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 ❤️❤️❤️❤️

This Week – School is in session

This week we started full day of school and we hired our last instructor (reading and writing tutor in addition to piano and speech) so everything is in place for the next few months at least, yay! In the first week there was only one meltdown with tears and I think I finally have a way to deal with it that should lessen the occurrence (hopefully). Being better organized has helped immensely.

We also went to the drive in for the first time in forever. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Three Rings and Free Guy was the double feature and Gage was thrilled to be out past midnight, lol.

Here was my earlier update and here’s what I’ve read since…

This puzzle was HARD even at only 500 pieces. I loved the fun shapes of the pieces, but this wasn’t a favorite. Usually I like to look at the picture of the puzzle and then put it away, not using it after I’ve started, but not so with this one. I had the picture right in front of me the whole time 😁. The guys helped a bit, but it was too challenging to be fun for them, at least til the end. Can’t wait to see what @completingthepuzzleofficial sends next!

I listened to the Bill Clinton/James Patterson collaboration The President is Missing while I puzzled. It’s been a long while since I’ve read Patterson. I thought this was a fun, fast-paced read especially if you like political thrillers. A President only has a small amount of time to stop a terrorist attack, but the opposing party is slowing him down. And he has to trust the very people who put the attack in motion. Nothing groundbreaking, but still entertaining.
Gage and I used both of these week for our morning journal, finishing up both yesterday. I checked out both when I reserved the Ashley Bryan autobiography that I raved about yesterday. I love his illustrations.

The Night Has Ears, African Proverbs was a selection of very short proverbs, each attributed to a tribe, and a beautiful illustration taking up most of the page. A few we choose for our daily quotes…
“There is no one-way friendship.” Maasai
“No One knows the story of tomorrow’s dawn.” Ashanti

Sail Away poems by Langston Hughes and illustrations by Ashley Bryan was a nice, small poetry collection for kids, bite-sized really. I’m not a poetry person 🤷🏻‍♀️ but I do keep sharing it with Gage hoping he’ll pick it up better than I ever have. The jury’s still out.
It’s always good to read a book from my TBR piles. I get a lot of books from the library and get a few more from publishers or book tours, but that means that my pile of books to read just grows and grows.

The Perfect Girl is a thriller about 17 year old music prodigy Zoe, who was hiding from her earlier big mistake. She and her mother tried to escape what Zoe had done, but the past finally caught up to their new life.

This was told from multiple viewpoints, also going back and forth between then and now. This was a solid thriller with an ending that satisfied. I didn’t find any of the characters likable enough to care too much, but it works as a domestic character study with a twist.

This Week – Finishing up school prep

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

Here’s what I’ve read this week…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you a sauna fan?

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

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

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.

April reading is off to a good start

A week into April and I’m having a nice reading month so far. I’ve read 11 books: 4 picture books (all black folklore), 2 kids biographies, 1 thriller, 1 romantic mystery, 1 fiction, 1 poetry, 1 inspirational.

This is my April TBR, I’ve read 8 so far.

Posted in the order I liked them best. These pics are from my Instagram account, so let’s connect there as well! @stacybuckeye

I love the Myron Bolitar series and everyone who loves Myron, most likely, loves his BFF Windsor Horne Lockwood III. With Myron off living his dream, it was time for Win to get his own book.

Win is rich. No, not just rich but like uber elite, you’ll never know anyone this rich, rich. He’s old money (duh, his name) and has a family legacy to protect and questionable morals when it comes to violence and sex. He’s very open about all of this in this first person thriller. Someone’s been murdered with a priceless piece of art stolen from the Lockwoods and also an old suitcase of Win’s at the crime scene. Win steps in, at the behest of an old FBI buddy, to right some wrongs. But what can he find out 20-30 years later?

Win is a different kind of hero and this book was really good. I loved getting to know more about his background and family. And the mysteries were excellent, as always. Another winner by the master.
My book of the day is a beautiful Italian novel so my guys helped me finish the beautiful panoramic Venice puzzle (1000 pieces) we started last week.

