June is for reading :)

I’ve been reading, 190 books so far this year. For these first 11 days in June I watched one movie based on a book I read in February (The Sun Is Also A Star) and read 17 books, 8 of them picture books by or about the celebrated illustrator Jerry Pinkney. I also read 4 fiction/thrillers, 1 play, 1 chapbook about aliens, 1 non-fiction, 1 YA fiction, and 1 kids fiction. I’ve really needed the fiction escape it seems!

The first 5 on this list (I’m counting all of the Pinkney books as a whole) I would heartily recommend.

The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna is agoraphobic, which began after a trauma the year before. She’s separated her family, has one therapist/frend, and access lots of alcohol and medication. She also has a camera and likes to keep an eye on her neighborhood. When new neighbors arrive at her doorstep, Anna’s carefully crafted (sad) life begins to unravel.

A fast-paced thriller perfect for summer. I really liked it. She’s an old movie buff, which I loved, and I need to go back and make a list of all the movies she mentioned so I can watch them (without a bottle of wine and pills).

The Last Flight
Last Flight by Julie Clark

Two women on opposite coasts are both in dangerous situations. They switch identities and flights and hope to evade the men sure to come looking for them. But one of the flights crashes.

Two compelling women with two compelling stories. I liked the back and forth and the switch between then and now. I was even surprised at the end (but probably shouldn’t have been).

I had a fun time with this one.

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

I picked up John Boyne’s young adult historical and breezed right through it. He has the rare talent of writing unlikeable characters and still putting together a compelling story. A Ladder of Years is my favorite, but others will remember The Boy in the Striped Pajamas best.

In this short (260 pages) book, 7 year old Pierrot loses both parents, his best friend, and his home city of Paris as he sent to an orphanage. His aunt finds him and brings him to Berghof, where she is head housekeeper. Of course, this is also Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. Hitler takes a special interest in the boy and Pierrot’s fate is sealed.

Can he recover from the things he did while so young? A good book about how any child’s future is shaped by their circumstances as well as their spirit. A tragic story but not one without hope.

I will read anything he writes.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes
The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

I loved this one! A teen who had no support, a man who needed her for a kidnapping scheme, death, stolen babies, changed identities and a lifetime of guilt. What’s not to love? And I really love the cover ❤️

Jerry Pinkney by Lisa M B Simons, The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, The Three Bill Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney, The Talking Eggs: A Folktale from the American South by Robert D San Souci, John Henry by Julius Lester, Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder, The Further Adventures of Spider: West African Folktales by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst

Philadelphia born artist Pinkney has won numerous awards for his illustrations of children’s books, novels, magazines, and even a series of postage stamps starting in 1977. He’s still sharing his passion with the world at 81.

The Talking Eggs was my favorite. A sister is abused by her mother and sister, but is rewarded with her pure heart. It was a little more detailed than the other retellings of this Creole folktale and I loved it.

My other favorite was the classic John Henry, also different than other versions I’ve read, but I’m always up for a story about the legendary man. The song I learned as a kid still goes through my mind every time. Anyone else?

They’re all good. A Place To Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation is his most recent work (2019) and the first time he used collage. And The Lion and the Mouse (2009) is a wordless book that tells one of Aesop’s fables. And I always love reading the African tales about that wily Spider 🕷

I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011 (I Survived, #12)
I Survived: The Joplin Tornado, 2011 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived The Joplin Tornado, 2011 was our before bed book for the week. I thought it was scarier than the last one we read about the Chicago Fire. At the end of a few of the chapters I wasn’t sure he’d make it – then I reminded myself the book I series is called I Survived 😆

The writing is simple and the books have a few pictures for interest and that makes them something Gage enjoys. So, for that I am grateful. Finding books that he is interested in reading continues to be a bit of a struggle and this series is a safe bet.

Tornadoes scare me. Have you ever experienced one firsthand?

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
This is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison

I both listened a read and much preferred the audio. I liked that it was different, but I can’t say I loved the book.

Harriet, 79, is a recent widow with a shaky relationship with her kids. Her marriage was meh and she’s stuck in a rut. Enter the Alaskan cruise her late husband had won and his visits from beyond the grave and you have the start of an interesting story. I just didn’t care for the this-is-your-life way the story moved from one time to the next.

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Strange Land by The Poet’s Haven

Strange Land from Poet’s Haven Digest, 2017 is a chapbook given to me by a friend at the library who just happen to write the very first poem, #greenlivesmatter. There were poems and stories all with a different take on our alien friends and their feelings on us Earthlings. Made more interesting by the government’s recent acknowledgment of UFOs 👽 It was a fun, fast read perfect for the unofficial start of summer.

A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

I was hoping that this would provide insight into the classic movie, which I don’t like at all. Unfortunately, I ended up disliking the characters even more 😂

Blanche comes to live with her sister Stella and Stella’s husband Stanley. The three of them bump into and around each other in a small apartment until damage is done. Unlikeable characters in a sad tragedy of a story. But, hey, it’s a classic for a reason, so what do I know?

What’s been your favorite June read so far? Anything I need add to my reading list? Extra points if it’s on the shorter side 🙂

Finishing up May

As the homeschool year was winding down, I found it harder to focus on reading, so Jason and I watched two bookish movies this week. We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Woman in the Window. I wrote a post comparing the book and movie, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. So, two movies and 9 books to finish up the month.

