An American Marriage & People You Meet On Vacation

In addition to Her Secret War, I read two more great fiction books this week! Have you read any of these? What did you think?

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. 4 stars. 364 pages, Published 2021

People We Meet on Vacation was everywhere last year and I finally got around to a listen/read. I loved the friendship between opposites Poppy and Alex. As someone who had a best friend of the opposite sex in college and beyond I loved the banter and the love.

As Poppy found herself having everything she wanted, but still not being happy she decided that making up with Alex was a good first step. The story hops from past to present so that we find out what happened to break their friendship.

A fun modern romance even if I wish more of that lightheartedness would have carried through to the end.

This was the Goodreads Award Winner for Best Romance.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. 4.5 stars. 308 pages. Published 2018

What a great way to start my reading year! Inspired by part of a real conversation she heard at a restaurant in Atlanta. “Would you have waited seven years for me?” And the response “But it would not happen to you.” gets to the heart of this tested marriage.

From the very first pages I felt like I knew Roy and Cecilia. There was an exchange of letters explaining the current situation and then a look back at their upbringing and marriage. Their story was raw and poignant. It’s also the story of Atlanta and all that it means to them both.

If your spouse of 1 1/2 years was falsely imprisoned for 12 years how would you go on? If you like stories about marriage I highly recommend this book. I wish it had gone further in the end, but was still enraptured in their relationship and the secondary characters, especially Roy’s dad.

It’s raining kids books

It’s been a great week for picture books! I read the 7 picture book finalists for this year’s Cybils Awards, but since I’m a judge I can’t give my thoughts until the winner is announced. Check them out here.

Loved

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long. 40 pages, pub. 2010

Obama writes about the traits of his daughters (and all Americans) based on those who have come before us. Qualities like the strength found in Helen Keller and the pride in America found in George Washington. He also featured ten others. Beautiful illustrations too. This is not a political book, but an American one.

Really Liked

Ticktock Banneker's Clock
Ticktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller, illustrated by David C Gardner. 32 pages, pub. 2016

In the 1700’s Benjamin Banneker built a clock with a bell (called a striking bell) to sit on a mantle using only his own drawings and a knife (the bell he purchased). Perfectly shows that ingenuity is just as important as good schooling and money.

Fake News (21st Century Skills Library: Global Citizens: Modern Media)
Fake News: Global Citizens: Modern Media by Wil Mara. 32 pages, pub. 2018

How to mark the anniversary of January 6 in our homeschooling day? By spending over an hour studying fake news, who spreads it and the damage it causes, like January 6 when it almost derailed the foundation of our government.

This book was excellent. It’s short, but up to date with social media dangers and real examples of the harm it does to the world as a whole. A great current resource for worthwhile discussion.

Good

¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! the Dance That Crossed Color Lines
Mambo Mucho Mambo! by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Eddie Velesquez. 40 pages, published by 2021

This book tells the story of how the multicultural mambo came to be in New York City. It showcased each of the cultures in their parts of the city beautifully. Great for showing different cultures coming together to make something new.

Where has December gone?

Yikes! It’s the 18th and I haven’t posted any of my book a day reads this month! So, forgive me for this catch up post with lots of random books 🙂 I’m limping along with lots of kids books, but I will make it. What are you reading to finish up the year? For me it’s the shorter the better right now!

The Road Trip
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary. 414 pages, pub. 2021

This story takes place on a road trip gone awry. Told from his and her perspectives and then and now time periods, this was a story that entertained. The last third of the book had a few revelations that moved the story in different directions all the while satisfying this romantic’s heart in the end.

I thought the audio was excellent.

The Haunted House Next Door (Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol, #1)
Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol: The Haunted House Next Door by Andres Miedoso. 128 pages, pub. 2017

Gage read me the first in the Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol series on Thursday. We’d read a later one in the series and liked it and Gage’s writing tutor gave him the first four for his birthday. The books are written by Andres, Desmond’s anxious friend. Desmond loves ghost hunting and Andres loves having a new best friend in his new town. A fun series with great illustrations for the older elementary set.

