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.

An okay reading and movie week

When I set my book a day goal at the beginning of the year I knew I had to add in some days that would fit in with family life, so I decided to okay movies based on books (preferably ones I read or planned to read). We’re closing in on the halfway point of the year and this week I watched movies 6 & 7. Hopefully, I’ll get a comparison of one of them done next week.

For July, I’ve signed up for Thyme for Tea’s Paris in July event. I hope to add as much reading and movie watching set in Paris as I possibly can. I’ll even see if I can find some pics from our France trip 10 years ago.

This week I watched 2 movies, read 2 non-fiction, 1 fiction, 1 kids nonfiction, 1 picture book fiction, 1 picture book nonfiction. Here they are listed in the order I liked them best. I’ve already read and reviewed Indestructible: The Hidden Gift of Trauma by Krista Nerestant here.

The Hate U Give, 2018, based on the novel by Angie Thomas, 2017

Starr (played by Amandla Stenberg) has a loving family and lives in a neighborhood riddled with violence. At ten she watched her best friend get gunned down and she’s about to witness the same thing, only this time it’s a policeman who does the shooting.

It was a great book and a good movie, written before George Floyd changed the protest landscape. This one is worth reading and watching. I loved watching Russell Hornsby as Mav the most.

Our Souls At Night, 2017, based on the novel by Ken Haruf, 2015

The movie starred Jane Fonda and Robert Redford as two lonely neighbors who tried something scandalous to get through the nights. It was pretty faithful to the book until close to the end and I thought the changes they made actually made more sense! It’s a quiet movie and nice to see a story featuring older folks.

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Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan, 2016, 56 pages, 4 stars

The celebrated author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, came into possession of a bill of sale, where slaves were listed (not by name) alongside cattle and crop. He imagined the lives of each of these 11 slaves and what their hopes and dreams may have looked like. A powerful picture book.

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1618.The_Curious_Incident_of_the_Dog_in_the_Night_TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, 2013, 226 pages, 4 stars

I finally read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I need to take some time to process. As many of you know Gage is on the spectrum, so my feelings are mixed. I recognized so many Gage behaviors, but am not sure the author was doing justice to the main character, 15 year old Christopher. It was nice to have autism front and center, but I hope all who read it understand that it’s fiction and not representative.

Told in the first person, Christopher lives with his father after his mother died and goes to a special school with an aide during the day. When a neighbor’s dog is murdered Christopher decides to find the killer. What he finds is much more than that, of course.

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So You Want To Be A Knight?, 2021, 96 pages, 4 stars

The good stuff- ➕everything your kid would want to know about how to become a knight is in here. ➕each spread of the 90 pages book is a different topic. ❤️ the instructions on making your own coat of arms. ❤️ the quiz on which order you should seek out based on your personality (I got Order of the Round Table)

The stuff I didn’t love 🤪 there was a lot to take in visually and the first few pages were confusing. It got better as the book went on. 😩 also there were some violently drawn cartoons that I could have done without even though I know knights are violent.

Gage didn’t want to read this straight through, but he did enjoy exploring the pages a few at time. I did read it straight through and liked all of the details. I feel so much smarter 😁

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Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson and Bryan Collier, 2007, 3.5 stars

Johnson wrote this song in 1900 to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and it has become known as the African American national anthem. Collier put beautiful artwork to the words.

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Expect A Miracle: A Mother and Son Asperger Journey of Determination and Triumph, 2014, 356 pages, 3.5 stars

Note: There is a second edition with additional chapters.

I met David Petrovic when he came to talk at Gage’s school a few years ago. He’s local, he has Aspergers, and he’s thriving. I just read a recent article that he’s now earned a Master’s Degree, is working as a middle school teacher, and living in his own.. This journey toward success is painstakingly detailed in this book by his mother and David from the time he was a baby through his second year of college.

Sandy breaks up the years and tells of each of his challenges, what interventions they used, and what insight she gained. Then David took his turn giving his perspective.

