I’m still not home, but I don’t want to get too far behind in recording my thoughts and favorites, however brief this may be. I read 32 books in February. Picture books 8 (5 non-fiction, 3 fiction), Fiction 4, Plays 3, Thrillers 3, Non-fiction 3, Kids fiction 3, Kids non-fiction 3, Historical romances 2, Memoir 1, Short stories 1, YA 1.
My top 5 books of the month- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Kindred by Octavia Butler, Fences by August Wilson, and The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. So much goodness in all of these!
In March for Women’s History Month I’ll be changing the theme to Women I Have History With Month and reading books by some of my favorite women authors.
To finish up my February recaps of authors of color, here are my last seven.
Kindred is one of those books that was about more than it first appeared to be. Dana found herself transported from 1970s California to 1815 Maryland at any time with no control over when or if it will happen. What is a time travel tale becomes a examination on the making of a slave. Don’t miss it.
A Raisin In the Sun is one of those classics that has passed be by until now. I loved this play and look forward to checking out the movie about the Younger family of South Side Chicago.
Toni Morrison never disappoints and I was drawn into the lives of the Money brother and sister as they navigated post war and post abuse life.
A strange and compelling Nigerian thriller. Love this cover!
A fun read with Gage as we learned more about the legend.
I liked this book about civil rights legend Rosa Parks, but wish there had been more. It felt a little incomplete. I adored the illustrations though.
This was a fun read with Gage. Lots of it went over his head (but I laughed) and much of it was too silly for words (and he laughed) so it had a little something for both of us.
We have just finished week two of our retreat to a Tennessee lake house with still more than a week to go. We were on the edge of the polar vortex mess that crippled much of the country so our time here hasn’t been what I’d hoped. I also fell on the icy road and my head bounced off the ground 🙁 (I’m fine). But, this is why we chose this place…
Even during all of the snow and freezing temps this was the sunset from our deck a few days ago. We are too isolated for this city girl (seriously, the roads were impassable until today) but this view is one I could get used to taking in for quite a while.
I’m still homeschooling and Jason is still working and we’ve got no complaints. Well, except that I haven’t been able to access my Google account and that means I can’t comment on a lot of your blogs when I visit, but know that I am visiting! I have to do this on our iPad which I’m finding to be a bit of a pain.
The books I’ve finished since my last update in the order I liked them, but there really wasn’t a dud in the lot of them. 3 picture books, 2 kids books, 2 non-fiction, 1 thriller, 1 historical romance, 1 play, 1 novel, 1 short story collection, and 1 young adult.
If you somehow missed this beautifully brutal book about 14 year old Esch and her family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, do yourself a favor and find a copy. Be warned that there is a gruesome dog fighting scene that will likely disturb most.
Another one that took me too long to read. This is a must read for everyone. Justice isn’t blind and there are angels among us fighting the good fight. Powerful book.
Gage and I read this together and I’d love to be able to take him to see the memorial that a middle school created to honor the victims of the Holocaust. There are videos on YouTube if you’re curious.
My first Beverly Jenkins romance but not my last! Loved the post Civil War Wyoming setting and the wildly independent Spring Lee.
A sad but very powerful picture book about kindness.
Slavery from the mouths of slaves. This award winner compiles compelling first hand accounts from slaves before, during, and after the Civil War and provides context.
A great picture book about the life of playwright August Wilson. For the older elementary crowd. He earned a diploma from a library, need I say more?
I loved this picture book about a minister who started with bringing in a few boys from the cold and ended up starting an orphanage and founding a world renowned band. Inspiring.
These are such great books to read together, especially since Gage is more interested in non-fiction. He’s making me way smarter 😁
I’m not a big short story fan, but I really liked this collection of eight stories about the Haitian American experience.
This was a quiet story of generational family relationships.
After loving Fences so much I thought I’d try another from Wilson’s Century Collection. I’m guessing that I’ll be reading the last eight before the year is out. I wish I’d started with the first and read them in order since they each represent a decade of the 1900s, this one being the 1940s contribution.