Albert Einstein Was a Dope?
Albert Einstein Was A Dope by Dan Gutman. 112 pages, pub. 2021

This is a new series by Dan Gutman about famous figures. I read the Muhammad Ali one earlier this year. Gage and I both loved this one. He loves random and interesting trivia and this fits the bill. It was told with humor that kept him entertained all the way through. And we both learned what happened to Einstein’s brain and eyeballs after his death. Gross! 

The People Awards
The People Awards by Lily Murray. 80 pages, pub. 2018

We’ve been reading The People’s Award book to start our school day for about two months. It says right on the cover ‘Celebrate Equality with 50 People Who Changed the World’ and I appreciated the mix of people from around the world, both familiar and unknown to me. Each award winner ranging from Confucius to Pele had a fun two page spread. It also had a quote from each one which was a good reason for Gage to practice his cursive.

Notes on Teaching: A Short Guide to an Essential Skill
Notes on Teaching by Shellee Hendricks. 176 pages, pub. 2011

Notes on Teaching: A Short Guide to an Essential Skill was a quick read. It took me back to my college days and my English Education classes. Even as a homeschooling mom it still touched on many things that have already made a difference in our day and will continue to do so. It’s always nice to have a pep talk and a reminder of what’s important.

Alaskan Holiday
Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber. 256 pages, pub. 2018

Have you ever been listening to a book and the narration is just so bad that you wonder if it’s a problem with the narrator or the book? Such was the case with this short winter romance. There were two narrators but one came up with voices for some of the characters that were so off-putting I think it must have been intentional.

A young woman goes to Alaska to work for the summer, receives a marriage proposal, goes back to Washington for a great job anyway only to discover dream job is a bust. Will there be a happy ending?

If considering, pick up the book and skip the ear buds.

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters, #1)
The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley (book 1 of the Seven Sisters series). 460 pages, pub. 2014

I listened to The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley thanks to a recommendation from my friend Amy and what a good recommendation it was! This is the first in a series of eight books about six adopted sisters who are given hints about their births after their father has died. In this first book the oldest, Maia, travels from Lake Geneva to Rio de Janeiro in hopes of finding her roots. What she finds is a long lost love affair and ties to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue.

Perfect for historical fiction and romance fans. I look forward to learning more about the other sisters and the mystery that binds them. Great audio.

Well Matched (Well Met, #3)
Well Matched by Jen Deluca. 336 pages, pub. 2021

I read/listened to Well Matched, part of a series that’s set in the small town of Willow Creek. I haven’t read the first two but would consider this a stand alone. Single-mother April is about to become an empty nester and gym teacher Mitch is looking for a fake date to a family gathering. I loved easy going Mitch and outspoken and homebody April. Having it set around the local Renaissance Fair was fun and having family and friends invested in their relationship solidified the story. A cute read for this time of year.

Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents
Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza. 240 pages, pub. 2018

Pete Souza was the official White House photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama and was self admittedly bitter after the 2016 election. He started his own IG account and began to react to Trump’s tweets with photos of Obama to directly respond. Throwing shade was a term he learned for what he was doing and these posts, with Trump’s tweets from the first two years are what make up this book. I wanted to like it more and there were serious comparisons and more humorous ones, but after 4+ years of hate (tweets) and snark I just couldn’t generate any excitement for it. But, hey, it was free!

Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4)
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory. 320 pages, pub. 2020

The Royal Holiday introduced me to a new author AND a middle age romance! It was nice to have a heroine in her 50s and I enjoyed the American going across the pond to fall in love with an advisor to the queen. Can they make it work past her holiday? Keep calm and believe.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. 137 pages, pub. 2010

The Gifts of Imperfection is about living a wholehearted life. Wholehearted living is based on the process of continually cultivating courage, compassion, and connection in our lives. There are 10 main guideposts, including authenticity, resilient spirit, and intuition that she addresses. This book is based on her research and I loved how she shared it, but it was still just a bit too self-helpy for me to love. I did take away a lot of positive energy and am happy I read it.