This isn’t a how-to or even a true memoir, but instead a true look at what goes into the day to day of helping a person living on the spectrum shine. Some of it was repetitive, but it was inspirational. Both mom and son worked tirelessly and optimistically so that David could live his best life. Hats off to both of them.

Have you read any of these?

Indestructible: The Hidden Gifts of Trauma by Krista Nerestant

Indestructible by Krista Nerestant

Welcome to Krista Nerestant’s journey from the other side of the globe-the islands of the Philippines-to the United States of America. Indestructible is where she shares the hidden gifts of trauma that have empowered her to not only survive but also thrive in a life most would have given up on. Krista was a traumatized overachiever bound by the cultural and societal limitations of her home country. But coming out as a spiritual medium exposed the many resources she had in her arsenal, inspiring her to embark on a healing journey. In Indestructible, she shares how she learned to extract life-healing lessons while overcoming a violent past, with the hope of inspiring and teaching survivors to approach personal wounds as a gateway to unleashing their self-actualization. Her story will stimulate you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually-but most of all, it will lead you to start your own journey of self-discovery and uncover your very own hidden gifts of trauma.

192 pages, Paperback

I forget why I initially agreed to read this book, but there must have been something in the pitch that appealed to me, because this is not my usual read. Whatever it was that drew me to it was right on point. Krista’s memoir of overcoming horrific abuse at the hands of her father in the Philippines, only to come to America as a teen and experience other kinds of trauma is one that pulls at the heartstrings. She explores the spiritual journey of the human spirit, no matter what it is that is holding us back. She gives hope for a better day, a better year, a better life because everything you need is within your grasp.

Her story is fascinating. Through her stories of childhood and experiences as an adult she shares how compassion and forgiveness are what you need to forge ahead and make a better life for yourself. It was a memoir with self-care strategies to make a more fulfilling life. She is a medium and a life coach and you can find her here.

A solid reading week with a clear winner

I’ve read 8 books since the last update; 2 romantic suspense, 2 kids non-fiction, 2 non-fiction picture books, 1 fiction and and 1 thriller. Drumroll for the winner… it’s the thriller! This has been a thriller/mystery heavy month for me. The good thing about this week’s reading is that there isn’t a stinker in the bunch. They’re all great or at least solid reads.

Listed in the order I liked best with a few sentences of thoughts and description. If you want the daily updates with more details you can follow me on Instagram.

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Final Girls by Riley Sager

This one is about those girls who are the only survivors of a mass murder, final girls. Quincy was partying at Pine Cottage with her friends when the unthinkable happens. Quincy managed to escape with only 3 stab wounds, a Xanax prescription, and a need for a perfectly controlled life. One day, another final girl shows up in her life and suddenly her perfect life turns inside out.

I loved this one.

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Undeniably Yours by Heather Webber

Lucy is a physic who is learning the extent of her skills. She has a loving and unruly family, best friends for life, a collection of animals, and a live-in boyfriend whom she’s madly in love with. The mystery was good, relatable, and complicated.

I’m sorry to see the end of the series with this fifth and final book.

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The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck

This is great southern fiction set in the 1970’s. Ora Lee is an old woman setting the story straight about what really happened back in the day. Racism, rape, and murder kept the story moving, but it’s Ora, a good Christian woman with nothing but love in her heart, realizing her own prejudices that are the moral of the story.

I thought the audio performance was perfection and highly recommend it.

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We Are Explorers by Kari Herbert

I always love reading about bold, passionate women who didn’t/ haven’t let expectations (or even sexist rules) stop them in pursuit of their dreams. A few of the women I’d heard of, like Sacajawea and Nelly Bly, but the most I hadn’t. I loved learning about these 13 women from around the world!

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Zaha Hadid by Ma Isabel Sanchez Vegara

I love this series. I love the choices of people and the illustrations. Zaha Hadid was the first woman and the first Muslim to be awarded the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor.

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Danger in Numbers by Heather Graham

A cult-like, ritualistic murder brings together Amy from the Florida state police and Hunter from the FBI. Hunter, having escaped a cult as a child, has first hand knowledge of the people who have taken over a small Florida town, abusing religion for power (sound familiar?). The ending has me thinking that we’ll be seeing more of this crime fighting duo.

