Grenade Bouquets by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Book Cover
Grenade Bouquets by Lee Matthew Goldberg. Published 2021, 286 pages, YA

A sequel to Runaway Train, Grenade Bouquets picks up Nico’s story and runs with it. It’s the mid 90s and her idol, Kurt Cobain, is dead, but her love of grunge isn’t. Her parents are convinced to let their 17 year old daughter tour with her boyfriend’s band over the summer where she will sing a few songs on stage. She’s a hit.

Fame is like a drug and Nico is hooked. As the band travels around the country, it is angsty Nico that gets them their first song in the radio. Nico doesn’t have the maturity to handle it, and her band mates only make it worse.

She’s real, she’s flawed, and she’s unapologetically Nico. She’s a little like a train wreck, you know what’s coming but you don’t look away. She can be highly annoying, just like your typical teen, but also surprisingly vulnerable.

I see in an interview with the author that he’s trying to get this series (he’s writing the third now) on TV. I’d watch it 😁. Get a head start and give these YA books a chance.

Thanks to Wise Wolf Books and Virtual Author Book Tours for getting the book into my hands.

There’s still time (but barely) to be entered for a chance to win a copy, click here.

This Week – Friend Fun

This week the local school had Thursday off for Yom Kippur so, we were able to take Gage’s friend with us to his weekly nature camp. The boys had fun and I was lucky enough to spend 30 minutes on the way home with them talking about girl crushes, lol. Here’s the photo they let me take when we dropped off his friend…

Love these boys! On to the books.
Good morning! Mary Bly (Eloisa James for romance readers) has written a book that touches the heart. Lizzie has stage 3 cancer and travels to Italy with her BFF and his famous boyfriend, wanting to soak in the moments before they’re gone. Then Dante shows up with his pre-teen daughter and her heart must come to terms with new possibilities.

This was emotional, tragic and hopeful at the same time. Lizzie is a Shakespeare professor (much like the author) and Romeo and Juliet play a pert in the storyline (hence the title?). I knew nothing about it going in, basing my reading decision in the beautiful cover and knowing it was an author I enjoyed, so I won’t say any more about it. Well, except that I’m glad that I read it 😁
The only thing these two books have in common is their red and white covers and the fact that I read them yesterday. One, about Africans making the treacherous journey to Europe and the other a picture book made from a song by the White Stripes.

Alpha: Abidjan to Paris is the story of a man who has tried to get visas for him and his family to travel to Paris to stay with his sister-in-law. When that becomes impossible he sends his wife and son to make the dangerous and illegal journey, hoping that when they arrive they’ll send money so he can join them. Heartbreaking and informative, this graphic novel shouldn’t be missed. The first two pics are from this book. Translated from French.

We”re Going to be Friends is a charming kids picture book made from the song by the White Stripes. The artwork is fantastic and, the ‘story’ is sure to please kids and adults. It was the illustrations that won me over. The last two pics are of this book.

There’s nothing prettier than a Kleypas cover! This is the third book about the Hathaways and I loved catching up with them all.

When Poppy runs into the reclusive Harry Rutledge in a secret passage in his hotel his desire for her changes the course of her life. It’s up for debate about whether it’s for the better.

Historical romance fans can do no better than Kleypas. This wasn’t a favorite, Harry wasn’t my speed, but I did love my time spent with the rest of the Hathaway clan.
Annie Lumsden, the Girl from the Sea reads a little like a fairy tale, but its center is Annie, a girl who is considered ‘daft’. She lives by the sea with her mother who loves to tell tales and one day tells the one Annie’s been waiting for, the one about her father.

It was different and I wonder what kids actually think of it since it’s labeled juvenile. Annie is different and that will appeal to many kids, but it felt written for someone older. I think it would be a lovely book to read with your pre-teen child, especially if they love mermaids 🧜‍♀️ the illustrations were lovely.

This is one that I’ve been meaning to read for years and when this copy came in with the library donations this week I immediately stuck it in my bag . Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is a graphic memoir by the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors. She tells the story of her childhood during the Islamic Revolution and Iran’s war with Iraq.

It’s 152 pages of black and white illustrations full of horror, history, and heartwarming and heartbreaking stories. This covers her life from 6-14, when she was then sent to Vienna without her parents.

