I’m still not home, but I don’t want to get too far behind in recording my thoughts and favorites, however brief this may be. I read 32 books in February. Picture books 8 (5 non-fiction, 3 fiction), Fiction 4, Plays 3, Thrillers 3, Non-fiction 3, Kids fiction 3, Kids non-fiction 3, Historical romances 2, Memoir 1, Short stories 1, YA 1.
My top 5 books of the month- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Kindred by Octavia Butler, Fences by August Wilson, and The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. So much goodness in all of these!
In March for Women’s History Month I’ll be changing the theme to Women I Have History With Month and reading books by some of my favorite women authors.
To finish up my February recaps of authors of color, here are my last seven.
Kindred is one of those books that was about more than it first appeared to be. Dana found herself transported from 1970s California to 1815 Maryland at any time with no control over when or if it will happen. What is a time travel tale becomes a examination on the making of a slave. Don’t miss it.
A Raisin In the Sun is one of those classics that has passed be by until now. I loved this play and look forward to checking out the movie about the Younger family of South Side Chicago.
Toni Morrison never disappoints and I was drawn into the lives of the Money brother and sister as they navigated post war and post abuse life.
A strange and compelling Nigerian thriller. Love this cover!
A fun read with Gage as we learned more about the legend.
I liked this book about civil rights legend Rosa Parks, but wish there had been more. It felt a little incomplete. I adored the illustrations though.
This was a fun read with Gage. Lots of it went over his head (but I laughed) and much of it was too silly for words (and he laughed) so it had a little something for both of us.
We have just finished week two of our retreat to a Tennessee lake house with still more than a week to go. We were on the edge of the polar vortex mess that crippled much of the country so our time here hasn’t been what I’d hoped. I also fell on the icy road and my head bounced off the ground 🙁 (I’m fine). But, this is why we chose this place…
Even during all of the snow and freezing temps this was the sunset from our deck a few days ago. We are too isolated for this city girl (seriously, the roads were impassable until today) but this view is one I could get used to taking in for quite a while.
I’m still homeschooling and Jason is still working and we’ve got no complaints. Well, except that I haven’t been able to access my Google account and that means I can’t comment on a lot of your blogs when I visit, but know that I am visiting! I have to do this on our iPad which I’m finding to be a bit of a pain.
The books I’ve finished since my last update in the order I liked them, but there really wasn’t a dud in the lot of them. 3 picture books, 2 kids books, 2 non-fiction, 1 thriller, 1 historical romance, 1 play, 1 novel, 1 short story collection, and 1 young adult.
If you somehow missed this beautifully brutal book about 14 year old Esch and her family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, do yourself a favor and find a copy. Be warned that there is a gruesome dog fighting scene that will likely disturb most.
Another one that took me too long to read. This is a must read for everyone. Justice isn’t blind and there are angels among us fighting the good fight. Powerful book.
Gage and I read this together and I’d love to be able to take him to see the memorial that a middle school created to honor the victims of the Holocaust. There are videos on YouTube if you’re curious.
My first Beverly Jenkins romance but not my last! Loved the post Civil War Wyoming setting and the wildly independent Spring Lee.
A sad but very powerful picture book about kindness.
Slavery from the mouths of slaves. This award winner compiles compelling first hand accounts from slaves before, during, and after the Civil War and provides context.
A great picture book about the life of playwright August Wilson. For the older elementary crowd. He earned a diploma from a library, need I say more?
I loved this picture book about a minister who started with bringing in a few boys from the cold and ended up starting an orphanage and founding a world renowned band. Inspiring.
These are such great books to read together, especially since Gage is more interested in non-fiction. He’s making me way smarter 😁
I’m not a big short story fan, but I really liked this collection of eight stories about the Haitian American experience.
This was a quiet story of generational family relationships.
After loving Fences so much I thought I’d try another from Wilson’s Century Collection. I’m guessing that I’ll be reading the last eight before the year is out. I wish I’d started with the first and read them in order since they each represent a decade of the 1900s, this one being the 1940s contribution.
This was another entry into the stranded island mystery genre with more than a few shades of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fun thriller.
It’s already the 10th and I haven’t told you what I’ve been reading. We’ve ‘moved’ to a house on a lake in Tennessee for a bit, so that took some strategic planning since Jason is still working and I’m still homeschooling Gage. I’ve amazed myself that I have, on day 40, been able to keep up with my book a day challenge. The weight loss, not as much success, but I’m not giving up on that. I’m sure I’ll post more details about our getaway at some point, but for now I’ll just talk books 😀
4 picture books, 2 kids books, 2 non-fiction, 1 thriller, 1 Young adult, 1 historical romance, 1 screenplay. Yes, some days I read two because I committed to reading a book by or about a person of color this month, an additional challenge I’m finding rewarding.
