Weekly Book Wrap Up- January 16

I’m a few weeks in and still feeling confident about my book-a-day-goal.

I read 3 kids books with Gage, 2 adult books, listened to one adult book, and watched one movie adaptation. Only one was truly non-fiction.

I’ve listed them in the order I liked them best and included my Instagram pics and summaries.

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton was my favorite book this week and the Netflix adaptation, The Midnight Sky, was my least favorite. You can read my comparison of the two here.

What I said about the book… I’ll be watching the movie later this week, but it’s going to have a high bar. This book was wonderful. ❤️

Augustine is an old man stranded at an outpost in the icy north. All of the other researchers were evacuated due to ‘rumors of war’ and there’s been radio silence for over a year. Sully is part of a crew on a two year mission to Jupiter when, just as they begin their journey back to Earth, they lose communication. Their stories, told in alternating chapters, intersect.

It would be doing it a disservice to label it as sci-fi or dystopian and leave it at that. This is a quiet, contemplative book with just enough tension to make you want to keep reading. It’s a book about survival, not just of the body and planet but of the mind and the human spirit.

What I said about the movie…No. No. No. After reading Good Morning, Midnight and loving it, this George Clooney Netflix movie adaptation felt all kinds of wrong. There was a Sully, hurtling back to Earth, and an Augustine, isolated on ice. But everything that made the book so wonderful, it’s quiet look at the meaning of life among other things, was lost in translation. 

We both learned at lot with this one. Who Was Dr. Seuss? by Janet Pascal.

I learned a lot about Ted. He wasn’t a serious student and a disappointment to his father. Drawing ads was how he made his living after college. He made movies for the Army during WWII and eventually even won two Oscars. He had college friends who gave him an introduction to the publishing world and he never looked back. Each of his most famous books were explained from the beginning of the idea to how the story was received. That was this book nerds favorite part.

I never know what Gage’s takeaway will be from these longer, around 100 page, books so I was happy when I heard the first thing he told his dad. “Dad, did you know Dr. Seuss was voted Least Likely to Succeed?” His first takeaway was that what labels people place on you have no impact on what your life will become. I’d be okay if that’s the only thing he learned (but it wasn’t 😁)

My Buckeyes may have lost is resounding fashion, but the book of the day, Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares was a good one.

We started learning about Maryland this week so we read this 40 page picture book of one of their most famous citizens. Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares was a great read. As someone who knows very little about baseball and it’s players beyond the names, this helped me see George beyond the Babe. He was sent to live at a reform/orphanage at 7 years old, even though he had two parents and a little sister. The people in that school became his family and he never forgot them.

Great story and illustrations make this a fun read for kids and their parents 😁

The second of the In Death series, Glory in Death by J.D.Robb.

Glory in Death is book 2 😂. J.D.Robb (or Nora Roberts or the uninitiated) knows how to write a good mystery with hot chemistry between her two main characters and this series has the added bonus of being set in the future.

What does police detective Eve Dallas do when prominent women start getting their throats slashed? Why make herself more prominent, of course! This isn’t hard to do since her bedmate is one of the wealthiest, hottest, most famous men on this planet (or any other).

I figured out the killer by halfway through, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. Robb/Roberts knows how to keep you turning the pages.

Worth Dying For by Lee Child, the 15th in the Jack Reacher series.

 Reacher makes a pit stop in Nebraska and leaves death and justice in his wake.

Jack Reacher is one of those heroes that both satisfies and shocks. He’s a drifter, who always seems to find trouble wherever he goes, or it finds him, and his complicated moral code and stubbornness make stepping away impossible for him. He’s violent, but he’s also trying to right wrongs, so you want to cut him some slack.

I liked this one and was surprised at the end.

Tornado by Betsy Byars.

Tornado was a perfect sized book to take turns reading to each other in one sitting, 47 pages with a few pages of illustrations. Tornado was a black dog who was in his dog house when it was picked up by a tornado and flown to another yard. There are stories within stories, each told in first person, so I had to keep making sure Gage knew who was talking, but it was otherwise an easy to read book with an old fashioned feel. There were even a few pages where Gage was trying not to cry as he read, so the story drew us in.

A nice book for the beginning reader.

Weekly Book Wrap Up, the First 9

I have no idea if this will be the way I do this in the future, but I do want to have all the books I read this year listed so we’ll try this. It’s the 9th and I’ve reads 9 books, woo hoo! I’m going to list the book in the order I liked them and include some of my thoughts about them. Let me know what you thought if you read any of these.

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

The Falconer

The Falconer by Elaine Clark McCarthy.

The Falconer by Elaine Clark McCarthy is a hidden gem. Published in 1996 at only 134 pages it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours, entrapped in the words of a poet. It was beautiful, odd, tragic.

