was definitely that. I think Gage would have enjoyed it more than I did.

Make sure you visit Tamara at Thyme for Tea for more Paris in July posts.

Finishing up June & thoughts about my challenges

I’m adding 13 books to my June count, finishing up the month with 44 books and 3 bookish movies.

Since this is also the md-year point, let’s do an update on my two challenges. The Book a Day Challenge has been easier than expected. As you’ve noticed, I’ve read a lot of kids books and that’s helped, but I’ve also watched a lot less bookish movies than I thought I would. I’ve read 217 books and watched 7 movies. This challenge, that I update daily on IG, is a fun challenge that I’m loving.

My other challenge was my lose 50 by 50 challenge. Let’s just say that it’s not going well, and for my own mental health all I’m going to say is that I’m a work in progress 🙂

Here are the books I read since last week…

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The Husbands by Chandler Baker. Published 2021, 352 pages

 Nora was on a fast track to senior partner with a 4 year old daughter and a baby on the way. She was stressed and needed more help and understanding from her husband. When she is welcomed into a close knit suburban community full of accomplished women with doting husbands she begins to imagine a new type of marriage.

I liked the idea of this, but it took me a while to get into it. Once I did I enjoyed the modern spin on the Stepford Wives concept. How far are you willing to go for a perfect marriage?

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A Guide to Photographing the Art of Nature by Bruce Heinemann. Published 1994, 152 pages

There are 3 chapters and lots of photos. The chapters (lighting, seeing, creating) are just as much about how to see than they are about how to take the photo. It’s a lovely book I’m happy to have in my house to look at anytime I want (I’m looking at you Cleveland winter!).

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Answers for the 4A Epidemic by Joseph Cannizzaro, MD. Published 2012, 256 pages

I read Answers for the 4A Epidemic: Healing for Kids with Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies. Cannizzaro is an MD who makes the very solid case for kids who have any of these diagnoses to have an integrative doctor onboard. I couldn’t agree more.

He does a great job of explaining the often complicated processes of out of sync bodies and what we, as parents, can do to help. He was great at explaining the breakdown, with some places to start with diet, if interested. Obviously, not for every kid, but diet makes a big difference here.

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Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Claudia McGehee. Published 2017 pages, 36 pages.

I loved the illustrations and the true story about a man who buys property and resurrects a creek that had been filled in. The man? Michael Osterholm who is currently on President Biden’s Covid Advisory Council.

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Dark Was the Night by Gary Golio and EB Lewis. Published 2020, 32 pages.

Dark Was the Night: Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey to the Stars was such a treat. Johnson, who went blind as a child, played in street corners in Texas. Now his music is flying on Voyager I outside our galaxy on the Golden Record.

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The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola. Published 1983, 32 pages.

A fun retelling of a Texas legend involving the Comanche people and the bluebonnet, the state flower.

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Small Room, Big Dreams by Monica Brown and Mirelle Ortega. Published 2021, 40 pages.

Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julian and Joaquin Castro is a great new book about the twins and how they have always been involved in wanting to make life better for people.

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Nacho’s Nachos by Sandra Nickel and Oliver Dominguez. Published 2020, 32 pages.

Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack takes place in Mexico, but it was included in my search because in 1940 Mamie Finan came from just over the border to The Victory Club and inspired Ignacio Anaya (Nacho for short) to create the first delicious snack that bears his name.

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Waynetta and the Cornstalk by Helen Ketteman and Diane Greenseid. Published 2007, 32 pages.

Waynetta and the Cornstalk was a fun Texas fairytale involving some magic corn, giants and a brave little girl.

Pumpkin Island by Arthur Geisert
Pumpkin Island by Arthur Geisert. Published 2018, 40 pages

Pumpkin Island was a fun and silly story about pumpkins taking over a small town. Loved the illustrations in this one as well.

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Diary of Sarah Gillespie by Sarah Gillespie. Published 2014, 32 pages.

Diary of Sarah Gillespie has entries from the teen’s diary growing up on a 100 acre farm in the 1880’s. There was added definitions, clarification, and photos.

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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr and Don Bolognese. Published 1995, 64 pages.

Buffalo Bill was born in Iowa even though this story about his time in the Pony Express didn’t take place there.

Hurricane Heroes in Texas by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Tree House #30 Hurricane Heroes in Texas by Mary Pope Osborne. Published 2018, 112 pages.

I really don’t like these books. The writing isn’t great, but the idea is usually good. We were studying Texas last week so this worked.

June is for reading :)

I’ve been reading, 190 books so far this year. For these first 11 days in June I watched one movie based on a book I read in February (The Sun Is Also A Star) and read 17 books, 8 of them picture books by or about the celebrated illustrator Jerry Pinkney. I also read 4 fiction/thrillers, 1 play, 1 chapbook about aliens, 1 non-fiction, 1 YA fiction, and 1 kids fiction. I’ve really needed the fiction escape it seems!