I’m late to the game, but this is a must read. I’m already looking to get my hands on book 2! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Book of the day with our latest  puzzle! I ❤️this happy circle puzzle with flowers, birds, and butterflies 🌸🦜🦋

As good as Long Bright River was, it wasn’t cheery like the puzzle. It’s about bad beginnings, drug abuse, and the ties that keep families together. BUT it is a thriller, with clues told at just the right pace to keep this almost 500 pager racing to the finish.

Mickey, always the good sister, is worried because she hasn’t seen her sister on the streets for awhile and women are being murdered in the neighborhood. She’s a policewoman with a new partner and a boss who doesn’t like her. How will she find her sister? And if she does will she still be alive?

This book had a little bit of everything (except cheerfulness) and I thought it was very well done. This is my first by Liz Moore, but I’ll be looking for more.

I loved this book for kids (Gage just started it) and will definitely be looking for more of the series. Two siblings try to outdo each other with the interesting and obscure facts they know about the famous boxer. At just over 100 pages and with short chapters and paragraphs this is sure to appeal to even a reluctant reader. It’s told in a fun way with recognizable interactions between the siblings.

Along with the facts and stories there were quotes and the poetry he recited. The illustrations were great too. I loved reading some of the facts out loud to Jason since he hadn’t heard most of them either. Muhammad Ali paid someone to lick his sweat? Those kind of facts combined with more biographical information make this a winner for the late elementary set ❤️❤️❤️❤️

It’s September?

So many things to juggle these past few weeks, so having a few minutes to stop and blog is a breath of fresh air. The glass of wine doesn’t hurt either! Gage has still not fully recovered from gastritis and that means extra doctors on board. We finally started full day school yesterday. And I’m planning a trip for us, which always stresses me out.

But I’m still on track with a book a day (barely ;)) Here are my daily updates from IG.

My September intentions! I read March, book 1, a graphic memoir that tells the story of John Lewis, civil rights hero. It jumps between the morning of Barack Obama’s inauguration and his childhood in Alabama and college days in Tennessee.

It’s very good.
March, Book 2, the graphic memoir by civil rights icon John Lewis. This covers his time with the Freedom Riders and his rise to chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at 23, becoming one of the Big Six leaders of the civil rights movement. He was also the 6th speaker at the March on Washington.

I was so fascinated with this second of the trilogy. I loved getting a behind the scenes look at what was happening and my respect for the Lewis grew by leaps and bounds. His commitment to the cause is inspirational still.

A must read for history lovers.

I finished up the March trilogy, graphic memoirs by John Lewis, about his childhood and involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

March Book 3 contained more of the violence against these non-violent protesters and much more about the politics involved as all organizations serving the movement were not always in agreement.

The trio of books need to be read together. He names names and brings to light the horrifying treatment and harassment of these Americans just trying to have equal rights. Especially the vote, many a protest was solely to get African Americans the right to vote, something they were routinely denied in the south. The blacks and whites pushing for change were beaten, jailed, and killed, often under the orders of the officials in charge.

Do yourself a favor and take a few hours to see the world through Lewis’s eyes. I am so thankful that there is so much heart and fact that came together for me to integrate these books into my knowledge of the time period.

Anyone who says it’s necessary to make it more difficult to vote is using the same playbook that’s always been used by those who want to stay in power and are fearful of change. So much has changed, but there’s still work to be done.

A must read when studying the civil rights movement.
I read and listened to #17 of the Jack Reacher series, A Wanted Man. I’ve been reading these in order, but accidentally read 18 before this one. 😱

I always enjoy the antihero Reacher (I’m really looking forward to the upcoming tv series!) but this was not one of my favorites. Hitchhiking his way to Virginia he gets caught up in a manhunt and faces dire consequences (yes, the dire consequences happen every book). It’s solid, but got a little too crazy by the end.
Yesterday was game day at our house and we each chose one. Gage chose Azul and he and I tied for the win. I chose our newest game, Wingspan, and kicked butt. Jason chose The River and Gage crushed us both.

These are all strategy games and if you’re curious about any of them drop a comment and I’ll show and tell tomorrow 😁

I read the delightful The Ocean at the End of the Lane. What a fantastic way to spend a few hours. Is it a fable? A fairy tale? A dream? A story sure to cause nightmares? Let’s call it all of these.

A middle aged man goes home to Sussex for a funeral and is drawn to his childhood home and the farm at the end of the road where magical things happened to him 40 years before. He had been only 7 and the story, remembered from that perspective, was frightening and real.