2 thrillers, 2 fiction, 2 kids non-fiction, 1 non-fiction picture book, 1 kids fiction, and 1 cult classic.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

What a lovely book! I flew through this story about living boldly and making your own second chances. A quiet, spare book with a big heart.

Addie and Louis, both in their 70s and widowed were lonely. One day Addie walks around the block, knocks on his door, and asks Louis if he would like to spend nights in her bed. No funny business, just talk and sleep. He showed up at her house with his pajamas and a toothbrush in a brown paper bag after dark, they drank one glass of wine and a friendship began.

It’s not a love story, it’s a life story. It didn’t end as I expected or even hoped but I loved this book!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived at the Castle by Shirley Jackson

 I loved the narration by Bernadette Dunne. She captured Merricat perfectly.

There’s a village and an estate that rules them all, at least in the mind of Merricat who lives the big house with her older sister Constance and ailing Uncle Julian. The rest of the family had been poisoned six years before and Constance had been acquitted of their murders, but now she never left the estate.

It was ominous and creepy, two things that go well together. I felt a little let down by the ending, but after some reflection and reading a few reviews, I saw things that I had missed initially. It made the story richer, but only after the fact 😁 It would be a fun group read with friends, and at 146 pages it would appeal to non-readers as well.

2034 by Elliot Ackerman
2034 by Eliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis

In 2034 the US has a woman president who isn’t affiliated with a political party. So, right off the bat, things are good, but we barely hear from her. This global conflict is told by military and political personnel from the US, China, Iran, and India.

I really liked getting a taste from the different countries and the four main characters were interesting. Are nuclear weapons in the next world war inevitable? It’s a sobering look at what lies ahead. Written by an ex-Marine and Admiral.

This was a fast, exciting read.

Who Was George Washington Carver? by Jim Gigliotti
Who Was George Washington Carver by Jim Gigliotti

George led an inspiring life. Born into slavery, being left for dead as a baby, taken in and raised by the Carver’s, George left at 13 years old to walk to a town that would teach blacks in school. He lived this way, getting town to town looking for more educational opportunities for much of his young life. He became the first black to graduate from Simpson College and the first college graduate and faculty member at Iowa State.

It was his years at Tuskegee Institute that made him famous and led to awards and accolades. He cared about the earth, the farmer, the food we eat, and doing his best to leave a positive mark on the world. He most certainly did that.

Who Was Milton Bradley? by Kirsten Anderson
Who Was Milton Bradley by Kirsten Anderson

Milton Bradley loved games, as a way to be social (he had dinner parties almost every night), to fill the time (he made special game sets for soldiers during the Civil War), and to teach (he became very involved in the kindergarten movement and toys for teachers).

He was always creating. He also took a nap everyday and shut down the machines in the company so he could do so in quiet 😂. He loves a good nap even more than I do and I’m a huge nap proponent. He worked hard, he played hard, and he stuck up for the things that mattered to him. A great read and one that reinforced our discussion from the movie Soul.

Pie Girl by Ellen Potter
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Pie Girl by Ellen Potter

 This is the fifth in the Piper Green series, Pie Girl. I didn’t know this was part of a series when I requested it from the library, but we enjoyed the 126 page book anyway. Piper lives on an island of the coast of Maine and the ship that comes with the doctor once a year is set to arrive. The town hosts a potluck every year and this is the year she gets the coveted Pie Girl title. She also has a secret fairy tree and the latest gift from the fairies is an eye patch, so she becomes Pirate Pie Girl. Cute story with lovely illustrations for early elementary kids.

Earmuffs for Everyone! by Meghan Mccarthy
Earmuffs for Everyone; How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy

Earmuff For Everyone was how Chester Greenwood became known as the inventor of the earmuff, a parade being held in his hometown every year. Only he didn’t invent them, but did improve upon the design. This is such a great lesson for kids to learn about researching and seeking out the truth. Loved this one.

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

 I listened and read the book. I really liked the narration, but wish they’d had someone else read the story within a story to.make it less confusing. I’m so much looking forward to what everyone has to say about it! This was originally published in Japan in 1994, but only translated to English in 2019.

Things are slowly disappearing from the island. Roses, hats, birds are all being taken away from the inhabitants and the militant Memory Police are ensuring compliance and sniffing out those few who remember everything. Our narrator decides to hide her editor in her home before the Memory Police take him away and kill him, like they did her mother.

Is it dystopian? Sci-fi? A cautionary tale? Surrealist? I found it all of these things. I liked the idea of it and I liked the writing and that was enough for most of the book, but in the end it sort of fell apart for me.

Personal by Lee Child
Personal by Lee Child

Personal, the 19th in the Jack Reacher series, takes us abroad in search of a skilled marksman that Reacher put away many years ago, it who is now taking shots at world leaders.

The book was good, not likely one I’ll remember, but I always enjoy spending time with Reacher.

164 Books This Year

With the 8 books I read this week my total for 2021 stands at 164 books and 3 movies based on books. My reading a book a day this year challenge is successfully chugging along. This week I read 2 non-fiction picture books, 2 fiction, 1 historical romance, 1 thriller, 1 poetry, and 1 kids fiction. I did manage to read 3 new books so that’s an improvement 🙂 Have you read any of these?

Here they are in roughly the order I liked them best. It’s hard to do this since they are so different!

