This Week – A New Year

I haven’t done one of these updates since August! Those first few months of homeschooling were so time-consuming. They still are, but now we’ve got a rhythm to our madness and a tutor (via Zoom) 4-5 hours a week, so we’re doing okay.

I’ve started the year with two personal goals and you can read about them here. Essentially, I’ll be finishing a book every day and losing 50 pounds by October. I’m thinking big 🙂 I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to blog about the books. Instagram is my daily update with my thoughts on the books so I hope you’ll follow me there. Here’s what I finished this week…

Title: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, Author: Jason Reynolds
Title: You Are Not Alone: A Novel, Author: Greer Hendricks
Title: Who Was P. T. Barnum?, Author: Kirsten Anderson

I also did a 2020 wrap up of favorite books and movies. I’m trying to get around to everyone’s blogs this week to catch up with wrap up posts.

Last year I signed up for one reading challenge, Book’d Out’s Nonfiction Reader Challenge and I promptly failed to participate in any way 😦 So, we’re going to give that another go this year! We’ll see if I can have a better showing at the Nonfiction Nibbler level. That’s 6 books from her list of 12 categories. I got this 🙂

My Ohio State Buckeyes beat Clemson in the College Football Playoff and that was a fun evening 🙂 We also let Gage stay up til midnight on the 31st and bang some pots and pans on our deck when the ball dropped. It’s been cold, but we’ve been able to take some family nature walks and we’ve done some puzzles together which as been fun. Gage won our 2 and a half hour Monopoly game yesterday.

Oh, and we watched

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I’m really hoping that this week we can put the election and all of the various shenanigan’s to rest and go back to being a model of adult behavior for our kids and the world.

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!

2020 Favorite Movies & Stats

I’ve watched 49 movies this year, down by 1 from last year.

2020 was my most watched year with 7.

We managed 3 trips to the movie theater this year, all pre-Covid. Going to the theater again is something I really look forward to in 2021.

I wrote 1 Book VS. Movie post, Before I Go To Sleep.

I wrote 1 Favorite Movie post – #29 Psycho. This 1960 film was also the oldest one I watched.

Most watched actress was Jennifer Garner with 3 (Wakefield, Wonder Park, Peppermint).

Most watched actor was Ryan Reynolds with 3 (6 Underground, Self/Less, The Croods)

My 5 Favorite Movies

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017

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Just Mercy, 2019

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Enola Gay, 2020

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The Cincinnati Kid, 1965

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1917, 2019

I continued my 5 Word Movie Reviews with $ for Charity .  Keep adding to my reviews and maybe you can choose the next charity!

December’s Movies and Money for Charity

How we’ve managed to watch so many un-holiday themed movies this month I don’t know. I didn’t particularly love any of them, but that’s okay. We’ve watched a few more Schitt’s Creek episodes and watched the first handful of season one of The Arrow (so completely hokey, but kinda what I was looking for) and we watched the first episode of Bridgerton. Way more TV time than normal. We’re still pretty much isolating and I really look forward to going to a movie theater again next year!

You know the drill, add your 5 words (or less!) to mine in a comment and earn $1 for charity. Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity. Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to. Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

We’re at $63 right now.  Your charity could be next 

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Molly’s Game, 2017 (Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp) Grade B

Chastain shows her many assets.

Enjoyed the ending not beginning. (Heather)


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Hotel Artemis, 2018 (Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, David Bautista, Sterling K Brown, Sophia Boutella, Charlie Day, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, Jenny Slate) Grade B

Criminals need hospitals too!

My kind of strange. (Michelle)

Weird, bloody, messy, so so. (Heather)


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Focus, 2015 (Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney) Grade B-

Hot criminals also fall in love with other hot criminals.

Barely remember it. Wasn’t impressed. (Michelle)


Rebecca poster.jpeg

Rebecca, 2020 (Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd) Grade B-

Beautiful filmed but missing mystery.

Good, but not the original. (Michelle)

Pretty, but missed the boat. (Heather)


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The Snowman, 2017 (Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, JK Simmons) Grade B-

Bizarre and cold police drama.

So intrigued, bought the books. (Michelle)


A woman standing against wall, painted there are red wings, but with bullets instead of feathers

Peppermint, 2018 (Jennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher Jr, Juan Pablo Raba) Grade B-

Jen kicks ass Alias style.

Awesome! Jen kicking ass again.  (Michelle)


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Ava, 2020 (Jessica Chastain, Common, John Malkovich, Colin Farrell) Grade C

So many hits, so little time.

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The Poison Rose, 2019 (John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Famke Janssen, Kat Graham, Brendan Fraser, Ella Bleu Travolta, Peter Stormare, Robert Patrick Grace C-

Film noir gone stale.


Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Title: Untamed, Author: Glennon Doyle

Untamed. Finished 12-27-20, memoir, 5 stars, 352 pages, pub. 2020

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.

from Goodreads

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.