Loved this one! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
We’ve played Wingspan twice and love it. It’s suggested for ages 14+, but Gage is almost 11 and caught on easily. That being said, we play The River often and it’s similar in some ways so that helped. Everyone has their own board and is building their own sanctuary with birds from 3 habitats. There are 4 rounds and with the three of it took us an hour and a half the first time and closer to an hour the second.

The art on these cards (170 birds) is gorgeous. Each card tells you where the bird is found, how it nests, how big it is, and it’s habitat. It’s an easy gift for bird lovers. 🦅🐥🦉🦆🐦

There is also another way to play, solo, but we haven’t checked that out yet.

I looked through some picture books last night and settled on this one, How Emily Saved the Bridge, as being the best one about Emily Warren Roebling, the woman who was responsible finishing the Brooklyn Bridge. My book club read The Engineer’s Wife, a historical fiction novel about Emily and I was intrigued enough to want to share her story with Gage. This book covers all of important facts with fun illustrations.
We officially started full day 5th grade this morning (he’s having his weekly piano lesson now). We’re starting out with a more structured schedule so we’ll see how it goes. So far so good!

I chose the perfect day to read ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild. It’s written by a young adult with ADHD for kids, teens really, that also have special brains. The layout was very kid friendly and the stories/advice bite-sized so it’s easy to digest.

As a parent to a kid with ADHD this was a much needed reminder as our homeschool school year begins. I didn’t necessarily learn anything new, but I sometimes forget the struggle that goes into doing things that are typically easier for other kids. I tend to push when sometimes a hug will do just as well.

I think it’s a good book for early teens who have been diagnosed. I know that I will be sharing with Gage in a year or two. It’s a feel good book not an in-depth look into the science behind it.
Gage has read a few of the Hank series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver. I had to decide if I thought these were up to snuff to read for schoolwork so I read You Can’t Drink a Meatball Through a Straw last night.

Interestingly, the books use the Dyslexie font that makes it easier to read for people with dyslexia. I had never heard of this before, but good to know if your child’s reading struggles stem from dyslexia or similar issues.

The story features Hank, who himself has dyslexia, and his family and friends. This one has a cousin visiting from out of town who is entered into a cook-off competition. Fast talking Hank somehow also becomes a participant. It was cute and had a feel good moment at the end. I’ve okayed the series for independent reading 😂

123 pages with a picture on each pages, mostly smallish for interest.

This Week – Finishing up school prep

So, we start full days of school this week and I’m still trying to make decisions about curriculum! The rest of my day will be spent doing the research I should have done already. The only decision left to be made is on the language arts curriculum so that I can call our new tutor and get her up to speed. Ohio raised the scholarship amount this year so, he’ll get 6 hours a week with a tutor for language arts, in addition to a weekly piano lesson and speech session. It’s all coming together, but still work to be done.

Here’s what I’ve read this week…

Gage and I started half day school this month, although we missed the week he had two ER trips and last Friday when we had two follow up appointments. I read The Tale of Despereaux aloud over the last few weeks, knowing this my reluctant reader would never read anything this long himself. Thankfully, it was a hit! It was a fun one to read aloud with plenty of opportunity to ham up the characters.

A mouse, a rat, and a princess all end up in the castle dungeon, but the how and the why are the driving force of the story. Full of humor (not always nice, but we call those teachable moments), animals that had their own stories, and silliness earned two thumbs up here in Ohio.

I listed to Paula McLain’s latest, When the Star Goes Dark, while we puzzled. The stars are the only thing connecting the two 🌟

Anna has just experienced something traumatic, we get only snippets until the very end, and retreats to the town where she grew up. She’s a missing persons detective and an old friend needs her help. This takes place in the 1900s and contains real cases, like Polly Klaas, with the fictional.

This is a dark book, just like the title says. As a mother my heart still hurts a little. If you are triggered by child abduction or abuse then read at your own risk.
We have some great friends! Both @rhapsodybooks and @wheelmaker2 sent Gage books recently and we always love new books! Thank you 🥰. These are all for older elementary kids.

Let’s start with Whale Fall Cafe because it was our favorite. From the outside it looks like a silly story, but on the inside it gives you all of the details about a whales death and what happens once the carcass hits the ocean floor. It was fascinating, and perfect for kids who like their stories with a little bit of gross factor. Gage read this to me and got a kick out of my inability to look at the illustrations for more than a few seconds. Highly recommend!!