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas
Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas

I read Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas (#2 in the Hathaway series, but I didn’t read the first and still loved this one). A historical romance set in mid 1800s England with a quirky, but proper family who welcomes two Gypsy men into their fold.

This was steamy, but also had an interesting mystery surrounding the two men’s matching tattoos. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue on to the third book. 360 pages.

Dawn by Elie Wiesel
Dawn by Elie Wiesel

Elie Weisel, Holocaust survivor, author, and activist. I read his autobiographical Night 6 years ago and loved it, this is considered the second book in that trilogy although it is fiction.

Elisha, a Holocaust survivor is a Israeli freedom fighter (calling themselves the Movement) in British-controlled Palestine. He has been tasked with executing a British hostage at Dawn. This book takes place from dusk til dawn of that day.

It’s a short, introspective book (100 pages) about war, becoming a murderer, and how we as a society got to this point. So much to unpack and I’m sure I’ll read it again.

“I was beginning to understand. An act as absolute as that of killing involves not only the killer but, as well, those who have formed him.”

“We say that ours is a holy war, that we’re struggling against something and for something, against the English and for an independent Palestine. That’s what we say. But those are words; as such they serve only to give meaning to our actions. And in our actions seen in their true and primitive light, have the odor and color of blood. This is war, we say; we must kill. There are those, like you, who kill with their hands, and others-like me-who kill with their voices. Each to his own. And what else can we do? War has a code, and if you deny this you deny its whole purpose and hand the enemy victory on a silver platter.”

This was written in 1960 and, sadly, felt like it could have been written yesterday. I didn’t read this book to connect with the current conflict, but, man, it sure did hit a little harder because of it.

“War is like night. It covers everything.”

The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler
The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler

Can you spot the perfect couple? Always smiling, touching, sharing private jokes? Maybe they’re both tall and beautiful or have great laughs. Or, perhaps, you are past your teen years and realize there is no such thing.

I’m on the @tlcbooktours today (thank you very much for the book!) and was surprised at how caught up I got in this thriller. It’s not perfect, but it kept me reading every chance I got.

Gemma and her husband move from London to Bristol and one day the husband disappears. The police think it might be the work of a serial killer or even Gemma herself.

I wasn’t surprised by the ending but enjoyed the journey. The author has previously written cozy mysteries and you can feel that influence although this is definitely darker. Fun ride.
Seeds of Freedom by Hester Bass
Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

The city was a bit ahead of the curve in the equal rights department in that they were able to change sooner and as peacefully as possible at the time. The first black student to attend an all-white school happened there in 1963 and a private school became the first reverse-integrated in the state when 12 white students started a traditionally black school a week before. Really liked this one, especially the last few pages with additional information and photos of the real people who were there.

The Switch by Beth O'Leary
The Switch by Beth O’Leary

I listened to and read The Switch by Beth O’Leary and while it has nothing to do with cemeteries, the event that drives the story is the death of a sister and granddaughter the year before. Workaholic Lena is forced to take a 2 month sabbatical from work and her grandmother Eileen wants to heal the relationship between her daughter and granddaughter. So they decide to switch places. Lena takes over her grandmother’s village house and responsibilities and Eileen moves into Lena’s London flat with two roommates.

I liked the audio with Daisy Edgar-Jones and Alison Steadman reading the dialing storylines. I loved the indomitable 79 year old Eileen and her London takeover. The story as a whole was sweet.

Impossible Bottle by Claudia Emerson
Impossible Bottle by Claudia Emerson

I read a book of poetry last night l, based solely on the cover. I lucked out that the poet, Claudia Emerson, was actually a Pulitzer Prize winner. This book was published after her death of cancer in 2014. She writes about her experiences with the illness and the everydayness of life that we often miss. I was moved by many of the poems and am happy I took some quiet time to experience the talent and and truth found here. 65 pages

“The World is not Conclusion.” – Emily Dickinson

The One Thing You'd Save by Linda Sue Park
The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park

“Imagine that your home is on fire. You’re allowed to save one thing. Your family and pets are safe, so don’t worry about them.” This is the assignment Ms. Chang gave to her class on the first page of The One Thing You’d Save.

The author used sijo (an ancient form of Korean poetry) structure in the 65 page picture book. I loved the discussion between the students -it felt very genuine- but I wish the illustration heavy story had been in color.

The answers range from a ratty sweater and iPhone to a rug and autographed baseball program.

A fun story and conversation starter. Gage is still trying to decide on his item, he needs some and told me he’d let me know by the end of the week 😆. For me, it would most likely be a bin full of family history stuff. What about you?

The Teachers March! by Sandra Neil Wallace
The Teacher’s March by Sandra Neil Wallace

This was a nice history of the civil rights period in Selma. I found it dense for the format, but it was nice that many of the events it mentioned we have already read about.

TLC Book Tour – The Perfect Couple

The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler, published 2021, 422 pages

Can you spot the perfect couple? Always smiling, touching, sharing private jokes? Maybe they’re both tall and beautiful or have great laughs. Or, perhaps, you are past your teen years and realize there is no such thing.

I’m on the @tlcbooktours today (thank you very much for the book!) and was surprised at how caught up I got in this thriller. It’s not perfect, but it kept me reading every chance I got.

Gemma and her husband move from London to Bristol and one day the husband disappears. The police think it might be the work of a serial killer or even Gemma herself.

