The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

4 stars Mystery

Jane was their dog walker, a new face, who was just looking for a fresh start, trying to put her past behind her.  Welcome to Thornfield Estates, where everyone has secrets and nothing is private.

I listened to this book on audio and the characters definitely shined.  These Southern women provided me with some great laughs as they tried to be discreet about their actions.  Jane runs into Eddie, whose wife is missing and soon, Jane becomes a constant figure in Eddie’s life.  

There were a few great twists in this story yet some parts of this story were predictable as I read.  I liked the story’s pace and how the story unfolded as it kept me engaged.  Even though the ending may seem to be open-ended,  I liked how the book ended.   

Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne

4 stars YA

Sky’s playing field is the basketball court but she can’t stay there forever.  On the court, she’s confident and free yet off the court, Sky insecurities control her. When she talked about Lay Li, this story sounded all too familiar. 

Lay Li and Sky were best friend, the emphasis is on the word, were.  Sky discovers that Lay Li is not girlfriend material as she doesn’t have Sky’s best interest in mind afterall. Its hard to come to this realization and then, to have to walk away from this close relationship but she had to.  

Written in verse, this was a great book about relationships and about taking care of yourself.

White Ivy by Susie Yang

4 stars Fiction

She thought she was privileged so she took what she wanted, even at others expense. As she looked at the lives around her and compared them to her own, she wanted to fill in the missing pieces but at the same time, Ivy knew that she had to be the person that others saw her to be. Ivy was a devious character, someone who could play you and you wouldn’t even know it.

I found the beginning of White Ivy engaging as I learned about the character of Ivy.  Ivy was born in China and when her parents moved to America, they left her behind.  When she was 5, they send for her.  She lives with her parents and her grandmother, Meifeng. Oh my gosh, Meifeng!  This woman was such a powerful influence to Ivy growing up.  Meifeng and Ivy went shopping at Goodwill, good old grandma shows Ivy how to shoplift and price swap. I couldn’t believe it! The “shopping” at Goodwill was just the beginning for Ivy.

Ivy obtains free tuition from a private school since her father works there and she begins seeing items that she’s missing in her life and her “shopping” expands. Ivy also begins to take interest in Gideon who goes to school with her.  When she returns home from a trip, she’s heartbroken as she discovers that they’ve moved, and she can no longer attend that school and see Gideon.  I found this middle section of the book a bit drawn out and long. 

Years later, Ivy later runs into a relative of Gideon but she’s supposedly into Roux.  This woman!  I could have smacked her a few times towards the end of the book where things really picked up and I couldn’t put the book down.  When is this girl going to wise up?  Was she going to go after Gideon after all this time?  What about Roux and what they had?  Dang, girl!

This book was not what I had expected.  If you can work through the middle of the book, it’s a great book to read. I read this book for my Read Woke Challenge.

Outside Art by Madeline Kloepper

5 stars Children’s Picture

Art is in the eye of the beholder.  I remember hearing this when I was young and finally, someone explained this simple, complex statement to me. It has stuck with me ever since because it says so much with such few words.  These are the words that came to mind when I read this book. Everyone makes art in their own way. A baby can make art and so can a senior citizen.  It’s in its interpretation, that we label things art. 

As Pine Martin watches the Human inside and outside its log nest in the woods, doing odd things, Pine Marten tries to find the meaning behind them. I enjoyed Pine Marten’s view of the human world: “plucking the string-log to make noise” and “using mud to make a water holder” to refer to the playing of a guitar and to using a clay pottery wheel. It was a refreshing way to look upon the world that we live in.  When he watches the Human “putting colors on a board using a furry stick,” he’s confused. 

Chickadee explains what he has heard the Human is doing and how it refers to Art and he explains what he thinks Art is.  Soon, a variety of animals arrive one-by-one to give their own opinion of what Art is and how it relates to the Human’s activity.  I thought this was clever and I liked how the house cat got in on the action and tried to outsmart them all.  I said tried……. Is the Human the only one who can create Art?

The illustrations are beautiful and creative a peaceful feeling to the book.  There are many interesting ideas that come out of this book and ways that you can engage children using this book.  I think this book is good for children beginning around 6 years of age based on the concept, content, and language.  I really enjoyed it.    

