Friday, January 17, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: Non-fiction Edition

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Published: October 8th, 2019 by W.W. Norton Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Essays, Memoir/biography
Format: Audiobook, 5 hours, 35 minutes, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The natural follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of one hundred letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator.

Tyson’s 2017 bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered more than one million readers an insightful and accessible understanding of the universe. Now, revealing Tyson’s most candid and heartfelt writing yet, Letters from an Astrophysicist introduces us to a newly personal dimension of Tyson’s quest to understand our place in the cosmos.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this one so much, I listened to it twice. The second time was with the family while driving up and back from Boise over New Year's. Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates his own book and it's just lovely. He breaks up the letters into categories, and they span all the way back before 9/11 to a year or two ago. His letter to his father and his description of his experience of 9/11 while in New York were especially touching. His love of science and people is inspiring and one I will probably listen to yearly!

Avoiding Clickbait by Kristin Thiel
Published: January 15th, 2019 by Cavendish Square Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Juvenile, Critical Thinking
Format: Hardback, 64 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

As digital natives attempt to navigate news sources, media literacy is more important than ever. Understanding who is behind different forms of clickbait like posts, articles, and ads, and the motivation behind this content, is a critical part of distinguishing reputable sources of information from distorted or false information. This must-have volume examines the roots of modern clickbait in the sensationalism of yellow journalism, while guiding readers through the process of recognizing clickbait and reacting to it in savvy ways.

My Thoughts:

I read this one aloud with G. We were able to talk about online safety and how to spot clickbait and why it happens. They go into a bit about the psychology behind it and why it happens. There is a whole series devoted to media literacy and we are on the second book. It's a great series for kids and has lots of resources to check out and learn more as well.

Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Published: September 4th, 2012 by Flash Point
Genre: Nonfiction, Young Adult, History
Format: Hardback, 266 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher's Summary:

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People's Literature.
Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Bomb is a 2013 Newbery Honor book.

My Thoughts:

I read this for Battle of the Books for G's school. I was thoroughly engaged! I enjoy getting my history from middle grade and young adult books. They know how to get the best stories and to tell the facts in an interesting way.

I had no idea about how the Russians stole the plans for the atomic bomb. We learned why people got involved with the bomb project and how the Germans were sabotaged so they couldn't make the bomb first. So many fascinating tidbits. There are some great photos inside too.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
Published: September 10th, 2019 by W.W. Norton Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Science, Essays, Biology
Format: Kindle, 222 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Best-selling author and mortician Caitlin Doughty answers real questions from kids about death, dead bodies, and decomposition.

Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?

In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to thirty-five distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans. In her inimitable voice, Doughty details lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn colors during decomposition? And why do hair and nails appear longer after death? Readers will learn the best soil for mummifying your body, whether you can preserve your best friend’s skull as a keepsake, and what happens when you die on a plane. Beautifully illustrated by Dianné Ruz, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? shows us that death is science and art, and only by asking questions can we begin to embrace it.

My Thoughts:

I read this one aloud with G last month. It was a hoot. It does go into some technical detail about the processes of death. Putrefaction. Can you put your parents' skull on your desk after they die? What about the cat?! Will she eat my eyeballs? The questions are fun and Ms. Doughty answers with clarity and humor. There are even fun illustrations throughout each chapter. This was definitely one of my favorite science books last year and one of my faves reading with G.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Self-help
Format: Kindle, 432 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist's world--where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients' lives -- a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can't stop hooking up with the wrong guys -- she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.

My Thoughts:

I loved getting inside a therapist's head. What's the training? How can I use this in my own life? How can I use this with my own therapist?! I loved how she intertwined her story, along with her own therapist, and the stories of her clients. So much info and things to think about. This is one I'll be returning to. I also want to know which show her client wrote for! OMG! It's killing me.


They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justing Eisinger, and Steve Scott 
Published: July 16th, 2019 by Top Shelf Productions
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, History, Graphic Novel
Format: Kindle, 208 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself.