61 Hours by Lee Child

61 Hours by Lee Child

61 Hours. Finished 9-8-2020, 4 stars, thriller, pub. 2010

#14 of the Jack Reacher series (1-Killing Floor2- Die Trying, 3 – Tripwire, 4 – Running Blind5 – Echo Burning6 – Without Fail, 7 – Persuador, 8 – The Enemy, 9 – One Shot, 10 – Hard Way, 11-Bad Luck and Trouble.  12-Nothing to Lose 13-Gone Tomorrow)

A tour bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.
Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed–but so is the woman whose life he’ll risk his own to save.

(from Goodreads)

I finished this one ages ago, but in my OCD need to at least write a paragraph or two about all of the adult books I read this year, I’m getting this one in under the wire. I remember this one clearly because of all of the snow. The snow put Reacher in the wrong place at the wrong time and while you know he’s going to take down the bad guys, he’s a little more haunted by the end of this one than you might expect. If you know Reacher, that is, and by book 14 I feel I’ve got a good handle on this man who is willing to take matters into his own hands if the cause is just (at least in his mind). I love this series and am taking my time. I know #25, where Lee passes the Reacher series over to his brother Andrew, was just released this year, but I’ll get there when I get there.

And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

And Now She's Gone

And Now She’s Gone. Finished 12-17-20, 3.75/5 stars, thriller, 384 pages, pub. 2020.

Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.

(from Goodreads)

The story is confusing for awhile, but I don’t mind that in a thriller since it keeps me on my toes. I had faith that everything would become clear when it needed to be and it was. There is A LOT going on in this one, much of it stemming from or related to domestic violence, for much of the book, so this is counterprogramming for all of Hallmark movie binging I’ve been doing lately 🙂

There are many twists and turns so the less said about them the better. Gray, the woman who gets her first private detective case, is an interesting character with a complicated past that provides as much of the story as the missing Isabel does. It kept me reading late into the night.

Rediscovering Harlequin

When I was a youngster, oh so many years ago, my mom would drop me off at the public library while she went to do my grandmother’s hair on Saturday mornings. Although I often went straight downstairs to the the kids area, I loved exploring all of the sections of the library. One morning, when I had checked out my books, but I still had time, I found this bookcase upstairs that had short books so I took a look. It was a whole bookcase full of the monthly Harlequins. I sat down, started to read, and was HOOKED. Knowing that I could never actually check these out, my weekly ritual changed as I now started my visit by reading a Harlequin and then quickly going downstairs to grab some appropriate books to check out before my mother picked me up. I remember trying to be all sneaky so the librarians wouldn’t see me picking one of the adult romances, lol. I don’t really remember how long this went on before the Saturday visits ended, but I still remember those covers and the thrill of forbidden reading.

I’ve been running our Friends of the Library book sale out of my house/garage since the pandemic reared its ugly head. Every week I go and pick up 4 boxes of books to try and sell on our Facebook page. Imagine my delight when I opened up a whole box of Harlequin romances! I tried to sell them, but not one was willing to admit, publicly at least, that they read them. As I boxed them back up I grabbed a few and set them aside and a few nights ago I read A Mistress, A Scandal, A Ring by Angela Bissell.

A Mistress, A Scandal, A Ring (Ruthless Billionaire Brothers)

It didn’t take me long, these books are easy to skim, and, surprisingly, I found it enjoyable. For someone living on Hallmark movies the last month or so this felt just right somehow. A rich, sexy man with a chip on his shoulder and a nurse with a giving heart is the bread and butter for these stories. It managed to have a decent storyline in a low page count and I’m glad I read it since it managed to bring back some fun memories.

What about you? Have you ever read a Harlequin? What scandalous book or books did you read as a kid?

Amos Decker series by David Baldacci

1- Memory Man 2- The Last Mile 3- The Fix

I listened to these first three books in the Baldacci mystery series about Amos Decker within a month’s time so I think you can safely assume I’m a fan. Jason has also listened to three so far and gives the series a thumbs up.

Amos was a standout college football player at THE Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) and his big time opportunity came with the Cleveland Browns (9-3 woot woot!). On the first play of his NFL career he was brutally injured, not only ending his career, but changing his life forever. From that day forward he could not forget anything, total recall of every moment of his life that he could flip through like a photo album anytime he wanted. This was the case when he went home one night after his shift as a police detective and found his wife, daughter and brother-in-law murdered in his home. The case wasn’t solved and the changed Amos lost his way and ended up living in a dive hotel. That’s where we meet Amos, at a buffet at the hotel.

Amos is one of those quirky characters that are also geniuses that I always seem to like. Because of his remarkable mental abilities he is able to see things that other people miss. I’ve liked the secondary characters, especially Alex and Melvin, and the love they’ve shown to the sometimes hard-to-take Decker. The mysteries themselves are out there, but not so ridiculous that you can’t appreciate them. My favorite so far was The Last Mile where Decker starts working for the FBI and he tries to get an old football opponent off of death row.

A good series I look forward to continuing.