The idea is that I post this list on Saturdays, but yesterday I spent all day sorting, moving, selling (online), organizing, and then stacking 30 boxes of books for our Friends group. I. was. beat. It was a good workout day though 🙂
Here’s what I read this week in the order that I enjoyed them. Pictures and thoughts taken from my Instagram.
Lots of picture books, 2 audio books, on e-book, and two actual paper books (my favorite). Three mysteries, and 4 non-fiction kids books (one adult too).
We used this book for poetry reading and cursive practice for the last week. We read a few poems a day, so we were able to stretch the 23 poems out.
I adored the fun poems and the beautiful illustrations. It’s nice when a kid can see the joy and even laughs a poem can bring when the words and pictures were so cleverly put together. This books is for the younger child about the excitement reading can bring. We read the companion, and just as wonderful, Write! Write! Write! last fall.
Jill of Rhapsody in Books sent Gage this gorgeous Brian Wildsmith book. It was so much fun to read together and definitely a keeper because of animal illustrations. Thank you Jill!
I also finished the audio The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas, the third in the Lady Sherlock series. I’ve loved this series from the start and this book brings the wide range of characters together for a very personal investigation as Charlotte dons a Mr. Sherlock disguise to help save Lord Ingram from conviction. So many moving parts from one book to the next that I sometimes have a hard time keeping up, but do enjoy these characters so much.
I really enjoyed this cozy mystery set in WWI England.
Fiona Figg is still struggling to get over her ex-husband’s betrayal when she is given the unexpected opportunity to become a spy, at least for a short time. The only catch is that she must pretend to be a man. Obvious and not so obvious difficulties ensue. There is a murder and some suspect her, er, him.
The end has a bit of a cliffhanger and I’ve already downloaded the next Fiona Figg book!
We read 3 lovely picture books during our South Carolina studies. I’m starting with the one I think all parents should check out for their child, especially if you’re going to talk about Black History Month in February. The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out Of Slavery by Jehan Jones-Radgowski and illustrated by Poppy Kang was a great story. It’s a wordy but thrilling book about Robert’s almost fantastical escape from slavery during the Civil War. How could I never have heard this story before? Amazing man and an edge of your seat escape that will amaze your kids (and you!). He saved himself, his family and his small crew and their families. He went on to become the first black captain of a US military ship and later a US Congressman.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’s Fleet-Of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid, illustrated by Laura Freeman would also fit into Black History Month studies. Althea became the first African American person to win a tennis Grand Slam and then went on to keep winning them during a time when most things were still segregated, even tennis clubs. An easier read than the first and and important story too.
And who doesn’t live an elepephant? Bubbles:An Elephant’s Story by Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle about the Myrtle Beach Safari was so sweet and fun. The pictures of Bubbles and his friends were fun reading, even/especially for the younger set. Gage and I both fell in love with animal ambassador and so will you. The picture are swoon worthy.
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a great little read. At only 144 pages it can be read during one sitting and it still manages to pack a punch.
Written in 5 sections, each one from a different point of view (mother, daughter, son, family, father) it tells of the treatment of Japanese Americans from right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the years of internment after. It’s both a little boring and heartbreaking (imagine being a kid being transported across country by train when you had to pull down the blinds as you went through towns). I found the most powerful section when they returned home after 3 years and 5 months. It would be over 4 years before the father was released from a different camp and by then he had gone a little mad.
An important read about a dark time in our nation’s history.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley was a Reece’s Book Club selection and the 2020 Goodreads Best Mystery & Thriller winner. It’s set in Ireland, a win for me, and since I listened I was able to enjoy the multitude of accents by the narrators, another win. It’s setting on a remote island only accessible by boat had the feel of having been done before, but it still worked.
The story is told in alternating voices. There’s the bride, the groom, the best man, the bridesmaid, the plus one, and the wedding planner. There are lots of reveals and twists with some going back and forth between past and present and it made a compelling thriller. The tension built the way a good thriller should, but for me, it fell a little bit flat in the end. I still liked it well enough to recommend to mystery lovers, especially those who embrace unlikeable characters.