Little Leonardo’s Fascinating World of Paleontology was the opposite of Whale Fall. It had cutesy illustrations with just too much information to make it fun. But, the 6 experiments at the end make it worth a look. We’ve already done two and hope to do at least one more. We both thought the story was okay, 3 stars, and the experiments fun, 5 stars.

We read Desert Baths because we’re studying Nevada this week. It is fantastic.!! The story about the creatures who live in the desert was good and over half the book. It’s the 6 pages of facts and fun quizzes at the end that made this a big win for both of us. This is a perfect book for homeschoolers and school libraries or classrooms. Highly recommend.
Do you love the bees? Do you think they are aggressive pests out to cause you misery? Do you want to know and do more? Even if you answered no to all of these questions you should still pick up this book.

50 Easy Ways To Help Save the Bees 🐝 is a great read. We love the bees because we understand what they do for us. but even I learned new things. The first 23 pages are about the plight of the different kinds of bees which I thought was excellent. The 50 ideas were well though out.

I read this last night and shared things with Gage this morning. Our afternoon project is to go through the book together and choose 5 things to do this year. We received a pack of seeds last year from a save the bee campaign and threw them into out old bee container this past spring. They may not look like much now but we still get bees daily.

At 127 pages this is a must read. 🖤💛🖤💛🖤

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is an automatic buy for me (as are Harlan Coben and Sarah Addison Allen). She is a master of romance. While not a series, this is the 9th book she’s written about a member of the Chicago Stars football organization.

In When the Stars Collide Olivia, world renowned opera singer, and Thad, backup Stars quarterback must spend weeks together traveling the country promoting a brand. It’s not exactly love at first sight, but heartbreak and danger are close at hand.

Loved it ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Sauna time! I’ve been in here less than 10 minutes and I’m already sweating. I’m not a fan, but we’ve had the infrared sauna for years and the doctor we saw with Gage a few weeks ago told us we really needed to be using it twice a week. So, I sit here and sweat for my health 😅

Are you a sauna fan?

Okay, the book…The Last Thing He Told Me lived up to ALL of the hype! It’s so different from her other two books. It’s a thriller. One day a child knocks on Hannah’s door with a note, it’s from her husband and all it says is PROTECT HER. Bailey, the daughter. Comes home from school with a duffel bag full of cash that her dad had stuffed in her locker. Owen himself was missing.

That’s all you get. If you like thrillers this is a must read! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

This Week – ERs and sickness

This has been a week. I’m posting my reading week from my daily IG, but this morning’s Gage update is that he is feeling quite a bit better. Mornings have been rough and this has been the best one so far this week, so here’s hoping the rest of the day continues the healing trend!

The Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas (Ravenels #7)
Sunday morning mimosa anyone? Don’t mind if I do! Some days opening a bottle of Korbel for one (okay, maybe two) mimosas on your deck seems like the only thing to do.

I really should be drinking whisky since the hero of the latest Ravenel book is a Scottish distiller. This book brings together the Ravenel family with her other popular series, The Wallflowers. I’m not sure you really need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this steamy historical romance.

Right from the get go hardworking Merritt and Keir feel lust and within days the widower and the Scot share a passionate night together. The trouble begins immediately as someone tries to kill him and almost succeeds.

This was a fun read. Kleypas is fast becoming my favorite historical romance writer. This one is hot off the presses and hot in the romance.

We finally finished our 500 piece Norway puzzle from Completing the Puzzle . It was harder than it looked at first but we all liked finding the Vikings around the puzzle.

I read the 400+ page Ocean Prey with Lucas Davenport (#31) and Virgil Flowers. I’ve read all the Davenport books (except last year’s, somehow I missed that one) and a few of the Virgil ones. Lucas has been a US Marshal for awhile and the case of murdered Coast Guard puts him in Florida.

I don’t want to say too much, but if you read this series you might get a little teary at something that happened to a favorite character.

Loved this one! I didn’t realize how much I’d missed these two.
Yesterday, we took Gage to the ER for some tummy/chest area issues. He’s better but still not great, but they ruled out heart and lungs and sent us home. He’s only been able to eat applesauce, rice, and pretzels. Even Honeynut Cheerios made him sick. We’ll get it sorted out but it’s no fun watching your kids feel yucky.

I remembered to grab the Nintendo Switch for Gage, but forgot a book for myself, so last night before bed I read him The Hill We Climb by the youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential election. This poem is perfection and gave us so many things to talk about with all the things going on in this country.