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.

My Thoughts:

This was such a beautiful book. Gorgeously illustrated and written. George Takei knocks it out of the park with his graphic memoir. I read this one aloud with G as well over the holidays. He couldn't get enough of it and we read it until it was done over the course of just a few nights. I felt it was important to talk about the illegal detainment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. And having a first-hand experience to read and talk about made it powerful. This should be a must-read in schools.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cat Thursday--If I Fits, I Sits

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 

Here are some If I fits, I Sits photos from Bored Panda. They're always good for a laugh!

And here's Nala's latest If I Fits, I Sits fiasco! G decided to add a few more socks for dramatic effect but that's where we found her after searching high and low for her. Ha!

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: My Brilliant Friend, The Golden Compass...

Published: October 19th, 2011 by Europa Editions
Genre: Historical Fiction, In Translation
Format: Audiobook, 12 hours and 38 minutes, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

My Thoughts:

I had forgotten about the prologue by the time I got to the end of the book. Lila goes missing and Lenu begins to tell us a story about her and Lila in Naples. And I'm left wondering who the brilliant friend is... Elena becomes an unreliable narrator and so you never quite know which story to believe or who's the good guy. And that's the point. We're human and we're all unreliable and messy. Such a fantastic story. Did she really disappear? I must keep reading to find out more...

Published: December 6th, 2012 by Courtney Milan
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: Kindle, 270 pages, Own
Rating: 3.75 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly—so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match...

My Thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this one. I'd heard it was a step above some of the usual historical romances available and so I took a chance. While romances aren't my faves, this one was right up my alley with a strong female character and a witty and kind alpha male. I deplore the weak damsel and the alpha male dynamics in romances so this was different and I liked it. The storyline was also great with women's rights and class rights in England.

Published: March 26th, 2019 by One World
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.

“By turns hilarious and heart-rending, it’s exactly the book America needs at this moment.”—Celeste Ng

“Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”

Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first, they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.

“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”

Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.

My Thoughts:

This is a very powerful memoir in graphic novel form. I truly enjoyed her story. And there's so much to chew on.


Published: August 27th, 2001 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Memoir, Juvenile, Non-fiction
Format: Paperback, 208 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

At the age of fourteen, Francisco Jiménez, together with his older brother Roberto and his mother, are caught by la migra. Forced to leave their home in California, the entire family travels all night for twenty hours by bus, arriving at the U.S. and Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona. In the months and years that follow during the late 1950s-early 1960s, Francisco, his mother and father, and his seven brothers and sister not only struggle to keep their family together, but also face crushing poverty, long hours of labor, and blatant prejudice. How they sustain their hope, their good-heartedness, and tenacity is revealed in this moving, Pura Belpré Honor-winning sequel to The Circuit. Without bitterness or sentimentality, Francisco Jiménez finishes telling the story of his youth. 

My Thoughts:

I read this one for G's school for the Battle of the Books. I really enjoyed his story. He's a very accessible writer for both adults and kids. It was hard to read about him and his brother surviving without their parents for a year, and all of the discrimination they experienced from other children and their parents. I'm sure he glossed over many of his more terrifying experiences and his utter heartbreaks along the way. But his is a story many white kids will learn from. And especially in our political climate, his story is one we need to hear.

Published: July 9th, 1995 by Scholastic UK
Genre: Young adult, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 399 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal—including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn't know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other...

A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman's award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

My Thoughts:

I read this aloud with G. And oh boy, we had a great time! We both loved Lyra's and Pantalaimon's adventures trying to save the world and her friend Roger from the Gobblers. The thing I love most about this book is how intelligent Pullman is. He adores his readers and he knows how smart they are. He's writing for teens and he treats them with respect.