The first 5 on this list (I’m counting all of the Pinkney books as a whole) I would heartily recommend.

The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna is agoraphobic, which began after a trauma the year before. She’s separated her family, has one therapist/frend, and access lots of alcohol and medication. She also has a camera and likes to keep an eye on her neighborhood. When new neighbors arrive at her doorstep, Anna’s carefully crafted (sad) life begins to unravel.

A fast-paced thriller perfect for summer. I really liked it. She’s an old movie buff, which I loved, and I need to go back and make a list of all the movies she mentioned so I can watch them (without a bottle of wine and pills).

The Last Flight
Last Flight by Julie Clark

Two women on opposite coasts are both in dangerous situations. They switch identities and flights and hope to evade the men sure to come looking for them. But one of the flights crashes.

Two compelling women with two compelling stories. I liked the back and forth and the switch between then and now. I was even surprised at the end (but probably shouldn’t have been).

I had a fun time with this one.

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

I picked up John Boyne’s young adult historical and breezed right through it. He has the rare talent of writing unlikeable characters and still putting together a compelling story. A Ladder of Years is my favorite, but others will remember The Boy in the Striped Pajamas best.

In this short (260 pages) book, 7 year old Pierrot loses both parents, his best friend, and his home city of Paris as he sent to an orphanage. His aunt finds him and brings him to Berghof, where she is head housekeeper. Of course, this is also Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. Hitler takes a special interest in the boy and Pierrot’s fate is sealed.

Can he recover from the things he did while so young? A good book about how any child’s future is shaped by their circumstances as well as their spirit. A tragic story but not one without hope.

I will read anything he writes.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes
The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

I loved this one! A teen who had no support, a man who needed her for a kidnapping scheme, death, stolen babies, changed identities and a lifetime of guilt. What’s not to love? And I really love the cover ❤️

Jerry Pinkney by Lisa M B Simons, The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, The Three Bill Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney, The Talking Eggs: A Folktale from the American South by Robert D San Souci, John Henry by Julius Lester, Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder, The Further Adventures of Spider: West African Folktales by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst

Philadelphia born artist Pinkney has won numerous awards for his illustrations of children’s books, novels, magazines, and even a series of postage stamps starting in 1977. He’s still sharing his passion with the world at 81.

The Talking Eggs was my favorite. A sister is abused by her mother and sister, but is rewarded with her pure heart. It was a little more detailed than the other retellings of this Creole folktale and I loved it.

My other favorite was the classic John Henry, also different than other versions I’ve read, but I’m always up for a story about the legendary man. The song I learned as a kid still goes through my mind every time. Anyone else?

They’re all good. A Place To Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation is his most recent work (2019) and the first time he used collage. And The Lion and the Mouse (2009) is a wordless book that tells one of Aesop’s fables. And I always love reading the African tales about that wily Spider 🕷

I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011 (I Survived, #12)
I Survived: The Joplin Tornado, 2011 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived The Joplin Tornado, 2011 was our before bed book for the week. I thought it was scarier than the last one we read about the Chicago Fire. At the end of a few of the chapters I wasn’t sure he’d make it – then I reminded myself the book I series is called I Survived 😆

The writing is simple and the books have a few pictures for interest and that makes them something Gage enjoys. So, for that I am grateful. Finding books that he is interested in reading continues to be a bit of a struggle and this series is a safe bet.

Tornadoes scare me. Have you ever experienced one firsthand?

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
This is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison

I both listened a read and much preferred the audio. I liked that it was different, but I can’t say I loved the book.

Harriet, 79, is a recent widow with a shaky relationship with her kids. Her marriage was meh and she’s stuck in a rut. Enter the Alaskan cruise her late husband had won and his visits from beyond the grave and you have the start of an interesting story. I just didn’t care for the this-is-your-life way the story moved from one time to the next.

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Strange Land by The Poet’s Haven

Strange Land from Poet’s Haven Digest, 2017 is a chapbook given to me by a friend at the library who just happen to write the very first poem, #greenlivesmatter. There were poems and stories all with a different take on our alien friends and their feelings on us Earthlings. Made more interesting by the government’s recent acknowledgment of UFOs 👽 It was a fun, fast read perfect for the unofficial start of summer.

A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

I was hoping that this would provide insight into the classic movie, which I don’t like at all. Unfortunately, I ended up disliking the characters even more 😂

Blanche comes to live with her sister Stella and Stella’s husband Stanley. The three of them bump into and around each other in a small apartment until damage is done. Unlikeable characters in a sad tragedy of a story. But, hey, it’s a classic for a reason, so what do I know?