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Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist Mavynee Betsch by Heidi Tyline King

I found the story of American Beach, a beach for all people to come together during the time of segregation an enlightening read. It mentioned that elsewhere a rope in the ocean divided the whites and blacks. It made me incredibly sad that the ugliness of racism could try to ruin something as magnificent as the ocean.

MaVynee’s grandfather purchased the beach and after mother got sick she went home and tried to save the land from development. She became known as the Beach Lady and managed to save the tallest sand dune in Florida. One person CAN make a difference.

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Who Was Henry Ford? by Michael Burgen

Of all the books of this series that we’ve read this has been my least favorite so far. It’s all about cars! 😂. This has to be one of my least favorite topics so getting to the end felt like an accomplishment and it’s only 105 pages.

What have you read lately that I should add to my list?

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 🙂

Finishing up May

As the homeschool year was winding down, I found it harder to focus on reading, so Jason and I watched two bookish movies this week. We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Woman in the Window. I wrote a post comparing the book and movie, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. So, two movies and 9 books to finish up the month.

2 thrillers, 2 fiction, 2 kids non-fiction, 1 non-fiction picture book, 1 kids fiction, and 1 cult classic.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

What a lovely book! I flew through this story about living boldly and making your own second chances. A quiet, spare book with a big heart.

Addie and Louis, both in their 70s and widowed were lonely. One day Addie walks around the block, knocks on his door, and asks Louis if he would like to spend nights in her bed. No funny business, just talk and sleep. He showed up at her house with his pajamas and a toothbrush in a brown paper bag after dark, they drank one glass of wine and a friendship began.

It’s not a love story, it’s a life story. It didn’t end as I expected or even hoped but I loved this book!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived at the Castle by Shirley Jackson

 I loved the narration by Bernadette Dunne. She captured Merricat perfectly.

There’s a village and an estate that rules them all, at least in the mind of Merricat who lives the big house with her older sister Constance and ailing Uncle Julian. The rest of the family had been poisoned six years before and Constance had been acquitted of their murders, but now she never left the estate.

It was ominous and creepy, two things that go well together. I felt a little let down by the ending, but after some reflection and reading a few reviews, I saw things that I had missed initially. It made the story richer, but only after the fact 😁 It would be a fun group read with friends, and at 146 pages it would appeal to non-readers as well.

2034 by Elliot Ackerman
2034 by Eliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis

In 2034 the US has a woman president who isn’t affiliated with a political party. So, right off the bat, things are good, but we barely hear from her. This global conflict is told by military and political personnel from the US, China, Iran, and India.

I really liked getting a taste from the different countries and the four main characters were interesting. Are nuclear weapons in the next world war inevitable? It’s a sobering look at what lies ahead. Written by an ex-Marine and Admiral.

This was a fast, exciting read.

Who Was George Washington Carver? by Jim Gigliotti
Who Was George Washington Carver by Jim Gigliotti

George led an inspiring life. Born into slavery, being left for dead as a baby, taken in and raised by the Carver’s, George left at 13 years old to walk to a town that would teach blacks in school. He lived this way, getting town to town looking for more educational opportunities for much of his young life. He became the first black to graduate from Simpson College and the first college graduate and faculty member at Iowa State.

It was his years at Tuskegee Institute that made him famous and led to awards and accolades. He cared about the earth, the farmer, the food we eat, and doing his best to leave a positive mark on the world. He most certainly did that.

Who Was Milton Bradley? by Kirsten Anderson
Who Was Milton Bradley by Kirsten Anderson

Milton Bradley loved games, as a way to be social (he had dinner parties almost every night), to fill the time (he made special game sets for soldiers during the Civil War), and to teach (he became very involved in the kindergarten movement and toys for teachers).

He was always creating. He also took a nap everyday and shut down the machines in the company so he could do so in quiet 😂. He loves a good nap even more than I do and I’m a huge nap proponent. He worked hard, he played hard, and he stuck up for the things that mattered to him. A great read and one that reinforced our discussion from the movie Soul.

