A few excellent reads

City of Thieves by David Benioff, historical fiction, 4.5/5 stars, 258 pages, pub. 2008

This novel takes place during the Siege of Leningrad during WWII. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but I bought it as a blind date book at a fundraiser. I’m so glad I did!

This coming of age story about the friendship between Russians, one a young looter and the other a seasoned soldier, is riveting. Lev and Kolya are sent out in search of a dozen eggs for the wedding of and official’s daughter. I’m not a huge fan of WWII fiction, but the siege of Leningrad books always fascinate me. The inhumanity up against real people and their will to live is always a story worth reading.

It’s at times harsh, crude, and absurd. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it!

I listened to the audio and picked up the book to read the parts I wanted to think about a little more. The cannibal scene alone will have your heart racing.

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka, 4.25/5 stars, thriller, 323 pages, pub. 2017

The Last Place You Look is set in the Columbus area, so that was a big draw.

Roxane is a private investigator dealing with grief and a drinking problem. This is not unique in this genre, but the addition of her relationships with both men and women added a new layer to her personal story.

She was hired to get her client’s brother out of jail and she’s pressed for time because he’s set to be executed in two months. When she starts nosing around the problems with the local police begin.

This was a fast paced mystery with a flawed lead character and dysfunctional family and I liked it I see that this is the first of four books (so far) about Roxane so there’s hope for her yet.

Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain, 4/5 stars. YA, 432 pages, pub. 2021

This was a fun, swampy, mystical thriller. Eleven teens bound together in the Louisiana bayou town known for its seers and those with special powers. When one of them disappears the one who got away, Grey,, comes home to find her.

The audio performance was great and I really liked it. It’s not a planned series, but I can see another book being written about these kids.

This Week – Paris is July Fail

This whole month has been something of a anxious mess for me and Paris in July had to be left behind for sanity’s sake. I’ll try and give it a go next year.

Gage finished his sixth, and final, week of camp, so it’s been a fun summer. I went to my yearly family weekend with 12 of my aunts and cousins for the first time since covid. We rented a B&B in Jeffersonville, Indiana and it was a great weekend, but also a bit stressful since I had to walk the fine line of having a blast and trying to make good covid choices. The time with the women of my family was much needed.

Tomorrow we start half days of homeschool and I still need to come up with our concrete schedule and activities. On Tuesday, I’ll work at our primary election so my mom will take over substitute teacher days two days in. I’ve been called for jury duty next week and the week after that we’re on vacation to Michigan. Today will be spent trying to figure out our school schedule in all that mess.

On to the books! I finished 17 books. Six adult books and 11 kids books with Gage or in preparation for school.

Gage and I started reading this series together and it’s my favorite book of the month. Why? Because Gage still looks at reading as a chore and this book actually had him looking forward to our reading time. The whole book is a foreshadowing of terrible things happening to three orphan siblings and my kid can’t resist a train wreck. We’re reading book 2 now.

Time is too short for more. Hopefully, calm will prevail this week. Has your July been crazy too?

June Stats and Favorites

I finished 10 books this month, The Bat by Jo Nesbit isn’t pictured because it was an audio. I don’t remember the last time I liked all of my reads so much. 6 of the 10 were sent to me in exchange for a review, so most of these are new and for the first time in forever, no library books!

You can see my 3 favorites, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them! And honestly, from the time I took these pics this morning to the time I’m posting this I already would have changed one of my favorites 😆. Just add them all to your list.

I’ve read 166 books of my 300 goal so I’m on track.

What was your favorite book this month?

Ghost Games by Brooke Mackenzie

Ghost Games by Brooke Mackenzie, 4.25/5 stars, 264 pages, 2022

Do not play these games.  This is the standard Internet disclaimer given to anyone who wishes to summon the supernatural through a potentially dangerous ritual or game.  

But how scary can a game really be?