The Joy of Doing Just Enough by Jennifer McCartney
The Joy of Doing Just Enough by Jennifer McCaartney

The book, while tongue in cheek, isn’t quite funny enough for satire. It does its best to lower expectations at work, at home, in relationships, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t let go of my hope for more.

What’s been your favorite June read so far? Anything I need add to my reading list? Extra points if it’s on the shorter side 🙂

A so-so reading week

I read 8 books this week, but only two really stood out for me. Maybe some of my dissatisfaction is stemming from too many kids books! More adult reading on the way 🙂 This brings by yearly total to 156 books.

2 kids fiction, 1 graphic memoir, 1 historical romance, 1 non-fiction, 1 picture book-fiction, 1 picture book non-fiction, 1 kids fiction

Listed in the order I like them best with my thoughts. Have you read any of these?

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo  Villavicencio
The Undocumented Americans. Published in 2020, 208 pages

“This book is a work of creative nonfiction, rooted in careful reporting, translated as poetry, shared by chosen family, and sometimes hard to read. Maybe you won’t like it. I didn’t write it for you to like it. And I didn’t set out to write anything inspirational.”

“This book is for everybody who wants to step away from the buzzwords in immigration, the talking heads, the kids in graduation caps and gowns, and read about the people underground. Not heroes. Ransoms. People. Characters.”

This book is more than a memoir of her undocumented life, more than a series of interwoven stories of people living in fear, more than what gets printed by news sources. Its’s authentic. It’s raw. It’s impactful. It’s her truth and you do t have to like it. But you will probably gain some insight if you read this slim book. She travels from Ground Zero to Miami, Flint, Cleveland, and beyond.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women. Published 2016, 211 pages

 I had fun reading through this international list of strong women, sharing some with Gage when we were sitting together.

Each woman had a bio page and another page with a beautifully drawn portrait. The artwork is where this book shined. I’m considering getting my own copy for that reason alone.

I met women I’d never heard of along with women I’ve long admired. I think the bio pages were okay, but wish they’d felt more complete. But since this is for younger girls they are probably great for whetting the appetite for more exploration.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1). Published 2006, 384 pages

After watching the Netflix series, Bridgerton, I thought I’d give the book series it was based on a try. I listened to the audio of The Duke and I and really enjoyed the performance.. Most things in the book are in the series, but not the other way around.

The Bridgerton’s are a large English family that enjoys a life of privilege in London. When Daphne, the fourth born but first daughter, is facing pressure to marry she forges a ruse with her brother’s best friend, the Duke of Hastings.

I liked the book, but really missed the all of the extras from the series. I admit that I missed that larger than life Queen. I missed some of the other friendships that showed up that weren’t in print. I don’t know if I’ll continue to read the series. I may be content enough to catch it onscreen.

Walt Whitman by Nancy Loewen
Walk Whitman. Published 1991

 On the left are his bio pages and on the right are excerpts from his poetry. At 47 pages it’s a pretty book for your shelves and to use as an introduction to Whitman for middle schoolers.

There is one about political parties that is particularly timely.

A fun edition to read on a sunny day and I learned more about Whitman’s life than I remember, particularly his role of caring for the wounded during the Civil War.

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington
Courage for Beginners. Published 2014, 320 pages

Seventh grader Mysti has a mother who has agoraphobia, a dad who is in a coma, a best friend who is going to ‘pretend’ to ditch her so he could be popular, and if she doesn’t walk the mile to the grocery store, she and her sister would have nothing to eat. I love the new friendships she forged and the way that she held her family together. This book captured the painful growing that happens in junior high and I liked it. It was fun to read a book that I wouldn’t normally have picked up.

A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein

A Giraffe and a Half. Published 1964, 48 pages


Gage and I read some Shel Silverstein poetry, watched the 1973 Giving Tree movie by Shel Silverstein, and read A Giraffe and a Half. Gage loved this story much that he read it again to his dad. It was funny, ridiculous, and had an unexpected conclusion. What boy doesn’t want to see a rat, a snake, a skunk, a dragon, and a whale being carried by a giraffe?

The Great Chicago Fire, 1871 by Lauren Tarshis
I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871. Published 2015, 112 pages

We read a chapter or two before bed every night (were lucky there were no nightmares) and immediately after finishing it, Gage started looking to see which one he wanted to read next. He LOVES this series. The book was good, my favorite part being the last 8 pages with facts. Did you know that the deadliest fire in US history took place the same day as this one but was actually 250 miles north in Peshtigo, Wisconsin? Chicago fire killed 300. Peshtigo? Between 1,500-2,500! I need to read more about that!