This was another entry into the stranded island mystery genre with more than a few shades of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fun thriller.
It’s already the 10th and I haven’t told you what I’ve been reading. We’ve ‘moved’ to a house on a lake in Tennessee for a bit, so that took some strategic planning since Jason is still working and I’m still homeschooling Gage. I’ve amazed myself that I have, on day 40, been able to keep up with my book a day challenge. The weight loss, not as much success, but I’m not giving up on that. I’m sure I’ll post more details about our getaway at some point, but for now I’ll just talk books 😀
4 picture books, 2 kids books, 2 non-fiction, 1 thriller, 1 Young adult, 1 historical romance, 1 screenplay. Yes, some days I read two because I committed to reading a book by or about a person of color this month, an additional challenge I’m finding rewarding.
The idea is that I post this list on Saturdays, but yesterday I spent all day sorting, moving, selling (online), organizing, and then stacking 30 boxes of books for our Friends group. I. was. beat. It was a good workout day though 🙂
Here’s what I read this week in the order that I enjoyed them. Pictures and thoughts taken from my Instagram.
Lots of picture books, 2 audio books, on e-book, and two actual paper books (my favorite). Three mysteries, and 4 non-fiction kids books (one adult too).
We used this book for poetry reading and cursive practice for the last week. We read a few poems a day, so we were able to stretch the 23 poems out.
I adored the fun poems and the beautiful illustrations. It’s nice when a kid can see the joy and even laughs a poem can bring when the words and pictures were so cleverly put together. This books is for the younger child about the excitement reading can bring. We read the companion, and just as wonderful, Write! Write! Write! last fall.
Jill of Rhapsody in Books sent Gage this gorgeous Brian Wildsmith book. It was so much fun to read together and definitely a keeper because of animal illustrations. Thank you Jill!
I also finished the audio The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas, the third in the Lady Sherlock series. I’ve loved this series from the start and this book brings the wide range of characters together for a very personal investigation as Charlotte dons a Mr. Sherlock disguise to help save Lord Ingram from conviction. So many moving parts from one book to the next that I sometimes have a hard time keeping up, but do enjoy these characters so much.
I really enjoyed this cozy mystery set in WWI England.
Fiona Figg is still struggling to get over her ex-husband’s betrayal when she is given the unexpected opportunity to become a spy, at least for a short time. The only catch is that she must pretend to be a man. Obvious and not so obvious difficulties ensue. There is a murder and some suspect her, er, him.
The end has a bit of a cliffhanger and I’ve already downloaded the next Fiona Figg book!
We read 3 lovely picture books during our South Carolina studies. I’m starting with the one I think all parents should check out for their child, especially if you’re going to talk about Black History Month in February. The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out Of Slavery by Jehan Jones-Radgowski and illustrated by Poppy Kang was a great story. It’s a wordy but thrilling book about Robert’s almost fantastical escape from slavery during the Civil War. How could I never have heard this story before? Amazing man and an edge of your seat escape that will amaze your kids (and you!). He saved himself, his family and his small crew and their families. He went on to become the first black captain of a US military ship and later a US Congressman.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’s Fleet-Of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid, illustrated by Laura Freeman would also fit into Black History Month studies. Althea became the first African American person to win a tennis Grand Slam and then went on to keep winning them during a time when most things were still segregated, even tennis clubs. An easier read than the first and and important story too.
And who doesn’t live an elepephant? Bubbles:An Elephant’s Story by Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle about the Myrtle Beach Safari was so sweet and fun. The pictures of Bubbles and his friends were fun reading, even/especially for the younger set. Gage and I both fell in love with animal ambassador and so will you. The picture are swoon worthy.
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a great little read. At only 144 pages it can be read during one sitting and it still manages to pack a punch.
Written in 5 sections, each one from a different point of view (mother, daughter, son, family, father) it tells of the treatment of Japanese Americans from right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the years of internment after. It’s both a little boring and heartbreaking (imagine being a kid being transported across country by train when you had to pull down the blinds as you went through towns). I found the most powerful section when they returned home after 3 years and 5 months. It would be over 4 years before the father was released from a different camp and by then he had gone a little mad.
