Thursday’s Bookish Thoughts – Tana for the win!

Thursday I have more time to post so here I am! We’ll see if the day sticks. Since last update I’ve read 5 books and watched one bookish movie. I’m at 84 books and 3 bookish movies for the year. Honestly, not the best reading week so far. I’d only recommend the first two!

The images and thoughts (added to or sliced up) are from my daily Instagram (follow me there @stacybuckeye)

Faithful Place. Mystery, 400 pages.

This was the third book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, but I’d only read the first and didn’t feel like I missed anything, even though the main character, Frank, first appeared in #2. The complex characters, historic Dublin setting, and slow build mystery, all made this a page-turner.

Frank, an undercover cop from a neighborhood who viewed him as a turncoat because of it, had never come to grips with the disappearance of his first love. He viewed his family as poison and went on to marry and have a daughter and kept them as far away from the madness as possible. But when his first love’s old suitcase is found, he must head back home and face the music.

So, so good. I loved Frank for all his flaws and getting to understand him in relation to where he grew up, which felt like a character of its own. The resolution was both real and heartbreaking. I love gritty thrillers like this. Highly recommend!

The Call of the Wild, 2020 film starring Harrison Ford

Chipotle and movie night, the one night a month Gage gets to stay up as late as he wants watching movies with us.

My one request was The Call of the Wild with Harrison Ford so that it would count for my bookish movie of the day. I haven’t read the Jack London classic in a few years, but I still consider it a favorite. The computer generated Buck gave him (and the other dogs) a more human feel, which is opposite of Buck’s story, but I see why they did it 🤷🏻‍♀️ I really liked the movie and had no problem falling in love with the fake Buck, maybe because I already knew his journey. I may have also been the only one who shed tears at the end, even though I knew what was coming!

Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion. Picture book biography, 40 pages.

Known for his boxing skills, his colorful personality, his conversion to Islam and his new name, his objection to being drafted that ended his career for a time, his activism for civil rights and the Rumble in the Jungle, this book did an excellent job of including it all. This book was written before his death, but it does include his thoughts on having Parkinson’s disease.

Gage had never heard of Muhammad Ali 😮 so this was fun for him. He wanted to know more about the Sportsman of the Century. It was also fun reading some of his more famous quotes as poetry.

Hamnet. Fiction, 308 pages.

Our book club pick this month was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. There were nine of us Zooming last night and I was in the minority on this one. It’s ultimately the story of of Anne ‘Agnes’ Hathaway from the time she met and married William Shakespeare through her grief of losing their son.

Little is known of Shakespeare’s life, but he did marry a woman older than him and they did have three children. We know that the son Hamnet died when he was 11. Shakespeare wrote the play Hamlet four years later.

This is a quiet, thoughtful book about the time (late 1500s) and of grief. While I did like parts of it, shedding tears when Agnes prepared her son for burial and appreciating the concluding last scene, I didn’t really care for the book. Much of it felt like a slog. But 6 of the 9 loved it and it’s gotten rave reviews everywhere.

The Pinballs. Kids fiction, 144 pages.

The Pinballs by Betsy Byars was first published in 1977 and it shows, especially in the first third of the book. Three kids show up at the Mason home as first time foster kids. Carlie, the TV obsessed tough girl, Harvey, the boy with two broken legs thanks to his father, and Thomas J, raised by 82 year twins after he was abandoned by his parents.

Gage was curious about foster homes and this helped explain how some kids ended up in the system. The kids are sad, but the Masons were loving and patient. I loved how the kids came to support each other.

Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons From the Fog of New Parenthood. 178 pages

Unfortunately, this one was a little bit of a letdown after my love for Knisley’s graphic memoir about pregnancy. This is different because it’s a collection of comics from her first year of having a baby. It actually felt like the first year of motherhood with its random, but honestly funny, observations. It was short and didn’t take long to read, but I missed the story aspect of her other books.

Books of the week – January review

I’m technically a month into my #booked365 challenge. I read a day ahead of when I post on IG for a few reasons, the main one being timing. Having done these book a day challenges for a few years, too often I’m finishing up a book at 11 or even closer to midnight for the day which doesn’t leave time to really post about it. Now, I read a book and take a fun picture so that when I have a few minutes the next morning I have time to post my thoughts before moving on to my next book. So far this has worked swimmingly. Have I read my book for January 31? I have and for the purpose of summing up the month I’ll include it here, even though I won’t review it until tomorrow. I’m sure none of you care, but it makes me clear on what I’m doing in case I forget later, lol.