Mallko & Dad by Gusti
Mallko and Dad. Published 2018, 120 pages

This is a journal/sketchbook by the author/artist Gusti about his son with Down Syndrome. I wanted to love it, and there were pages that hit me with their honesty, one whole two page spread is covered with the words I DID NOT ACCEPT HIM. I was expecting more introspection about how he got from there to the words on the last pages, written largely across the pages “ACCEPTING“ IS WILLINGLY AND GLADLY RECEIVING WHAY WE’VE BEEN OFFERED. The other pages are filled with drawings by dad and son, photos, and some snippets by mom and brother.
It was creative and sweet. It was translated from Spanish and missed something in translation for me but appeals to others given its high GR rating 😁

Non-Fiction Wins the Week

This has been a weirdly non-fiction reading week. It’s been nice, but I’m craving a quick thriller or romance! I loved all 13 books I read this week (except for those last 3 kids books, I could have skipped those).

Weekly breakdown- 5 Picture books (4 non-fiction), 3 Kids Non-Fiction, 2 Non-Fiction (social issues), 1 Inspirational, 1 Thriller, 1 Fiction.

I’m listing these in the order I liked them best. 124 books read so far this year!

What Unites Us by Dan Rather
What Unites Us by Dan Rather

Rather talks about our country’s past, present, and future in relation to freedom, community, exploration, responsibility, and character. It’s about what the country is and what it could be if compromised politicians and non truth tellers get out of the way. It was inspirational and also aspirational and made me feel all of the good feels about our country and a desire to do more to shape its future.

Part memoir, part essay – all heart.

It Came from Ohio by R.L. Stine
It Came From Ohio!: My Life as a Writer by R.L.Stine

This has been our bedtime family reading. We all really enjoyed it and laughed often. Gage fell for the ‘cliffhanger’ at the end of each chapter forcing us do sneak peeks every night :). He made turn into a book guy yet!

Stine is from Columbus and graduated from Ohio State, a little ahead of my time, but I still loved reading about his time on campus and working on the school magazine, The Sundial. He headed to NYC after that and never looked back. Some of his writing jobs were funny and some seemed way wrong, like writing celebrity interviews that he never conducted, but he paid his dues before hitting the fame train. This was a lot of fun and included lots of photos and original drawings from Stine.

The Affair by Lee Child
The Affair by Lee Child

I listened to The Affair by Lee Child, #16 in the Jack Reacher series. I’ve read the series in order, but this is a flashback novel and takes place 6 months before the first book in the series. I always love spending time with Reacher and it was a nice change of pace since he was still in the military.

A woman is murdered in Mississippi near an army base and Reacher is sent undercover to assess the situation. He finds that this isn’t the first murder. Not surprising to any Reacher fan he also ends up under covers with a beautiful woman (with a little too much detail, especially when you’re listening to the audio). After 16 books you finally get the WHY of Reacher leaving the military police.

Another solid entry into the life of Jack Reacher.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar
A Burning by Megha Majumdar

A Burning, Megha Majumdar’s debut novel, tells the story of ambition from three different points of view. Set in her homeland of India, the politics were different, but sadly recognizable.

Javan, a Muslim is accused of being a terrorist after posting on Facebook. Lovely is a transgender woman who faces ugliness everyday, but still manages to shine. PT Sir, a gym teacher who becomes ‘important’ by doing things he knows are wrong. All three are connected, but will have very different fates.

I liked quite a lot about this book. I was at different times fascinated by the class structure, rooting for justice, and horrified by the lack of compassion. It left me unsettled, as was its intent I’d guess. If you want to try a different kind of thriller this is a good one!

The Four Doors by Richard Paul Evans
The Four Doors by Richard Paul Evans

The Four Doors: A Guide to Joy, Freedom, and a Meaningful Life is written by Richard Paul Evans of The Christmas Box (etc.) fame. It’s based on a talk that he has given to different audiences around the world. There are four doors, choose one or choose them all, each will lead to a richer life. Believe there’s a reason you were born. Free yourself from limitation. Magnify your life. Develop a love-centered map.

I admit that I really didn’t have high hopes for this so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this short book. He is God centered, but this book didn’t feel church centered. He included quotes from a wide array of unexpected people, like Emerson, Dostoyevsky, Churchill, and Einstein, as well as a multitude of quotes from his books.

He glossed over some things, but in the spirit of an hour or two with an uplifting book that may change your perspective I’m giving it a thumbs up. I really liked it.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism by Robin D’Angelo

Jason and I listened to a little of it together and I read the rest (reading is the way to go on this one). You need to be prepared to just take it in, without getting defensive. That is not to say you have to agree with everything she says (I didn’t) but giving yourself the time and space to reflect on what she says is important.