His world-building is amazing. Nothing is easy. Everyone has different motives and everyone is definitely human. Not all good, not all bad. You can tell Pullman is a student of philosophy and has a smart writing style to weave it all in. We had some great discussions while reading. It's a beautiful and intelligent fantasy novel. And Lyra is a whip-smart character. We have started The Subtle Knife and it's just as good as The Golden Compass.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Cat Thursday--Cat Therapy

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 

This week comes from YouTuber Ze Frank. OMG! Cats on the couch with voiceovers all about their problems. Hilarious. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

2019 Wrap-up and Hello 2020!

I'm going to keep this post pretty simple. I had a really great reading year in 2019! I read 107 books. My longest book was NOS4A2 by Joe Hill at 692 pages and my shortest was Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein.

Favorites in no particular order: (5 stars on Goodreads)

43 children or young adult fiction

7 children or young adult non-fiction

35 non-fiction with most of them being memoirs and a few science books thrown in or history.

12 were on Audible

It's interesting to see over the year what one has read and focused on whether on purpose or not. I do gravitate towards young adult and juvenile fiction. G and I read and share books together so that is one reason. I also gravitate towards memoirs. Humans are so interesting and I love a good story about real humans too.

Top Movies for 2019 (that I watched for the first time, not necessarily debuted in 2019)

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019
  • Paterson (2016)
  • Marriage Story (2019)
  • Frozen II (2019)
  • Klaus (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
  • Hustlers (2019)
  • Midsommar (2019)
  • Booksmart (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
  • Culture Shock (2019)
  • I, Dolours (2018)
  • Free Solo (2018)
  • Us (2019)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Widows (2018)
  • Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Lots of great documentaries, horror, and dramas I watched this year!

TV 2019:

Chernobyl on HBO was phenomenal. Hands down my favorite.

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With family and friends, my favorites were camping in my local mountains and a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park with a friend. Definitely my top spots in 2019!

I don't really do too much with resolutions. But I like to think about what I'd like my reading year to be at least. I did sign-up for one reading challenge. And I do some small challenges throughout the year around the summer and horror in the fall and early winter. But other than that I like to take it one day at a time.

I plan on getting some snowshoeing in with family. We also have plans to see the Redwoods in April with friends. I'd like to do some camping again in the late Spring and early fall. Lots of hikes too. G has decided he'd like to learn to ride a bike this spring so we'll be working on that too. I have some professional goals I'm working on too. So I'm hoping this year brings some new experiences and adventures as well as making the world a bit better than we left it last year! One can hope and plan for that! Keep reading and learning and being kind and carry on!

1000 Books Project: Non-fiction 2020 Sign-up

Michelle over at Gather Together and Read is hosting a reading challenge based on the book 1000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List by James Mustich. (The previous link links to Mustich's website where he has added all of the books and small blurbs about why he chose them. It's pretty cool!) This year she is focusing on non-fiction.

Here are the books: 4 spread out three months each:

I picked up the book from the library a few months ago and remember thinking it was a really well-rounded list. I even took the time to copy down ones I hadn't read or heard of before so I could get to them one day! So when Michelle posted the challenge I knew this was one I couldn't miss!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Friday, December 13, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: Black Star, Bright Dawn, Furious Hours...

Published: January 1st, 1988 by Fawcett
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Adventure
Format: Paperback, 112 pages, Own
Rating: 3.5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Bright Dawn was a teenaged Eskimo girl. Black Star was her part-husky, mostly wolf, pet. Together they were about to begin the famous Iditarod dogsled race through the bitter cold of Alaska. Bright Dawn knew they would win, but she didn't count on the cold, blinding whiteout, the belligerent bull moose, or ice that could crack and splinter at any time. And she soon realized that she was not only depending on Black Star for the race, but for her life...

My Thoughts:

I think it was an important story for its time. But I don't think it's a book that still needs to be read by young kids. There are better stories out there actually written by Indigenous authors. I think those stories should be promoted.