I had set aside this 65 page travel memoir for a day when I didn’t have a lot of time to spare. I’m happy to report that Diana Athill’s A Florence Diary was a delightful little transport back in time. Italy was our first overseas trip and I still remember our 3 days in Florence almost 12 years later. This book was just as much about Athill’s journey with her cousin from England to Italy as it was their time spent there. Learning about the 1947 boat and train experience and the people they met along the way was half the fun.
This was a charming little read if you want to travel to Florence and see it through the eyes of someone who experienced it over 70 years ago. There were some black and white photos mixed in with her thoughts. A nice little read to end the day.
Yes, this the mug I brought home from Italy and I use it all the time ☕️
Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality by James Buckley Jr. and Youneek Studios is a graphic novel that taught me a few things. It’s for kids and it’s ‘narrated’ by a young Lady Liberty and a young Uncle Sam. I found their narration a little off putting, but probably necessary for the younger set. I liked that they used different color balloons to differentiate between story and actual quotes. There were lots of quotes from his speeches and parts of his letters were included.
I learned a few things or maybe I had just forgotten that he was ‘little Mikey’ at birth until his father changed both of their names. I don’t remember learning that he skipped three grades. I was reading this in the family room and sharing interesting facts and when I got to that point Gage emphatically told me that he wasn’t interested in skipping to 7th grade.
He was a man who rose to meet the challenges of the day and we are all better off, even if we as a country tend to take two steps forward and one step back. “The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
May we always strive to work toward equality. May we always strive for non-violence. May we always strive to put more love into the world so that it overpowers the hate.
What I said about the book… I’ll be watching the movie later this week, but it’s going to have a high bar. This book was wonderful. ❤️
Augustine is an old man stranded at an outpost in the icy north. All of the other researchers were evacuated due to ‘rumors of war’ and there’s been radio silence for over a year. Sully is part of a crew on a two year mission to Jupiter when, just as they begin their journey back to Earth, they lose communication. Their stories, told in alternating chapters, intersect.
It would be doing it a disservice to label it as sci-fi or dystopian and leave it at that. This is a quiet, contemplative book with just enough tension to make you want to keep reading. It’s a book about survival, not just of the body and planet but of the mind and the human spirit.
What I said about the movie…No. No. No. After reading Good Morning, Midnight and loving it, this George Clooney Netflix movie adaptation felt all kinds of wrong. There was a Sully, hurtling back to Earth, and an Augustine, isolated on ice. But everything that made the book so wonderful, it’s quiet look at the meaning of life among other things, was lost in translation.
I learned a lot about Ted. He wasn’t a serious student and a disappointment to his father. Drawing ads was how he made his living after college. He made movies for the Army during WWII and eventually even won two Oscars. He had college friends who gave him an introduction to the publishing world and he never looked back. Each of his most famous books were explained from the beginning of the idea to how the story was received. That was this book nerds favorite part.
I never know what Gage’s takeaway will be from these longer, around 100 page, books so I was happy when I heard the first thing he told his dad. “Dad, did you know Dr. Seuss was voted Least Likely to Succeed?” His first takeaway was that what labels people place on you have no impact on what your life will become. I’d be okay if that’s the only thing he learned (but it wasn’t 😁)
My Buckeyes may have lost is resounding fashion, but the book of the day, Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares was a good one.
We started learning about Maryland this week so we read this 40 page picture book of one of their most famous citizens. Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares was a great read. As someone who knows very little about baseball and it’s players beyond the names, this helped me see George beyond the Babe. He was sent to live at a reform/orphanage at 7 years old, even though he had two parents and a little sister. The people in that school became his family and he never forgot them.
Great story and illustrations make this a fun read for kids and their parents 😁
Glory in Death is book 2 😂. J.D.Robb (or Nora Roberts or the uninitiated) knows how to write a good mystery with hot chemistry between her two main characters and this series has the added bonus of being set in the future.
What does police detective Eve Dallas do when prominent women start getting their throats slashed? Why make herself more prominent, of course! This isn’t hard to do since her bedmate is one of the wealthiest, hottest, most famous men on this planet (or any other).
I figured out the killer by halfway through, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. Robb/Roberts knows how to keep you turning the pages.
Reacher makes a pit stop in Nebraska and leaves death and justice in his wake.
Jack Reacher is one of those heroes that both satisfies and shocks. He’s a drifter, who always seems to find trouble wherever he goes, or it finds him, and his complicated moral code and stubbornness make stepping away impossible for him. He’s violent, but he’s also trying to right wrongs, so you want to cut him some slack.