I wasn’t surprised by the ending but enjoyed the journey. The author has previously written cozy mysteries and you can feel that influence although this is definitely darker. Fun ride.

A so-so reading week

I read 8 books this week, but only two really stood out for me. Maybe some of my dissatisfaction is stemming from too many kids books! More adult reading on the way 🙂 This brings by yearly total to 156 books.

2 kids fiction, 1 graphic memoir, 1 historical romance, 1 non-fiction, 1 picture book-fiction, 1 picture book non-fiction, 1 kids fiction

Listed in the order I like them best with my thoughts. Have you read any of these?

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo  Villavicencio
The Undocumented Americans. Published in 2020, 208 pages

“This book is a work of creative nonfiction, rooted in careful reporting, translated as poetry, shared by chosen family, and sometimes hard to read. Maybe you won’t like it. I didn’t write it for you to like it. And I didn’t set out to write anything inspirational.”

“This book is for everybody who wants to step away from the buzzwords in immigration, the talking heads, the kids in graduation caps and gowns, and read about the people underground. Not heroes. Ransoms. People. Characters.”

This book is more than a memoir of her undocumented life, more than a series of interwoven stories of people living in fear, more than what gets printed by news sources. Its’s authentic. It’s raw. It’s impactful. It’s her truth and you do t have to like it. But you will probably gain some insight if you read this slim book. She travels from Ground Zero to Miami, Flint, Cleveland, and beyond.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women. Published 2016, 211 pages

 I had fun reading through this international list of strong women, sharing some with Gage when we were sitting together.

Each woman had a bio page and another page with a beautifully drawn portrait. The artwork is where this book shined. I’m considering getting my own copy for that reason alone.

I met women I’d never heard of along with women I’ve long admired. I think the bio pages were okay, but wish they’d felt more complete. But since this is for younger girls they are probably great for whetting the appetite for more exploration.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1). Published 2006, 384 pages

After watching the Netflix series, Bridgerton, I thought I’d give the book series it was based on a try. I listened to the audio of The Duke and I and really enjoyed the performance.. Most things in the book are in the series, but not the other way around.

The Bridgerton’s are a large English family that enjoys a life of privilege in London. When Daphne, the fourth born but first daughter, is facing pressure to marry she forges a ruse with her brother’s best friend, the Duke of Hastings.

I liked the book, but really missed the all of the extras from the series. I admit that I missed that larger than life Queen. I missed some of the other friendships that showed up that weren’t in print. I don’t know if I’ll continue to read the series. I may be content enough to catch it onscreen.

Walt Whitman by Nancy Loewen
Walk Whitman. Published 1991

 On the left are his bio pages and on the right are excerpts from his poetry. At 47 pages it’s a pretty book for your shelves and to use as an introduction to Whitman for middle schoolers.

There is one about political parties that is particularly timely.

A fun edition to read on a sunny day and I learned more about Whitman’s life than I remember, particularly his role of caring for the wounded during the Civil War.

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington
Courage for Beginners. Published 2014, 320 pages

Seventh grader Mysti has a mother who has agoraphobia, a dad who is in a coma, a best friend who is going to ‘pretend’ to ditch her so he could be popular, and if she doesn’t walk the mile to the grocery store, she and her sister would have nothing to eat. I love the new friendships she forged and the way that she held her family together. This book captured the painful growing that happens in junior high and I liked it. It was fun to read a book that I wouldn’t normally have picked up.

A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein

A Giraffe and a Half. Published 1964, 48 pages


Gage and I read some Shel Silverstein poetry, watched the 1973 Giving Tree movie by Shel Silverstein, and read A Giraffe and a Half. Gage loved this story much that he read it again to his dad. It was funny, ridiculous, and had an unexpected conclusion. What boy doesn’t want to see a rat, a snake, a skunk, a dragon, and a whale being carried by a giraffe?

The Great Chicago Fire, 1871 by Lauren Tarshis
I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871. Published 2015, 112 pages

We read a chapter or two before bed every night (were lucky there were no nightmares) and immediately after finishing it, Gage started looking to see which one he wanted to read next. He LOVES this series. The book was good, my favorite part being the last 8 pages with facts. Did you know that the deadliest fire in US history took place the same day as this one but was actually 250 miles north in Peshtigo, Wisconsin? Chicago fire killed 300. Peshtigo? Between 1,500-2,500! I need to read more about that!

Mallko & Dad by Gusti
Mallko and Dad. Published 2018, 120 pages

This is a journal/sketchbook by the author/artist Gusti about his son with Down Syndrome. I wanted to love it, and there were pages that hit me with their honesty, one whole two page spread is covered with the words I DID NOT ACCEPT HIM. I was expecting more introspection about how he got from there to the words on the last pages, written largely across the pages “ACCEPTING“ IS WILLINGLY AND GLADLY RECEIVING WHAY WE’VE BEEN OFFERED. The other pages are filled with drawings by dad and son, photos, and some snippets by mom and brother.
It was creative and sweet. It was translated from Spanish and missed something in translation for me but appeals to others given its high GR rating 😁

First week in May reads

This first week in May has been a little on the rainy and cool side, but that’s not a bad thing when you want to read 🙂 I finished 6 books since the last update, 2 YA books (1 fiction, 1 non-fiction), 2 kids books (1 fiction, 1 non-fiction), 1 thriller, and 1 historical romance. That brings my number of books read this year to 147. I don’t have time to upload my Instagram pics today, but you can always follow me there to see them daily https://www.instagram.com/stacybuckeye/

The books in the order I liked them best… Have you read any of these?

Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Find Her by Lisa Gardner (#8 in the Detective DD Warren series)

Although this is book 8 in the Detective D.D. Warren series it can be read as a standalone. Really! I haven’t read any of this series and totally got hooked right away in this thriller.

Flora spent 472 days kidnapped. She got away, but has never been the same. When we meet her in the first chapter she is trolling for men who kidnap young women. But in the 5 years she’s been freed she has turned herself into a machine of resourcefulness and the men pay dearly. This time though, she goes too far and draws the attention of a police detective and someone far more dangerous.

I loved how my feelings for Flora changed from one page to the next. She was a complex and fascinating character Her story is what carried the book so I don’t know if I’d read more of the series, but I really liked this one.

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg
Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg is the story of Nico, a girl hitting rock bottom after her sister dies. It’s the 1990s and her love for Kurt Cobain and grunge music taps into her heartbreak. As she spirals out of control she decides to run away from her distant and divorcing parents and even her druggie best friends. She comes up with a bucket list and hits the road with her dad’s gas card.

Aside from the back of the book calling the 90s a bygone era this was well done 😉 . Nico was not always easy to like, but as one adventure led to another, I got caught up in her pain and wanted to see her well. She’s a teen lashing out, trying to wash away her loneliness with drugs, drinks, and dudes, and it was the wholesomeness of the 90s that saved her from darker experiences  Music was really a main character here, each chapter titled by a different song.

The ending was satisfying, with some spots being realistically heartbreaking still. There’s already a sequel in the works and I’m looking forward to seeing what Nico’s future holds.

I was on the TLC Book Tour for this one.

Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub
Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub

Gage and I love the Who? What? Where? series. We have a lot of unread ones in our library, but I requested Jim Henson because he grew up in Mississippi and that was last week’s state. And then I discovered Gage didn’t know the Muppets! How is this possible?! So as we read a chapter a day before finishing it yesterday we also spent some time watching old Muppets episodes.

Also, I found a puppeteering class on Outschool last week so he did that too and it was a lot of fun for him to see the process from a professional.

I always associate Henson with the Muppet Show I watched as a kid. I was happy to learn about his Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock experiences too. I love how he managed to make the Muppets stars even before they got their own show. And, his death at a young 53 was made even more sad by the genuine affection all who knew him had for him and for the joy his life’s work brought to the world.

“Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it.”

The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris
The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris, young readers edition

I don’t like reading political books written by people trying to get elected. I chose the YA version thinking I would get a better feel for the woman who made history, in a quicker more succinct way. I did. I wanted to read about a historical figure while we’re actually still witnessing it. I wouldn’t consider myself a Kamala fan, but…

I’ve always respected the determination and smarts of women who get to the top of their field. They are always held to a different standard than men, whichever side of the political aisle you’re on. Add to that having mixed heritage, Jamaican and Indian in Kamala’s case, and the standards continue to shift.

As for the book, I liked it. It told of her background, her love for her mother so present throughout the book. She talked about her career (District Attorney, Attorney General, US Senator) and the campaigns of each. She used those experiences to talk about her ideals, essentially laying out what she stands for and how she sees the country. I’m sure this would be inspiring to teens.

I learned a little more about our current VP and am happy I read it but I didn’t love the book. Maybe I should have read the adult version or maybe I should’ve have waited for her memoir. Nothing in the book surprised me, I already knew she was tough and accomplished, but it was fun to hear her talk about her husband’s proposal, and as a concerned citizen, it was nice to read about Senators reaching across party lines (on both sides).

Savage Intrigue by Cassie Edwards
Savage Intrigue by Cassie Edwards

A historical romance about the Dakota tribe of MinnesotaWisconsin in the mid 1800s. I liked learning about the traditions of the Dakota at the time, but was less enthused with the love story. It’s part of a whole series. I think I’d like to try a Native American romance written by a Native American. Do you have one you can recommend?

The Case of the Secret Message by Parker C. Hinter
The Case of the Secret Message by Parker Hinter, Clue Jr. series #1

These were past my childhood years so I’d never read them, but I do LOVE the game of Clue. The Clue Club consists of 6 fourth graders (Mustard, Scarlet, Plum, White, Green, and Peacock) and they are mystery lovers. There are 8 mini mysteries each with one clue filled illustration to solve. We got them all but two 😂. Those fourth graders are super smart!

It was a fun, short book (84 pages) to read together and we have two more! Did you read these when you were younger? Or maybe your kids?

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg

• Publisher: Wise Wolf Books (April 26, 2021)
• Paperback: 294 pages
They told me I was an out-of-control train about to crash…
Everything changed when the police officer knocked on the door to tell me – a 16-year-old – that my older sister Kristen had died of a brain aneurysm. Cue the start of my parents neglecting me and my whole life spiraling out of control.
I decided now was the perfect time to skip town. It’s the early 90’s, Kurt Cobain runs the grunge music scene and I just experienced some serious trauma. What’s a girl supposed to do? I didn’t want to end up like Kristen, so I grabbed my bucket list, turned up my mixtape of the greatest 90’s hits and fled L.A.. The goal was to end up at Kurt Cobain’s house in Seattle, but I never could have guessed what would happen along the way.
At turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and laugh out loud funny, Runaway Train is a wild journey of a bygone era and a portrait of a one-of-a-kind teenage girl trying to find herself again the only way she knows how.