An important read about a dark time in our nation’s history.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley was a Reece’s Book Club selection and the 2020 Goodreads Best Mystery & Thriller winner. It’s set in Ireland, a win for me, and since I listened I was able to enjoy the multitude of accents by the narrators, another win. It’s setting on a remote island only accessible by boat had the feel of having been done before, but it still worked.
The story is told in alternating voices. There’s the bride, the groom, the best man, the bridesmaid, the plus one, and the wedding planner. There are lots of reveals and twists with some going back and forth between past and present and it made a compelling thriller. The tension built the way a good thriller should, but for me, it fell a little bit flat in the end. I still liked it well enough to recommend to mystery lovers, especially those who embrace unlikeable characters.
I had set aside this 65 page travel memoir for a day when I didn’t have a lot of time to spare. I’m happy to report that Diana Athill’s A Florence Diary was a delightful little transport back in time. Italy was our first overseas trip and I still remember our 3 days in Florence almost 12 years later. This book was just as much about Athill’s journey with her cousin from England to Italy as it was their time spent there. Learning about the 1947 boat and train experience and the people they met along the way was half the fun.
This was a charming little read if you want to travel to Florence and see it through the eyes of someone who experienced it over 70 years ago. There were some black and white photos mixed in with her thoughts. A nice little read to end the day.
Yes, this the mug I brought home from Italy and I use it all the time ☕️
Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality by James Buckley Jr. and Youneek Studios is a graphic novel that taught me a few things. It’s for kids and it’s ‘narrated’ by a young Lady Liberty and a young Uncle Sam. I found their narration a little off putting, but probably necessary for the younger set. I liked that they used different color balloons to differentiate between story and actual quotes. There were lots of quotes from his speeches and parts of his letters were included.
I learned a few things or maybe I had just forgotten that he was ‘little Mikey’ at birth until his father changed both of their names. I don’t remember learning that he skipped three grades. I was reading this in the family room and sharing interesting facts and when I got to that point Gage emphatically told me that he wasn’t interested in skipping to 7th grade.
He was a man who rose to meet the challenges of the day and we are all better off, even if we as a country tend to take two steps forward and one step back. “The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
May we always strive to work toward equality. May we always strive for non-violence. May we always strive to put more love into the world so that it overpowers the hate.
I have no idea if this will be the way I do this in the future, but I do want to have all the books I read this year listed so we’ll try this. It’s the 9th and I’ve reads 9 books, woo hoo! I’m going to list the book in the order I liked them and include some of my thoughts about them. Let me know what you thought if you read any of these.
The Falconer by Elaine Clark McCarthy is a hidden gem. Published in 1996 at only 134 pages it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours, entrapped in the words of a poet. It was beautiful, odd, tragic.
After I finished the book I told Jason I had to sit with it for a bit before we watched something together (we eventually watched the finale of Bridgerton). Not only was I caught up in the story and the beautiful way it was told, but the ending elevated it and I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.
India has just found out she has cancer and has maybe six months to live, so you know from the get go that this will likely not end well. It’s a book about living, death, the afterlife, passion and what our life choices look like when we know the end is near.
Will also appeal to anyone interested in falconry.
It’s a Remix of the National Book Award-winning ‘Stamped from the Beginning’. Kendi wrote a book about racism, from inception to current day and Reynolds made it easily accessible to teens in about half the number of pages.
Reynolds has a very conversational writing style that makes it all interesting and easy to digest. The complexity of some of the civil rights icons of the past is fascinating. Are you a segregationalist, assimilationist, or an antiracist? Turns out that some of these leaders were more than one at different points in their lives. I learned a lot and also was able to see different points in history in a new way. I think this is a must read starting point for teens.
What an inspirational listen. The woman was a force and women everywhere lost one of their biggest champions when she died last fall.
