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…

Book Cover
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?

Book Cover
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!).

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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!

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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.

Book Cover
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?

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?

March 1-9

I’m working on a post about our trip, but want to get the easy part done first. I am sooooo glad to be home working on my computer!

For Women’s History Month my reading goal is to read women I have a history with at least once a day, the one exception being the Mike Fiorito book for the TLC book tour.

I read and watched Murder On the Orient Express this last week. We watched the 2017 film with Kenneth Branaugh as Hercules Peroit and I actually thought it had a chance to be better than the book, which I thought was ok but not great. Unfortunately, although it made changes to make it more exciting onscreen it still failed to wow me.

I read 9 books – 2 mysteries, 1 each of picture books, thriller, memoir, kids fiction, sci-fi, historical romance, and fiction.

The books in the order I liked them best…

I adore Susanna Kearsley and her most recent book is a collaboration with three other women, none of whom I’ve read before. I’m going to ruin the surprise and tell you that I loved this. The Deadly Hours by Susanna Kearsley, CS Harris, Anna Lee Huber, & Christina Trent



There once was a watch made from cursed gold and it ruined the lives of all who touched it. The four women seamlessly tell the tale of the watch, from its inception in 1700s Spain (Kearsley), to 1831 Scotland (Huber), 1870 London (Trent), and finally to 1944 Kent (Harris). The authors use characters from their previous books or series which will make their readers happy, but didn’t confuse me when I wasn’t familiar. It only made me want to read more about them.

I’ve read most of Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series and continue to do so as I find them. Her memoir came through the library donations – a used copy with a name written in the front cover, covered with protective tape, and two post it notes stuck in the back telling a friend why this was her favorite book. It’s been well loved and has found a new home.

Gilman divorced her husband, raised her two sons alone, and found herself at a crossroads when she sent her last son to college. She took the bold move of buying 10 acres in Nova Scotia and making the harsh landscape her home. She speaks of lobsterman, herbs, growing her own food, living in a small, closed community, the isolation of living alone, and does it all with the words of someone who has thought about her place in the world.

A New Kind of Country took place in the 1970’s and while it’s somewhat dated, the truth of a single woman’s role still rings true. This was perfect reading for Women’s History Month.
We listened to Double Fudge by Judy Blume on the way home from our Tennessee trip. We read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, the first Fudge book, last month and this 5th and last book about Peter and Fudge was perfect family listening. Peter is now in the 7th grade and Fudge is in kindergarten and OBSESSED with money. He has a money song, a new best friend named Rich, and his own Fudge Bucks that he tries to spend around town. He also meets a family member with his name who is just as much trouble as he is.

Judy Blume is so tuned in to the kid mind. I loved her as a child and love reading her books with Gage 40 years later just as much. Even Jason laughed at Fudge’s exploits 😁
Falling From Trees by Mike Fiorito is a fun collection of sci-fi stories about aliens, communication through dreams, colors and images, longevity, climate change consequences and the journey between space and time. I enjoyed my few hours with these interconnected stories. Each one with something new to consider. Dystopian but not in a dreary way. The stories were short, some only a few pages, but the imagery came through.
I listened to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express read by Dan Stevens. Hercules Poirot is always fun for all of his pompousness and the train whodunit was told at just the right pace. It wasn’t my favorite of hers, but I always appreciate her ability to say so much with fewer words than most and the thoughtfulness of the mystery itself. There’s a reason Christie is still the master after all these years.
I managed to finish High Treason At the Grand Hotel: A Fiona Figg Mystery by Kelly Oliver. I read the first in the series in January and liked it. Fiona is working at the London War Office during WWII and has been given the opportunity to continue her spying, something she’s not trained for but has come to love. She heads to Paris and runs into all kinds of old friends and a few new ones who meet unfortunate ends.

I like that Fiona bucks the tradition of the day and her obsession with being in disguise. She seemed to have more confidence in her ability to fool professionals than was warranted this time around. Fiona is a fun character who finds herself in crazy situations.

I love the covers of The Ravenels series by Lisa Kleypas. There is always a gorgeous gown that I would love to try on (in the appropriate size after I’ve lost 20 pounds of course!). Then I’d need a place to wear it. And a suitor/husband that was as rich as Jeff Bezos and as sexy as David Beckham. Oh, and I’d need some kind of heavy duty makeover so that I’d stop men in their tracks. There. I think I’ve summed up the series for you!

Chasing Cassandra begins with Cassandra watching her twin sister marry the richest man she knows. She’s upset because she will be left alone in their family home and then real richest man sees her and wants her. So begins a merry chase between two people who obviously care about each other but find a multitude of ways to stay apart.

