Tales from the Arabian Nights by Donna Jo Napoli

Title: Tales From the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love, and Betrayal, Author: Donna Jo Napoli Tales from the Arabian Nights. Finished 8-8-20, 4.5/5 stars, 208 pages, pub. 2016

Stunning illustrations by Christina Balit

Classic stories and dazzling illustrations of princesses, kings, sailors, and genies come to life in a stunning retelling of the Arabian folk tales from One Thousand and One Nights and other collections, including those of Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The magical storytelling of award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli dramatizes these timeless tales and ignites childrens’ imaginations.    from Goodreads

I loved everything about this book.  The 25 Arabian folk tales were beautifully told and illustrated.  There were stories within stories within stories.  The main story, even though it is only a few lines each page is one of a woman who expects to be killed every night by the king.  Her plan is to tell him stories that will buy her another night in his bed, and then another, so that she may save herself and all of the other girls he would have killed in her place.  It was surprisingly addicting.

The stories themselves were so much enchanting.  Sinbad the Sailor and Aladdin make appearances, but there were others I loved more.  Do yourself a favor and check it out of the library like I did and sit down for a few hours of happy reading.


The Homeschooling Option by Lisa Rivero

Title: The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It's Right for Your Family, Author: L. Rivero The Homeschooling Option.  Finished 7-18-20, 4.5/5, homeschool reference, 225 pages, pub. 2008

In this accessible and honest look at homeschooling, Lisa Rivero explores the diverse faces of homeschooled students and the ways in which it can help children with special learning needs. She corrects misconceptions through profiles of diverse families and addresses the changing and complex needs of children today. This book addresses the major questions parents are bound to have as they consider this option: socialization, curriculum, special needs arrangements, resources, and more.   from Goodreads

This book was a nice introduction to the concept of homeschooling.  It spoke directly to many of my concerns about socialization since Rivero and her husband taught their  only son at home (while they both had jobs for many of  the years).  It addressed the many different ways that parents use to teach their children and how there is no right way, only a right way for you.  It also offered a few resource lists, one of the books I ordered right away and feel much more confident because of it (Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Creative and Comprehensive Homeschool Curriculum by Rebecca Rupp).  There was a chapter on special needs and one showing you how to find the different rules of each state.  While every parent in every state is allowed to teach their child at home, each state has different requirements.  For Ohio you have to send a letter to the superintendent informing him and include an intended curriculum and source material.  I sent my letter and curriculum outline in yesterday.  They have two weeks to respond if they need additional information.  Fingers crossed I provided all that was required.

A good starting point if you are considering homeschooling in this crazy year.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Title: The Ask and the Answer (Reissue with bonus short story) (Chaos Walking Series #2), Author: Patrick NessThe Ask and the Answer. Finished 6-11-20, 4.5/5 stars,  dystopia YA, 536 pages, pub. 2009

Book Two of the Chaos Walking trilogy (1-Knife of Never Letting Go)

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

from Goodreads

The appeal of the first book of the series lay in large part with the relationship between Todd and Viola as they learn to trust each other to stay alive.  This book has them separated most of the book, so it’s the hope they’re holding on to and the trust that they have in each other that sell the story.

Todd is being kept captive, watched, and groomed by the man he’d spent all of the first book trying to escape.  He also is being partnered with Davey Prentiss, the same Davey who has been trying to kill him.  Viola is put in a hospital for and run by women and when she recovers must figure out what is going on in the town and how she can reach Todd.  The two end up on opposite sides.

I loved continuing the journey of these two teens and hope that the next book brings them the happy ending they deserve, but I’m skeptical.  Way too many of the bad guys seem to survive and desperate times call for desperate allies, so it’s hard to say what lines will be drawn and crossed in the finale.  I look forward to finding out!

Flawed by Andrea Dorfman

Flawed Flawed.  Finished 6-16-20, 4.5/5, graphic novel, 88 pages, pub. 2018

National Film Board of Canada Collection

From the Emmy-nominated, PBS-aired animated short.

Flawed is a true story of self-acceptance, adapted from the Emmy-nominated film of the same name.

In Flawed, author Andrea Dorfman tells the true story of how she falls head over heels for Dave, “the nicest guy in the world.” But she is conflicted about her feelings for her new love. He’s a plastic surgeon; she hates plastic surgery and its power to make people feel flawed.