Pie Girl by Ellen Potter
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Pie Girl by Ellen Potter

 This is the fifth in the Piper Green series, Pie Girl. I didn’t know this was part of a series when I requested it from the library, but we enjoyed the 126 page book anyway. Piper lives on an island of the coast of Maine and the ship that comes with the doctor once a year is set to arrive. The town hosts a potluck every year and this is the year she gets the coveted Pie Girl title. She also has a secret fairy tree and the latest gift from the fairies is an eye patch, so she becomes Pirate Pie Girl. Cute story with lovely illustrations for early elementary kids.

Earmuffs for Everyone! by Meghan Mccarthy
Earmuffs for Everyone; How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy

Earmuff For Everyone was how Chester Greenwood became known as the inventor of the earmuff, a parade being held in his hometown every year. Only he didn’t invent them, but did improve upon the design. This is such a great lesson for kids to learn about researching and seeking out the truth. Loved this one.

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

 I listened and read the book. I really liked the narration, but wish they’d had someone else read the story within a story to.make it less confusing. I’m so much looking forward to what everyone has to say about it! This was originally published in Japan in 1994, but only translated to English in 2019.

Things are slowly disappearing from the island. Roses, hats, birds are all being taken away from the inhabitants and the militant Memory Police are ensuring compliance and sniffing out those few who remember everything. Our narrator decides to hide her editor in her home before the Memory Police take him away and kill him, like they did her mother.

Is it dystopian? Sci-fi? A cautionary tale? Surrealist? I found it all of these things. I liked the idea of it and I liked the writing and that was enough for most of the book, but in the end it sort of fell apart for me.

Personal by Lee Child
Personal by Lee Child

Personal, the 19th in the Jack Reacher series, takes us abroad in search of a skilled marksman that Reacher put away many years ago, it who is now taking shots at world leaders.

The book was good, not likely one I’ll remember, but I always enjoy spending time with Reacher.

164 Books This Year

With the 8 books I read this week my total for 2021 stands at 164 books and 3 movies based on books. My reading a book a day this year challenge is successfully chugging along. This week I read 2 non-fiction picture books, 2 fiction, 1 historical romance, 1 thriller, 1 poetry, and 1 kids fiction. I did manage to read 3 new books so that’s an improvement 🙂 Have you read any of these?

Here they are in roughly the order I liked them best. It’s hard to do this since they are so different!

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas
Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas

I read Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas (#2 in the Hathaway series, but I didn’t read the first and still loved this one). A historical romance set in mid 1800s England with a quirky, but proper family who welcomes two Gypsy men into their fold.

This was steamy, but also had an interesting mystery surrounding the two men’s matching tattoos. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue on to the third book. 360 pages.

Dawn by Elie Wiesel
Dawn by Elie Wiesel

Elie Weisel, Holocaust survivor, author, and activist. I read his autobiographical Night 6 years ago and loved it, this is considered the second book in that trilogy although it is fiction.

Elisha, a Holocaust survivor is a Israeli freedom fighter (calling themselves the Movement) in British-controlled Palestine. He has been tasked with executing a British hostage at Dawn. This book takes place from dusk til dawn of that day.

It’s a short, introspective book (100 pages) about war, becoming a murderer, and how we as a society got to this point. So much to unpack and I’m sure I’ll read it again.

“I was beginning to understand. An act as absolute as that of killing involves not only the killer but, as well, those who have formed him.”

“We say that ours is a holy war, that we’re struggling against something and for something, against the English and for an independent Palestine. That’s what we say. But those are words; as such they serve only to give meaning to our actions. And in our actions seen in their true and primitive light, have the odor and color of blood. This is war, we say; we must kill. There are those, like you, who kill with their hands, and others-like me-who kill with their voices. Each to his own. And what else can we do? War has a code, and if you deny this you deny its whole purpose and hand the enemy victory on a silver platter.”

This was written in 1960 and, sadly, felt like it could have been written yesterday. I didn’t read this book to connect with the current conflict, but, man, it sure did hit a little harder because of it.