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots
Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex. 32 pages, pub. 2020

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex should be required reading for adults and children, but really it’s a quick, fun book for kids. The definitions were spot on. Just because someone says something you agree with doesn’t make it a fact. It also addressed the need to wait for more information before making firm opinions.

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Plants on the Move by Emilie Vast. 56 pages, pub. 2021

Plants on the Move is detailed and visually pleasing. It breaks down the many different ways that seeds from plants and trees reproduce and what trees or flowers do each one. Must have for your young plant lovers.

Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Twenty-One Steps by Jeff Gottesfeld. 32 pages, pub. 2021

Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a beautifully illustrated book told in first person by the first unknown soldier buried at Arlington National Cemetery 100 years ago.

The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey
The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Borden. 80 pages, pub. 2005

A well put together kids biography of the creators of Curious George, who may have started with a much more French name than George. Margret and Hans were both from Germany, but didn’t meet and marry until they were both in Brazil where they became Brazilian citizens. They moved back to Paris just in time for the Germans invading the city with the couple barely escaping on homemade bicycles with drawings of a curious monkey in the bike basket.

They managed to escape and make their way to New York, hence my New Yorker magazine cover. The story the pictures and the whimsical drawings make this one I’m happy to have on my shelf to share with Gage.

A Day for Rememberin': The First Memorial Day
A Day For Rememberin’ by Leah Henderson. 40 pages, pub. 2020

A Day for Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day is a beautifully illustrated book about the freed men, women, and children in Charleston who paid homage to the dead Union soldiers who gave their lives so that slaves would be slaves no more.

Tigers & Tea With Toppy
Tigers & Tea With Poppy by Barbara Kerley. 48 pages, pub. 2018

Tigers & Tea with Poppy is about the inspiring life of wildlife artist Charles R. Knight.

I also read these kids books and one for a book tour

Trees by Carme Lemniscates
Animals by Kathy ThornboroughMy Religion, Your Religion by Lisa BullardWe Are Better Together by Ann BonwillThe Science Behind Batman's Uniform by Agnieszka BiskupHow Has Covid-19 Changed Our World? by Kara L. LaughlinFauci by Anthony Fauci(review here)

Catching up after a Buckeye loss

My Buckeyes lost to the the Wolverines for the first time in 10 years. The Game was a depressing one to watch for OSU fans. I’m an alum who bleeds scarlet & gray, but give props to The Team Up North, they showed up to play!

So, what better time to avoid the TV and all the upset excitement than to update you on my reading?

I listened to The Fallen, #4 of the Amos Decker series by David Balducci. It’s not the newest, but I’m listening in order. Amos and Jamison are visiting her sister and Amos wastes no time in finding dead bodies. He does what he does and uncovers one conspiracy after another. Great listen, especially if you are familiar with run down towns suffering from the opioid crisis.

I’m still reading and journaling Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pena Chodron. I go through stretches where I choose sleeping in to getting up early and doing meditative reading. Lately, I’ve been able to get up even just 15 minutes before my kid and that’s made a huge difference to the quality of my day. Coffee and quiet for even just a few minutes makes a happy mama.

Are you a donut fan? I LOVE donuts. The only way you can ruin a donut is by putting coconut or sprinkles on it 🤮

Two graphic novels about two very different artists. Starving artist isn’t just a clever phrase, it was the truth for both of them.

Let’s start with Basquiat by Palio Parisi because that’s the one I read first. I love this cover! He used these same colors the entire book. Jean Michel Basquiat wanted to be a star. He wanted to be famous and he worked hard on the streets of New York City to make that happen. He came into the money and fame but never kicked the drugs that would kill him at 27. It was a good snapshot of his short adult life.

Monet: Itinerant of Light by Salva Rubio and EFA was a more comprehensive book, but, jeez, it sure soured me on Monet the man. This felt like a real biography, from what they chose to include and how they chose to tell his story in pictures and words. Monet was always broke, well except when he made a few bucks and lived large for short periods of time. He seemed to be clueless about many things, but he was unwavering in his belief in his art. I LOVED this book. The man, not so much.
This week we are learning about Oklahoma and we read the picture book Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre. A beautiful book that tells about an event in America’s history that hasn’t really gotten talked about until the last few years. Well done. The discussion and additional reading we did really upset Gage. I could’ve skipped it because it was upsetting, but isn’t that where the real learning and change happens? Yes, it is.