After I finished the book I told Jason I had to sit with it for a bit before we watched something together (we eventually watched the finale of Bridgerton). Not only was I caught up in the story and the beautiful way it was told, but the ending elevated it and I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.

India has just found out she has cancer and has maybe six months to live, so you know from the get go that this will likely not end well. It’s a book about living, death, the afterlife, passion and what our life choices look like when we know the end is near.

Will also appeal to anyone interested in falconry.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

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

 It’s a Remix of the National Book Award-winning ‘Stamped from the Beginning’. Kendi wrote a book about racism, from inception to current day and Reynolds made it easily accessible to teens in about half the number of pages.

Reynolds has a very conversational writing style that makes it all interesting and easy to digest. The complexity of some of the civil rights icons of the past is fascinating. Are you a segregationalist, assimilationist, or an antiracist? Turns out that some of these leaders were more than one at different points in their lives. I learned a lot and also was able to see different points in history in a new way. I think this is a must read starting point for teens.

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

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

What an inspirational listen. The woman was a force and women everywhere lost one of their biggest champions when she died last fall.

The book was a series of conversations between friends, some of which were in front of audiences. I especially liked the end where there was a real clip from a talk given, so you can hear her voice and the applause she received when she was done speaking. Some of the conversations overlapped or covered some of the same thoughts more than once, but her thoughts on a multitude of court cases, the Supreme Court when she joined and today, and how she viewed the future, left me sad all over again that we lost such a voice for women and all the disenfranchised. We were lucky to have her. Loved this audiobook.

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

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

David Breithaupt was hired as Kenyon College Library’s part-time supervisor after a decade spent in NYC working around books and writers. At Kenyon he managed to walk out the door with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of, sometimes rare and irreplaceable, books. He treated the library like his own personal candy store for a decade. He was finally found out when someone recognized something Breithaupt was trying to sell on eBay and contacted the school.

I enjoyed this story for many reasons but having many parts of it take place so close to where I grew up was my favorite. If you have any interest is learning a little about how college libraries work or true crime then this is a winner.

The Stone Girl

The Stone Girl by Dirk Wittenborn.

This is a monster sized book (480 pages) with a lot and subsequently not much going on. Evie’s childhood in the hills of the Adirondacks was full of angst and self-reliance. She managed to get out, even making a life and family in Paris, but her past became her present when her daughter got sick and she had to go back home.

I liked the story, but it felt really bogged down with the addition of so many characters. I would have liked it a lot better if it had been 100 pages shorter. I actually started this book last summer, put it down because my pleasure reading took a back seat to homeschool. I’m glad I finished it because the second half was better than the first.

The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward

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

The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward by Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates is 40 pages and a nice introduction to the Kennedy’s for the older picture book set. I’m not sure why Joe isn’t in the title since he gets his own section and is part of the storytelling (this bothers me more than it should). The book isn’t perfect but it does explain each of the four brothers and what they believed in. It really gave me the opportunity to expand on the book with more information as we read. When each brother died it showed the rest mourning, counting down until there was only Teddy (Edward). So, its not your light, upbeat kids book, you could feel the tragedies this family suffered as its 3 oldest sons were killed.

Who Was P. T. Barnum?

Who Was P.T. Barnum? by Kirsten Anderson

Barnum was a prankster and always ready to exchange truth for a great story. He was born with privilege since his grandfather was a important man able to provide Taylor (PT) with his first businesses. And there were many before he finally found his true calling.

This book was fun and full of Barnum’s biggest successes and failures. It was also interesting to learn a little more about his political life in his later years. A good, quickish read for anyone who loved the movie.

You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

It was a cross between Mean Girls and Strangers on a Train. I like psychological thrillers, but this one failed to grab me. Shay was a sympathetic character, mostly, but the reveal at the end didn’t really wow enough for me to love it.

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

he author calls this story reality fiction. It’s based on an actual documented huckleberry party. Thoreau is joined by three children, two of them based on children who wrote about their experiences later and one based on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s son. Thoreau and Emerson helped me fall in love with transcendental writing so I love that these characters and story were based on real people and event.

The story might be a little slow for smaller kids but older elementary kids will get something out of it, especially the nature lovers! And the illustrations were perfect.

61 Hours by Lee Child

61 Hours by Lee Child

61 Hours. Finished 9-8-2020, 4 stars, thriller, pub. 2010

#14 of the Jack Reacher series (1-Killing Floor2- Die Trying, 3 – Tripwire, 4 – Running Blind5 – Echo Burning6 – Without Fail, 7 – Persuador, 8 – The Enemy, 9 – One Shot, 10 – Hard Way, 11-Bad Luck and Trouble.  12-Nothing to Lose 13-Gone Tomorrow)

A tour bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.
Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed–but so is the woman whose life he’ll risk his own to save.