January reads (minus 4 audio books, 1 book I loaned my mom, and 1 movie).

I felt quite accomplished adding finished books to this pile! My favorites for the month would be my top 2 this week (look below!) and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi, The Falconer by Elaine Clark McCarthy, and Good Citizens by Thich Nhat Hanh

I read 8 picture books (7 non-fiction, 1 poetry), 7 mystery/thrillers, 6 non-fiction, 4 fiction, 4 kids books (3 non-fiction, 1 fiction), 2 historical fiction, 1 humor book.

I started with a pile of ‘intended’ books for the month and read 10 of 13, not so bad!

For February, Black History Month, I’ll be reading a book by a person of color everyday. If you have a book I should definitely read, let me know!

Books read this week and my thoughts, listed in the order I liked them best…

Strange Planet by Nathan W Pyle was just what I needed. I laughed out loud at the antics of these alien creatures and their take on how we humans exist in the world. It won the 2020 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Humor.

Insightful, funny, and sweet – this is a keeper, which means I’ll have to buy my own copy since I checked this out of the library. Can you guess what he’s describing here? Plant liquid partially digested by insects and then stolen? Seriousness cloth? Personal star dimmers? Either way, make sure you give this one your time.

Razzi likes to cuddle when I’m reading so that’s how he ended up here just after I finished Girls Like Us by Christina Alger. I loved this mystery/police procedural/psychological thriller! It’s slow, but worth the dive into the head of FBI agent Nell Flynn and the atmospheric Suffolk County area. It was a dark book and I loved it. Perfect for the cold, snowy days of winter.

Nell returned to Long Island to bury her father, her only family left since her mother was murdered when she was 7. He had been a drunk homicide detective and their relationship had been strained her whole life. What she finds is suspicion. Nell could feel something was off and when a childhood friend asks for help she finds herself looking at Pandora’s box.

Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler is a quick, under 200 page satisfying little story. Micah, a bachelor in his 40’s, has a girlfriend he likes and a job that he’s good at and allows him to be his own boss. He’s known to his loyal and loving family as ‘finicky’ and that’s just the way he likes it. But one day a boy shows up at his place claiming that Micah is his dad.

As with most things Anne Tyler this was quirky and worth the read.

My view last night as I met with the book club ladies (@bonniesjourney ) to discuss The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood. This historical fiction novel is based on the life of Emily Roebling, the woman who helped design and complete the Brooklyn Bridge during a time when it really wasn’t allowed. In the second half of the 19th century the country, including her brother and husband-to-be, was fighting a Civil War. After the war Emily married Washington Roebling who was building bridges with his father with their sights set on a monumental bridge in New York.

I loved so much of this book but had real issues with a few points. I liked having the beginning take place during the Civil War, the details of how the bridge actually got built, and the suffragette movement of the time. These were all well done. Emily herself was a complicated woman, especially for the time, and I respected her strength. I’m very interested in learning more about her and her very prominent role in a man’s world.

Historical fiction is always tricky because of the fiction part. Sometimes I’ll get to the end of a book and feel as though I’d been hoodwinked. In this story Emily begins an affair of sorts with PT Barnum. He’s a crucial player in much of this book. Only there is zero evidence that Emily either had an affair or knew PT. It was too much of a stretch for me, but most of my other book clubbers weren’t as bothered by it.

What do you do when you have 30 minutes in the sauna? Why read about Robert Frost, of course! Papa is a Poet by Natalie S Bober and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon is a nice introduction to the poet. The story is told from the perspective of his daughter, Lesley, and the thoughts and memories are taken directly from the diary she kept as a child.

The story’s focus is their farm in New Hampshire (surprise, surprise, our state this week) where Frost is a farmer and an unpaid poet. It contains lines from some of his poems throughout. After the story there’s more information and real photos as well as quotations and 12 of his poems. It’s a nice introductory picture book. I had to use a different book for a more complete summary of his life, but this was my favorite of the two. 40 pages.