I thought that the Black History in its Own Words from my graphics novel stack would pair nicely with Unspeakable. It’s a collection of creative portraits with very short quotes by a wide range of artists and leaders. It even included one of Basquiat who I talked about yesterday.
The Thirsty Mermaids is about three mermaids who’ve enjoyed the alcohol they’ve found at the bottom of the sea so much that they decide to change into humans so they can find more. These are not your normal 🧜‍♀️. I didn’t love the art but the mermaids grew on me and I ended up liking the lighthearted humor and story of friendship. 256 pages

Bubble is based on a podcast. I’m not familiar with it but wonder if that might have helped me like it. The first little bit had potential and I liked Mitch the weird guy with the power to destroy whatever he wanted, but the constant one-liners took away from a real plot for me. This banter on a podcast would probably work. I liked the art and the sci-fi setting. 272 pages
Malibu Rising is the story of four siblings and their their parents. As an only child the bond between siblings is always fascinating to me so this reeled me in right away. I loved the multiple points of view and the early 80s California setting.

The fact that this 1980s book is in the historical fiction category makes me feel ancient. It had an 80’s vibe but didn’t really feel like a historical novel. Well, except that no one has cell phones so maybe that’s all it takes these days.

I really liked this story of the the Riva family and was happy with the way things wrapped up for the kids.
I’ve had The Four Winds on my shelf for a while, knowing that it was going to be a hard read emotionally. It’s nomination finally got me to pick it up. It took me quite a while to get involved in the story as it was very slow. Elsa, rejected by her family, gets pregnant, forcing the young man who was on his way to college to stay on the farm and marry her. It’s the 1930s Texas and drought and dust crush everything in their path. The story really begins when Elsa dares imagine a better life for her and her kids. This was a heavy book and to see Elsa grow and raise a spirited daughter in such impossible times made this a great read. I shed some tears and am still glad I read/listened to it.

Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 I had already checked out of the library to read for this month. I knew nothing about Dune, no clue or interest in what it was about, but did see the promos for the new movie. This was adapted into a graphic novel by Brian Herbert (son of Dune author Frank Herbert) and Kevin Anderson. Because it’s adapted by his son I have to think it’s faithful to the original. This was well done and once I got myself focused it was easy to follow even for a newbie like me. Sci-fi politics, magical powers, and environmental responsibility make a timeless tale that still rings true, even if takes place on another planet. I really liked this one and look forward to the second installment.

I ❤️ both of these graphic novels! So different and, yet both so good.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg didn’t exactly draw me in at first because of its strangeness, but after the baby who was made into three boys grew up and came back together again I was hooked. As he went on his journey from the top of the world to the bottom I was captivated. You’ll recognize our shared stories in his storytelling, from Adam and Eve to Noah to the Tower of Babel. It’s full of humor, irreverence, magic, and outstanding artwork. This is a surprise favorite for me so far this month. 176 pages.

I admit I picked up Klaus for the cover alone 😍. The story of Klaus, boy found in his dead mother’s frozen arms, is one from legends. I loved the art and the story. There was a proper villain, violence, and a monster, but there was redemption and love too. A fitting read for the Christmas season. 208 pages.
I listened to Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby and LOVED the narration by Adam Lazarre-White. His rich voice made the story of two fathers coming to terms with the deaths of their sons come alive. There was more violence and also more soul searching than I anticipated going in. I really like this one.

I read the first Persepolis a few months ago and loved the creative way Marjane told the story of the Irna revolution and aftermath. This second graphic memoir was about her 4 year abroad and what finally brought her back home. I liked this one a lot too!


The Mailbox in the Forest is a new children’s book with cute story and lovely illustrations Mayu is a first grader staying with her grandparents over the winter break. Her grandparents inexplicably allow her to go into the forest by herself during the days and she finds a mysterious mailbox.

A story about the joys of letter writing and friendships with people different than them. At just over 70 pages it’s a nice length for younger readers, but be prepared to explain why you aren’t letting them spend the day in the forest by themselves.