Why is it so hard to talk about race without people (whites in this case) retreating behind excuses and denials without really taking the time to try and understand? The book is spot on in the things I’ve heard people say, myself included, that completely dismiss racism, whether intentional or not. I am SO GLAD I read this.

This is a book to understand a bit better how our whole way of living here in the States was built and is maintained by at least some level of racism, and how you define racism is important.

It did not make me feel bad about being white. It made see ways that I can be better as a person. We should all strive for more knowledge and perspective.

Jean Laffite by Susan Goldman Rubin
Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America by Susan Goldman Rubin

This is for older elementary as there is lots of reading, but the story, illustrations, and information page at the end are fabulous. It generated discussion all through dinner. Jean Laffite was a privateer (a new term for me) whose ancestors had been kicked out of Europe for being Jewish. He grew up wanting to take out his revenge on Spanish ships on the open seas. And he did. How did this boy from the Caribbean go from thief and slave trader to national hero with a pardon from the President? If you don’t know the story I’m not going to spoil it! We both loved this book.

Art From Her Heart by Kathy Whitehead
Art From the Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter

One sentence reviews from Gage.

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter. When Clementine was 50 years old she began painting and eventually became so famous her art was hung in museums. 

A Penguin Named Patience by Suzanne Lewis
A Penguin Named Patience by Suzanne Lewis

Patience and other penguins at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans were rescued during Hurricane Katrina.

The 5 O'Clock Band by Troy Andrews
The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy Andrews

A fictional story about Shorty, a kid who played in a second line band and learned about dedication, tradition, and love. (Based on the author’s experience) 

Time For Kids by Elaine Israel
Jesse Owens: Running Into History

I always thought Jesse was born in Cleveland, but he didn’t move here until he was 9, even though his middle name is actually Cleveland! When he ran for Ohio State he broke FIVE World RECORDS and tied a sixth all within 45 MINUTES! How is this humanly possibly? Lots of pictures and commentary about his place in the social issues of the time.

Tecumseh by John Micklos Jr.
Tecumseh by John Micklos Jr.

The book was pretty good, but that cover really does ruin it.

Family Huddle by Peyton Manning
Family Huddle by Payton, Eli and Archie Manning

A book about the Manning family (Archie, Peyton, and Eli) that’s good for young kids who like football. 

April reading is off to a good start

A week into April and I’m having a nice reading month so far. I’ve read 11 books: 4 picture books (all black folklore), 2 kids biographies, 1 thriller, 1 romantic mystery, 1 fiction, 1 poetry, 1 inspirational.

This is my April TBR, I’ve read 8 so far.

Posted in the order I liked them best. These pics are from my Instagram account, so let’s connect there as well! @stacybuckeye

I love the Myron Bolitar series and everyone who loves Myron, most likely, loves his BFF Windsor Horne Lockwood III. With Myron off living his dream, it was time for Win to get his own book.

Win is rich. No, not just rich but like uber elite, you’ll never know anyone this rich, rich. He’s old money (duh, his name) and has a family legacy to protect and questionable morals when it comes to violence and sex. He’s very open about all of this in this first person thriller. Someone’s been murdered with a priceless piece of art stolen from the Lockwoods and also an old suitcase of Win’s at the crime scene. Win steps in, at the behest of an old FBI buddy, to right some wrongs. But what can he find out 20-30 years later?

Win is a different kind of hero and this book was really good. I loved getting to know more about his background and family. And the mysteries were excellent, as always. Another winner by the master.
My book of the day is a beautiful Italian novel so my guys helped me finish the beautiful panoramic Venice puzzle (1000 pieces) we started last week.

A Girl Returned by Donatello Di Pietrantonio (translated by Ann Goldstein) was a fantastic read. I first saw it reviewed by Diane and I’m so glad our library had a copy.😁

A 13 year old has been raised by two loving parents who one day, inexplicably, ‘return’ her to a family she never knew existed. Once a well taken care of only child, she becomes one of six who all sleep in the same room and receive daily abuse from the parents. Told from the girl’s point of view, you can feel her anger, sadness, and confusion.

It’s such an achingly vivid short novel (170 pages) that shouldn’t be missed.
Crumb-Sized: Poems by Marlena Cherrock was a lovely way to start the National Poetry Month. Cherrock shares her experience with skeletal dysplasia, which is why she was called crumb-sized on the playground. She also talks about space and her (our) place in it.

I’m not typically a poetry reader, but I loved this little collection. It was full of hope and pain, you know, life. I read about a life that is different than my own, yet completely recognizable.