I wish I had a photo of our August homeschooling bookshelf, because it looked quite different than this January homeschooling mess 😆. The materials I’m using for the week are always on our table ready to go, so this is where I come to get what I need for the week and to file papers (ha!). Why am I showing this embarrassing picture? I picked up today’s book thinking I was going to read it for Gage only to realize I might be the one to benefit the most 😬

How ADHD Affects Home Organization: Understanding the Role of the 8 Key Executive Functions of the Mind by Lisa K Woodruff starts with best of intentions and has some good ideas, but, ultimately, it felt incomplete. Woodruff does a good job of summarizing 8 executive functions by how she understands them through clients in her home organization business. She offers a few tips on how to train yourself to get past these issues, but her suggestions always seem to rely on going to her podcasts (she lists several specific episodes at the end of each chapter) or Facebook group. Just jump straight to her podcasts and save yourself some time.

Betrayal at Ravenswick by Kelly Oliver

Betrayal at Ravenswick (Fiona Figg Series #1)
Betrayal at Ravenswick. Finished 1-19-21, mystery, 4.25/5 stars, pub. 2020

Fiona Figg #1

Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie…

What’s the best way to purge an unfaithful husband?
Become a spy for British Intelligence, of course.

Desperate to get out of London, and determined to help the war effort and stop thinking about her philandering husband, Fiona Figg volunteers to go undercover.

At Ravenswick Abbey a charming South African war correspondent has tongues wagging. His friends say he’s a crack huntsman. The War Office is convinced he’s a traitor. Fiona thinks he’s a pompous prig.

What sort of name is Fredrick Fredricks anyway?

Too bad Fiona doesn’t own a Wolseley pith helmet. from Goodreads

Fiona was just what I needed. A woman who looks heartbreak in the face and carries on saving the world anyway. It’s three years into World War I and London can be a tense place to be, especially if your husband comes back injured from the war only to leave you for his secretary after you nursed him back to health. Fiona works as a file clerk at the War Office, the top secret Room 40, and enjoys a friendly and nosy relationship with the men running the show. She uses her smarts and plain looks to get herself hired as a spy trying to get intel on a German spy.

I loved this cozy mystery. Fiona was still smarting from her husband leaving her, but that didn’t stop her from moving forward. She not only took her job seriously but she also volunteered as a nurse when wounded soldiers came to the hospital. I thought the book and her adventures were great fun. Did she ever get her man? Well, yes and no. This first book leaves us with many questions, but Fiona’s on the hunt. I’m looking forward to reading her continued chase in book two that was just released.

And look at that cover. Love it!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here

Book (Good Morning, Midnight) VS Movie (The Midnight Sky)

Title: Good Morning, Midnight: A Novel, Author: Lily Brooks-Dalton
2016
The Midnight Sky poster.png
2020

I read the book and watched the Netflix adaptation starring and directed by George Clooney this week. I sometimes sit down to write these comparisons and I don’t know who will come out on top until I’m done typing. That’s not the case with this one. I’ll try to give specifics without spoiling the good stuff.

Story/Plot There are ‘rumors of war’ and the Arctic outpost is being evacuated, but Augustine decides to stay behind, even after being told that there would be no return to pick him up. After a few weeks he discovers a girl who had been left behind. The story then switches to Aether, a spacecraft on its way back from Jupiter (book) or a newly discovered planet near Jupiter (movie) with Sullivan, Sully, as our storyteller. In the book this is a two year mission and it’s only after they wrap up their Jupiter studies, one year and two weeks after leaving earth, and head back home do they realize that they have no communication from Earth. In the movie the timeline is sped up, but the result is the same, no contact with Earth. This is where the book takes on a reflective tone on isolation, hope, and the strength of human spirit. The movie struggles to thrill the audience with gadgets and makes-no-sense scenes. The movie became nonsensical to me. Not to spoil anything, but the contact between the two is not the same. Augustine wasn’t searching for the Aether in the book, they just happened to find each other for 3 short conversations before the end. The movie chose to make this a time driven thriller. Everything they changed for the movie, and it was a lot, was a detriment to the story. Clearly… Thumbs Up – Book

The Visual The movie was beautiful. The stark whiteness of the Artic and the grandness of the Aether. The movie always holds the potential advantage here and The Midnight Sky didn’t disappoint. Thumbs Up – Movie

Characters/Actors Sigh. The movie has some great actors (George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler), but they didn’t hold a candle to the characters in the book. Augustine is dying from old age in the book, but they changed it to him being so sick that he needed to give himself some kind of complicated treatment in the movie. Augustine was much more active in the movie. The space crew was so emotionally raw in the book, each showing their breaking point with every new day that there was no contact from Earth (imagine almost a year of this). Sully was NOT pregnant in the book. I realize that it was written in because Felicity was pregnant in real life. I was okay with this, but she and the rest of the crew (in the movie they were minus one member) really got the short end of the stick in the depth department, even as the holograms tried to humanize them. Thumbs Up – Book