As it turns out, games can be terrifying. GHOST GAMES is a collection of short horror fiction intended for adults (but appropriate for young adults), in which the female main characters throw caution to the wind, play a game, and summon an entity.  What happens next will make you think twice before riding in an elevator, looking in a mirror, or soaking in a bathtub. There are seven fictional stories—each one devoted to a specific game—and one non-fiction story, in which the author describes her real-life encounter with an evil spirit after playing with a Ouija Board.

The stories in GHOST GAMES thrill with satisfying scares, and tap into each character’s internal psychological struggles as the motivation behind wanting to escape reality. The reader develops a relationship with the characters, making each of their experiences all the more harrowing.  While the stories themselves are fiction, each of the games they describe has a life of its own on the Internet, and several forums are filled with firsthand accounts of bold (or foolhardy) players who played the games with terrifying results. 

from bamackenzie.com

Ghost Games by Brooke Mackenzie is a spookily great collection of fiction stories based on known and searchable urban legends. Not that you need to search because at the end the book she includes the rules for each of the games and where they came from.

I’m not a ghost seeker, but I flew through these eight fun and eerie stories. I’d never heard of these before, but some of you probably have. The Elevator Game, the Three Kings Game, the Closet Game, Bloody Mary, the Telephone Game, the Bathtub Game, the Hide-and-Seek Game and the tried and true Ouija which I have tried with no success.

I really loved these stories and think even those who get spooked easily will love them too. I’m not sure I can even pick a favorite, there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch. The protagonists were all women living an upper midclass lives, a choice the author purposely made. The women in stories ranged in age from teens to 40’s.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and Brooke Mackenzie for sending me a copy of the book. I’m excited to see what you write next!

Some Quick Book Thoughts

In my attempt to get more of my thoughts on the books I read on here I’m going to share a few. I’ve had a great reading month so far!

Secret Identity by Alex Segura, 4.5/5 stars, 368 pages, 2022

Set in 1970’s New York City’s comic book publishing industry, this book wasn’t something that grabbed me right away, but I quickly got so sucked into this noir-ish mystery that I listened to the audio when I couldn’t be reading. I’m not a comic book reader and the comic world was fresh for me. The struggles of a woman, Carmen, trying to prove that she was worthy during that time was recognizable.

I never would have chosen this for myself and that’s why I love having someone picking books just for me. This was a thumbs up.

I’m not really doing any special reading for pride month, but with that in mind it’s worth noting that Carmen is a lesbian and it’s a part of her story. She’s a gritty and admirable heroine. Loved her.

The Patron Saints of Second Chances by Christine Simon, 4/5 stars, 304 pages, 2022

This is a zany Italian romp. I was enchanted even as I rolled my eyes at some of the antics.

Signor Speranza is the mayor (self appointed) of a small town in Italy, Prometta, population 212, and he’s just been told that they must pay an exorbitant amount of money or the water will be shut off to the whole town. Speranza comes up with one crazy idea that gets out of hand.

It’s a fun, summer read, especially for lovers of Italy. 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, 4.25/5 stars365 pages, 2016

This was a delicious way to start the summer. I absolutely loved the snark and the sexual tension.

Lucy and Joshua share an office and an attitude of dislike for each other. Then Lucy has an erotic dream and things start to get fuzzy. Is it really hate she feels?

Although the hate/love relationship is a predictable one, this story started right where it needed to keep the story moving forward with no down time. This is not a high brow romance and it definitely falls into some issues with the physical aspects of the characters, but it was also a lot of fun. Perfect for summer.

I listened to this one and the audio was very good.

The Bat by Jo Nesbo, 4/5 stars, 369 pages, 1997

I listened to The Bat, the first in the Harry Hole series. I’ve always wanted to give this Norwegian Jo Nesbit mystery series a try and it was a great audio for puzzling and running errands. I look forward to more of this flawed character in the future.

April Favorites

I ended my book a day streak April 15th and my reading, as I feared it would, has fallen off a cliff. It’s been an extremely busy few weeks that will continue for a few more, so I am trying to sneak in more reading time. A real bonus of taking my time with books is that I’ve completely abandoned two audiobooks already whereas before I would have probably powered through just to finish. I love the luxury of just moving on, abandoned books in my wake.