Frankenstein Doesn’t Wear Earmuffs! by John Loren

5 stars Children’s Halloween

Ah, mom!  This book is cute, funny, and definitely a keeper! I think everyone will be able to relate to something that happens to the little boy inside this book and it’ll make you smile.  This rhyming book is geared towards Halloween, but it should be read throughout the year because it’s so entertaining.

On the inside book cover, there’s a play-by-play of a young boy getting himself all dressed up for trick-or-treating as Frankenstein.  Ready to go, the narration begins with a dark, spooky night which I imagined, was what the young boy was imagining inside his head.  As he emerges out of the bathroom, to head out into the dark and stormy night, he hears, “HOLD IT!”

It’s his father and he’s holding a pair of his old, red galoshes.  Afraid of rain, dad wants him to wear them.  O.K.! Wearing the giant, floppy boots he tries again to leave, when, “HANG ON!” Only this time, it’s his mom. She’s holding not 1, but 3 items that she wants him to wear before he heads out the door because she’s concerned about the weather. O.K.! Frankenstein is starting to look really silly now in all this gear.  This exchange between the young boy and his parents continues, the young boy just wants to have a fun Halloween.

This is a super book. The illustrations are fantastic and I liked how they flash between the boy dressed-up as Frankenstein and Frankenstein, himself.  The rhyming works throughout the book and ending was great. 5 stars!!

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

5 stars Historical

The year is 1939, WWII is on everyone’s mind as the war is moving closer to home.  Impressed with the American’s Dewey Decimal System, Odile decides that an American library is where she wants to works and lands a position at the American Library in Paris. Odile loves her new position: being surrounded by individuals who care and enjoy reading.  This truly becomes her second home and her refuge.  

We move to the year 1983.  Lily has heard that this woman in her neighborhood was a war bride yet to Lily, she didn’t match what Lily envisioned.  For school, Lily interviews this neighbor and discovers what a treasure Odile really is.  While Lily feels like her own life is crumbling apart, she finds a true friend in Odile and someone that she can confine in. Although they are generations apart, Odile finds that being with Lily, she’s able to share the story of her life and her talents, which brings her tremendous joy.  

I enjoyed how the author alternated the stories throughout the book. As I read, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a true account, that this story actually took place.  Although at times, I didn’t want one story to end, I was excited to get back into the lives of all the characters.  I had a hard time in the beginning chapters getting settled into the book but after those few chapters, I enjoyed it. I loved how everyone who was a part of the library tried so desperately to make sure their subscribers had access to the materials that they wanted. It wasn’t just making sure that the books were safe during the war but getting them out and into the hands of the individuals who really needed them, during this difficult time.  Doesn’t this sound like what we are going through now, to a point?  Is your own library meeting the needs of the people that it serves during this uncertain period in our history?  

By Plemasson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36874402

Odile’s relationships had me up at 3:30 in the morning as I couldn’t sleep thinking how things were going to work out.  Between her father, her brother, her girlfriends and her romance, it’s a wonder I slept at all the past couple nights.  I appreciate the author’s research in putting this book together as it was a fantastic read and one that I highly enjoyed.

Thank you Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.      

2021 Planner

I decided to get organized this year since I thought last year, I was so disorganized and I feel that my NetGalley list reflects that.  I have in the past relied on a separate calendar on my wall to keep my books organized but last year, I just couldn’t get it to work for me.  I felt that I was constantly taking it off the wall, marking it up and then, forgetting to put it back up.  I’d then miss a book date and this would just escalate.

I looked at a few different planners and when I came across this one, it had all the bells and whistles plus more. I really liked this one and I knew that I needed this one in my life, this year. I knew that there might be pages in this planner that I might not use but it was going to be better than not having what I wanted and having to add something else later in the year. So, I ordered it. Coming from Canada, I should have ordered this earlier as I missed almost 3/4 the month of January before I ended up receiving it. I live in the U.S. and with Covid, it took longer than usual but now I know.

This planner is huge (340 pages) and very nice! I mean, it’s fancy! I love it and I hope that I can fully enjoy it this year as there’s is so many great things about it! (Sorry about all the exclamation points). It’s a heavy planner but its well-made, so that explains it.