Dorfman joins Dave in the operating room to watch him fix a man’s badly injured hand. She sees for herself the difference between plastic reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Dave truly is an artist. She knows she’s falling in love. But when Dave performs a cosmetic surgery on a healthy boy so he won’t be teased at school, Dorfman questions everything she thinks she loves about him. Her discomfort with Dave’s decision to operate on the boy sends her on a journey of self-reflection that forces her to confront her own fears about the way she looks. She feels flawed.

Dorfman’s playful and colorful illustrations along with her deeply personal writing takes readers through the genesis of her self-image — from the carefree days of her childhood to the gut-wrenching awkwardness of her adolescence, and beyond. When she realizes that her negative self-perception is stopping her from being happy, Dorfman makes the bold move to accept herself as she is — imperfections and all. As Dorfman concludes, it’s our flaws that make us extraordinary.    from Goodreads

I loved this quick graphic novel based on Dorfman’s real life.  When do we start to think of our various body parts as flaws?  For most of us it’s early on and the struggle to self acceptance starts with us thinking a different way about ourselves and our bodies.

The story and drawings are put together in a quality hardcover that you will want to share with friends or family who are going through issues with self love.  After reading the book I watched the film short it was based on and thought I’d share the link.  Tale 12 minutes and enjoy 🙂  Highly recommend both the book and the short.






The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels by Joseph F. Kelly

The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels.  Finished 6-1-20, 4.5/5 stars, religion, 106 pages, pub. 2008

In this book Kelly turns to the infancy narratives to see what the New Testament tells us about the Nativity. Readers will likely discover that their Christmas celebrations, cards, pageants, and creches are often combinations and embellishments of the gospel narratives. Yet each of these narratives is quite distinct, reflecting the author’s talents and audience. In this practical book readers will:

Encounter the stories in their gospel contexts and learn about the issues facing the early Christians as the gospels were being written. See the difference between the educator Matthew’s approach for an audience of Jewish converts and the great literary artist Luke writing for a primarily Gentile audience.  from Goodreads

I loved this historical look at the gospels and the men who wrote them.  When you break down the the Bible and try fact checking everything that can be by today’s standards, you lose the purpose or intent of the gospels in the New Testament.  But Kelly doesn’t gloss over the fact checks, he provides much needed context, even pointing out when things would have been impossible taken at face value.  He also compares the men writing the gospels and how their audience influenced what was included.  The story of the birth of Jesus appears in only two gospels, Matthew and Luke and yet even those two stories were laced with differences.  Even Mary receives a reality check.

If you have any interest in the Bible or history of the period this quick book is just up your alley.  This book was more than I thought it would be and I’m so glad I picked it up at a book sale last summer.  Note-I also very much miss going to book sales!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Starless Sea, Author: Erin Morgenstern The Starless Sea.  Finished 5-20-20, magical fiction, 4.5/5 stars, 498 pages, pub. 2019

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.    from Goodreads

It’s hard  to know where to start with this book because it was…dreamlike? timeless? mindbending?  a rabbit hole I’d love to fall into even if only for a moment?  It’s all of those, of course, but it’s also a story about stories and if you’re willing to lose yourself in those beautiful fairy tales for a bit you are in for an enchanted ride.  Where does one story end and another begin?

Ezra is a gamer and a graduate student who finds a forgotten book on the library shelves.  He picks it up, curious, but becomes disturbed when he discovers one of the stories is about him.  One clue leads to another until he finds himself at a swanky NYC literary party where he meets Max (Where the Wild Things Are) and later Dorian, a master storyteller.  Then the fun begins.  There are doors, old and new, edible stories, seas made of honey, an underground warren of tunnels and rooms that can confuse time and space, and the place seems to have been forgotten.  But there are still stories to discover and be written, quests to pursue, dangers to be averted, and mysteries to solve.

We read this for my book club and my first words were, “I loved it even if I didn’t completely understand it.”  This was mostly true.  I felt like I understood the book, even if my brain didn’t always keep up.  I’d read the reviews of some who didn’t care for it and I get it.  It took me a little while to sink into it, but once I did I was hooked and really didn’t want it to end.  And it was 500 pages!  If you’re going to give it a try, give it some time and just enjoy the ride.





The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book, Author: Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book.  Finished 4-25-20, 4.25/5 stars, older kids tale, 312 pages, pub. 2008

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Well, he would be perfectly normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more.

But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.      from Goodreads

I’ve talked before about my fascination with cemeteries and their appeal to me in the way they can make you honor history and evaluate life at the same time.  So, why did it take me so long to read this Newbery Medal, Hugo Award, Locus Award and Carnegie Medal winner?  I don’t know, but I’m glad I picked it up for the read-a-thon a few weeks ago.