I finished 23 books in April, bringing my yearly total to 139. I read 7 fiction, 4 nonfiction, 7 kids nonfiction picture books, 4 kids fiction picture books, and 1 kids nonfiction chapter book.

My 5 favorites were

A Sparrow’s Disappearing Home by Mary Ellen Klukow and Albert Pinilla, 5/5 stars, Nonfiction kids picture book, 24 pages, 2019

One of our Earth Day reads and I loved everything about it. The illustrations were fabulous and the story of the sparrow’s search for his native habitat in an increasingly hostile world was powerful. The story ended by showing the heroes that were doing something about it, those working to save the environment and the birds. It also had a list of ways to help the birds and a map. This is part of a series and you can be sure we’ll be checking out the rest.

Infinity and Me by Gabi Swiatkowska and Kate Hosford, 5/5 stars, 32 pages, 2012

A beautifully illustrated book about infinity. Infinity is a big, huge thing for small kids and somehow this book makes it work. We follow a girl as she asks her classmates and some adults in her life what they think infinity looks like and, not surprisingly, everyone has a different answer. This had a sweet ending and led to a good discussion.

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli, 4.25/5 stars, 320 pages, 2012

Terrier Rand was from a notorious family of thieves. They were all good at stealing money, wallets, expensive items from your house, and doing it without violence. Until Collie goes on a bloody rampage leaving 8 dead. As Terry comes home for the lethal injection of his brother he finds himself more fearful than ever of the blood that runs through him.

I was drawn into this one right away and loved the balance between action and introspection. The Rand family was captivating and I loved the gritty reality of them. Terry has a follow up book and I’m going to have to see what Terry does next.

Falling by TJ Newman, 4.25/5 stars, 304 pages, 2021

Are you a fearful flightier? Terrified at turbulence? Skittish of soaring 20,000 feet in the air? Me too! And yet this thriller managed to entertain not invoke nightmares.

The pilot’s family has been kidnapped and he is ordered to crash the plane or they will die. Will he choose his family or the souls onboard his plane?

Fast paced and pertinent to today’s politics this was a great audio book.

I’m always jealous of happy fliers. Are you one of them?

Past Tense by Lee Child, 4/5 stars, 382 pages, 2018

This is #23 in the Jack Reacher series and I’ve read them all in order up to this point. I love the Reacher and especially love the books that have a family connection. Reacher spontaneously gets off the bus in the small town his father grew up in and wants to see if he can find where he grew up. But, nothing is easy with Reacher and I like it that way 🙂

Migrations Across Borders

Trying to be better about logging my books!

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy, 4.25 out of 5 stars, 256 pages, pub. 2020

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy is our book club read for this month. I had no interest in it during the first bit of listening, but the slow moving story grew on me as it weaved between past and present. It’s one that I’m sure will benefit from a group discussion.

Franny is desperate to find a boat to help her find the last of the Arctic terns as they make their last migration. We feel her despair even though we don’t understand it until the very end of the book when we learn of her past. Frankie was a complicated character, both heroic and prickly, and always, it seemed, utterly true to herself.

I don’t know if I liked it because I went in with such low expectations or if the underlying environmental theme drew me in, but either way I think this will stick with me for a while. And I look forward to our book club discussion.


Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Human Migration by George Butler, 4 out of 5 stars, 56 pages, published 2021

My friend Diane (Bibliophile by the Sea) sent this to Gage a few months ago, but I’m the first one reading it! I’m curious to see how it works as a kids book because I loved the heartbreaking insight into the tragedy of loss and the beautiful art.

Artist George Butler made his way across war zones and refugee camps to document the people he found there. Looking for the many reasons people choose or are forced to move from their homes to places where they are often unwelcome. The places he visited were in Europe or the Middle East and I was captivated by how much could be gleaned from 4 pages about each place.

I wanted more detail and more stories, but as a book for older kids it worked. A great book to consider what makes a person a refuge or migrant.