(from Goodreads)

I finished this one ages ago, but in my OCD need to at least write a paragraph or two about all of the adult books I read this year, I’m getting this one in under the wire. I remember this one clearly because of all of the snow. The snow put Reacher in the wrong place at the wrong time and while you know he’s going to take down the bad guys, he’s a little more haunted by the end of this one than you might expect. If you know Reacher, that is, and by book 14 I feel I’ve got a good handle on this man who is willing to take matters into his own hands if the cause is just (at least in his mind). I love this series and am taking my time. I know #25, where Lee passes the Reacher series over to his brother Andrew, was just released this year, but I’ll get there when I get there.

And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

And Now She's Gone

And Now She’s Gone. Finished 12-17-20, 3.75/5 stars, thriller, 384 pages, pub. 2020.

Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.

(from Goodreads)

The story is confusing for awhile, but I don’t mind that in a thriller since it keeps me on my toes. I had faith that everything would become clear when it needed to be and it was. There is A LOT going on in this one, much of it stemming from or related to domestic violence, for much of the book, so this is counterprogramming for all of Hallmark movie binging I’ve been doing lately 🙂

There are many twists and turns so the less said about them the better. Gray, the woman who gets her first private detective case, is an interesting character with a complicated past that provides as much of the story as the missing Isabel does. It kept me reading late into the night.

Amos Decker series by David Baldacci

1- Memory Man 2- The Last Mile 3- The Fix

I listened to these first three books in the Baldacci mystery series about Amos Decker within a month’s time so I think you can safely assume I’m a fan. Jason has also listened to three so far and gives the series a thumbs up.

Amos was a standout college football player at THE Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) and his big time opportunity came with the Cleveland Browns (9-3 woot woot!). On the first play of his NFL career he was brutally injured, not only ending his career, but changing his life forever. From that day forward he could not forget anything, total recall of every moment of his life that he could flip through like a photo album anytime he wanted. This was the case when he went home one night after his shift as a police detective and found his wife, daughter and brother-in-law murdered in his home. The case wasn’t solved and the changed Amos lost his way and ended up living in a dive hotel. That’s where we meet Amos, at a buffet at the hotel.

Amos is one of those quirky characters that are also geniuses that I always seem to like. Because of his remarkable mental abilities he is able to see things that other people miss. I’ve liked the secondary characters, especially Alex and Melvin, and the love they’ve shown to the sometimes hard-to-take Decker. The mysteries themselves are out there, but not so ridiculous that you can’t appreciate them. My favorite so far was The Last Mile where Decker starts working for the FBI and he tries to get an old football opponent off of death row.

A good series I look forward to continuing.

Dance With Me by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title: Dance Away with Me (Signed Book), Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Dance With Me. Finished 9-11-20, 4/5 stars, romance, 400 pages, pub. 2020

But instead of peace and quiet, she encounters an enigmatic artist with a craving for solitude, a fairy-tale sprite with too many secrets, a helpless infant, a passel of curious teens, and a town suspicious of outsiders, especially one as headstrong as Tess. Just as headstrong, is Ian North, a difficult, gifted man with a tortured soul—a man who makes Tess question everything.

When life throws her one setback too many, midwife and young widow Tess Hartsong takes off for Runaway Mountain. In this small town high in the Tennessee mountains, surrounded by nature, she hopes to outrun her heartbreak and find the solace she needs to heal. from Goodreads

I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips and pretty much everything she writes. She infuses her stories with larger than life characters, lots of humor, and real romantic sparks. Her latest had all of those things, but there was also a heaviness to the story that was somewhat surprising. Tess and Ian are a great couple and their love story was very satisfying, but there was a lot of loss along the way. The book felt very 2020 even though I know it wasn’t written this year. Fans of SEP and romances set in small town will love it.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Evvie Drake Starts Over Evvie Drake Starts Over. Finished 7-14-20, 4.25/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2019

In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button.

When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.     from Goodreads

What a great summer read (or listen, in my case)!  What at first seemed like a fairly standard rom-com turned into something so much more authentic.  Evvie was leaving her husband, her bags were in the car, when she got a phone call from the hospital telling her to come right away.  As she played the part of the dutiful widower she felt like a fraud.  Enter Dean.  Once a star pitcher his career had stalled and he was not sure what to do about it.  I really liked that the friendship came first and that they didn’t hold back truth to be polite.  And the ending?  Not what I was expecting and I loved it.

This is a good one!

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

A Desperate Fortune A Desperate Fortune. Finished 7-6-20, 3.75/5 stars, romance, 528 pages, pub. 2015

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal’s cipher.