A Girl Returned by Donatello Di Pietrantonio (translated by Ann Goldstein) was a fantastic read. I first saw it reviewed by Diane and I’m so glad our library had a copy.😁

A 13 year old has been raised by two loving parents who one day, inexplicably, ‘return’ her to a family she never knew existed. Once a well taken care of only child, she becomes one of six who all sleep in the same room and receive daily abuse from the parents. Told from the girl’s point of view, you can feel her anger, sadness, and confusion.

It’s such an achingly vivid short novel (170 pages) that shouldn’t be missed.
Crumb-Sized: Poems by Marlena Cherrock was a lovely way to start the National Poetry Month. Cherrock shares her experience with skeletal dysplasia, which is why she was called crumb-sized on the playground. She also talks about space and her (our) place in it.

I’m not typically a poetry reader, but I loved this little collection. It was full of hope and pain, you know, life. I read about a life that is different than my own, yet completely recognizable.

I’m positive I’ll be picking this up to read again. I loved the smaller, crumb-sized, size of the book and the way they separated the poems inside, reminding me of a clock and the rings of a tree. It was perfectly done.
Let me tell you about a lady from Ohio, Virginia Hamilton. The young reader’s biography by Rubin came through the library cast offs and I thought I’d take a look. I read the 100+ page book in one sitting and felt true embarrassment that I really hadn’t known anything about this treasure from my state. She won nearly every award in her field and became the most honored author of children’s literature ever. She was a rock star, speaking and accepting awards around the world before her death in 2002.

As soon as I finished the bio I read 3 of the picture books I had checked out. They. Are. Beautiful. The way that Hamilton wrote stories about African American fables and stories that she first heard at her grandpa’s knee was groundbreaking at the time. I adored the stories, the artwork, and most especially the page at the end of each one telling the history of each story.

The People Could Fly was the first tale in her American black folktales book by the same name and was published as a stand-alone picture book after her death.

The Girl Who Spun Gold is a West Indies retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl was another story from Plantation era storytellers and published after her death.
When Birds Could Talk and Bats Could Sing. These stories were first collected by Martha Young who had grown up on plantations where her father kept slaves. After the Civil War they became house servants. Young became Alabama’s most well-known collector of black folktales. Hamilton has taken the tongue-twisting dialect and turned them into a collection of easy-to-read animal stories.

I loved it. Why is the male cardinal red? Why is the bat ugly and why can’t he sing? Why does the swallow look the way she does? Will the buzzard ever get his just desserts? These questions and more are answered! 😆

I love reading Virginia Hamilton’s African American folktales and look forward to more.
Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Mosey) was born and raised in Ohio before marrying Frank Butler at 15. The two sharpshooters then began touring the country in their very own show before eventually joining the biggest traveling show at the time, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, in 1885. She traveled the world and became a household name everywhere she went. A far cry from her humble beginnings when at the age of 9 her mother had to send her to the Darke County Infirmary to work for room and board.

She was a woman ahead of her time to be sure. She was the best at what she did (shooting), knew how to sell herself, and loved her life. I loved learning about her later years, especially her 55 libel cases against newspapers who smeared her good name. She won 54 cases, but collected less than the legal fees. She wasn’t interested in the money, only the truth being told. Loved getting to know her better with Gage and Razzi 🙂
Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber (also known as Heather Blake) is the 4th in the Lucy Valentine series. As much as I love Lucy and her psychic abilities AND her first 3 books, this one just had too many psychics running around. There were 5 Boston psychic in this one competing/helping Lucy and the arsons involving Sean’s past made this one a disappointment. I’m hoping the 5th and final one brings everything to a happy conclusion.
In honor of Easter I read this little gift book by Joyce Meyer, The Power of Being Positive: Enjoying God Forever. Each page had a verse from the Bible and thoughts on how it affects your life. It dressed how important it is to fill your mind and heart with positivity because that’s what God wants. That part of the message worked for me, a few of the other things not so much. It was a quick read.

Finishing Up March Reading

Since my last book update I’ve finished 5 books. The first three in a romantic mystery series, one fiction, and one kid non-fiction. Obviously, I’m loving the Lucy Valentine series and expect I’ll finish up the last two soon, while I’ve still got my mom’s Kindle.

Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

So much fun! The Valentine family has been able to read auras for generations. They turned this secret ability into a very successful Boston matchmaking service. Lucy must take the lead, but her secret ability has nothing to do with auras.