A taste…
“Scripture tells us to envision that:
‘Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid.’
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory
Won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promised glade,
The hill we climb, if only we dare it:
Because being American is more than a pride we inherit-
It’s the past we step into, and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.”

The force that would shatter our country rather than share it is alive and well still. May Gorman’s words give us all the resolve we need to make sure our democracy remains strong for our children.
Monday- ER. Tuesday- power out morning until early afternoon. Wednesday- a second ER trip and now our power is out again after a storm. Please tell me this week will get better!

Gage was pretty sickly this morning. Back in the ER they gave him fluids and ran bloodwork. And sent us home with nothing but give him Miralax, Pepcid, and Zofran and hope that in a few days he’ll feel better 😟. So, anyone out there who would like to say a prayer or send some positive energy that would be appreciated. I sent jason and gage to grandma’s to enjoy her electricity while I’m here trying to enjoy some de-stress time in the growing darkness.

Last night before bed we read this beautiful picture book about a mother preparing for the birth of her child. Loved learning more about the Inniniwak and their traditions. The illustrations and story were just what this mama needed last night. A sweet book for a mom-to-be. I Sang you Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett.
Thanks for your positive vibes and prayers for Gage yesterday. Keep ‘me coming, he’s still feeling bad and can barely tolerate food 🥺. I’m hoping we can get him over the worst of it soon.

After we got back from the ER yesterday Gage and I finished this gorgeous double sided puzzle. So fun and happy, something we both needed yesterday. Now we’ll take it all apart and do the other side. Stay tuned!

After the electricity went out and the guys went to grandma’s house for TV I sat outside and finished this wonderful book. Seriously, it’s way more than I thought it would be. It’s Texas history told in relation to her own personal experience and the the history of the country. I learned so much! By sharing the history we never hear about of blacks and Native Americans as Europeans first made it to this land the picture of our country becomes clearer. The emphasis is on Texas, but even as an Ohioan I was drawn in by her storytelling.

Juneteenth by Annette Gordon Reed. It’s only 148 pages and I highly recommend it. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Gage is pretty much the same as yesterday. Rough morning, little to eat, but was able to tolerate some potatoes with chicken for dinner. Baby steps.

We’re studying Kansas this week and I read these three yesterday and let Gage choose one to read today. This week I have allowed way more screen time than necessary, but there has to be some upside of being sick, right?

All three of these are longer picture books for the older elementary crowd and about real people.

Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman is the story of Sharice Davids, one of the first Native American women to hold the office and the first LGBTQ congressperson to represent Kansas. It’s a good story for kids, that no matter what people say you can or can’t do, it’s you who decides your fate. Inspiring story of her childhood and heritage. It just came out in June.

Fieldhouse is another autobiographical kids book, this one a graphic memoir that I found a little busy, but Gage loved (I knew this would be the one he picked!). Dreaming of playing for the Kansas Jayhawks, Scott Novosel made his dream come through with perseverance.

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas was my favorite. Junius was born a slave in Kentucky but was still a child when freed. He headed west, stopped in Kansas and got a job working on a farm. He was such a hard worker he was soon overseeing it. He held firm to his dream of having his own farm and through sweat and sacrifice became Potato King of the World, in 1919 he had over 2,000 acres of his own land. Loved this story and the illustrations.

Still reading books published this year, so if you have one I should read let me know!

This Week – School in back in session (sort of)

August 1st brings a new month of reading possibilities. I’ve never been driven to read what’s new. Unless it’s a favorite author I prefer to let the dust (and my expectations) settle first.

For August I’ve decided to read only books published this year. I went a little crazy at the library and here they are, my intentions for the month. Sammi was excited to check them out too!

I started with Own It: The secret to Life by Diane Von Furstenberg and I hope this is not an omen of the rest of my book choices. Set up like a dictionary with with trite thoughts about them, this book failed in almost every way for me. The few bright spots were the short stories that she attached to some words. If the whole book had been that it would have been fun. As it is you get advice such as this…

PINK. Pink is what white does to red. It is the most feminine and flirtatious of all colors.

PURPLE. Purple is what blue does to red. It is a color we either love or hate.

LOSER. I sometimes feel like one, and then I remind myself, only losers don’t feel like losers.

At least it was relatively short.
Hairpin Bridge started off strong with a twin sister trying to find the truth behind her twin’s supposed suicide. It ended on the same day after lots of action, storytelling, and revelations. It read fast and had a solid suspenseful idea. It lost momentum in the way it kept going back and forth, but managed to surprise in the end, which is always nice.