“War is like night. It covers everything.”

The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler
The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler

Can you spot the perfect couple? Always smiling, touching, sharing private jokes? Maybe they’re both tall and beautiful or have great laughs. Or, perhaps, you are past your teen years and realize there is no such thing.

I’m on the @tlcbooktours today (thank you very much for the book!) and was surprised at how caught up I got in this thriller. It’s not perfect, but it kept me reading every chance I got.

Gemma and her husband move from London to Bristol and one day the husband disappears. The police think it might be the work of a serial killer or even Gemma herself.

I wasn’t surprised by the ending but enjoyed the journey. The author has previously written cozy mysteries and you can feel that influence although this is definitely darker. Fun ride.
Seeds of Freedom by Hester Bass
Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

The city was a bit ahead of the curve in the equal rights department in that they were able to change sooner and as peacefully as possible at the time. The first black student to attend an all-white school happened there in 1963 and a private school became the first reverse-integrated in the state when 12 white students started a traditionally black school a week before. Really liked this one, especially the last few pages with additional information and photos of the real people who were there.

The Switch by Beth O'Leary
The Switch by Beth O’Leary

I listened to and read The Switch by Beth O’Leary and while it has nothing to do with cemeteries, the event that drives the story is the death of a sister and granddaughter the year before. Workaholic Lena is forced to take a 2 month sabbatical from work and her grandmother Eileen wants to heal the relationship between her daughter and granddaughter. So they decide to switch places. Lena takes over her grandmother’s village house and responsibilities and Eileen moves into Lena’s London flat with two roommates.

I liked the audio with Daisy Edgar-Jones and Alison Steadman reading the dialing storylines. I loved the indomitable 79 year old Eileen and her London takeover. The story as a whole was sweet.

Impossible Bottle by Claudia Emerson
Impossible Bottle by Claudia Emerson

I read a book of poetry last night l, based solely on the cover. I lucked out that the poet, Claudia Emerson, was actually a Pulitzer Prize winner. This book was published after her death of cancer in 2014. She writes about her experiences with the illness and the everydayness of life that we often miss. I was moved by many of the poems and am happy I took some quiet time to experience the talent and and truth found here. 65 pages

“The World is not Conclusion.” – Emily Dickinson

The One Thing You'd Save by Linda Sue Park
The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park

“Imagine that your home is on fire. You’re allowed to save one thing. Your family and pets are safe, so don’t worry about them.” This is the assignment Ms. Chang gave to her class on the first page of The One Thing You’d Save.

The author used sijo (an ancient form of Korean poetry) structure in the 65 page picture book. I loved the discussion between the students -it felt very genuine- but I wish the illustration heavy story had been in color.

The answers range from a ratty sweater and iPhone to a rug and autographed baseball program.

A fun story and conversation starter. Gage is still trying to decide on his item, he needs some and told me he’d let me know by the end of the week 😆. For me, it would most likely be a bin full of family history stuff. What about you?

The Teachers March! by Sandra Neil Wallace
The Teacher’s March by Sandra Neil Wallace

This was a nice history of the civil rights period in Selma. I found it dense for the format, but it was nice that many of the events it mentioned we have already read about.

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 😁

First week in May reads

This first week in May has been a little on the rainy and cool side, but that’s not a bad thing when you want to read 🙂 I finished 6 books since the last update, 2 YA books (1 fiction, 1 non-fiction), 2 kids books (1 fiction, 1 non-fiction), 1 thriller, and 1 historical romance. That brings my number of books read this year to 147. I don’t have time to upload my Instagram pics today, but you can always follow me there to see them daily https://www.instagram.com/stacybuckeye/

The books in the order I liked them best… Have you read any of these?

Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Find Her by Lisa Gardner (#8 in the Detective DD Warren series)

Although this is book 8 in the Detective D.D. Warren series it can be read as a standalone. Really! I haven’t read any of this series and totally got hooked right away in this thriller.

Flora spent 472 days kidnapped. She got away, but has never been the same. When we meet her in the first chapter she is trolling for men who kidnap young women. But in the 5 years she’s been freed she has turned herself into a machine of resourcefulness and the men pay dearly. This time though, she goes too far and draws the attention of a police detective and someone far more dangerous.