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg is the story of Nico, a girl hitting rock bottom after her sister dies. It’s the 1990s and her love for Kurt Cobain and grunge music taps into her heartbreak. As she spirals out of control she decides to run away from her distant and divorcing parents and even her druggie best friends. She comes up with a bucket list and hits the road with her dad’s gas card.

Aside from the back of the book calling the 90s a bygone era 😆this was well done. Nico was not always easy to like, but as one adventure led to another, I got caught up in her pain and wanted to see her well. She’s a teen lashing out, trying to wash away her loneliness with drugs, drinks, and dudes, and it was the wholesomeness of the 90s that saved her from darker experiences 🙂 Music was really a main character here, each chapter titled by a different song.

The ending was satisfying, with some spots being realistically heartbreaking still. There’s already a sequel in the works and I’m looking forward to seeing what Nico’s future holds.

This is a must read for grunge lovers, teens, and anyone with memories of that bygone era, the 90s.

Thanks for having me TLC Book Tours and for a copy of the book!

Finishing April with a bang!

This last week of April reading had been fantastic! Seven books – 1 play, 1 inspirational, 1 thriller, 1 kids fiction, 1 fiction, 1 historical fiction, 1 non-fiction/current affairs. I was all over the genres and it worked 🙂

Listed in the order I liked them best with my Instagram thoughts posted.

Leaving Coy's Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke
Leaving Coy’s Hill by Katherine A Sherbrooke

Leaving Coy’s Hill is my last book of April and one of my favorites! Lucy Stone isn’t a trailblazer I knew anything about, except to hear her named linked to Susan B Anthony or Elizabeth Stanton. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on this one when it comes out next week (May 4).

Lucy, raised by an abolitionist father, became a skilled orator as she paid her own way through Oberlin in in the mid 1800s. Her skills caught the eye of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas and she began touring the northeast for their anti-slavery group. Her experiences led her to start fighting for women’s rights as well.

This is a work of fiction, based on real people and facts. I loved every page and have already done some quick reading on Lucy and her family, so it inspired me to want to know more. I was swept up in the time period and what is was like for women at the time. I’m so glad that I read more about the women and men fighting the good fight for blacks and women when it was dangerous to do so. An immensely readable and inspiring novel.

The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey
The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey

This was my morning reading for over a month. Some mornings I only had time to read two pages, sometimes more, but my day was better either way. I always found ideas and thoughts to add to my journal.

After 200 interviews for her Sunday show, Oprah decided to compile a book with quotes or parts of interviews broken into 10 areas, like intention, forgiveness, and fulfillment. Some of the speakers that went into my journaling were Father Richard Rogers, Deepak Chopra, Thomas Moore, Devon Franklin, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, Elizabeth Gilbert, Geneen Roth, Glennon Doyle, and many others. You can slide through some random pages I flipped through to take a look.

It’s a beautiful, heartfelt book that’s good for the soul AND would make a great Mother’s Day gift 🌷

Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose

I saw the 1957 movie, years ago, and was pleasantly surprised that I liked this at least as much. I’d like to see the movie again and do a comparison. The playwright, Rose, wrote the adapted screenplay so it’s probably as true as it can be to the play. My initial thought is that reading it was much easier to digest than the fighting and arguing over each other of the film.

Twelve men walk into a jury room charged with deciding whether a 16 year old boy lives or dies. Initially, only juror 8 (you never learn their names) is the only one who votes not guilty and he’s not even claiming the boy is innocent. Jeers, jokes, and fights ensue. What does it mean to be a juror in the American justice system? Is there justice in the system? Can regular citizens be expected to set aside prejudices and do the right thing (whatever that may be)?

This should be required reading for all and at 74 pages it will only take an hour or two, even less time than it would to watch the movie. A look at prejudice and faith in the ideals of America.

Nomadland by Jessica Bruder
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

Before there was Nomadland the Oscar winning movie there was Nomadland:Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. Older Americans, lost in the shuffle of a changing economy, are forced into making choices they never thought they would be forced to make, including getting rid of their biggest expense, their home. They move about the country in whatever kind of mobile home they could afford, finding jobs by companies that seem intent on taking advantage of them.

These people lived sometimes day to day, finding a place to move their vehicle and having enough food to eat. There is a subculture that Bruder covers well.

My greatest anger was at some of these employers who clearly take advantage of people who have no where else to go. Although Amazon stories have been told there are many others using this mostly older demographic as cheap labor.

While some chose this way of life or learned to embrace the perceived freedom, it was still a sad book. The people were resilient, but we have failed them as a country, vilifying instead of making their lives a little easier.

I both read and listened and much preferred reading. I liked the book but felt it could have been a bit shorter.

Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton
Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales by Virginia Hamilton

I read the last Virginia Hamilton book I have checked out of the library, Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. If you are reading your children fairy tales, please make sure you add a Hamilton book or two to your list. These are so rich in history, which she does a great job of explaining in a paragraph or two at the end of each chapter, and so different that every child should be to exposed to them. Obviously, when they are of fairy tale age, but also at the time that slavery is introduced in their learning. These stories were passed down from slaves and Virginia makes them easier to read and understand.