I poke fun, but I love this historical romance series! I love that each book has the whole family show up at different points so that we can check in with our favorite couples. If you like this genre I think you’ll like the series. And those beautiful covers can sit on your shelves.
Me For You by Lolly Winston. Rudy woke up one morning to find his beloved wife dead. She had passed unexpectedly in her sleep after a doctor declared her healthy the day before. This book covered his year and a half grieving process that landed him in the hospital psych ward for a bit. His daughter and work crush helped him heal while dealing with their own issues.

I didn’t ever really connect to Rudy like I did to the characters in her first two books, but he grew on me and I was happy to see him get a second chance at love. It had some good insight about depression and grieving.
Gage and I read The Night Gardener by the Fan brothers. The story about neighbors that came together over unexpected overnight creations was a little short on details. It’s the topiary creations that steal the show. This was a quick read that sparked the imagination, especially now during this time of finding ways to bring a community together safely.

Catching Up

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.

In the order I liked them best…

Such a powerful story. I’m looking forward to watching the movie.
I loved this story of fate and star crossed love. Also looking forward to this movie!
So beautiful in every way, words and illustrations. A perfect read for this month.
It was dated, but Gage and I loved it anyway (well until that Dribble tragedy). Fun sharing one of my childhood favorites with him.

I didn’t know anything about the Children’s March in 1965 that led to thousands of kids being jailed, including Audrey who was nine. Powerful and inspiring.
A great memoir by the first black woman editor-in-chief in the Condé Nast magazine family.
I’m a NYC lover so this book made me happy.
A surprising romance set during the Civil War in the South between a black woman and white man.
Lots of buzz about this thriller about gentrification and I liked it.
We listened to these 10 short stories on our road trip and really liked most of them and a few I’m still thinking about. In a good way!
I’m glad I read it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It was definitely worth the few hours of reading and the new considerations on race that it inspired.
Arthur Ashe was such an inspirational person, but this picture book was mainly for tennis lovers.

Books of the Week

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).

Have you read any of these?

Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

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.

Highly recommended for early readers.

The Hollow Of Fear by Sherry Thomas (Lady Sherlock #3) and Brian Wildsmith’s Animal Gallery

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.

Betrayal at Ravenwick by Kelly Oliver (Fiona Figg #1)

 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

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

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.

A Florence Diary by Diana Athill

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! (Show Me History!)

Show Me History: Martin Luther King Jr. by James Buckley Jr.

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.

Weekly Book Wrap Up, the First 9

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.

3 adult fiction, 3 adult non-fiction, 3 kids books – all non-fiction.

The Falconer

The Falconer by Elaine Clark McCarthy.

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.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds Ibram X. Kendi.

 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.

Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law

Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Life, Love, Liberty and Law by Jeffery Rosen.

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.

Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library (Kindle Single)

Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library by Travis McDade.

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.

The Stone Girl

The Stone Girl by Dirk Wittenborn.

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

The Brothers Kennedy: Jack, Robert, Edward by Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates

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.

Who Was P. T. Barnum?

Who Was P.T. Barnum? by Kirsten Anderson

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.

You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

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.

Henry and the Huckeberries: A Visit with Mr. Thoreau at Walden Pond by Sally Sanford and Ilse Plume

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.

Rediscovering Harlequin

When I was a youngster, oh so many years ago, my mom would drop me off at the public library while she went to do my grandmother’s hair on Saturday mornings. Although I often went straight downstairs to the the kids area, I loved exploring all of the sections of the library. One morning, when I had checked out my books, but I still had time, I found this bookcase upstairs that had short books so I took a look. It was a whole bookcase full of the monthly Harlequins. I sat down, started to read, and was HOOKED. Knowing that I could never actually check these out, my weekly ritual changed as I now started my visit by reading a Harlequin and then quickly going downstairs to grab some appropriate books to check out before my mother picked me up. I remember trying to be all sneaky so the librarians wouldn’t see me picking one of the adult romances, lol. I don’t really remember how long this went on before the Saturday visits ended, but I still remember those covers and the thrill of forbidden reading.

I’ve been running our Friends of the Library book sale out of my house/garage since the pandemic reared its ugly head. Every week I go and pick up 4 boxes of books to try and sell on our Facebook page. Imagine my delight when I opened up a whole box of Harlequin romances! I tried to sell them, but not one was willing to admit, publicly at least, that they read them. As I boxed them back up I grabbed a few and set them aside and a few nights ago I read A Mistress, A Scandal, A Ring by Angela Bissell.

A Mistress, A Scandal, A Ring (Ruthless Billionaire Brothers)

It didn’t take me long, these books are easy to skim, and, surprisingly, I found it enjoyable. For someone living on Hallmark movies the last month or so this felt just right somehow. A rich, sexy man with a chip on his shoulder and a nurse with a giving heart is the bread and butter for these stories. It managed to have a decent storyline in a low page count and I’m glad I read it since it managed to bring back some fun memories.

What about you? Have you ever read a Harlequin? What scandalous book or books did you read as a kid?