We took our first half day of school on the road to Penitentiary Glen, about 30 minutes from us. We decided to take the book on a bit of our hiking trail. 
We took Yang Warriors with us on our morning walk to Shadow Lake. This 40 page, beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of a group of children in a Thai refugee camp. The author lived at the camp with her family when she was five. Her sister was part of a group of children who snuck out of camp to gather fresh food for the weak and sick younger kids, giving them all hope of better days. Those kids were, and still are, viewed as heroes in the eyes of those they fed at much risk to themselves.

It didn’t explain why the kids were there or even what a refugee camp was so if reading this with your child it would be helpful to talk about that before reading the story. Otherwise, it was a great book with kids providing inspiration to other kids. Bravery has many faces and it’s important that kids see as many of them as possible.

My mom loaned me How Lucky telling me it was different. I agree and that’s what I really liked about it. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, Daniel lives in Georgia near his best friend since birth who makes sure he has a social life. Daniel sees a girl kidnapped and tries to do the right thing, even if the police are not especially helpful.

There was the mystery of the disappearance, but it was the story of his life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, past and future that kept me reading and interested. He was a great character and I loved his relationships with friends.
I picked this up purely for the fun cover and had a fun time hanging around Hampstead Heath. What Abigail Did That Summer is #5.3 in the Rivers of London series, but I had no problem jumping right in to the world of the talking foxes and the fae.

Abigail is still in school and must pass Latin before her uncle will let her begin training in magic. She spends the summer with a new friend investigating strange disappearances.

It was mostly light and fun and Abigail was a hoot.
I loved this sweet throwback story. Rosetown Summer is 84 pages about friendship and family in a small Indiana town in 1974. Ten-year-old Flora doesn’t like change, loves quiet, and has many anxieties about things out of her control and I think any child who fits that description would probably like this one.

This is a sequel to Rosetown.
We started half days of homeschool this week, each day a different park to explore. We hiked, enjoyed swings and playgrounds, and still managed to carve out some book learning at picnic tables. This is our August plan and a great way to ease into 5th grade.

I is for Immigrants was recommended to us and counts as a new book since it was just released. We both had fun going through the alphabet picture book full of words that describe the immigrant experience. So much great discussion. Recommended.

Journey: Based on the True Story of OR17 The Most Famous Wolf in the West. A recent news story told in a fabulous way alternating between the wolf’s journey and a 10 year old following his path. Great facts pages at the end. Highly recommended for older elementary kids who love animals or nature.

Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains. This is told as a tall tale with fun illustrations sure to appeal to the plant and tree lover.

How was your week? Have any new books to recommend I read this month?

Paris in July continues with books and photos

I met V when she and her husband were living in the Cleveland area and the four of us became fast friends. E is from France, came to the US for college and was working at his first job after. V is from Belgium, met E on a trip to LA and married him. Jason and I don’t speak French and what little I picked up from them I’ve forgotten. We were so sad when they left shortly after their first daughter was born so that they could be closer to family, but agreed to visit them two years after they moved. I’ll share some Lyon pics, where we stayed with them for half of our trip this week, but didn’t want to keep talking about Paris without saying why we went in the first place. To be honest, I had no desire to visit the country (oh, how wrong I was!).

Jason and I were lucky enough to attend the French Open on our 2010 trip. I purchased the tickets for us (and our friends who met us in Paris) months ahead of time as a surprise for Jason. He was thrilled and it was a great day to watch clay court play. I remember feeling the pregnancy more that day than any other, sitting in the heat so long.

I listened to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, although you can see I have a copy of the book. McLain is local and I went to hear her speak a few years ago and had this and another of her books signed. Here’s the recap of the fun event.

This book is about Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, and the time that she and Ernest lived in Paris. It actually started with their courtship in Chicago, but this is mainly about their life in Paris. I was surprised at how much I liked this one. Hemingway married four times, but this first marriage shows us the writer before his fame. The voices of both came through to show a marriage from loving beginning to sorry end.

Recommended for historical fiction fans, Hemingway fans, or those who like to read about history from a woman’s perspective. I admit that I’ve spent some additional time on the internet reading more about this fascinating family.

Any Hemingway fans? I’ve only read A Farewell to Arms. What about you?
Jules Verne, born in 1829 France, was a man ahead of his time. Often called the Father of Science Fiction, he merged science and literature and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea brought him international fame. He was a real visionary who loved adventure and writing. This book told a little about what he correctly predicted and what happened to his unfinished works after his death.