But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal’s reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn’t hold the secrets Sara expects. As Mary’s tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take… to find the road that will lead her safely home.      from Goodreads

Sara, as explained early on, has Asperger syndrome.  Her best friend is her cousin, who is offering her a chance at a code breaking job in Paris.  A famous writer wants her to decipher an almost 300 year old diary and she accepts since she is between jobs.  She gets put up at a nice home with a cook and with a good looking man who catches her eye as a neighbor.  She begins to uncover Mary’s story, one that could easily be called a thriller, and it’s there that this book finds its heart.

I liked Sara and enjoyed the honest portrayal of a character on the autism spectrum, but it was Mary that had me turning the pages, hoping that she would get her happily ever after.  For a girl abandoned by her family and then used to curry favor, she was easy to love.  In the 1700s a trek from Paris to Italy was fraught with danger, especially when you were caught with a man who recognized the bounty on the head of her travel companions.  I won’t spoil Mary’s end, but I will say that it was fitting.

Kearsley is a master at the dual storylines set in different time periods.  Usually the storylines match up a bit better than they do in this one and there is most often more of a mystical aspect, but I was still happy to be reading.  Her books are most definitely comfort read for me…and very much needed at this time.

Megabat and Fancy Cat by Anna Humphrey

Title: Megabat and Fancy Cat, Author: Anna Humphrey Megabat and Fancy Cat.  Finished 7-25-20, children’s fiction, 171 pages, pub. 2019

Illustrated by Kass Reich

Megabat series #2 (1-Megabat)

Megabat was looking forward to Christmas morning: presents, playing toys, smooshfruit and watching Star Wars. But then Daniel opened his last, most special present.

Daniel thinks this might be the best Christmas present yet: a beautiful cat named Priscilla! He’s always wanted a pet.

Megabat is not sure he likes this cat. She tastes most hairy.

Daniel loves his new cat! She’s fun to play with, and she’s so soft and fluffy.

Megabat is not soft OR fluffy. He’s not purebred and he doesn’t have a big, beautiful swishy tail. What if Daniel loves Priscilla more than Megabat? This is truly a disturbance in the Force. Megabat and Birdgirl must find a way to get rid of this trubble cat once and for all!    from Penguin Random House

Answers by Gage

Why didn’t Megabat and Fancy Cat get along?

Fancy Cat (Priscilla) got all the attention and Megabat didn’t like it.

Your favorite thing about Megabat was…

all of  the the crazy ideas he came up with to get rid of Fancy Cat.

Which one was your favorite idea?

When he painted himself to look fancy like Priscilla.

What’s the lesson in the story?

Don’t be jealous or mean, be welcoming and nice.

Did you like this book?

Thumbs up!


The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart

The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life The Brave Learner. Finished 7-22-20, 4/5 stars, education, 294 pages, pub. 2019

Parents who are deeply invested in their children’s education can be hard on themselves and their kids. When exhausted parents are living the day-to-day grind, it can seem impossible to muster enough energy to make learning fun or interesting. How do parents nurture a love of learning amid childhood chaos, parental self-doubt, the flu, and state academic standards?

In this book, Julie Bogart distills decades of experience–homeschooling her five now grown children, developing curricula, and training homeschooling families around the world–to show parents how to make education an exciting, even enchanting, experience for their kids, whether they’re in elementary or high school.      from Goodreads

“When parents collaborate, kids learn”  page 65

I checked out a lot of homeschooling books when I made the decision to jump in an do it this year.  This was the first one I read and it was inspirational, to a point.  This mother chose to do a more child-centered homeschool than I would be comfortable with attempting.  The book is full of creative and positive ways that you might approach your day, your kids, and learning, but if you are looking for a nuts and bolts instructional book, this is probably not the one to use.

I loved the positive energy and the stories, but wondered about some of the things she recommends, like not having nice things, even going as far as denting your table early on so you don’t have to worry about it staying nice.  Her approach to cleaning the house is another somewhat controversial area (at least given the amount of flak she’s taken about it on GR reviews).  Kids will learn to clean toilets, dishes and floors as they need to as an adult so don’t feel bad about hiring help.  In general, I’m not against help.  When Gage was an infant we hired someone to come every other week for 2 1/2 hours to clean bathrooms and floors.  But, somehow, now that Gage is home I feel like this needs to be part of what he learns to do.  I say that now, I guess, in three months you might hear me admitting to having Henri come help out again 🙂

This is a very kid-centered way of learning and something that every parent could get inspiration from, not just ones choosing to teach at home.  She is a facilitator and mentor, not necessary mom, when school is taking place.  I enjoyed the perspective, creative energy, and vibe of the book.  I would have loved attending her homeschool!