When a toddler escapes his home as a killer murders his parents and sister, he makes his way to the graveyard.  Once there he is found by Mrs. Owens who is touched by the dead spirit of the child’s mother and she is determined to raise and protect the boy.  There is discussion among the ghosts and she and her husband are allowed to raise the boy as their own.  They must rely on the protection and guardianship of Silas, the caretaker of the graveyard.  Mrs. Owens gives the boy the name of Nobody and he finds a home.

The graveyard and  the spirits that live there are perfection.  Silas?  My favorite vampire ever.  Nobody has the run of the graveyard and does go out into the real world, even attending a real school for a short time.  But the graveyard holds all of the excitement,  vampires, werewolves, witches, ghouls, ghosts, and, best of all, a girl.  There is also, of course, the problem that the murderer is still looking for him.

I loved the spirit of and spirits in this book.  It was a perfect late night read.  It is a children’s book, but I don’t know what age would be appropriate since I think it’s a little dark for the younger set.  Gaiman found The Jungle Book as an early inspiration.  The chapters are set two years apart and there are eight of them.  I was mostly sad at the end, but hopeful that Nobody Owens is out there somewhere living his best life.

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

Title: The Boy from the Woods, Author: Harlan Coben The Boy from the Woods. Finished 4-18-20, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 370 pages, pub. 2020

The man known as Wilde is a mystery to everyone, including himself. Decades ago, he was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. After the police concluded an exhaustive hunt for the child’s family, which was never found, he was turned over to the foster system.

Now, thirty years later, Wilde still doesn’t know where he comes from, and he’s back living in the woods on the outskirts of town, content to be an outcast, comfortable only outdoors, preferably alone, and with few deep connections to other people.

When a local girl goes missing, famous TV lawyer Hester Crimstein–with whom Wilde shares a tragic connection–asks him to use his unique skills to help find her. Meanwhile, a group of ex-military security experts arrive in town, and when another teen disappears, the case’s impact expands far beyond the borders of the peaceful suburb. Wilde must return to the community where he has never fit in, and where the powerful are protected even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions . . . secrets that Wilde must uncover before it’s too late.   from Goodreads

Wilde was found in the New Jersey woods as a boy and no one knew who he was or how he got there.  He grew up in foster care with people who loved him.  He spent time in the military and working security with a foster sister, but when we meet him he is living in a small moveable home out in the woods, with monitors that alerted him to intruders coming his way.  His best friend’s son comes to him scared because a girl at his school goes missing.  Wilde finds her with little effort and finds that he likes the outcast.  So, when she runs away/goes missing again he steps into the action and gets way more than he bargained for.

The backdrop of this is money and politics.  I don’t know how deeply I want to delve into it because everyone will bring their own leanings into what is said.  I saw one group of people very clearly, but someone on the other side of the political spectrum might see something else.  The world we live in is full of extremism and lies and Coben addresses the fallout.

A lot is happening in this book, but every twist and turn in the last fourth of the book was very satisfying for this reader.

I’ve read that Wilde will be back sometime in the future and I am so excited about this.  I loved Wilde and his relationship with Hester.  I’ve read all of Coben’s books and they are all good, but more than a few are great and this is one of those.  If you’ve not read Coben this is a good place to start (although Tell No One is still my fave).  His sense of humor always comes through and he always has his pulse on what is going on in the world, so the stories always feel relevant and just crazy enough for some thriller fun.

Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life: Because You Can’t Go Naked by George Brecsia

Title: Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life: Because You Can't Go Naked, Author: George Brescia Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life.  Finished 2-26-2020, style, 4.25/5 stars,278 pages, pub. 2014

More than a style guide, this revolutionary book by a seasoned stylist teaches a method of conscious dressing that begins with a powerful internal change. Instead of just grabbing for whatever’s on hand, you’ll learn to set your goals for the day, determining how you want to be perceived, and then dress in a way that helps manifest those intentions. Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life reveals the true power your clothing has to affect your life, showing how this second skin impacts your job prospects, your romantic life, your income, and even your deepest sense of self. Translating his styling methods into a philosophy anyone can apply on her own, Brescia also delivers tips and tricks of the trade to help convert even the most hapless dresser into a happy and educated shopper. Because the goal is to have you not only looking great, but feeling more confident, too. From major closet overhauls to a whole new philosophy on color, this is a comprehensive manual for anyone who’s ever looked at her closet in despair.