Loved this 112 page book of 19 stories as much as I have loved all of her others.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

So, I read this book in my early 20s and fell in love with Jon and his journey to perfection, or Heaven. I’d never read anything like it. Reading it again in my late 40s, having more than doubled the age when I first read it, I’m less enamored with the tale, but still loved its lightness and spiritual exploration. Definitely a fantastical tale worth an hour of your reading time. Your day will be enriched.

Have you read this classic? What did you think of it?

Never Go Back by Lee Child
Never Look Back by Lee Child

This is the book that the second Jack Reacher movie was based on and,no surprise, many changes were made. This is the 18th book in the series and the first one with a hint of Reacher showing positive feelings for a happily ever after or kids. He’s also been recommissioned back into the Army.

This is not the first book to try if you haven’t read the others, too many anomalies from the first 17. But if you’ve read the series it was a fun diversion. I’ve grown to really like Dick Hill’s narration of Reacher and enjoy listening as much as reading these books.

Such Good Reading!

It’s been a fantastic reading and watching week. I loved everything!

3 fiction, 3 Picture books (2 fiction, 1 non-fiction), 1 Non-Fiction, 1 Mystery, 1 Movie

So have you read any of these? What did you think?

Fences (film).png
Fences, 2016 with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. I read the August Wilson play in January and loved it. This was good too, but different. I’ll be writing a post comparing the two next week. Viola Davis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this role. Jason and I watched this on our ‘date night’. Not recommended unless you’d like to spend the rest of the evening talking it out while feeling a heavy sense of sadness.
The Push by Ashley Audrain. The Push was our book club choice for the month and it generated some very strong feelings. Personally, disturbing as it was, this was a great book. It’s a complicated story about motherhood, all of the ugly parts no one talks about and the absolute highs when you are exactly the mother you thought you’d be.

Blythe comes from generations of bad mothers. The stories of her mother and grandmother are interspersed throughout the novel. Blythe falls in love, gets married and is nervous to start a family of her own. Motherhood comes and I’ll tell you no more.

This debut novel is well written, perfectly paced, and hard to put down. But it’s not an easy read. It’s difficult at times to take in what’s happening and I think a lot of women could be upset by much of what happens. It’s a love or hate book for most and I’m standing on the love side.
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner. I read the oldie but goodie, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, originally published in 1994. I was happy to see how well these stories held up. My favorite was Little Red Riding Hood so I’ll leave you a few quotes…

“One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water to her grandmother’s house-not because this was women’s work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender feelings of community.”

“He burst into the house and ate Grandma, an entirely valid course of action for a carnivore such as himself. Then, not hampered by rigid, traditionalist notions of what was masculine or feminine, he put on Grandma’s nightclothes and crawled into bed.”

I chuckled through all 13 stories.
Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey. Feels like Falling should be packed in your summer beach bag. It splits time between two very different women who become friends. One is a recent divorcee and one just left her dead end boyfriend. One is living in one of her million dollar houses for the summer and the other is sleeping in her car. While only 6 years apart the two are decades apart in maturity. I liked it, it tackled serious topics but in a light way, hence the beach recommendation. Gray’s obsession with age got old, but it didn’t ruin the book, just made me like Diana more 😁
National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky. Check out my thoughts form this week here. (Loved it!)
The Black Book by Ian Rankin. Rebus is a great detective, so good he often rubs people the wrong way. He’s just been kicked out of his girlfriend’s house and moves back to his apartment, one that’s full of subletting students, and his brother fresh from prison. One of his partners ends up in a coma after investigating a five year old murder, so Rebus takes the reins.

This was not my favorite of the series, it took me too long to get invested, but if you love police procedurals, especially those set in different locales, this is a great series.
Ramadan Moon by Na’Ima B Robert. A great, and beautifully illustrated, introduction to Ramadan in a sweet fictional story for kids.
Bobbie: The Wonder Dog by Tricia Brown. Bobbie the Wonder Dog: A True Story starts in 1923 Oregon. On a trip to visit family in Indiana the family dog, Bobbie,runs away. The family is sad to have to leave before finding him, but 6 months later Bobbie shows up at their restaurant back in Oregon, having travelled 2800 miles on his own. He became a countrywide sensation. An adventurous and touching story.

Riding To Washington by Gwenyth Swain. Riding to Washington is about a young white girl’s bus journey to the March on Washington with her dad. She was too little to understand everything and yet was able to convey that she understood the importance of the moment. The author’s father and grandfather made the trip in 1963 and she always imagined what it would have been like to go with them.

Non-Fiction Wins the Week

This has been a weirdly non-fiction reading week. It’s been nice, but I’m craving a quick thriller or romance! I loved all 13 books I read this week (except for those last 3 kids books, I could have skipped those).

Weekly breakdown- 5 Picture books (4 non-fiction), 3 Kids Non-Fiction, 2 Non-Fiction (social issues), 1 Inspirational, 1 Thriller, 1 Fiction.

I’m listing these in the order I liked them best. 124 books read so far this year!

What Unites Us by Dan Rather
What Unites Us by Dan Rather

Rather talks about our country’s past, present, and future in relation to freedom, community, exploration, responsibility, and character. It’s about what the country is and what it could be if compromised politicians and non truth tellers get out of the way. It was inspirational and also aspirational and made me feel all of the good feels about our country and a desire to do more to shape its future.

Part memoir, part essay – all heart.