There’s a missing toddler and a skeleton buried in a shallow grave in the woods and Lucy can see them both. Enter a sexy firefighter, a meddling grandmother, two best friends, a three legged cat, and new hamster and you’ve got the makings of a fun mystery.

Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber

I read the second book of the Lucy Valentine series sooner rather than later even if it meant reading on a device – which. I HATE. But, even that couldn’t ruin it. Lucy and her merry group of family, friends, and foes were back and I was happy to spend time with them. Oh, and the sexy firefighter/PI was back too. Certainly can’t forget him!

Lucy now has her own division of her family matchmaking company, finding lost lives. She’s also helping the police on cases if she can using her special ability of being able to shake a person’s hand and locate what they’ve lost. One case from each of these, along with a myriad of other personal issues keep this book hopping. Lucy can accomplish a lot in a day!

There was no let down with this second book. The first few chapters were skimmable because they were full of info from the first book, but maybe only to me since I just read the first book two days ago.

I love all of the characters, and there are plenty, and how much each one is integral to her daily life. I don’t think Lucy would have done so well in Covid lockdown. Maybe that’s why it’s extra fun to read about her now.

Absolutely, Positively by Heather Webber

The third of the Lucy Valentine series didn’t disappoint. I love the kind-hearted, special powers to save the world, Lucy. Her family, friends, and various cohorts are always a hoot. This time she’s helping the police find a missing man who may have committed suicide and also trying to find a lost love for a client that puts her in the crosshairs of the FBI. Oh, and there’s a Lone Ranger who comes along every few days to shower the city of Boston with thousands in $20 bills.

The sexy boyfriend has a heart condition that keeps the story grounded, but even that storyline pulls at the heartstrings instead of bringing you down.

Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts by Leah Tinari

This came up in a search for another book at the library and I was intrigued enough to check it out. I love the included backstory of how this book project began. Her son was interested in the presidents, so she began researching and drawing their portraits for him. She became frustrated and galvanized after drawing 44 portraits of men. Hence this book.

I loved this book! There’s a quote for each woman and a portrait full of information. There is also a follow up at the end listing all of the women, when they lived, and a powerful moment. This is inspired art and I only wish it had been longer!

The first portrait she did was the one on the cover, Carrie Fisher. Some others included are Yuri Kochiyama, Dian Fossey, Shirley Muldowney, Betsey Johnson, and Abby Wambach. I learned about some new women and spent time on Google finding out more.

Always the Last To Know by Kristan Higgins

I love Kristan Higgins. I’ve read about half of her books and am always entertained with laughs and heart. She has a light touch, wicked sense of humor and great characters. Unfortunately, for the first time, I found it hard to generate any excitement for this one. The only reason I buckled down and finished listening last night was because it was Higgins.

The Frost family is in turmoil. The head of the family has had a stroke, something his wife finds out on the day she plans to divorce him. As he lies in the hospital, she discovers he’s been having an affair. Their oldest, perfect daughter is going through a midlife crisis professionally and personally and their youngest daughter just got down in one knee to propose to her boyfriend of two years. He said no.

I couldn’t have cared less about them, even actively disliking most of them at any given time. I’m hoping this was just a one time thing from this reliable author. And, hey, I’m sure some people loved it 😁. I did love the multi person audio performance.

Reading Great Books

It was a fantastic reading week! 6 kids picture books (4 fiction, 2 non-fiction), 2 kids non-fiction, 1 non-fiction, 1 historical fiction, 1 fiction, 1 mystery,

I loved the Dictionary for a Better World so much I bought a copy for us to keep. We Should All Be Feminists was a great book AND TED Talk. I loved learning about Hedy Lamarr and I loved catching up with series favorite Mrs. Pollifax. I loved reading about a wintery and it’s soap opera like plots. I’ve loved starting our Ohio history unit with Gage. I’m on a reading roll and I like it!

Dictionary For a Better World
I love this book so much! Gage and I have been reading one letter every day, some letters have a few words, some only one. There’s a poem, an explanation of what type of poem it is, a quote, a paragraph about the word written by Charles or Irene, and then an action.

This is the beautiful way we’ve started our learning everyday. We read, we discussed, and used the poems as cursive practice. The book and pages are gorgeous and I’ve already ordered our own copy, since this is a library book. We finished up with Zest and pages of further reading recommendations which I plan on using! This the second collaboration between these authors and I definitely need to get their first book.