I loved how my feelings for Flora changed from one page to the next. She was a complex and fascinating character Her story is what carried the book so I don’t know if I’d read more of the series, but I really liked this one.

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg
Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg is the story of Nico, a girl hitting rock bottom after her sister dies. It’s the 1990s and her love for Kurt Cobain and grunge music taps into her heartbreak. As she spirals out of control she decides to run away from her distant and divorcing parents and even her druggie best friends. She comes up with a bucket list and hits the road with her dad’s gas card.

Aside from the back of the book calling the 90s a bygone era this was well done 😉 . Nico was not always easy to like, but as one adventure led to another, I got caught up in her pain and wanted to see her well. She’s a teen lashing out, trying to wash away her loneliness with drugs, drinks, and dudes, and it was the wholesomeness of the 90s that saved her from darker experiences  Music was really a main character here, each chapter titled by a different song.

The ending was satisfying, with some spots being realistically heartbreaking still. There’s already a sequel in the works and I’m looking forward to seeing what Nico’s future holds.

I was on the TLC Book Tour for this one.

Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub
Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub

Gage and I love the Who? What? Where? series. We have a lot of unread ones in our library, but I requested Jim Henson because he grew up in Mississippi and that was last week’s state. And then I discovered Gage didn’t know the Muppets! How is this possible?! So as we read a chapter a day before finishing it yesterday we also spent some time watching old Muppets episodes.

Also, I found a puppeteering class on Outschool last week so he did that too and it was a lot of fun for him to see the process from a professional.

I always associate Henson with the Muppet Show I watched as a kid. I was happy to learn about his Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock experiences too. I love how he managed to make the Muppets stars even before they got their own show. And, his death at a young 53 was made even more sad by the genuine affection all who knew him had for him and for the joy his life’s work brought to the world.

“Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it.”

The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris
The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris, young readers edition

I don’t like reading political books written by people trying to get elected. I chose the YA version thinking I would get a better feel for the woman who made history, in a quicker more succinct way. I did. I wanted to read about a historical figure while we’re actually still witnessing it. I wouldn’t consider myself a Kamala fan, but…

I’ve always respected the determination and smarts of women who get to the top of their field. They are always held to a different standard than men, whichever side of the political aisle you’re on. Add to that having mixed heritage, Jamaican and Indian in Kamala’s case, and the standards continue to shift.

As for the book, I liked it. It told of her background, her love for her mother so present throughout the book. She talked about her career (District Attorney, Attorney General, US Senator) and the campaigns of each. She used those experiences to talk about her ideals, essentially laying out what she stands for and how she sees the country. I’m sure this would be inspiring to teens.

I learned a little more about our current VP and am happy I read it but I didn’t love the book. Maybe I should have read the adult version or maybe I should’ve have waited for her memoir. Nothing in the book surprised me, I already knew she was tough and accomplished, but it was fun to hear her talk about her husband’s proposal, and as a concerned citizen, it was nice to read about Senators reaching across party lines (on both sides).

Savage Intrigue by Cassie Edwards
Savage Intrigue by Cassie Edwards

A historical romance about the Dakota tribe of MinnesotaWisconsin in the mid 1800s. I liked learning about the traditions of the Dakota at the time, but was less enthused with the love story. It’s part of a whole series. I think I’d like to try a Native American romance written by a Native American. Do you have one you can recommend?

The Case of the Secret Message by Parker C. Hinter
The Case of the Secret Message by Parker Hinter, Clue Jr. series #1

These were past my childhood years so I’d never read them, but I do LOVE the game of Clue. The Clue Club consists of 6 fourth graders (Mustard, Scarlet, Plum, White, Green, and Peacock) and they are mystery lovers. There are 8 mini mysteries each with one clue filled illustration to solve. We got them all but two 😂. Those fourth graders are super smart!

It was a fun, short book (84 pages) to read together and we have two more! Did you read these when you were younger? Or maybe your kids?