It Came from Ohio by R.L. Stine
It Came From Ohio!: My Life as a Writer by R.L.Stine

This has been our bedtime family reading. We all really enjoyed it and laughed often. Gage fell for the ‘cliffhanger’ at the end of each chapter forcing us do sneak peeks every night :). He made turn into a book guy yet!

Stine is from Columbus and graduated from Ohio State, a little ahead of my time, but I still loved reading about his time on campus and working on the school magazine, The Sundial. He headed to NYC after that and never looked back. Some of his writing jobs were funny and some seemed way wrong, like writing celebrity interviews that he never conducted, but he paid his dues before hitting the fame train. This was a lot of fun and included lots of photos and original drawings from Stine.

The Affair by Lee Child
The Affair by Lee Child

I listened to The Affair by Lee Child, #16 in the Jack Reacher series. I’ve read the series in order, but this is a flashback novel and takes place 6 months before the first book in the series. I always love spending time with Reacher and it was a nice change of pace since he was still in the military.

A woman is murdered in Mississippi near an army base and Reacher is sent undercover to assess the situation. He finds that this isn’t the first murder. Not surprising to any Reacher fan he also ends up under covers with a beautiful woman (with a little too much detail, especially when you’re listening to the audio). After 16 books you finally get the WHY of Reacher leaving the military police.

Another solid entry into the life of Jack Reacher.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar
A Burning by Megha Majumdar

A Burning, Megha Majumdar’s debut novel, tells the story of ambition from three different points of view. Set in her homeland of India, the politics were different, but sadly recognizable.

Javan, a Muslim is accused of being a terrorist after posting on Facebook. Lovely is a transgender woman who faces ugliness everyday, but still manages to shine. PT Sir, a gym teacher who becomes ‘important’ by doing things he knows are wrong. All three are connected, but will have very different fates.

I liked quite a lot about this book. I was at different times fascinated by the class structure, rooting for justice, and horrified by the lack of compassion. It left me unsettled, as was its intent I’d guess. If you want to try a different kind of thriller this is a good one!

The Four Doors by Richard Paul Evans
The Four Doors by Richard Paul Evans

The Four Doors: A Guide to Joy, Freedom, and a Meaningful Life is written by Richard Paul Evans of The Christmas Box (etc.) fame. It’s based on a talk that he has given to different audiences around the world. There are four doors, choose one or choose them all, each will lead to a richer life. Believe there’s a reason you were born. Free yourself from limitation. Magnify your life. Develop a love-centered map.

I admit that I really didn’t have high hopes for this so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this short book. He is God centered, but this book didn’t feel church centered. He included quotes from a wide array of unexpected people, like Emerson, Dostoyevsky, Churchill, and Einstein, as well as a multitude of quotes from his books.

He glossed over some things, but in the spirit of an hour or two with an uplifting book that may change your perspective I’m giving it a thumbs up. I really liked it.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism by Robin D’Angelo

Jason and I listened to a little of it together and I read the rest (reading is the way to go on this one). You need to be prepared to just take it in, without getting defensive. That is not to say you have to agree with everything she says (I didn’t) but giving yourself the time and space to reflect on what she says is important.

Why is it so hard to talk about race without people (whites in this case) retreating behind excuses and denials without really taking the time to try and understand? The book is spot on in the things I’ve heard people say, myself included, that completely dismiss racism, whether intentional or not. I am SO GLAD I read this.

This is a book to understand a bit better how our whole way of living here in the States was built and is maintained by at least some level of racism, and how you define racism is important.

It did not make me feel bad about being white. It made see ways that I can be better as a person. We should all strive for more knowledge and perspective.

Jean Laffite by Susan Goldman Rubin
Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America by Susan Goldman Rubin

This is for older elementary as there is lots of reading, but the story, illustrations, and information page at the end are fabulous. It generated discussion all through dinner. Jean Laffite was a privateer (a new term for me) whose ancestors had been kicked out of Europe for being Jewish. He grew up wanting to take out his revenge on Spanish ships on the open seas. And he did. How did this boy from the Caribbean go from thief and slave trader to national hero with a pardon from the President? If you don’t know the story I’m not going to spoil it! We both loved this book.

Art From Her Heart by Kathy Whitehead
Art From the Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter

One sentence reviews from Gage.

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter. When Clementine was 50 years old she began painting and eventually became so famous her art was hung in museums. 

A Penguin Named Patience by Suzanne Lewis
A Penguin Named Patience by Suzanne Lewis

Patience and other penguins at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans were rescued during Hurricane Katrina.

The 5 O'Clock Band by Troy Andrews
The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy Andrews

A fictional story about Shorty, a kid who played in a second line band and learned about dedication, tradition, and love. (Based on the author’s experience) 

Time For Kids by Elaine Israel
Jesse Owens: Running Into History

I always thought Jesse was born in Cleveland, but he didn’t move here until he was 9, even though his middle name is actually Cleveland! When he ran for Ohio State he broke FIVE World RECORDS and tied a sixth all within 45 MINUTES! How is this humanly possibly? Lots of pictures and commentary about his place in the social issues of the time.

Tecumseh by John Micklos Jr.
Tecumseh by John Micklos Jr.

The book was pretty good, but that cover really does ruin it.

Family Huddle by Peyton Manning
Family Huddle by Payton, Eli and Archie Manning

A book about the Manning family (Archie, Peyton, and Eli) that’s good for young kids who like football.