Tornado was a perfect sized book to take turns reading to each other in one sitting, 47 pages with a few pages of illustrations. Tornado was a black dog who was in his dog house when it was picked up by a tornado and flown to another yard. There are stories within stories, each told in first person, so I had to keep making sure Gage knew who was talking, but it was otherwise an easy to read book with an old fashioned feel. There were even a few pages where Gage was trying not to cry as he read, so the story drew us in.
I have no idea if this will be the way I do this in the future, but I do want to have all the books I read this year listed so we’ll try this. It’s the 9th and I’ve reads 9 books, woo hoo! I’m going to list the book in the order I liked them and include some of my thoughts about them. Let me know what you thought if you read any of these.
The Falconer by Elaine Clark McCarthy is a hidden gem. Published in 1996 at only 134 pages it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours, entrapped in the words of a poet. It was beautiful, odd, tragic.
After I finished the book I told Jason I had to sit with it for a bit before we watched something together (we eventually watched the finale of Bridgerton). Not only was I caught up in the story and the beautiful way it was told, but the ending elevated it and I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.
India has just found out she has cancer and has maybe six months to live, so you know from the get go that this will likely not end well. It’s a book about living, death, the afterlife, passion and what our life choices look like when we know the end is near.
Will also appeal to anyone interested in falconry.
It’s a Remix of the National Book Award-winning ‘Stamped from the Beginning’. Kendi wrote a book about racism, from inception to current day and Reynolds made it easily accessible to teens in about half the number of pages.
Reynolds has a very conversational writing style that makes it all interesting and easy to digest. The complexity of some of the civil rights icons of the past is fascinating. Are you a segregationalist, assimilationist, or an antiracist? Turns out that some of these leaders were more than one at different points in their lives. I learned a lot and also was able to see different points in history in a new way. I think this is a must read starting point for teens.
What an inspirational listen. The woman was a force and women everywhere lost one of their biggest champions when she died last fall.
The book was a series of conversations between friends, some of which were in front of audiences. I especially liked the end where there was a real clip from a talk given, so you can hear her voice and the applause she received when she was done speaking. Some of the conversations overlapped or covered some of the same thoughts more than once, but her thoughts on a multitude of court cases, the Supreme Court when she joined and today, and how she viewed the future, left me sad all over again that we lost such a voice for women and all the disenfranchised. We were lucky to have her. Loved this audiobook.
David Breithaupt was hired as Kenyon College Library’s part-time supervisor after a decade spent in NYC working around books and writers. At Kenyon he managed to walk out the door with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of, sometimes rare and irreplaceable, books. He treated the library like his own personal candy store for a decade. He was finally found out when someone recognized something Breithaupt was trying to sell on eBay and contacted the school.
I enjoyed this story for many reasons but having many parts of it take place so close to where I grew up was my favorite. If you have any interest is learning a little about how college libraries work or true crime then this is a winner.
This is a monster sized book (480 pages) with a lot and subsequently not much going on. Evie’s childhood in the hills of the Adirondacks was full of angst and self-reliance. She managed to get out, even making a life and family in Paris, but her past became her present when her daughter got sick and she had to go back home.
I liked the story, but it felt really bogged down with the addition of so many characters. I would have liked it a lot better if it had been 100 pages shorter. I actually started this book last summer, put it down because my pleasure reading took a back seat to homeschool. I’m glad I finished it because the second half was better than the first.
The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward by Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates is 40 pages and a nice introduction to the Kennedy’s for the older picture book set. I’m not sure why Joe isn’t in the title since he gets his own section and is part of the storytelling (this bothers me more than it should). The book isn’t perfect but it does explain each of the four brothers and what they believed in. It really gave me the opportunity to expand on the book with more information as we read. When each brother died it showed the rest mourning, counting down until there was only Teddy (Edward). So, its not your light, upbeat kids book, you could feel the tragedies this family suffered as its 3 oldest sons were killed.
Barnum was a prankster and always ready to exchange truth for a great story. He was born with privilege since his grandfather was a important man able to provide Taylor (PT) with his first businesses. And there were many before he finally found his true calling.
This book was fun and full of Barnum’s biggest successes and failures. It was also interesting to learn a little more about his political life in his later years. A good, quickish read for anyone who loved the movie.