I’m positive I’ll be picking this up to read again. I loved the smaller, crumb-sized, size of the book and the way they separated the poems inside, reminding me of a clock and the rings of a tree. It was perfectly done.
Let me tell you about a lady from Ohio, Virginia Hamilton. The young reader’s biography by Rubin came through the library cast offs and I thought I’d take a look. I read the 100+ page book in one sitting and felt true embarrassment that I really hadn’t known anything about this treasure from my state. She won nearly every award in her field and became the most honored author of children’s literature ever. She was a rock star, speaking and accepting awards around the world before her death in 2002.

As soon as I finished the bio I read 3 of the picture books I had checked out. They. Are. Beautiful. The way that Hamilton wrote stories about African American fables and stories that she first heard at her grandpa’s knee was groundbreaking at the time. I adored the stories, the artwork, and most especially the page at the end of each one telling the history of each story.

The People Could Fly was the first tale in her American black folktales book by the same name and was published as a stand-alone picture book after her death.

The Girl Who Spun Gold is a West Indies retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl was another story from Plantation era storytellers and published after her death.
When Birds Could Talk and Bats Could Sing. These stories were first collected by Martha Young who had grown up on plantations where her father kept slaves. After the Civil War they became house servants. Young became Alabama’s most well-known collector of black folktales. Hamilton has taken the tongue-twisting dialect and turned them into a collection of easy-to-read animal stories.

I loved it. Why is the male cardinal red? Why is the bat ugly and why can’t he sing? Why does the swallow look the way she does? Will the buzzard ever get his just desserts? These questions and more are answered! 😆

I love reading Virginia Hamilton’s African American folktales and look forward to more.
Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Mosey) was born and raised in Ohio before marrying Frank Butler at 15. The two sharpshooters then began touring the country in their very own show before eventually joining the biggest traveling show at the time, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, in 1885. She traveled the world and became a household name everywhere she went. A far cry from her humble beginnings when at the age of 9 her mother had to send her to the Darke County Infirmary to work for room and board.

She was a woman ahead of her time to be sure. She was the best at what she did (shooting), knew how to sell herself, and loved her life. I loved learning about her later years, especially her 55 libel cases against newspapers who smeared her good name. She won 54 cases, but collected less than the legal fees. She wasn’t interested in the money, only the truth being told. Loved getting to know her better with Gage and Razzi 🙂
Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber (also known as Heather Blake) is the 4th in the Lucy Valentine series. As much as I love Lucy and her psychic abilities AND her first 3 books, this one just had too many psychics running around. There were 5 Boston psychic in this one competing/helping Lucy and the arsons involving Sean’s past made this one a disappointment. I’m hoping the 5th and final one brings everything to a happy conclusion.
In honor of Easter I read this little gift book by Joyce Meyer, The Power of Being Positive: Enjoying God Forever. Each page had a verse from the Bible and thoughts on how it affects your life. It dressed how important it is to fill your mind and heart with positivity because that’s what God wants. That part of the message worked for me, a few of the other things not so much. It was a quick read.

Finishing Up March Reading

Since my last book update I’ve finished 5 books. The first three in a romantic mystery series, one fiction, and one kid non-fiction. Obviously, I’m loving the Lucy Valentine series and expect I’ll finish up the last two soon, while I’ve still got my mom’s Kindle.

Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

So much fun! The Valentine family has been able to read auras for generations. They turned this secret ability into a very successful Boston matchmaking service. Lucy must take the lead, but her secret ability has nothing to do with auras.

There’s a missing toddler and a skeleton buried in a shallow grave in the woods and Lucy can see them both. Enter a sexy firefighter, a meddling grandmother, two best friends, a three legged cat, and new hamster and you’ve got the makings of a fun mystery.

Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber

I read the second book of the Lucy Valentine series sooner rather than later even if it meant reading on a device – which. I HATE. But, even that couldn’t ruin it. Lucy and her merry group of family, friends, and foes were back and I was happy to spend time with them. Oh, and the sexy firefighter/PI was back too. Certainly can’t forget him!

Lucy now has her own division of her family matchmaking company, finding lost lives. She’s also helping the police on cases if she can using her special ability of being able to shake a person’s hand and locate what they’ve lost. One case from each of these, along with a myriad of other personal issues keep this book hopping. Lucy can accomplish a lot in a day!

There was no let down with this second book. The first few chapters were skimmable because they were full of info from the first book, but maybe only to me since I just read the first book two days ago.

I love all of the characters, and there are plenty, and how much each one is integral to her daily life. I don’t think Lucy would have done so well in Covid lockdown. Maybe that’s why it’s extra fun to read about her now.

Absolutely, Positively by Heather Webber

The third of the Lucy Valentine series didn’t disappoint. I love the kind-hearted, special powers to save the world, Lucy. Her family, friends, and various cohorts are always a hoot. This time she’s helping the police find a missing man who may have committed suicide and also trying to find a lost love for a client that puts her in the crosshairs of the FBI. Oh, and there’s a Lone Ranger who comes along every few days to shower the city of Boston with thousands in $20 bills.