The book was a series of conversations between friends, some of which were in front of audiences. I especially liked the end where there was a real clip from a talk given, so you can hear her voice and the applause she received when she was done speaking. Some of the conversations overlapped or covered some of the same thoughts more than once, but her thoughts on a multitude of court cases, the Supreme Court when she joined and today, and how she viewed the future, left me sad all over again that we lost such a voice for women and all the disenfranchised. We were lucky to have her. Loved this audiobook.
David Breithaupt was hired as Kenyon College Library’s part-time supervisor after a decade spent in NYC working around books and writers. At Kenyon he managed to walk out the door with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of, sometimes rare and irreplaceable, books. He treated the library like his own personal candy store for a decade. He was finally found out when someone recognized something Breithaupt was trying to sell on eBay and contacted the school.
I enjoyed this story for many reasons but having many parts of it take place so close to where I grew up was my favorite. If you have any interest is learning a little about how college libraries work or true crime then this is a winner.
This is a monster sized book (480 pages) with a lot and subsequently not much going on. Evie’s childhood in the hills of the Adirondacks was full of angst and self-reliance. She managed to get out, even making a life and family in Paris, but her past became her present when her daughter got sick and she had to go back home.
I liked the story, but it felt really bogged down with the addition of so many characters. I would have liked it a lot better if it had been 100 pages shorter. I actually started this book last summer, put it down because my pleasure reading took a back seat to homeschool. I’m glad I finished it because the second half was better than the first.
The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward by Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates is 40 pages and a nice introduction to the Kennedy’s for the older picture book set. I’m not sure why Joe isn’t in the title since he gets his own section and is part of the storytelling (this bothers me more than it should). The book isn’t perfect but it does explain each of the four brothers and what they believed in. It really gave me the opportunity to expand on the book with more information as we read. When each brother died it showed the rest mourning, counting down until there was only Teddy (Edward). So, its not your light, upbeat kids book, you could feel the tragedies this family suffered as its 3 oldest sons were killed.
Barnum was a prankster and always ready to exchange truth for a great story. He was born with privilege since his grandfather was a important man able to provide Taylor (PT) with his first businesses. And there were many before he finally found his true calling.
This book was fun and full of Barnum’s biggest successes and failures. It was also interesting to learn a little more about his political life in his later years. A good, quickish read for anyone who loved the movie.
It was a cross between Mean Girls and Strangers on a Train. I like psychological thrillers, but this one failed to grab me. Shay was a sympathetic character, mostly, but the reveal at the end didn’t really wow enough for me to love it.
he author calls this story reality fiction. It’s based on an actual documented huckleberry party. Thoreau is joined by three children, two of them based on children who wrote about their experiences later and one based on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s son. Thoreau and Emerson helped me fall in love with transcendental writing so I love that these characters and story were based on real people and event.
The story might be a little slow for smaller kids but older elementary kids will get something out of it, especially the nature lovers! And the illustrations were perfect.
There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.
For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.
I don’t know Glennon Doyle, or at least I didn’t until I spontaneously purchased this book the one time I’ve been inside a bookstore since Covid. I’m a sucker for a great cover and I love this one and I was also wanting to support the independent bookstore with as many purchases as possible. One can never have too many books, of course. I’m so glad that I picked this up to read a week or so ago because it was such a nice way to end my reading year.
Glennon talks about her past as a Christian writer and speaker, her marriage that fell apart after infidelity, the moment that she falls in love with Abby, and how she makes her life work for her three kids after the dust has settled. With these stories she mingles insights about parenthood, sexuality, being a Christian, feminism, medication, addiction, race, and finding your inner ‘Knowing’. Quite a few of the chapters really spoke to me and the way she told her and Abby’s story was so endearing.
I could/should take the time to write more about this book, because it is my favorite non-fiction this year, but I’m content just to let you know I loved it. I now follow Glennon on Facebook and she and Abby post videos sometimes that feel like a continuation of this book and a glimpse into their love story. Or you can pick it up just because you like the cover, like I did, and be happily surprised by the life truths found in it.