It was a cross between Mean Girls and Strangers on a Train. I like psychological thrillers, but this one failed to grab me. Shay was a sympathetic character, mostly, but the reveal at the end didn’t really wow enough for me to love it.
he author calls this story reality fiction. It’s based on an actual documented huckleberry party. Thoreau is joined by three children, two of them based on children who wrote about their experiences later and one based on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s son. Thoreau and Emerson helped me fall in love with transcendental writing so I love that these characters and story were based on real people and event.
The story might be a little slow for smaller kids but older elementary kids will get something out of it, especially the nature lovers! And the illustrations were perfect.
Rising Hollywood star Mia Emerson is looking for a safe place to land in the wake of a public breakup and scandal, and she finds it in the lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina—the location of her canceled honeymoon. She wants nothing more than to hide and wait for the tabloids to die down.
Soon after her arrival at the Bluebell Inn, Mia meets Levi Bennett, who runs the inn along with his two younger sisters. Drawn to one another from the start, Mia trusts Levi to keep her location from the press, and Levi confides in Mia about the financial state of the inn—a secret he’s been keeping from his sisters.
When Mia and Levi discover an old journal that hints at a rare diamond necklace hidden in the inn, they set off on a treasure hunt to find the long-lost heirloom. What they don’t expect to surface are feelings they thought were safely locked away. Mia and Levi must decide if falling in love again is too big a risk—or if it will uncover a treasure of its own instead. from Goodreads
This is a Hallmark movie time of year and this book will fit right in with those plans. It’s all the things you find in the Christmas movies without the Christmas. Mia escapes from the big, bad city (Los Angeles) to hid away in a sweet small town, Carolina inn. The inn is owned and run by three siblings (each having their own book in this trilogy) and Mia falls for the brother. Since she’s beautiful, famous, rich, and sweet, he can’t help but fall for her too.
I liked this one and it was exactly what I needed around stressful election time. There’s a bit of a mystery and some real relationship and personal growth issues to deal with, but in the end you knew everything was going to be okay. Which is what we all need to feel this year especially.
I didn’t read the first or last of the trilogy, but didn’t feel like I was missing much. This works as a standalone. It also serves as a cautionary tale if you are even considering taking over an inn.
Suicide bombers are easy to spot. They give out all kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they’re nervous. By definition they’re all first-timers.
There are twelve things to look for: No one who has worked in law enforcement will ever forget them.
New York City. The subway, two o’clock in the morning. Jack Reacher studies his fellow passengers. Four are OK. The fifth isn’t.
The train brakes for Grand Central Station. Will Reacher intervene, and save lives? Or is he wrong? Will his intervention cost lives – including his own? from Goodreads
I’m a Reacher fan and I loved the hook. He identified a suicide bomber but tragedy still struck. What came after was a war-time backstory and a senator ready to run for President. I listened to this one and there were some very disturbing images that will be stuck in my mind forever and I’m not happy about it. This was not even close to being a favorite even with the subway scene and NYC and Washington DC setting.
Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.
In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.
Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface. from Goodreads
This covers a few touchy subjects. What kind of woman might murder her own children? Shouldn’t the fake men and women of faith that appear on infomercials be held accountable for milking money out of trusting souls? Why do seemingly good men fall for the women who will most likely ruin their lives? How far would a friend go to look out for your interests?
I liked Linda, the captain who couldn’t get murdered children out of her mind while the killer still ran free. I hated the woman she was after, just like I was supposed to do. Most of the book was about a good man falling prey to a devious woman and becoming a man who lost his moral code. It was hard to read in that respect. I liked getting to know a few of the people directly affected by his ministry and thought that was well done.
It’s hard to say I liked it, because there was so much evil compromising people of faith. But it was a read that was hard to put down after about halfway through and the killer was one that will be hard to forget. A well done first novel.
The Princess Plan. Finished 7-1-20, 3.5/5, historical romance, pub. 2019
Book 1 of A Royal Wedding series
Nothing gets the tongues of London’s high society wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater interest in Eliza.
With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart. from Goodreads
Eliza had been rebuffed by society because when she was young she dared to believe a gentleman and his honorable intentions toward her. She now helped her blind father, a judge, and liked to fix clocks. I liked her independent spirit. Prince Sebastian was on his way through town to finalize a trade deal and find a wife. He was entitled and Eliza let him know it. His best friend is murdered and no one seems all that interested in finding out who did it except for him and then Eliza.
As I said, I liked Eliza and am happy that she got her happy ending. I thought mystery moved the story along and Sebastian was a fine enough hero. It was missing something for me, but it was an enjoyable listen during these stressful times.