The Sensory Team Handbook by Nancy Mucklow, 4,5 out of 5 stars for Teens, 180 pages, pub. 2009

This is a great book for preteens/teens who have any kind of sensory issue. It is a positive book with enough science to explain what is going on in their bodies without being overwhelming. It’s full of easy at home weekly and daily exercises to help them gain more control of their body. Will be so useful for many.


What You Must Know About the Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics by Jay S. Cohen, 3.5 out of 5 stars, 144 pages, pub. 2018

Gage has had too many antibiotics in his few years and finding an alternative is sometimes possible, but always more time consuming.

This book is about the family of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, (Cipro, Levaquin, and others), but I found it’s usefulness beyond that. Author Jay S. Cohen, MD did a good job in laying out the many supplements that are helpful not only for people injured by these antibiotics, but also for those just trying to heal from other toxicity.

*there are times when antibiotics are the only answer, yes.*


Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress by Alicia D Williams and April Harrison, 4.25 out of 5 stars, 48 pages, pub. 2021

Loved this book about Shirley with its overriding message of persistence.


The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pickerton Saved President Lincoln by Marissa Moss and Jeremy Holmes, 4 out of 5 stars, 48 pages, pub. 2018

A story I’ve never heard before about the threat to Lincoln’s life before he became president. I liked the illustrations, but they were very busy.


Peter Pan: A Graphic Novel by Blake Hoena and Fernando Cano, 1.5 out of 5 stars, 72 pages, pub. 2016

Um. just no.

The latest Harlan Coben and Elizabeth Chudleigh

The Duchess Countess.
Let’s talk about a rather infamous woman from from the Georgian Era for Women’s History Month. Elizabeth Chudleigh was a woman who learned how to use her considerable assets to gain security and influence. In the mid 1750s women had make an advantageous marriage and Elizabeth managed to do that, twice and at the same time.

She was a strong-willed woman who knew what she wanted and no shortage of men willing to provide it. She made a hasty marriage when she was young and a well-suited one when she was in her middle years. When she becomes a widow she still has a husband left.

This biography was dense and well annotated, so I really got a sense for the customs and politics of the day and all the players involved. Because of that it wasn’t a fast read, but I suppose if you were more familiar with her or her story this might read a little easier.

She was fearless, but with vulnerabilities too. A fascinating woman.

Thanks to Atria Books for sending me a copy of this book.

The Match.
Wilde, The Boy In the Woods, is back. It’s a few months after the first book ended and he’s managed to track down his father via an online DNA database. He also finds someone he believes to be his brother. Only neither one is really forthcoming with information for different reasons.

This can be a standalone, but do yourself a favor and read The Boy in the Woods first. You’ll want to know more about Wilde. All of the great characters from that book are back as is an additional guest from another Coben novel, The Stranger.

No one does thrillers quite like Harlan Coben and his latest is the sequel to Wilde’s story that I’d hoped he write.

Wilde survived in the woods on his own as a very young child, so Gage and I took this book on a walk in the woods and discussed how likely that would be. We decided you’d have to be extremely 🍀, but today is a lucky day, so anything is possible!

Loved it and am looking forward to more Wilde in the future.

Women’s History Month Reading

A few of my reading favorites so far this month…

❤️My favorite was The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner. Dual storylines and three perspectives made this a fast read. In the 1700s there’s an old apothecary shop that women in need can find to assist them with their troubles, man troubles. A young girl visits one day bringing friendship and disaster. The current day storyline involves a woman with man troubles of her own unraveling the mystery of the serial killer apothecary.

❤️ Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab by Priya Huq is a colorful graphic memoir by a Bangladeshi-American. I really liked this true story of her experience as a 13 year old girl being targeted in a hate crime. She showed the struggle of coping, the family drama, and the lessons learned about friendship, as she came out the other side of her PTSD a stronger person. Perfect for tweens who need to read from another kid’s point of view.