I’ve included our latest postcard all the way from Russia (thanks postcrossing!). Love all of the stamps ❤️

I can feel the end of my book a day challenge coming. I’ve already read 375 books this year and still going strong.

This Week in Graphic Novels

My graphic novels reading month has been going well. In addition to the books below I also listened to 2 audiobooks in series I follow. The Fallen by David Baldacci is #4 of the Amos Decker series. Amos and Jamison are visiting her sister and Amos wastes no time in finding dead bodies. He does what he does and uncovers one conspiracy after another. Great listen, especially if you are familiar with run down towns suffering from the opioid crisis. Night School by Lee Child is #21 of the Jack Reacher series and takes place when he is still in the military. A nice diversion from the nomadic Reacher, but I could have done without the scene involving a woman and mule having relations on a stage for a group of cheering men. That was a real low point of the series for me.

I also reviewed The Good Kings by Kara Cooney for a book tour, Loved it.

We watched the miniseries Midnight Mass on Netflix. Have you seen it? It seemed all eerily sinister in the beginning and then turned absolutely insane. Can’t say I liked it but it was quite a ride.

Days 2 and 3 of my graphic novel reading have been…interesting? I need to be more careful with my next choice!

Beverly, with is spartan illustrations started normally with a story about teens working in the summer and ended with a story about Beverly the masseuse. They were all loosely connected and followed a timeline of sorts. Strange, somewhat disturbing, and beyond my ability to really appreciate. 134 pages.

Everything is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid is a fictional graphic novel inspired by real life. How much truth I don’t know, but it reads like a memoir. A young immigrant comes out as bi to her conservative Chinese family and she becomes lost, no longer knowing where home is. I loved the art and wanted to love the ‘story’ more than I did. I’m sure this would appeal more to the reader going through similar issues with family and finding self worth.
Ah, that’s more like it. A graphic novel-ish that gave me some happy reading. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse were lovely creatures to spent some time with. I loved the art and the ideas, some more than others, and when I read this to my 11 year old he appreciated the humor of the mole 🍰. Here are some thoughts from the book…

“What do you think is the biggest waste of time?”
“Comparing yourself to others.”

“One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.”

“Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse. “It’s refusing to give up.”

“Sometimes I worry you’ll all realize I’m ordinary,” said the boy.
“Love doesn’t need you to be extraordinary,” said the mole.

I am in love with this puzzle! I’ve never done one with a velvet finish and took a bit to get used to, but the extra dimension it gives to this piece of art is gorgeous. Clement Mmaduakor Nwafor is the Nigerian artist. Thanks for a perfect puzzle @completingthepuzzleofficial

Today’s book is Afar, a YA sci-fi/fantasy featuring a girl who can transport into the bodies of people on other planets in her sleep and her brother who gets into trouble but gets a monkey out of it 🐒. I enjoyed the art and the storylines and can see this appealing to many teens. Perfectly done! (Thank goodness after my first few days of graphic novel month)
When the newest Jerry Pinkney came in the library I knew had to read it. Pinkney died last month at the age of 81 after illustrating over 100 children’s books.

This is the story of The Welcoming Chair, beloved children book author Rosemary Wells’ family heirloom that tells the story of the American immigrant. From her preface…

“America’s door is open to suffering people from foreign lands,” my dad told me. “It’s America’s fundamental generosity of spirit that makes her hold her head high in a world of trouble. And it will always be so.”

‘My father’s words were true until recently. Lady Liberty’s message is today challenged by those who want to shut that door.

This book is based in part on my own family’s legends, as told to me by my grandmother Marguerite Leopold Bamberger and as passed down to her from her grandmother Ruth Seigbert’s diary.’

Wonderful story and gorgeous illustrations.
My two favorite days of graphic novel month so far! Two classics = so good.