I’m not sure exactly how I’ve reached this age and never read one of his books.
What have you read by Verne?
I finally finished French Exit and am happy to put it behind me. I listened to over half of it and then switched to reading so I could finish it up an was surprised by how much more I preferred reading to book. Obviously the audio performance was skewing the characters for me.

Long story short, Frances, an eccentric widow, her grown son who still lives at home, and their cat who possesses the soul of her dead husband have lost all of their riches. They move to Paris and pick up a wide range of colorful characters. Something happens at the end and you’re done. I enjoyed some of the dark humor, but didn’t feel satisfied after I was done. I’m still not sure exactly what it all meant 🤷🏻‍♀️

The donuts are from my Instagram pic. I received the puzzle and the postcard on the same day 🙂

Visit Thyme for Tea for more Paris in July posts.

French books, tea, puzzles and wine

When I decided to participate in Paris in July, I reserved books at the library, bought some French wine, ordered a few puzzles, and…visited Etsy! I only let myself order two things and one came this week all the way from France.

The Eiffel Tower shaped tea bags from Tea Heritage are adorable and tasty. What a fun way to add a little pizazz to my morning tea. They have all kinds of shapes and, as you can see, the shapes and tea sachets are a great size.
We finished our 1500 piece Ravensburger Paris puzzle last night! It was a fun one, although I had a hard time with the dark section on the right. My eyes aren’t what they used to be 😂

I also finished My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme, published 2006, 336 pages. I listened mostly but did like having the actual book so I could look through the pictures included throughout. I liked this so much more than I thought I would!

It’s about food, France, friends, foreign service, and fame late in the game. There were lots of names of people and places and, to be honest, I’m glad that I listened. If I had read it I may have become caught up in the details 🤣. As it was, I felt like I was listening to an accomplished and happy woman tell tales from her life to me and a group of friends and it worked.

Have you ever watched Julia on screen or tried one of her recipes? I haven’t but feel like I need to now.

I’m not saying that having friends drive you through some of the prettiest areas of France was a gift, oh wait, I am saying that! Look at the cover of today’s book an compare to my photo from our trip. 😍. We spent a day admiring the views and visiting small villages and it was a breath of fresh air. This was the Beaujolais area.

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (published 2018, 384 pages) is a great beach read. A single mother takes her 10 year old to France for 5 weeks so that he can spend quality time with a father he rarely sees. She’s leaving a scary situation with her mom, bringing a few friends, and harboring a serious secret. There are heavy topics, but they’re done with a light enough touch. I can’t say I loved any of the characters, but i enjoyed the audio.

I’m drinking a lovely Bordeaux, Chateau Moulin Lafitte. I love the lightness of the full bodied wine.

This was an impulse buy when I visited Barnes and Noble last month and I’m so glad I brought it home just in time for our (modest) vacation planning. It helped awaken the wanderlust 😁. So many gorgeous pictures. Paris had 4 pages of pics, this is just the first.

What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever visited?

And this book went perfectly with the postcard I received yesterday from Poland. I love the whole world in his hands photo. Zuzuka told me the last movie she saw was Birdy (Ptasiek in Polish).

What’s the last movie you saw? We just binged the rest of the final season of Bosch last night so we’re looking for a good movie next.
I listened to Jane Smiley’s most recent (Perestroika in Paris), told from the perspectives of a horse, a dog, a raven, two ducks and a few rats. These animals are living in Paris on their own and have loosely banded together. They understand and use money to pay for things 😒 The story meandered along at a snail’s pace, but the happy ending was nice.

I was completely the wrong reader for this one. I don’t usually care for these kinds of first person animal stories, but I wanted to try something different set in Paris and this was definitely that. I think Gage would have enjoyed it more than I did.

Make sure you visit Tamara at Thyme for Tea for more Paris in July posts.

No Spring Chicken

Book Cover
No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability by Francine Falk-Allen

2021, 330 pages

Francine is a polio survivor. She contracted polio at 3 years old in 1951 and now has a permanently paralyzed foot and mostly paralyzed leg. She has not let this hold her back, especially from travel. As a matter of fact, this fits right in with my Paris in July reading since she relates how best to navigate Paris and the airports. Her honest and useful insight will, most likely, inspire you. Her first book was a memoir, Not a Poster Child: Living Well With a Disability, and I’m now interested in reading that as well.