📚The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict was a good historical novel that imagines what was behind the true life 12 day disappearance of renowned mystery writer Agatha Christie. I liked it , but admit I wasn’t thrilled at the end 🤷🏻‍♀️ it did make me do some internet reading, so it sparked an interest!
On a Night Like This by Lindsey Kelk. A sensible young woman with a fiancé who doesn’t appreciate her has the opportunity to live out her wildest dreams. It definitely had some Cinderella vibes, in the best way. One magical night at a ball brought Fran the excitement she didn’t even know she was looking for. She was kind and funny and I liked her journey to find herself and the friends she picked up along the way.

I was sent the ARC but ending up mostly listening to it because I really liked the audio.
These are a few of the favorites we’ve read for Women’s History Month this week pictured with the only other girl in the house.

We just finished Who Was Amelia Earhart after dinner. I learned new things that either I didn’t know or didn’t remember. It really is amazing how her plane just disappeared with a Coast Guard ship waiting for her and 10 ships and 65 planes trying to find her soon after. A mysterious and tragic end for a badass woman.

We read She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton. It featured 13 women who didn’t take no for an answer. We used the one page as a starter and supplemented with other books or articles. A great message for girls (and boys, but I imagine it would mean more for girls).

Who Said Women Can’t be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone was great. She applied to 28 medical schools and was told NO! by all. Women were not doctor material. Her 29th application proved fruitful and in 1849 she graduated and became America’s first woman doctor. If that doesn’t convince your kid to never give up on a dream I don’t know what will.

Gloria Takes a Stand: How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote, and Changed the World by Jessica M. Rinker is a nice reminder to all of us that change doesn’t happen without a fight. Too many people like to wax poetic about the good old days without bothering to acknowledge the ridiculous limitations put on women (and others but specifically women here). It was a nice reminder to use your voice for progress.

Cybils Award Winners

Cybils Awards
The Cybils Awards announced their winners this week, so make sure to check out all of the category finalists and winners.

I had the honor of being a finals judge for the Cybils Awards again this year for both board books and picture books. The five of us exchanged a flurry of emails after we’d read these 7 finalist board books and chose a winner…

🎉Big Bear, Little Bear by Marine Schneider was universally loved and a perfect book to read and reread with your wee babes. Simple and sweet with touches of humor, it has a nostalgic feel that’s sure to please. 🎉

The other finalists were also fantastic and I can easily recommend all of them for the 0-3 crowd.
❤️ Comparrotives by Janik Coat (I was so charmed by this parrot!)
❤️ Circle Under Berry by Carter Higgins was Gage’s favorite.
❤️ Animals Go Vroom by Abi Cushman had a fun animal story with peekaboo pages.
❤️This is Still Not a Book by Jean Jullian was full of whimsy with funny pictures and pull up pages.
❤️Turn Seek Find Habitats by Ben Newman is a new take on hidden picture fun with the turn of a wheel changing what you seek every time through.
❤️ Caution! Road Signs Ahead by Toni Buzzeo and Chi Birmingham is an easy choice for your car loving toddlers with big road signs and what they mean.

For the Picture Books category we had 7 fabulous choices and between the 5 of us finalist judges we chose…

🎉 Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin 🎉 This has won many awards this past year for good reason. A quiet story with heart and an important message. Eat weeds for dinner that your family picked on the side of the road? That’s a tough sell for any kid. This was my and our favorite.

Other finalists
❤️ Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler and Loren Long ❤️ I loved this one almost as much but for different reasons. Want to teach your kid to celebrate everyone who contributes to building bridges or rides or parks? This is your book!
❤️ Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder❤️. Every child needs to spend some time with this book. Seriously. This book celebrates every body type you can imagine. I can’t recommend this one enough for body diversity awareness. And it’s really fun too!
❤️ The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer and Mariachiara Di Giorgio❤️ This story of animals taking over the fair at night has no words and doesn’t need them. Loved it.
❤️ Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long. Beautifully celebrates the difference one child can make in the world.
❤️Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale and Leiden Pham. Cat or unicorn lovers will want this one.
❤️ Arlo Draws An Octopus by Lori Mortensen and Rob Sayegh Jr, is perfect for any budding artists out there.

Have you read any of these?