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We Should All Be Feminists

This is an adaptation from Adiche’s Nigerian TED talk and it breathed new life into the word feminist. When people who are against something try to make the word or anyone who associated with it a slur it always leads to small minded thinking and division.

Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

This was the definition she grew up with and included. And she’s right, we should all be feminists. Everyone has time to read this one or watch the TED Talk on YouTube.

The Only Woman in the Room

Hedwig Keisler, an Austrian stage actress, caught the eye of a powerful ammunition manufacturer when she was just 19. Marrying him was one way to keep her Jewish family safe since Hitler was starting Jewish eradication in Germany. The marriage was not a good one.

A daring escape led her to Hollywood where she earned a living the only way she knew how and became the legendary Hedy Lamarr. She also invented a frequency-hopping spread spectrum with the help of composer George Antheil. While the Navy didn’t use it for the war, it was used later by the military.

A fascinating woman who has me wanting to know more. Well done!

Eight Hundred Grapes

A fun, quick, soapy read that I devoured in no time. And I drank wine while doing it. 🍇🍷
Georgia shows up at her family’s Sonoma County vineyard in her wedding dress, having abandoned LA in the middle of her dress fitting. In short order she finds out her parents are taking time apart, her brothers are fighting, and her father’s selling the family business. Oh, and she’s not talking to her fiancé who she is marrying in a week. So much drama and I was there for it all.

Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station

This is my 11th Mrs. Pollifax (only 3 left!) and, except for the first one, it’s probably my favorite. Emily Pollifax happened into her top secret life as a CIA spy when she was older, widowed, and with two grown children. She lives her life as a quiet garden enthusiast but sometimes gets a call for a mission that needs her aged wisdom.

In this book she’s taxed with getting into China and ferreting out information from an unsuspecting dissident and then getting that info to her partner in crime who remains a mystery. Then the struggle to get out of China with a person of interest under the watchful eye of the police.

Of course trouble ensues and therein lies the fun. Emily takes no prisoners and gains admirers everywhere she goes. She’s a grandma with a plan, hope, and a twinkle in her eye.

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby: The Story of Jimmy Winkfield

As someone who knew nothing about horse racing and the role of slavery at its inception, I learned so much (and so did Razzi). The very first Kentucky Derby in 1875 had 14 black jockeys to just one white. This would reverse itself in the early 1900s.

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby is the story of Jimmy ‘Wink’ Winkfield. The 17th child of sharecroppers in Kentucky he went on to become one of the premier jockeys, narrowly losing what would have been his 3rd Kentucky Derby win in a row in 1903.

Kids will love the illustrations and descriptions of the races and the older folks will love the extra historical information before and after the story. Loved it.

Ohio

Ohio is sometimes called the Mother of Presidents because 7 of them were born here. Neil Armstrong and John Glenn too. The Wright brothers flew their plane at Kitty Hawk but made it here. Doris Day, Clark Gable, Paul Newman, Halle Berry, and Steven Spielberg are all Buckeyes. Gloria Steinem, Toni Morrison, and Thomas Edison all born here too.

We’re the 7th largest state by population, but 34th by total area, so we’re not all flat farmland. The 3 C’s (Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati) have much Midwest goodness to share.

I remember doing an Ohio history unit in the 4th grade and look forward to sharing some home state pride with Gage.

Remember: The Journey to School Integration. The Tortoise or the Hare. Little Cloud and Lady Wind. Peeny Butter Fudge. Please Louise.

Toni Morrison is from Lorain, Ohio so we learned a little bit more about her yesterday and spent some time at the end of our school day reading some of the picture books she’d written with her son Slade. (except for the first, Remember)

Remember: The Journey to School Integration has historical photos and text written by Morrison to tell the story of that time in the south. Swipe through to see a few of the pages. It’s just the right length to share with older elementary kids. The actual photos make it more real for Gage.

Gage’s favorite picture book was a the Tortoise or the Hare, a retelling of the classic fable. My favorite was Please, Louise where she shares the magic of libraries. Morrison’s bio in the back even mentions he high school job as a page in the Lorain Library.

February Wrap Up

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.

So Many Good Books

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.