I read this for my son's school Battle of the Books. It's a very quick read. I had a hard time remembering Bright Dawn was actually 17 in the book. I kept thinking she was 11 since that's how she's written. This book could have easily been expanded into a full-of-adventure novel. But it's only 112 pages and it's over before it has even begun. But like I said before it was an important book for its time but let us let other better stories be read in schools.

Published: May 7th, 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, True-crime
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages, Library
Rating: 3 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South.

My Thoughts:

I had a hard time with this one. It's different. Yes. But was it necessary? And was it a cohesive story? Not so sure about that. Casey Cep takes three different stories and tries to throw them all together. Insurance fraud and the murderous Reverend Maxwell, the murder trial of his killer, and a short biography on Harper Lee. Yes, this crime was something Ms. Lee had been working on and never finished but... I don't know. What was the point? I never felt like I got enough of any one story. I felt a bit cheated. It was a bit interesting and I didn't know much about Harper Lee before this book. And yes my hero has been destroyed. Do NOT meet your heroes... But yeah, I have mixed feelings. 

Published: 1990 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 208 pages, Library
Rating: 4.5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart - and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon - and finds the family and excitement she's been looking for.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Cimorene's story of daring to be herself and kicking ass and saving dragons and kingdoms along the way. I wish I had read her story when I was a tween. Fantastic characters and a wonderful world make this a true classic.

Published: 1998 by HarperCollins
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Format: Paperback, 144 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The Dry Creek Middle School drinking fountain has sprung a leak, so principal Walter Russ dashes off a request to Flowing Waters Fountains, Etc.

...We need a new drinking fountain. Please send a catalog.

Designer Flo Waters responds:

"I'd be delighted...but please understand that all of my fountains are custom-made."

Soon the fountain project takes on a life of its own, one chronicled in letters, postcards, memos, transcripts, and official documents. The school board president is up in arms. So is Dee Eel, of the water-supply company. A scandal is brewing, and Mr. Sam N.'s fifth-grade class is turning up a host of hilarious secrets buried deep beneath the fountain.

My Thoughts:

This was a fun story told in letters about solving a mystery, creating a new fountain, and thinking outside of the box. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Cat Thursday--Christmas Edition (2)

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 

I can't resist this face. So enjoy my baby Shadow this week!

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Now some cute cat Christmas memes!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

November-in-Review and December Goals!

This is a very late in-review post but better late than never.

We got snowed out over Thanksgiving! We set up our Christmas decor. I took care of my neighbor's cute kitties. And we got in our annual gingerbread house decorating.

And the annual winter sinus infections and flu goo have hit our family. The goo usually waits until January or February...I'm hoping this means it'll pass us by midwinter... (fingers crossed, knocking on wood)


Last Month I...


12 books: I'm reading a few books for G's Battle of the Books at school...only three more to go this month!
  • A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
  • Dead Voices by Katherine Arden
  • More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
  • Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl: A Memoir by Jeannie Vanasco
  • Wabi Sabi by Mark Weibstein
  • Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Black Star, Bright Dawn by Scott O'Dell
  • More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
  • I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
  • Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  • Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks by Kate Klise

Listened to:

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante on Audible (actually started it in November and finished it just a couple of days ago)



  • Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Three
  • The Expanse all three seasons to catch up for the new season on Friday!
  • Nailed it! Christmas special
  • Sugar Rush Christmas special


Lots of horror from Halloween and holiday shows from Netflix!

Tagline: The family just got a little stranger.

Thoughts: The story isn't always consistent but the cast is superb and the summer camp storyline is my favorite!

Tagline: Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask.

Thoughts: Beautiful animation and fantastic characters make this a charming addition to the comic.

Tagline: A Gothic folk tale.

Thoughts: It's one of those mind-bending movies where you're not sure what you just watched.

Tagline: In a small town on Christmas Eve, a snowstorm brings together a group of young people.

Thoughts: For cute teen holiday romance, this one hit the spot.

Tagline: This Thanksgiving survival is a blessing.