The Ending This is always difficult to discuss without giving too much away and that is especially true in this case. The Aether comes back to see Earth (in the movie it looks like something bad had happened, but in the book it looked the way it always had just with no electricity) and they must make decisions. Things are different between the book and the movie as far as the space crew goes, but it was mostly the same with Augustine. The big reveal? It was more subtle in the book. The ending in the book and movie made some people mad and confused. I happened to like the ending of the book and felt it went perfectly with the intent of the story. As for the movie ending, I don’t know. I was confused by the choices it made. Thumbs Up – Book

And the winner is… the book! And it wasn’t even close.

Other book vs. movie polls you can vote on: (Before I Go To Sleep) (The Little Prince) (Charlie St. Cloud) (Far From the Madding Crowd(The Girl on the Train) (Tuck Everlasting)  (Northanger Abbey) (Me Before You) (And Then There Were None) (Still Alice) (The Blind Side) (The Fault in Our Stars) (The Hound of the Baskervilles) (Gone Girl) (Jack Reacher) (Ender’s Game) (Carrie, the original) (Under the Tuscan Sun) (The Secret Life of Bees) (The Shining, the original)

Happy 2021! Goals and First Book

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone 🎉. Tis the season for reflection and thinking about what the new year could bring. 2020 has been a year of challenges, loss, and unexpected silver linings for many of us. I’m an only child who loves/needs to be around people and isolated by myself in equal measure. Having Jason and Gage home with me 24/7 since April has been a true blessing, but one that leaves me perpetually drained. My mantra of ‘just get through it’ isn’t something I want to carry over, even if the challenges of the pandemic do continue. So I’ve got two big things I want to do this year.

I’m calling my first goal #booked365. I’m going to read a book a day and post them daily on Instagram. I’ll most likely post here every few days. There is a caveat. Because my goal is not to be anti-social I might throw in a movie based on a book on the days when we need family snuggle time on the couch for a few hours. Figuring in at least a once a week movie that still leaves over 300 books. Is this even possible? I think so. Gage and I read at least 2-4 books together a week and those will count, but it will still be a good personal challenge. And for those weeks that are hard I can sit back and watch a movie based on something I’ve read. I’m looking forward this bookish year.

My second goal is very cliche as far as resolutions go, but it’s to lose 50 pounds by the time I turn 50 in October. A few weeks ago, during a sleepless night, I joined #noom with that goal in mind and I’m already down 5 pounds. I’m still a newbie but it did help me get down to root inspiration for my goal and having that front and center has helped. Losing a lot of weight is rarely (if ever?) just about looking better in a pair of jeans and it’s no surprise after some reflection and work on the noom lessons that my inspiration has to do with the little man who needs me to live forever.

I’m so excited that Sheila continues to do this every year. When I read Untamed by Glennon Doyle last week there was a chapter about racism and white women’s role in it that struck a cord with me. So much so that when I was going through my possible first book of the year choices this one called my name. See if you can find me! I’m also representing my Buckeyes who are playing in the Sugar Bowl tonight 🙂

2020 Favorite Books and Stats

I read 71 books this year.

14 were published in 2019 and 9 in 2020.

46 were fiction and 25 were non-fiction.

45 of those books were written by authors new to me.

17 were audiobooks.

Favorite cover

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I continued with 3 series (Jack Reacher, Kinsey Millhone, Nick Mason) and started 3 new ones (Amos Decker, Chaos Walking trilogy, Lady Sherlock)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was the oldest book I read, published in 1967.

Shortest book – Inhuman: Haiku from the Zombie Apocalypse, 36 pages.

Longest book – The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 848 pages.

Most read authors- Lee Child and David Baldacci at 3 each.

My 5 favorite books

Title: Untamed, Author: Glennon Doyle

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Title: The Starless Sea, Author: Erin Morgenstern

Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Reissue with bonus short story) (Chaos Walking Series #1), Author: Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Boy from the Woods, Author: Harlan Coben

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Author: Kim Michele Richardson

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson

If you have your own favorite list please leave a link. I’d love to see it!