I accepted this book for review, something I’m not doing much anymore since I’m so limited on reading time, because it’s a book AND a game and that sounded like a great combination to me. This was everything I’d hoped it would be. I’d hoped that it would help Gage learn more about how to tell a story and it so did in a fun and creative way. He absolutely loved it and Jason and I loved watching his mind work. He was also good at guessing whether we were telling the truth or lying. I felt like he got so much out it that I counted it for some school time this week 🙂
How it works… The book gives you the ‘cards’ with three stories to choose from. Card one choices are a job you would like to have in the future, something silly you have done, and an animal you thought might bite you. The storyteller secretly flips a coin (not provided) to figure out whether to tell a truth or a lie. They tell the story and the players individually vote on if it true or false. The storyteller gets a point for anyone they fool. Then the next person tells the story and so on until someone gets 21 points and wins the game.
This is based on the board game and put into book form just in time for those 2020 Zoom calls! It was nice to be able to throw it in a suitcase and take it with us on our road trip. There are variations on the rules you can try. Each 3 cards even has a place where you can record funny highlights so the book can become a memory book of happy times the more times you play.
Reactions from the boys. “I loved it! It was so much fun. Can we play again tomorrow?” “I loved being creative and telling stories. Educational for kids.”
I recommend this for any family with kids. Kids learn what makes a good story, how to decide what to risk (they risk 1, 2, or 3 points each time), and how to come up with a story quickly (something Gage often struggles with). We’ll be making this a weekly family fun activity!
This is a book about struggle. It is about how struggle overtakes us without our permission. It is about what lies within struggle and beyond it. It is about what we can do with struggle and what it can do with us. Material for this book has been gathering in me for thirty-five years, since I first faced reality as a young adult and strained to comprehend the dynamics of life’s difficulty. I write out of my experience, recognizing clearly that my life has been far less painful than the lives of so many around the world and across time. This book is simply an expression of my effort to understand my own events, shared in the hope that it might speak to the lives of others. A collection of what is especially meaningful to me is offered here–insights and images from my own life, from study and conversation, from songs and books. Mostly there are stories. All of them point to the same thing: Life is filled with struggle. Struggle is filled with Love. Life is, as the title says, “This Blessed Mess.” from Goodreads
I used this as my morning devotional and it is a perfect read for this time in history, even though it was published in 2000. I mean it’s all about dealing with chaos and it speaks to the crazy times we’re living in. Livingston tells stories about her own chaos and how that led her to new discoveries and insight. This would be beneficial for any woman, but especially those who like their inspirational stories told from a Christian viewpoint.
Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.
In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.
They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future. from Goodreads
George was a small child when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and we entered WWII. He lived in Los Angeles with his parents and younger brother. As they were sent off to their first camp in Arkansas it was a scary adventure as they were forced to leave all of their possessions behind (except what they could pack). They lived as a family in makeshift barracks with guards and fences surrounding them. They were forced to make decisions, intimidated and misled, that have no place in a free society where one was born a citizen.
I knew of the Japanese internment camps during WWII but it was in passing with little knowledge of what really happened to those rounded up and held against their will. By their own country in most cases. I think this relatively short graphic memoir should be required reading for everyone. I see there is an expanded hardcover version edition coming out this month and I plan on purchasing it since I checked this one out of the library. Do yourself a favor and do the same.
“Zombies don’t do five-seven-five (so many fingers missing)! This fun book of masterfully written one-gasp poetry proves that the force and beauty of haiku–even those about a walking dead apocalypse–have nothing to do with syllable counting. Your flesh will crawl–but, hopefully, won’t crawl away!” — David G. Lanoue, President of the Haiku Society of America from Goodreads
Joshua, who has strong thoughts on the availability of quality coffee at the workplace, proves that you can excite non-poetry reading zombie avoider about the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse. Josh, who I may start calling haiku extraordinaire when I see him at the library, sent me my first chapbook and it was so much fun. It is a perfect fit for sitting on the deck with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and enjoying the story that unfolds in a series of 91 haiku poems. It was creative and visceral from beginning to tragic end. I loved it.