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale by Renee Nault and was blown away by how good it was. I have never read the book, seen the movie, or watched the current miniseries. Still, as a person who loves books I knew what it was about. The art was gorgeous and there was just enough information, never too much to insult the reader, to draw you in and keep the pages turning excitedly. In a dystopian world women are again second class citizens and forced into designated roles where they must stay. The handmaids serve one purpose only, to bear children. The question of who a woman’s body belongs to takes center stage. It was fantastic ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is by her grandson Miles Hyman. This story I knew. Lotteries are held in each town once a year and the ‘winner’ gets an extra special prize. Haunting and beautifully adapted with a special forward by Hyman telling some memories of his grandmother. Loved it! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

If you have a reluctant classics reader, let them start here. 📖

I couldn’t do a graphic novel month without including some serious award winning classics. I read these two outstanding books by Art Spieglman (the first winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1992).

It’s the story of the Holocaust based on Spiegelman’s interviews with his survivor father and also of his life with his father as he got older. He, his father, and the other Jewish people are depicted as mice and the Nazis as cats.

So moving, both as a Holocaust history, but also a relationship story between father and son. One I’m not going to forget anytime soon.

October favorites and November reading plans

Can you find my five favorite reads of October?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. What if every choice you made led to a different life, a different you and it was happening simultaneously to your life right now. What if you were able to visit The Midnight Library and try on each of these lives to see if you preferred them to the one you’re currently living. So goes the story of Nora Seed.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. I love the 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby and I finally got around to reading the Ira Levin novel.

Rosemary and Guy move into the Branford in NYC having heard of some of its more infamous past residents. They are befriended by an older neighbor couple and their relationship starts to change. When Rosemary becomes pregnant it’s not at all what she expects and she becomes even more isolated.

A perfect psychological horror story.

Life is Good by Trixie Belden. This book made my day. Any fan of Dean Koontz knows how much he loves dogs, especially his golden retriever Trixie. Trixie decided to write a book when she realized that some humans weren’t as happy as dogs were.

This book was so, so sweet. I loved it, even reading some passages out loud to Jason making him laugh too. If you have ever loved a dog, get your eyes in this book so you can feel the slobbery kisses as you read.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Sager’s take on a haunted house, was a perfect listen as I worked on a puzzle late into the night. Maggie’s father had made their family famous with a memoir about them escaping their house after being attacked by ghosts. Now that he’s dead and the house is hers Maggie goes back to ready the place for sale and perhaps bring back memories from when she was 5. Is Baneberry Hall still haunted? Was it ever? I really liked this one!

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright. This felt like a throwback to the stories I used to love as a kid, no surprise there since it was originally published in 1983. Twelve-year-old Amy is too often relied on to take of her special needs sister. She is able to escape to her aunt’s creepy house where she discovered a dollhouse in the attic. While she’s thrilled, her aunt is not and tensions rise between the two.

This middle school story gave me all of the good stuff. It was a book about growing up and learning to navigate friendships and family and to believe in yourself enough to believe in ghostly spirits. Yes, there are ghosts, but the ones that help set things right. A fun story for tweens. Loved it!

November intentions with today’s read. I had 5 books sent to me for review this month, but 2 of them had their publication dates pushed to next year. A sign of the times I guess. The rest of the month I’m reading GRAPHIC NOVELS! I went to the library and pulled most of these off their shelves, but if you have one that I just need to read let me know.

For today I read Thoreau: A Sublime Life. I mentioned when I read The Midnight Library that I loved Thoreau and it had been too long since I’d read him, so it’s no surprise this was my first choice. I loved this one. It’s not all encompassing, obviously, but the Foreword and the last section written by a professor with details and pictures, were perfectly done to make this feel like a book of importance.

The illustrations told the story, with some pages having no words at all. There were a few significant interactions that put his life into focus. As a freethinker and abolitionist his life in the 1800s still calls people to his readings today. He is more than just Walden and if you’re not familiar than this is a good place to start.

Magical Reading

Except for vacation, I’ve been trying to keep my October reading as ghostly or magical as possible. It’s been a good reading week. What the most Halloweeny thing you’ve read this month?

What if every choice you made led to a different life, a different you and it was happening simultaneously to your life right now. What if you were able to visit The Midnight Library and try on each of these lives to see if you preferred them to the one you’re currently living. So goes the story of Nora Seed.