With Gage – Mommy Laid an Egg OR Where Do Babies Come From? by Babette Cole

Mommy Laid An Egg: Or, Where Do Babies Come From?

Mommy Laid An Egg

This was Gage’s favorite book of the week. Let me start by saying that I made an error in throwing this in with other picture books in his basket. I didn’t look closely enough or I may have been prepared for the book (or maybe not since it was more graphic than I’d thought it should be. One review called a few of the pages in the middle the ‘ crayon kama sutra’ and they were spot on). But as we snuggled up on the couch and Gage started to read to me I thought I was safe, the parents telling the story were clueless. Then the kids took over and all of the information, with crayon pictures drawn by the kids, came out.

Gage already knew a bit (enough I thought) about where babies come from, but this was another level. After he finished I asked if he had any questions and he flipped back through the pages and asked a few. In the end, I think this was a good fit for Gage’s 10 years. Could younger kids read it? Depends on the kid, as always. I’m glad we read and even thankful for the somewhat crude but funny illustrations.

Gage’s thoughts...

The mom and dad tell their kids where babies come from, but the mom and dad did not tell the truth. The kids know where babies come from and they tell where babies really come from. I liked this book because it has facts about where babies come from. I would recommend this book. 4 1/2 stars.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

Title: They Called Us Enemy, Author: George Takei  They Called Us Enemy. Finished 8-8-20, 5/5 stars, graphic memoir, 208 pages, pub. 208

Co-authors Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott.

Illustrated by Harmony Becker

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.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Title: Such a Fun Age, Author: Kiley Reid Such a Fun Age.  Finished 5-23-20, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2019

Unabridged audio

In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.  fromGoodreads

This story had a great start.  Emira, at a club celebrating a friend’s birthday, is called to help the family who she babysits for several times a week.  She takes Briar to the local grocery store to kill time while the police are at the Chamberlain home.  Emira and her friend are dressed for the club and not the posh grocery store and things turn ugly when another customer and the security guard accuse Emira of stealing the child.  A cute guy tapes the whole thing on his phone and the police and Mr. Chamberlain are called.  This scenario is full of possibilities.  

What happens next is a lot of coincidence.  I mean more than makes any sense.  Kelly, the guy who tapes the scene, finds Emira again on the subway and they start dating.  Alix feels so much guilt over getting Emira into that situation that she becomes fixated on her, determined to show how un-racist she really is.  I don’t really want to say more so as not to spoil any big reveals.

We read this for my book club and it led to a great Zoom discussion.  What was the consensus?  Alix was a terrible mother and person.  Emira seemed a little lost.  Most of the ladies didn’t understand the issues with Kelly, but I got it.  Most felt the like ending was incomplete, but for me it seemed perfectly fitting for Emira.  What I took away from this novel is that the issues that Alix and Kelly made about race were often not seen the same way by Emira, there was a lot of projecting of their take on the other person, but Emira didn’t have an issue with either of them (at least for most of the book).   It’s a great discussion book, but I didn’t love it.

The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels by Joseph F. Kelly

The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels.  Finished 6-1-20, 4.5/5 stars, religion, 106 pages, pub. 2008

In this book Kelly turns to the infancy narratives to see what the New Testament tells us about the Nativity. Readers will likely discover that their Christmas celebrations, cards, pageants, and creches are often combinations and embellishments of the gospel narratives. Yet each of these narratives is quite distinct, reflecting the author’s talents and audience. In this practical book readers will:

Encounter the stories in their gospel contexts and learn about the issues facing the early Christians as the gospels were being written. See the difference between the educator Matthew’s approach for an audience of Jewish converts and the great literary artist Luke writing for a primarily Gentile audience.  from Goodreads

I loved this historical look at the gospels and the men who wrote them.  When you break down the the Bible and try fact checking everything that can be by today’s standards, you lose the purpose or intent of the gospels in the New Testament.  But Kelly doesn’t gloss over the fact checks, he provides much needed context, even pointing out when things would have been impossible taken at face value.  He also compares the men writing the gospels and how their audience influenced what was included.  The story of the birth of Jesus appears in only two gospels, Matthew and Luke and yet even those two stories were laced with differences.  Even Mary receives a reality check.

If you have any interest in the Bible or history of the period this quick book is just up your alley.  This book was more than I thought it would be and I’m so glad I picked it up at a book sale last summer.  Note-I also very much miss going to book sales!