The sexy boyfriend has a heart condition that keeps the story grounded, but even that storyline pulls at the heartstrings instead of bringing you down.

Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts by Leah Tinari

This came up in a search for another book at the library and I was intrigued enough to check it out. I love the included backstory of how this book project began. Her son was interested in the presidents, so she began researching and drawing their portraits for him. She became frustrated and galvanized after drawing 44 portraits of men. Hence this book.

I loved this book! There’s a quote for each woman and a portrait full of information. There is also a follow up at the end listing all of the women, when they lived, and a powerful moment. This is inspired art and I only wish it had been longer!

The first portrait she did was the one on the cover, Carrie Fisher. Some others included are Yuri Kochiyama, Dian Fossey, Shirley Muldowney, Betsey Johnson, and Abby Wambach. I learned about some new women and spent time on Google finding out more.

Always the Last To Know by Kristan Higgins

I love Kristan Higgins. I’ve read about half of her books and am always entertained with laughs and heart. She has a light touch, wicked sense of humor and great characters. Unfortunately, for the first time, I found it hard to generate any excitement for this one. The only reason I buckled down and finished listening last night was because it was Higgins.

The Frost family is in turmoil. The head of the family has had a stroke, something his wife finds out on the day she plans to divorce him. As he lies in the hospital, she discovers he’s been having an affair. Their oldest, perfect daughter is going through a midlife crisis professionally and personally and their youngest daughter just got down in one knee to propose to her boyfriend of two years. He said no.

I couldn’t have cared less about them, even actively disliking most of them at any given time. I’m hoping this was just a one time thing from this reliable author. And, hey, I’m sure some people loved it 😁. I did love the multi person audio performance.

Long Time Coming by Sandra Brown

Title: Long Time Coming, Author: Sandra Brown Long Time Coming. Finished 6-1-20, 1.5/5 stars, romance, pub. 1988

Unabridged audio

He arrived out of the blue—a flesh-and-blood phantom from the past in a sports car as sleek and sexy as Law Kincaid himself. The world-famous astronaut was as devastatingly attractive as the first time Marnie Hibbs had laid eyes on him, seventeen years before. But she well knew the perils of falling for a ladies’ man like Law. And this time she had someone besides herself to protect. Law is determined to discover who is sending him anonymous letters claiming he’d fathered a son he knows nothing about. Showing up at the Hibbs’s return address from the letters seemed like a step in the right direction. Marnie swears she isn’t the guilty party, but when Law meets her son, it’s like a one-two punch to his solar plexus. The boy is nearly the spitting image of Law. Law can’t remember sleeping with Marnie—then again, he can’t remember much about his crazy past. But there’s more to it than that: Marnie claims the boy isn’t biologically hers.

As the tension between them becomes unbearable and the attraction undeniable, Marnie is forced to reveal a long-held secret…one that might cause her to lose both the boy she loves more than anyone—and the man she desires more than anything.    from Goodreads

My teen years, such as the year this was written, were filled with romances.  I loved those short teen romances, then the romantic suspense, and finally the historical romance.  I remember reading Sandra Brown’s romances and liking them even though she wasn’t a favorite.  So, what’s changed?  We have.  As a society we’ve largely moved from accepting these sexist relationship views.  Trust me, I still see plenty of it, but there’s no denying that things that changed for the better.  I can still read an 80’s romance and enjoy it, but this is not one of them.  The two main characters are weak and reprehensible.  I’m considering trying some of my old 80’s faves (McNaught, Deveraux, Joyce) to see what I think now.  Hopefully they will fare better than this one.

 

 

 

Just Who Will You Be? by Maria Shriver

Title: Just Who Will You Be?: Big Question. Little Book. Answer Within., Author: Maria Shriver Just Who Will You Be? Finished 8-3-19, 2.5/5 stars, 112 pages. pub. 2008

“I’ve learned that asking ourselves not just what we want to be, but who we want to be is important at every stage of our lives, not just when we’re starting out in the world. That’s because in a way, we’re starting out fresh in the world every single day.” Just Who Will You Be is a candid, heartfelt, and inspirational book for seekers of all ages. Inspired by a speech she gave, Maria Shriver’s message is that what you do in your life isn’t what matters. It’s who you are. It’s an important lesson that will appeal to anyone of any age looking for a life of meaning. In her own life, Shriver always walked straight down her own distinctive path, achieving her childhood goal of becoming “award-winning network newswoman Maria Shriver”. But when her husband was elected California’s Governor and she suddenly had to leave her job at NBC News, Maria was thrown for a loop. Right about then, her nephew asked her to speak at his high school graduation. She resisted, wondering how she could possibly give advice to kids, when she was feeling so lost herself. But in the end she relented and decided to dig down and dig deep, and the result is this little jewel. Just Who Will You Be Reminds us that the answer to many of life’s question lie within — and that we’re all works in progress. That means it’s nevertoo late to become the person you want to be. Now the question for you is this: Just who will you be?  from Goodreads