I’m just going to tell you a few things about the planner and then, you can check out my pictures. At the beginning of the planner there are book challenges that you can fill in during the year. These challenges are some of the popular ones that I’ve seen online. There is also a page for goals, a nice 2-page spread of blank books where you can enter the book titles on the spine of the books that you have read this year. There’s also pages that you can list out the books that you’ve read this year and there’s some fun pages about books too. Every month you get: a calendar that you can write in and also the option of a daily calendar with three slots that you can use, if you track minutes. There are also monthly pages in the book for: books you want to read, new releases, your book hauls, your monthly wrap-ups, notes for the month and a quote for the month. There are also a few quarterly pages to mark your thoughts about how things are going. At the back of the book, there is space for some book reviews, some yearly wrap-ups including graphs, and place for some notes.

The book is beautifully done and I loved the graphics. It’s definitely a keeper for me and I’m going to see about placing an order earlier next year, if I decide to buy it again next year. I bought the planner from Little Inklings Design which carries a variety of products for book lovers. Has anyone bought anything from Little Inklings Design before? Has anyone used this planner before? Is there a planner that you really like? Here are some pictures I took of my planner:

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar

5 stars Children’s Picture

Let me tell you a story….and with that, she saw herself and tried to change.  I like it when a story says it all and for this young girl, she heard the story and understood.

She had arrived to this country, alone.  Her family, friends and her cats were still back home and she misses them so much.   Her Auntie and Uncle were thrilled to have her with them and they showered her with love and presents. She wanted to make some friends, but how?

Her Auntie notices the young girl’s quietness and she asks her if she would like to take a walk together.  As they walk, the aunt unleashes a story filled with adventure which draws the girl in.  It begins with a group of Persia refuges who were traveling via boat, who had finally arrived on the shores of India.   The local king was refusing to let the Persia refuges stay.  The refuges were begging the king but unfortunately, they couldn’t understand what each of them were saying to each other.  The king decided to visually show them what he meant. The refuges saw what the king was doing and they too, responded to the king in a visual way.  Now, they both understood each other.

What a clever story and a clever technique!   What a surprise to both parties.  I thought the ending was great!   I loved the illustrations in this book too!  I enjoyed how the edges on each page of the Auntie’s story were artistly created.  These fancy edges, framed each picture and made it a notable journey.  The relationship between the girl and her Auntie was special and I liked how the couple tried to make the girl feel comfortable in their home.  A great story!     

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child

3 stars Children’s Picture

Windy Girl likes to hang out in her Uncle’s pickup truck.  She hears the best stories while sitting in his truck.  Her uncle can remember when he was a young child but Windy Girl’s favorite stories are when he talks about the powwow.   I thought this was so sweet that she sits with her uncle in his truck and that they have some bonding time. Without any outside forces, with just the two of them together, they can focus on each other.  As her Uncle talks about the powwow, this story reminds her of her own dog, Itchy Boy. 

Windy Girl and Itchy Boy loved their days at the powwow.   Everyone was happy at the powwow as they sang, danced and spent time with each other.  Typically, the celebration would last until late into the night and the night sky would dance with the Northern Lights.  The children and the dogs would fall asleep to the beating of the drums.   Windy recalls a time when she had a weird yet wonderful dream about a powwow.  Windy explains her dream and I do have to agree that this dream was weird and the illustrations make her dream, even more unusual.  It was after she had this dream that Windy made some observations about powwows.  

I liked how the story was written in two different languages, I thought that was interesting.   I liked looking at the Ojibwa language that was written out below the English language.  It seemed the language had longer words and it was hard to pronounce, at least I thought so.   I was disappointed in the illustrations.   I would have liked the illustrations to have been more realistic and softer to create   a more secure feeling.  I did enjoy reading the Author’s notes at the back of the book yet I wanted more of them.     3 stars

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany Browne

5 stars Children’s poetry

Beautiful, amazing pieces of poetry! Each work of poetry is unique and brilliant as it enlists each of us to look at the world around us and embrace it. After reading this book, the message is strong and empowering: 5 stars

We are all unique in our own ways but
we are all united. We all have the power.

We all should feel secure in our environment,
being able to be ourselves without ridicule,
lifting up our voice, without fear of harassment, just for being who we are.

Throughout history, individuals have tried: some success and some not.
Those that have fought, have not fought in vain.

What can I do? I cannot move bridges. I cannot lead a march.
I can be awake. I can support you. I can encourage you.
All voices don’t need to be loud to be felt.
They just need to be woke.