Let’s start with saying that this is a book for the disabled and those aging and losing some of their physical independence, either temporarily or permanently. It’s also a book for anyone who assists or loves them. It’s broken into three sections. The first is on navigating travel in the United States and abroad. She has done so much of the homework, that you’ll be itching to travel (who wouldn’t after the year and a half we’ve had!). This would help those wary of travel as they lose some comfort and mobility.

The second section is where you’ll find advice for both the caregiver and for the aging. It will help you see that you’re not alone. She gives many well meaning tips on living well and points out that while none of it’s groundbreaking, it is nice to have in one place. She even gives exercises to help strengthen your core and hopefully ease pain. She talks about navigating doctor’s visits for mundane checkups to cancer appointments. There is a lot of great information here.

She wraps up with finding ways to connect in your community. Sometimes you have to initiate the support you want! This is so important not only for the disabled and aging, but having a safety net of support does tend to help them most. I think this book was informative, inspiring, and just the reminder we all need as we age.

I want to thank Rebekah at PR by the Book for sending this to me when I said it looked interesting. It was so much more than I thought it would be and I recommend it for those who are no spring chickens (and the people who love them) 🙂

Francine’s website.

You can connect with her on Facebook too.

Paris in stories, page and screen

I’ve been reading, watching, drinking, and puzzling my way through the city for Paris in July and for my book a day challenge. Let’s see where I’ve been since Sunday…

We watched the 2011 movie Hugo and I tried some Chateau de Segries 2019 Cotes-du-Rhone from France for Paris in July. We hadn’t seen the movie or read the book about the orphan boy who could fix things and lived at a train station. The movie was good as was the full-bodied wine. I didn’t have a full second glass since it’s 14.5% alcohol. My body doesn’t handle red wine as well as it used to! It only took a few days to empty the bottle 🙂

I’ve also included a few pics taken from where we stayed our last night in Paris. Such beautiful views.



While the boys played in the river I took Lonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails for a northeast Ohio nature walk. I loved this book! It’s 100 pages of beautifully laid out facts with stories and photos. A few quick, fun facts from the different spreads shown.

“No ladders and buckets are needed to clean all the pyramid windows (the Louvre)- every three weeks the job is done by a remote-controlled robot.”

“Sixty-six feet below ground, in the limestone tunnels that sprawl beneath Paris, lie the skeletons of 6-7 million Parisians. The public can explore 1.43 miles of the tunnels, but that’s just a fraction of the 186 miles that actually exist.”

“In 2010, a Parisian park introduced chilled sparkling water to its drinking fountains to persuade Parisians that tap water was just as good as the stuff in plastic bottles.”

“$16 is the current fine for jumping into the Seine.” (This is shown with all of the Clevelanders in the Chagrin River)

“120. The number of bicorne hats Napoleon used during his military career.”

“The French have been eating frog legs since the 10th century. Today the French frogs are protected, so the frogs in Paris plates are often shipped in, live, from Asia.”

Sitting here with my coffee and new journal (❤️ @etsy ) enjoying this beautiful summer morning. I TRY to read an inspirational/meditative book and journal every morning, in reality it’s like 4 days a week.

I finished up my morning reading book for the last month, Peace is Every Breath by, my favorite, Thich Nhat Hanh. This isn’t my favorite of his, but it was okay. This could also count for this month’s challenge because he wrote it while living at his Plum Village retreat in France, but we also read..,

Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower. I adored the illustrations, all back and white with highlights of pink. The story was okay, but after realizing it had no basis in reality I was confused 🤨 Don’t let your kids read it and think it’s true like I did.

And if you’re still reading, the photos are from outside Pompidou Center. We met our friends there because it was close to our last hotel. There was some crazy stuff in there. We were there a few hours before moving on, but I still remember vividly some of the installations, they were that bold and, some, disturbing.


I wanted to play Azul last night but Gage wanted to work on the Paris puzzle as a family. Last time I showed you the Eiffel Tower and now you get a peek at another “piece” of the puzzle 😄.

I also listened to this story collection by Jojo Moyes while working on the puzzle and running a few errands. I loved the longer first story, a novella really at 151 pages. It’s about two people finding each other at the wrong time. But can there really be a wrong time for true love? Nell falls in love with Paris and Fabian and goes back to England after their weekend romance, but is that the beginning or the end? I’m not telling.

The rest of the stories were entertaining, but brief, and mostly forgettable. Still, I liked the book as a whole even though I’m not a short story fan.

Paris fun to be continued…