Shriver struggled with why her nephew’s school wanted her to give the graduation speech and her ruminations on it were off putting to me.  After she tries on many reasons she settles on her ‘celebrity’.  She goes on to share parts of her life (she’s still married to Arnold at this point) and this book felt just as much a therapy exercise as an uplifting graduation speech.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it was a little short to do both well.

 

6 mini-reviews from my 30 day challenge

Title: The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks, Author: Bruce BartlettThe Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett. Finished 9-2-18, 4/5 stars, current affairs/reference, pub. 2017.

It’s only 136 pages and reads fast.  I assumed by the title that this was about Trump and his loose grasp of the truth so I was surprised when I realized it was written by a Republican who had worked for both Reagan and the first Bush.  This is a nonpartisan book and it was good.  He touches on many things…why the traditional media no longer serves our needs, differences between primary and secondary sources, trusting academic sources, using your local libraries, numbers must be put into context, polling, using Wikipedia, fake news, and more.

“President Trump has used the term (fake news) as an accusation against news organizations reporting accurate news that he doesn’t like.” (emphasis mine)  The book isn’t about Trump, but he is mentioned when talking about his obsession with what he calls fake news.  Bartlett gives a list of credible sources and gives you tips on how to not fall for the lies.

“In the end, the best defenses against fake news are critical thinking; taking in news from a variety of sources, including those that don’t confirm your own biases; being skeptical about information that sounds too good (or bad) to be true; and other self-defenses.” page 126

I think everyone should read this book.  It’s short enough and provides great historical context and sources.  If in doubt, go to your library.  They can show you what resources they have to help you.


Title: ScandiKitchen: The Essence of Hygge, Author: Bronte AurellScandikitchen:The Essence of Hygge by Bronte Aurell. Finished 9-3-18, 4/5 stars, culture, pub. 2017

I chose this as I was browsing library books for short books (this one clocks in at 160) and saw that it was about something that I was completely clueless about.  It’s a Scandinavian term that suddenly hit the mainstream in the past few years. It’s all about being present in the moment, a perfect companion to my love of mindfulness.  It included great quotes from the likes of Gandhi, Epicurus, and Julia Child.  It is beautifully done with quality paper and gorgeous photographs.  The recipes she included look so yummy I’m to try a few (gluten & dairy free adapted, of course).  The small square size makes it a perfect book to give as a gift – maybe even to yourself!  I have at least one person in mind who will be getting it for Christmas 🙂 It’s about something real and important and inspiring.


Title: Wishful Drinking, Author: Carrie FisherWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. Finished 9-5-18, 5/5 stars, memoir, 163 pages, pub. 2008

What a hoot!  I loved her snark and stories and our shared love of Cary Grant.  This is a memoir, complete with pictures of her life growing up with famous parents (she calls them the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston of their day).  Considering that she also married someone famous, expect lots of people you know.  I won’t say name dropping, because this just felt like her life and it all seemed relevant.  I know she also wrote novels and I may have to add them to my reading list because I enjoy her writing and sense of humor so much.


Title: The Joy of Cookies: Cookie Monster's Guide to Life, Author: Cookie MonsterCookie Monster’s Guide to Life. Finished 9-5-18, 2/5 stars, humor, pub. 2018

Today after school Gage and I read a book together. I found Cookie Monster’s Guide to Life The Joy of Cookies in the 818 section of the library.  Really?  The high ratings on Goodreads make me think I missed something, but as I page back through the 160 pages of Cookie Monster screaming about cookies, I think maybe they got it wrong.  Well, anyway, G laughed a lot when I did the Cookie Monster voice and he even tried it out himself when he read, but he’s a kid.  This book was in the adult section.  I don’t get it.


Title: God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God, Author: Jennifer BerneGod: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God by Jennifer Berne. Finished 9-10-18, 3/5 stars, pub. 2017

Quite a mix of believers in math and science mixed in with those who embrace the unknowable.  I returned the book to the library this morning or I’d offer a few quotes.  Illustrations for every quote.


Cleveland A to Z: Historical Essentials for Newcomers and Residents in Northeastern OhioCleveland A-Z by John J Grabowski. Finished 9-7-18, 5/5 stars, local history, pub.2017

Perfect for new Clevelanders and old.  A fun pictorial history lesson for the storied city of Cleveland.