This morning while Gage was at his last day of Timbernook, I took this book on an hour walk and contemplated making other decisions in life, both big and small, and where they might have led me.

Loved this book. Not only did I love the endless possibilities, I loved the attention to great philosophers, especially Thoreau, who is a favorite of mine. Highly recommend this one for discussion and contemplation. 
I love the 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby and I finally got around to reading the Ira Levin novel. I liked it, but may actually prefer the movie. Now I’m going to have to watch it again!

Rosemary and Guy move into the Branford in NYC having heard of some of its more infamous past residents. They are befriended by an older neighbor couple and their relationship starts to change. When Rosemary becomes pregnant it’s not at all what she expects and she becomes even more isolated.

A perfect psychological horror story for October.

This book made my day. Any fan of Dean Koontz knows how much he loves dogs, especially his golden retriever Trixie. Trixie decided to write a book when she realized that some humans weren’t as happy as dogs were.

This book was so, so sweet. I loved it, even reading some passages out loud to Jason making him laugh too. If you have ever loved a dog, get your eyes in this book so you can feel the slobbery kisses as you read.

Trixie has since passed but her spirit lives on.
This felt like a throwback to the stories I used to love as a kid, no surprise there since it was originally published in 1983. Twelve-year-old Amy is too often relied on to take of her special needs sister. She is able to escape to her aunt’s creepy house where she discovered a dollhouse in the attic. While she’s thrilled, her aunt is not and tensions rise between the two.

This middle school story gave me all of the good stuff. It was a book about growing up and learning to navigate friendships and family and to believe in yourself enough to believe in ghostly spirits. Yes, there are ghosts, but the ones that help set things right.

A fun story for tweens. Loved it!

Also, we watched this throwback Goosebumps video two nights ago. It was definitely old school, but Gage loved it ❤️
That house near the end of the lane is not haunted, at least as far as we know, but The House at the End of Hope Street most definitely is. It’s filled with feminine giants like Daphne du Maurier, Sylvia Plath, Agatha Christie, and hundreds more. It’s a place the fixes those who are called to it and it does it on a 99 day deadline. I’m glad reading books on a deadline isn’t a thing since this was published in 2013.

Peggy has run the magical house for over 60 years, but now it tells her that her days are numbered. Stella is an aging actress struggling with being replaced by younger women, personally and professionally. Carmen has buried evidence of crime at the house and is haunted by its evil. Alba comes to the house as her future is in shambles.

It’s a charming book. I wish there’d been a little more about the four women, sacrificing the bits from the men, but the story still held it’s magic. Magical realism fans will enjoy.
I picked up The Witches of Benevento at our library sale not knowing anything about it except that it was the second in a kids series. I totally forgot to take picks of the illustrations that started every chapter – they were fantastic! This was such a strange little book in a strange little world where kids of the village have to avoid the likes of the Clopper (a witch who eats children), the Janara (mischief makers), and more. I ended up falling in love with this little world and the people who lived there.

Home Before Dark, Riley Sanger’s take on a haunted house, was a perfect listen as I worked on a puzzle late into the night. Maggie’s father had made their family famous with a memoir about them escaping their house after being attacked by ghosts. Now that he’s dead and the house is hers Maggie goes back to ready the place for sale and perhaps bring back memories from when she was 5. Is Baneberry Hall still haunted? Was it ever? I really liked this one!
oday’s book is the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story. I’ve not read the story so the 64 page book had the capacity to surprise.

Jack was only 7 when he first came upon the troll under the bridge and convinced it not to take his life. He offered his sister, later his would-be girlfriend, and finally promising to come back when he was older after he experienced life. He kept his promise, but would the troll still want his life?

Fantasy and fable in one clever short story. There are adult themes, so I’m not sure about the age group, but I was pleasantly surprised to like it so much.
This is the 4th in the Investigators series. Mango and Brash are alligators who work for SUIT ((Special Undercover Investigation Teams). This 200 pager starts with Mango working with a RoboBrash because the real Brash is in a coma due to being eaten by a giant waffle bad guy in the last one. It’s as silly as it sounds. Gage loves this series and was excited to be the first one in our library system to check out this latest.

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.