from Goodreads

I’ve been reading quite a few books outside of my comfort zone lately.  My March 30 day challenge has to do with clothes so I’ve picked up a few books and this is the one I really liked.  George is a NYC stylist and his warm personality really came through the pages.  This is not a book filled with pictures of outfits to wear or different ways to tie a scarf, it’s about being more mindful of what you show the world every day when you step outside of the house.  This is something I’ve struggled with since I had Gage over nine years ago.  The first few years with an infant it’s acceptable to look like you’re wearing what you slept in and to not wash your hair enough, but at some point you get past that stage and live in yoga pants and that’s okay, so is every other mom at Little Gym.  Fast forward to now where I just haven’t had the time or energy to invest time in a wardrobe for a body I’m not comfortable with.  Thank goodness George doesn’t judge.

I will never be a fashion queen and I’m okay with that, but I do want to be more mindful as I go about my day and taking that extra few minutes to make sure what I’m saying with my clothes is what I’m feeling on the inside is a good thing.  George is big on you asking yourself what does this outfit say after you get dressed in the morning.  If it doesn’t say what you want then take a minute to tweak it.  He gives some checklists on what you should have in your closet and how to evaluate the clothes you already have.  He believes that every piece of clothing should be a 10, a perfect fit with colors that flatter you.  He helps with the colors (the one thing I’m doing okay with in my closet) and can coach you through the rest.  As much as I love George, if I had all 8s or 9s in my closet I would be okay with that.  But, hey, it’s good to have a goal.

I liked this book a lot and found it helpful.  It’s about clothes and the way you present yourself.  Even though the clothes worn in New York City may be different than those worn in Cleveland or Austin or Salt Lake City, the intent is the same.  A fun book for this non-fashionista.



Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues That Will Change Your Life and the World by Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity

Title: Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues That Will Change Your Life and the World, Author: Jonathan Reckford Our Better Angels. Finished 1-28-19, 4.25/5 stars, volunteerism, 223 pages, pub. 2019

In this first-ever book for adults from Habitat for Humanity, CEO Jonathan Reckford shares moving and inspiring stories of ordinary people whose lives have been changed by working together to help one another. And he shows what we can all learn from these everyday heroes.

Having witnessed people beat back the storms of life, Reckford came to see how we can all find our better selves by tapping into seven old-fashioned virtues—kindness, generosity, community, empowerment, respect, joy, and service. And he came to see how the strength gained from these virtues can help each of us build our best selves in ways that impact all areas of our lives—from our careers to our families, from how we behave in our communities to how we see the world.

With a separate chapter devoted to each of these seven virtues, Reckford introduces us to remarkable people Habitat has served, like Jed, whose family received a Habitat home and who could barely wait to donate it back Habitat to help others in need. And we also meet volunteers like Vic, a veteran who was inspired to return to Vietnam to help build housing there. Each vivid story in this book carries its own lesson and epiphany – to help readers find their own better angels.

The book begins with an inspirational foreword by Jimmy Carter.     from Goodreads

There are few public figures I respect as much as Jimmy Carter.  He and Rosalynn’s  commitment to service, well into their 90’s with health issues as an added hurdle, inspires me.  He is known for his work with Habitat for Humanity and he writes the moving Foreword for this book filled with Habitat stories.

Jonathan Reckford shares the stories of the volunteers who have helped build Habitat homes and the recipients who have been given new leases on life by receiving one.  He breaks them up into seven sections; kindness, community, empowerment, joy, respect, generosity, and service.  I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite story, or even two, but I was left with new insight to how people live around the world and even here in the United States.  I read one short story every morning for about a month and a few stuck out for me in their ability to make me feel another place, another way of life.   In Romania a small village had the good fortune to have a woman who discovered the organization and it changed her village forever.  In Africa, the picture of a family of 14 living in one big tent with muddy floors was hard to imagine. In India, neighbors of different religions at odds with each other came together to work side by side as people.  And in Vietnam, soldiers once sent there for war return to make peace with the people and the land.

I loved this book as an easy to read inspirational collection of stories full of people who are changing the world.  And the best part is that you can be a part of it.  If you’ve never volunteered at a Habitat house you should give them a call and see what you can do.  There is no one less handy around the home than me and years ago I volunteered with a group of women at local home going up.  I helped with a few different things, but spent most of the day caulking, after instruction of course.  I was out my element, but was welcomed and left feeling not only like I’d helped in a small way but also that I’d learned a few new things about building a house.  I’ve already told Jason that in the spring we’d start having a few dates at Habitat homes 🙂  All proceeds from the book go to the organization.