Thoughts: Super dark but I liked it. One of the better entries into the series.

Tagline: A modern-day romance with a medieval twist.

Thoughts: My suspension of belief was too much. Not my favorite.

Tagline: A romance off the beaten path.

Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this cheesy Rob Lowe movie. I cried and laughed. Just what I needed.

Tagline: Welcome to the jingle.

Thoughts: Charming origin story on Santa Claus. New Christmas classic in our home!

Tagline: Let go of the past.

Thoughts: A more mature storyline for the characters but lacks the charm of the original.


Pumpkin no-bake cheesecake for Thanksgiving. Oh man, so yummy. I'll be making more of it all season long.

I've been making lots of soups and stews as well cuz tis the season for all things soupy.

Also lots of crochet projects for Christmas which will continue into December!

Reading Goals:

I'll be finishing up quite a few in December for G's Battle of the Books but for some fun I have:

  • A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
  • Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
  • Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Currently listening to:

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Looking forward to:

December is always full of fun times! We have winter break, the Solstice, Xmas parties, our 16th wedding anniversary, Christmas, and a trip to Boise, Idaho for a week with friends over New Year's. Plus lots of baking and holiday movie watching and reading. My favoritest time of the year.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: City of Ghosts, Monstress Vol. 3: Haven

I realized I missed three books during October for book reviews so I'm going to make them up here! yikes...

Published: August 28th, 2018 by Scholastic
Genre: Juvenile fiction, Horror
Format: Paperback, 272 pages, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Cassidy Blake's parents are The Inspecters, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspecters head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade novel about a young girl who's best friend is a ghost. I enjoyed visiting Edinburgh through their eyes. And there were some genuinely creepy moments! Overall, a great little haunted series. I look forward to the next book.

Published: September 11th, 2018 by Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 168 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Maika Halfwolf has begun to unlock the mysteries of her past - but the challenges are only going. In this third volume of MONSTRESS, collecting issues 13-18, Maika's journey takes her to the neutral city of Pontus, where she hopes to find temporary refuge from her pursuers. Unfortunately, Pontus may not be as safe as Maika and her allies had hoped.

As the impending war between humans and Arcanics creeps ever closer, and powerful players fight for the chance to control her future, Maika finds she must work with Zinn, the Monstrum that lives inside her, in order to ensure their mutual survival. But even that alliance might not be enough to prepare Maika for the horrors to come.

My Thoughts:

Another fantastic addition to this amazing fantasy series. While it's sometimes hard to follow, I get the gist and I love the tragic heroine Maika is and how she surrounds herself with people her make her better. The world-building is phenomenal. I'd love an actual book fantasy series to read. It would help fill in some of the gaps.

Published: June13th, 2019 by Celadon Books
Genre: Mystery, Horror
Format: Hardcover, 355 pages, Library
Rating: 3.5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window...

My Thoughts:

I liked it. But I didn't love it. The characters didn't quite come alive for me, and how it all connects, in the end, was a little over-the-top. But it's still a good, creepy story and I did enjoy the elements of the supernatural in it.

Published: 1991 by Scholastic
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Horror, Short Stories
Format: Paperback, 128 pages, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Storytellers know — just as they have for hundreds and hundreds of years — that everyone enjoys a good, scary story!

Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories 3 joins his other popular collections of scary folklore, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, to give readers spooky, funny and fantastic tales guaranteed to raise goosebumps.

Who is the Wolf girl? Why is a hearse filled with men with yellow glowing eyes? Can a nightmare become reality? How do you avoid an appointment with Death?

Stephen Gammell's splendidly creepy drawings perfectly capture the mood of more than two dozens scary stories — and even a scary song — all just right for reading alone or for telling aloud in the dark...

My Thoughts:

Another great collection of folk horror stories. G and I had a great time looking at the creepy drawings and reading all the funny and creepy stories! The best collection and drawings. Then we watched the movie! It was fun to pick out the stories we recognized from the books.


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